1999 RL New Car Test Drive
After a week and nearly 600 miles in an Acura 3.5RL, at least two things are clear. Acura's flagship sedan does not have a single shortcoming. Nor is the 3.5RL the best $40,000-plus luxury sedan by any single standard, or in any particular area. This car does a lot of things well, and it does almost nothing badly.
Acura is American Honda's luxury division, and like so many Honda products, the 3.5RL's strength is balance. There are expensive sedans that are either smoother, more powerful, more agile or faster. Yet the RL is plenty smooth, powerful and agile, and it's fast enough to more than satisfy most luxury car buyers.
Acura makes no bones about its mission for the 3.5RL. This sedan is supposed to deliver everything a luxury buyer expects -- from the quiet solace of a leather upholstered, wood-trimmed cabin to a supple, controlled ride -- at a price that's more than $10,000 less than a Lexus LS 400, the car often cited as the benchmark for Japanese luxury sedans. And if the RL is built to be well rounded and well equipped at a reasonable price, then it succeeds in spades.
With the 1999 model, Acura has undertaken a thorough freshening of the 3.5RL. It has more than 300 separate improvements intended to enhance safety, comfort and performance. This restyled RL has a more stately, engaging presence, and a longer list of standard equipment.