Acura, Road Test Reviews, Vehicles

2010 Acura RL Elite – Road Test

When I last drove the Acura RL several years ago, I absolutely loved the styling, however, while I liked it, there were too many niggly things that left me somewhat disappointed. With an All-new RL for 2010 I just had to take a second look at Acura’s flagship sedan. What would be the final result? Let’s just say that it’s my new favourite car! Read on…

First Impressions
I’ve had the opportunity to drive Acura’s before with the SH-AWD system, but until this week I’ve never been fortunate enough to actually feel it in action on very wet and snow-covered roads. It’s very impressive!  On one occasion we had the good fortune to be going up a very steep hill that had yet to be plowed – the system kicked in and you could just feel the tires grab the road and haul us up the hill effortlessly.

I was following (actually I caught up to) a pickup truck that was struggling to get grip and getting slower by the second, as his rear end swung wildly trying to get a grip of the road. I could easily have overtaken him. All week we had horrible weather and the RL proved to be the ultimate car for our winter excursions.

So what is SH-AWD?

According to Acura, the system offers dramatically enhanced traction, control and acceleration in all weather conditions. Accelerate and the system directs up to 40% of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels to, in turn, deliver full power to the ground. During a moderate corner the rear wheels help generate cornering power. Electronic sensors monitor the speed and tightness of the turn, and automatically vary torque to the outside cornering rear wheel, resulting in enhanced stability and driver control.

During Acceleration through a corner, the outside cornering wheel gets up to 100% of the available rear-wheel torque and is accelerated to rotate 5% faster than the inside cornering wheel, providing greater turning force and an incredibly stable corner line. During straight-line cruising, the SH-AWD’s sophisticated electronic controls automatically monitor road conditions and alternate torque from front to rear, as well as splitting rear-wheel torque from left to right. The end result is a continuously smooth, stable ride in poor weather or road conditions.

The drive-by-wire throttle has to be the best of its kind that I’ve experienced to date. Usually I’m indifferent to them, but the RL had instant response from just the slightest of prodding on the accelerator pedal. Combined with the terrific 5-speed automatic transmission, this car is an absolute blast to drive. The transmission can be operated in two modes while using the paddle-shifters…

I had the perfect opportunity to try it out one day when we were entering the highway, gearing down to second while stomping on the throttle, off we went blasting past all the slower moving vehicles in front of us while the transmission stayed on second gear right up to the rev limiter.

Once I’d reached my desired “altitude” I eased off the gas and the transmission shifted seamlessly to fifth. Under normal driving conditions, had I not been flooring the throttle it would have just gone up through the gears by itself. I loved the fact that it held my chosen gear for as long as I needed/wanted it to. Shifting into the “S” (Sport) mode, gives you full control as if it were a manual transmission – don’t change gears and the engine bounces off the rev-limiter!

Rear seat accommodation was good, but not fantastic. The rear seats are very comfortable and getting in and out is definitely aided by the doors that open almost 90 degrees. Knee and hip room is very good, while foot space is somewhat limited and headroom is tight for taller people. The rear seats are more in keeping with a sports sedan than a luxury sedan. I certainly wouldn’t want to be the third person in the middle position of the back seat even on short journeys!

Trunk space is good for a car of this size with the suspension keeping well out of the way to maximize cargo capacity. The rear seats don’t fold, but there is a lockable ski pass-through in the folding armrest.

The Acura RL comes with plenty of standard features – just as you’d expect from a car in this segment of the market. Some of the standard features include: Acura Navigation System with bilingual Voice Recognition™ & rearview camera; Electronic tilt and telescoping steering column with driver recognition; Keyless Access System (with driver recognition for driver’s seat, steering wheel, outside mirrors, climate control and select audio and navigation settings); Both front seats get 8-way power adjustment with power lumbar support; Perforated leather-trimmed Heated front and rear seats; Power rear-seat headrest retractor; Power rear sunshade; Rear side sunshades (manual); Maintenance Minder system.

The audio system is nothing short of spectacular, featuring an Acura/Bose® 10-speaker Surround Sound System with 6-disc CD, DVD-Audio/DTS® changer, AM/FM/XM tuner with MP3/WMA compatibility, Auxiliary input jack and a USB connector.

Safety Highlights include:
High-Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights with headlight washer system; Heated side mirrors, reverse gear tilt-down and integrated turn indicators; 4-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS) with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and brake assist; Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD); Theft-deterrent system with electronic immobilizer; Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) with location and pressure indicators; Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA®) with traction control; HandsFreeLink Bluetooth wireless telephone;

The Elite Package adds:
Active Front Lighting System (AFS); Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC); Collision Mitigation Braking System™ (CMBS®); Ventilated, heating and cooling front seats.

The Conclusion
I didn’t like the RL.. I LOVED it!!! The last time I felt this exhilarated driving a car was when I had the Mitsubishi Evo X for a week. It’s a perfect-sized four-door car that is extremely comfortable, while being a blast to drive.

It’s one of the very few cars I’ve ever driven that really justifies having the paddle shifters – they aren’t just a marketing gimmick. With the incredible safety features and SH-AWD, the Acura RL has to be making the BMW, Audi and Mercedes people a little nervous.

Terrific engine/transmission combination
Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system
Incredibly Fun-To-Drive


Bum warmers/coolers have to be re-set every time the car is turned off

Immediate Competition:

Audi A6, BMW 535xi, Ford Taurus SHO, Lexus GS 460, Mercedes E-Class

By The Numbers…

Please visit your local dealer for the latest prices and incentives.

Powertrain:            3.7L 24-valve SOHC VTEC V-6; Multi-Point Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI®) system; 5-speed automatic transmission with Sequential SportShift paddle shifters; SH-AWD
Horsepower (Kw):     300 (224) @ 6,300 rpm
Torque (N.m.):         271 (367) @ 5,000 rpm
0-100 km/h:         6.1 seconds

Curb Weight:         1,863 kg
Cargo Capacity:     371 liters

Fuel Consumption: (Premium Unleaded Fuel)
City: 13.1 L/100 kms  //  Highway: 9.0 L/100 kms
I averaged 12.2 L/100 kms during combined driving and 9.5 L/100 kms at 100% highway driving and a steady 120 km/h.

Copyright © 2010 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Acura

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