For the 2011 model year, Acura has freshened up its flagship RL sedan. What exactly does "freshened up" mean when it comes to the RL? It may not look like much more than a cosmetic touch-up, but there are quite a few new tricks going on under the nip-tucked skin.
The 2011 Acura RL continues to utilize the 3.7-liter V6 engine with 300 horsepower that powers all four wheels courtesy of the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system. New to the powertrain, however, is a six-speed Sequential Sportshift automatic transmission. It's a smooth-shifting unit that allows for the occasional sporty dash courtesy of the wheel-mounted paddles while also improving fuel economy by two miles per gallon on the highway – EPA ratings come in at 17 mpg city and 24 highway.
An upgraded gearbox is nice and all, but since this is an Acura we are looking more for new technology. The 2011 RL is fitted with Hemholtz resonators in the wheels (a "world's first" for a passenger vehicle). These chambers sit in the center portion of the inside of the wheel and help diminish road noise, which results in a quieter cabin. Coupled with increased floorboard insulation, the 2011 Acura RL behaves like a library out on the road. Unless of course you twist the knob for the ELS audio system.
Up front, the grille of the 2011 Acura RL has been revised to soften the angry-hawk nose while retaining a signature Acura look... opinions are divided on how successful the new schnoz may be. Brand new 18x8-inch 15-spoke aluminum wheels help fill out the wheel wells and get wrapped in Michelin Pilot all-season rubber.
Overall, the changes to the 2011 Acura RL are minimal, minus the upgraded transmission and in-wheel noise reduction technology. We had a chance to very briefly sample the '11 model on the roads north of San Francisco and there's unfortunately not much to get excited about. The rest of the lineup, regardless of how one feels about the styling, presents a sporty driving experience that doesn't eat into the luxury. The RL feels heavier than it should while presenting a driving sensation that feels much more aged compared to its Acura siblings. We understand that its aimed at a different segment of the market, but that doesn't mean it should lose the driving characteristics long-time Acura buyers have come to expect.
You can read more about the 2011 Acura RL in the full press release located after the jump.
TORRANCE, Calif. – The RL luxury performance sedan has long served as one of Acura's most technologically advanced vehicles, and for 2011 significant upgrades have been made to again raise the bar. To further maximize the output of the 3.7L V-6 engine, the RL receives an all-new Sequential SportShift 6-speed automatic transmission for 2011. In addition, the RL enjoys an even quieter cabin thanks to the first-ever use of a unique resonator wheel technology that is a world-debut in a passenger vehicle.
Featuring bold looks, a 300 horsepower engine and Acura's acclaimed Super Handling All-Wheel Drive™ (SH-AWD™) system, the 2011 RL demonstrates that refined luxury is complemented perfectly by advanced technology and performance adrenaline. In addition to delivering luxury, style and performance, Acura's top-of-the-line sedan keeps drivers more connected to their world (and the world around them) by featuring some of the latest in intuitive, easy-to-use, state-of-the-art technology.
"The RL continues to set the benchmark for the innovative use of customer-relevant technology," said Jeff Conrad, vice president of Acura sales. "There aren't many production cars at any price that offer more advanced technology or drive system sophistication."
In addition to technological improvements, the 2011 RL receives numerous exterior upgrades including a revised front grill, power folding side mirrors and available back-up sensors.
Inside, the RL benefits from items such as a new interior color (Sea Coast), new Dark Burlwood textured trim, improved feel thin-thread stitching for the steering wheel and a new bright silver color for the dash meters. The RL's rich assortment of technology improves for 2011 with the addition of available back-up sensors, a revised back-up camera angle to improve rearward visibility and improved dialing function for Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink™.
The 2011 RL is available in three new variations: RL, RL with Technology Package and RL with Advance Package. All RL's feature as standard a potent 3.7-liter V-6 engine with VTEC® valvetrain operation, Super Handling All-Wheel Drive™, leather trimmed interior, power actuated front seats, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control system, power moonroof, power windows, Acura/Bose® Surround Sound audio system, Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink® connectivity and a Multi-Information Display (MID) that allows easy access to multiple electronic functions.
An available Technology Package includes a satellite-linked Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition™, AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic with Traffic Rerouting™, AcuraLink Real-Time Weather™, rear view back-up camera, back-up sensors, Active Front Lighting System (AFS), ventilated front seats, and a simulated burlwood accented steering wheel and shift knob. The top RL trim is the Advance Package which adds Acura's Collision Mitigation Braking System™ (CMBS™), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), power folding side mirrors and genuine maple wood instrument panel trim.
The advanced technology built into the 2011 RL includes a refined 3.7-liter SOHC V-6 engine that develops 300 horsepower and 271 lb-ft of torque thanks to an innovative VTEC® valvetrain system for both the intake and exhaust valves, a high compression ratio, along with a special dual-stage magnesium alloy intake manifold that enables the intake to function as a single- or dual-plenum manifold design based on engine operating parameters. In addition to generating excellent power, the RL engine meets the latest EPA TIER 2 – BIN 5 and CARB LEV II ULEV emissions standards.
To handle the output of the 3.7-liter engine, a new Sequential SportShift 6-speed automatic transmission is used that not only generates improved acceleration performance, but also delivers improved fuel economy. In addition, the 6-speed transmission teams with a new multi-clutch torque converter that not only has a higher maximum torque rating, but also has a new converter lock-up assembly. The lock-up assembly uses multiple lock-up disks that generate nearly double the facing area of a typical torque converter. The lock-up assembly not only reduces heat build-up during operation, but also allows for lock-up activation during a much wider range of driving conditions, which, in turn, generates improved fuel economy. As a result of the new 6-speed transmission and torque converter, city/highway/combined fuel economy* is now 17/24/20- an increase of 2 mpg in highway driving.
The new 6-speed transmission can be shifted via a console mounted straight gate shifter or by racing-inspired mounted paddle shifters mounted on the back side of the steering wheel.
The RL's acclaimed Super Handling All-Wheel Drive™ (SH-AWD™) system simultaneously provides an exhilarating driving experience as well as peace of mind- regardless of most weather conditions. There are numerous traction advantages of all-wheel drive, yet SH-AWD™ does a key function that is not available with traditional AWD systems: SH-AWD™ utilizes torque vectoring (the increase the rotation speed of an outside rear wheel) to create a "yaw moment" to help the RL turn more effectively while under power. Such a yaw moment reduces the cornering load on the front tires to minimize understeer, to improve handling balance and to escalate total cornering grip.
Body and Chassis
To complement the high-performance powertrain, Acura engineers gave the RL a rigid yet lightweight Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) body structure. A strong body was critical for achieving the engineers' high targets for steering and handling precision, outstanding ride quality, isolation of undesirable road inputs along with excellent safety.
The RL's body is constructed primarily of high tensile strength steel, while the hood, trunk lid, front fenders and bumper beams are made of lightweight aluminum. A sophisticated four-wheel independent suspension system with double-wishbone (front) and multi-link (rear) architecture, isolated front and rear subframes, large diameter stabilizer bars and heavy-duty steering rack components work in concert with the rigid unit body construction to complete the RL's chassis layout. Subframes and suspension components made of aluminum reduce the RL's weight for improved performance, more supple suspension action and better fuel economy.
To provide excellent handling and looks, new 18x8-inch diameter 15-spoke aluminum wheels are matched with performance-minded Michelin Pilot all-season tires. While the new wheels add a look of visual sophistication, they also deliver mechanical sophistication thanks to the first-ever use of resonator wheel technology. In an effort to quell road noise transmitted to the RL's cabin, the new noise reducing wheel uses a polypropylene Helmholtz resonator that encircles the center portion of the inside of the wheel. Such resonator wheel technology significantly lowers middle frequency noise (between 100 and 500 hertz). Combined with the added use of insulation material on the floorboard areas of the RL, there is a 1.3 dB reduction in interior noise- which translates to a 15-percent improvement.
Powerful, responsive and predictable braking is supplied by a four-wheel disc brake system utilizing 4-piston aluminum front brake calipers matched with 12.6-inch diameter ventilated front brake rotors and 12.2-inch solid rear rotors with large single-piston calipers. Braking is further aided by the use of a four-channel anti-lock braking system (ABS) system with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist.
When equipped with the Advance Package, linked to the RL's braking system is Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) that uses a grille-mounted millimeter-wave radar unit to monitor the distance between the ZDX and the vehicle directly ahead. ACC can regulate the RL's speed to maintain a pre-set following distance interval between it and the vehicle directly ahead. If following distance becomes too close, the ACC system warns the driver and applies the brakes if necessary.
The RL with Advance Package includes Acura's Collision Mitigation Braking System™ (CMBS™). Using millimeter-wave technology, CMBS™ monitors the distance and closing rate between the RL and the vehicle directly in front of it. CMBS™ then uses the information to continuously calculate the likelihood of a frontal collision as well as to alert the driver in different stages of urgency. If the likelihood of a collision significantly increases, CMBS™ will take actions such as to apply the brakes and pre-tension the front seatbelts.
Exterior and Interior
The 2011 RL's exterior styling is not only distinctive and upscale, but delivers excellent aerodynamics and a stable feel at higher speeds. At the front of the RL is a new grill that teams with the athletically styled body to give visual indication of the vehicle's performance capabilities- capabilities that allow it to challenge the most capable German and Japanese sports sedans. Comfort, quietness and ride quality are also on a par with performance sedan competitors.
RL models equipped with the Technology Package also feature the Active Front Lighting System (AFS) for the Xenon High-Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights that swivel up to 12 degrees laterally in response to vehicle speed and steering wheel input. When cornering, the inboard headlight swivels to illuminate a larger area of road surface throughout the corner, thus improving visibility and minimizing blind spots.
Inside, the RL features an elegantly styled interior that includes leather-trimmed heated front seats, comfortable space for rear seat passengers, plenty of storage areas and easy-to-use functionality. Just like the driver's seat, the passenger front seat has 10-way power adjustability. As part of the Technology Package, the front seats incorporate six levels of ventilation and steering wheel and shift knob are trimmed with simulated burlwood trim (the CMBS package adds genuine maple wood trim).
The owner of a luxury sedan demands a quiet ride, which the RL delivers in spades. However, going beyond the norm is the use of an acoustic glass windshield and an Active Sound Control system that team to reduce noise in the RL's already quiet cabin. For 2011, increased use of insulation in the floorboard areas further reduces unwanted road noise.
The RL interior features an assortment of leading-edge technologies to enhance driver control and information access. For 2011, these technologies include a further updated version of Acura's Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink™ wireless telephone interface that now allows for even easier dialing function when making calls utilizing the RL's steering wheel-mounted HandsFreeLink™ controls.
Standard on all RL trims is a spectacular Acura/Bose® 10-speaker Surround Sound System with DVD-Audio, AM/FM radio tuner, Bluetooth® Audio, XM® Radio along with USB port and AUX jack connectivity.
A key component of the RL Technology Package is the Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition™. The advanced system allows for easy control of key systems via voice control (with more than 700 commands) including voice guidance for turn-by-turn directions, over 7 million points of interest, Zagat Survey™ restaurant guide information, along with voice recognition to operate key audio and climate control functions.
The innovative AcuraLink® Satellite Communication System features driver relevant technologies such as AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic with Traffic Rerouting™ and continuously updated AcuraLink Real-Time Weather™ with weather radar maps.
The 2011 RL utilizes Acura's rigid Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) body structure that features extensive use of high-tensile steel and lightweight aluminum components to take vehicle construction beyond conventional safety protocols- all while keeping overall vehicle weight in check.
The ACE™ body structure's front-mounted polygonal frame design enhances occupant protection and crash compatibility in frontal crashes by utilizing a network of connected structural elements to distribute crash energy more evenly throughout the front of the vehicle- and away from the passenger compartment. To further enhance safety the RL employs active head restraints built into the front seats to help improve neck and head protection in the event of a rear impact collision.
To further aid in safety, the RL includes as standard six airbags, Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) and updated headrests that comply with new FMVSS 202 standards.
*Based on 2011 EPA mileage estimates. Use for comparison purposes only. Do not compare to models before 2008. Your actual mileage will vary depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle.