The RL sheds its copycat Lexus image thanks to a new all-wheel-drive platform that's in keeping with the inventive spirit that all things Honda should have. The RL's new awd system not only distributes torque fore and aft according to driving conditions but also actively splits the torque from side to side to the rear wheels, and our sources say the result is a real breakthrough in high-performance handling. Acura has decided to stick with the fuel efficiency of a 3.5-liter V-6 engine, although VTEC variable valve timing helps boost the power curve on the way to a peak output of 300 hp, and a paddle-shift, five-speed automatic enhances drivability. Elsewhere, the Acura also incorporates new technologies for the chassis structure, navigation system, and DVD audio system.
ON SALE: October 2004
PRICE: $48,000 (est.)
ENGINE: 300-hp, 3.5-liter V-6
BOTTOM LINE: A high-style, high-performance RL shows that Acura is serious at last.