In typical Acura fashion, our fully loaded RL was jammed with all sorts of technological goodies. Standard features include heated front seats, XM satellite radio, a Bose 260-watt, ten-speaker surround-sound system with noise cancellation, HID headlamps, six airbags, and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity. Opt for the Technology Package, and Acura throws in navigation, adaptive headlamps, rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera, and ventilated front seats. The Advance Package goes one step further, throwing adaptive cruise control, collision-mitigating brake system, and power-folding side-view mirrors into the mix.
Farewell Five-Speed; Say Hello to Six Gears
Mechanically speaking, the 2011 RL is virtually identical to 2009 and 2010 models. Honda's 3.7-liter DOHC V-6 is still nestled underhood in a transverse manner, and is still rated at 300 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 271 pound-feet of torque at 5000 rpm. That power is channeled to all four wheels via the company's advanced SH-AWD all-wheel-drive system. Not only can the driveline send up to 70 percent of the engine's torque to the rear axle, but it also can channel power to a single rear wheel, optimizing traction and helping rotate the car through fast corners.
The big news for 2011 lies with the transmission. Long dogged for retaining an antiquated five-speed automatic when competitors were switching to six, seven, and eight-speed designs, the 2011 RL finally receives an extra gear, bringing the grand total to six.The transmission is as smooth and well geared to the V-6's power range as the previous five-speed, but the additional cog helps bolster fuel economy. The EPA rates the 2011 RL at 17/24 mpg (city/highway), and improvement of 1 and 4 mpg, respectively. Driving conservatively, we saw a 23-24 mpg average over a 60/40 split of highway and city driving.
A Supple Ride, With A Dash of Sporty
Acura claims the RL moniker stands for refined luxury, but that doesn't mean the car can't provide the driver with a little fun while behind the wheel. Ride quality is softer than that of the TL, and turn in isn't quite as sharp, but body roll is kept to a surprising minimum, and the SH-AWD's torque-vectoring skills further help the car stay planted when pushed in corners.
Push you certainly can. The 3.7-liter V-6 never lacks the grunt needed to toss around the RL's 4110 pounds. Shift times of the six-speed improve slightly when in sport mode, but drivers who insist on selecting their own gear can do so with the new steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.