2007 RL New Car Test Drive
Sleek and sporty, the Acura RL is an attractive car, though not particularly interesting. Parked next to a Toyota Camry, the RL looks anonymous.
Its muscular exterior styling is designed to suggest abundant power. In front, a dramatically sloping hood leads down to an aggressive front fascia with angular headlight treatments, Acura's signature five-sided grille, and distinctive lower air intake openings. The front end is smooth with nicely integrated bumpers and headlamps.
The rear is short to reduce aerodynamic drag and improve maneuverability. The rear three-quarter view is suggestive of a BMW 7 Series: Viewed from the side, the rear deck seems separated from the fenders.
High-intensity discharge headlights employ the Active Front Lighting System, which swivels the headlight beams up to 20 degrees in either direction when the steering wheel is turned, providing better visibility when cornering.
The cabin is luxurious and functional. The seats are comfortable for cruising yet supportive for hard driving. The wide armrests have a nice soft feel. The Acura RL is a roomy car, though the back seats don't offer as much room as some of the other cars in this class do.
The cabin is finished in handsome leather with attractive stitching. Real wood is used sparingly and tastefully around the cabin on all but the base model, and it's not too shiny. Acura says it used the finest materials and exacting attention to detail in the interior design. It shows.
The Technology Package includes satellite navigation, which features voice recognition and a large, eight-inch display screen. Positioned at the top of the center stack, the display looks like it might be a touch screen, but it isn't. Instead, an interface dial functions something like a computer mouse to control all accessory functions. Positioned on the center stack, in front of the shifter, the dial is rotated like a knob and rocked like a joystick to select among function menus displayed on the screen. Pushing down on the knob selects the highlighted function. Functions controlled by the interface dial include the climate control system, audio, navigation, and the AcuraLink satellite communications system. This interface dial is similar in concept to that of BMW's controversial iDrive, but Acura added redundant buttons on the instrument panel and steering wheel for most of the commonly used functions and it's easier to use than BMW's system.
Acura's navigation systems are perennially among the best available and the RL's system works very well. In the past, we've praised them for their ease of operation, clear instructions, speedy route calculations, and absence of errors. As with all of these systems, there is a learning curve, however. You'll need to study the owner's manual and exercise patience before you can fully master the system and use it to its maximum advantage. Even then, trying to program navigation or other functions while driving is very dangerous; you should pull over, program your destination, get organized, then set out.
AcuraLink satellite communications delivers in-car traffic information in real time for 44 major cities, helping drivers avoid congested roads. It works best in the cities that have the infrastructure to support it, Los Angeles among them. Traffic flow is shown by color-coding the highways in three levels: light traffic is shown in green, normal traffic in yellow, slow traffic in red. The driver can view the map and choose the routes with the lightest traffic. The system uses live data from the highway departments using technology developed by XM Satellite Radio. It's easy to use, and commuters in cities with this technology will find it's well worth the cost of the package.
Bluetooth wireless technology allows hands-free dialing and communication and integrates compatible cell phones. As with other features, the Bluetooth cellphone setup can respond to voice commands. The Keyless Access System automatically unlocks the doors and allows the driver to start the car without having to dig the keyless remote out of pocket or purse.
The back seats are comfortable, though they don't offer quite as much space as some of the other cars in this class. The rear doors open wide, making it easier to get into and out of the back seats. A retractable rear sunshade filters the sun, nice for back-seat riders on bright days. Retractable rear headrests improve rearward visibility when people aren't back there.
The trunk is nicely finished and offers 13 cubic feet of space. The keyless access system prevents locking the key fob in the trunk.