Acura RL – Minor Facelift for 2009
The singularly underperforming Acura RL Executive Luxury Car receives a facelift for the 2009 model year. Shown for the first time at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show, the RL becomes more distinctive and less anodyne, but arguably at the cost of good taste.
The new front end style certainly will be controversial but there may never be enough of this iteration of the RL to burn too many eyeballs. The fresh rear style is a mild re-do designed not to offend, but certainly does not turn heads.
RL’s Problem isn’t Styling So Much… It’s the Overall Concept – V6 SH-AWD Instead of RWD V8
The problem with this generation RL is not its styling, which has been bland and invisible at best, but with the overall concept of the car. Honda, adamantly refusing to build a rear wheel drive sedan to match its important competitors, resorted to Super Handling All Wheel Drive that resulted in a whopping weight increase sapping power from its V6 engine. The RL feels slow and cumbersome and, frankly, is pretty small for a car in this class. Owners want a larger trunk and larger rear seat that this minor freshening for 2009 cannot correct.
The photos speak for themselves. Carrying cues adopted on the MD-X with an overdone grille, RL tries to look contemporary but our guess is that it will continue to languish in the high four digit or low five digit sales range in the USA.
This isn’t to say Honda did not apply a list of minor detail updates to the car, but I’ll let their press release shown below the fold summarize those.
Redesigned 2009 Acura RL Debuts at Chicago Auto Show
Bold Styling, Larger Engine, and Improved Handling Help RL Raise the Luxury Performance Bar
The redesigned 2009 Acura RL luxury sedan made its world debut today at the Chicago Auto Show. Featuring bold, sleek exterior styling, an upgraded interior, advanced technologies and powerful new engine, the RL once again pushes the limits of performance, style, and luxury. The 2009 RL will go on-sale this spring at Acura dealerships nationwide.
The 2009 RL furthers cutting edge technology with the addition of new high-tech items including AcuraLink® weather, AcuraLink® Traffic Rerouting™, a new Note function for XM® Radio, Active Sound Control, and Bluetooth® Audio to an already robust list of features found on the previous RL. To enhance handling, new chassis technology abounds in the drivetrain in the form of improved Super Handling All-Wheel Drive™, a revised steering system, upgraded coil springs, better performing shock absorbers, larger rear stabilizer bar, and more aggressive wheels and tires. Performance improves with the RL thanks to a new, larger 3.7-liter V-6 that incorporates the first ever SOHC use of VTEC® valvetrain actuation for both the intake and exhaust valves.
“RL represents the very best we have to offer in terms of engineering, technology, performance, luxury and safety”, said Dick Colliver, executive vice president, sales. “It’s designed for a new generation of performance-luxury buyers looking to travel more quickly, more efficiently and more connected to the world around them.”
For 2009, the RL will be offered in three different trim levels including RL, RL with Technology Package and RL with Technology Package Plus CMBS™. All RL’s receive a potent new 3.7-liter V-6 engine, Super Handling All-Wheel Drive™, a Bose® Surround Sound audio system, Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink® connectivity and a GPS-based solar-sensing climate control system. The Technology Package includes the satellite-linked Acura Navigation System with Voice Activation™ with rearview camera, AcuraLink® Real-time traffic, AcuraLink® weather, Traffic Rerouting™, a rear view back-up camera, Active Front Lighting System (AFS), ventilated front seats, and a wood/leather steering wheel and shift knob. The top RL package is the Technology Package with CMBS™ which also includes Acura’s acclaimed Collision Mitigation Braking System™ (CMBS™), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), and genuine wood instrument panel trim.
The innovation built into the new RL begins with the most powerful engine ever offered in an Acura sedan. An all-new 3.7-liter V-6 engine develops 300 horsepower and 271 lb-ft of torque thanks to an innovative new VTEC™ valvetrain system for both the intake and exhaust valves, a higher compression ratio, along with a special dual-stage magnesium intake manifold that enables the intake to function as a single- or dual-plenum manifold design based on engine operating parameters. In addition to developing improved power and torque, the RL engine meets tough CARB ULEV-2 emission standards and delivers good fuel economy. The RL’s engine bay appears more upscale thanks to a new surround panel assembly that reduces visual distractions and focuses attention directly on the all-new 3.7-liter V-6 engine.
To handle the higher power of the 3.7-liter engine, a new version of the Sequential SportShift 5-speed automatic transmission is fitted to the 2009 RL. Featuring new “smart” F1®-style steering wheel mounted paddle shifters and a new straight-gate console mounted gear selector, the RL driver now has more gear control than ever before.
The RL’s acclaimed Super Handling All-Wheel Drive™ (SH-AWD™) system returns for 2009, but is now quicker responding and better performing.
There are numerous traction advantages of all-wheel drive, yet SH-AWD™ does a key function that is not available with traditional AWD systems– SH-AWD™ utilizes torque vectoring to increase the rotation speed of an outside rear wheel during aggressive cornering to help the car turn more effectively while under power. This “yaw” function reduces the cornering load on the front tires to minimize understeer, to improve handling balance, and to escalate total cornering grip.
Body and Chassis
To further enhance handling and ride comfort, the new RL retains a fully independent suspension system with front double-wishbone and rear multi-link architecture. For 2009 the RL features higher rate coil springs, larger diameter stabilizer bars, stiffer subframe mount bushings and improved design steering rack components. To further improve handling and looks, new 18-inch diameter 7-spoke aluminum wheels are matched with more aggressive tires (replacing the previous 17-inch wheel/tire offering).
The 2009 RL’s new exterior styling is not only more aggressive, but delivers excellent aerodynamics and reduced rear lift at higher speeds. The RL’s more athletic style foreshadows the power concealed by the new power plenum front grille and blow-formed aluminum hood. The RL’s shape is taut and athletic, and its acceleration and cornering performance allow it to challenge the most capable German and Japanese sports sedans. Comfort, quietness and ride quality are also on a par with performance sedan competitors. For 2009, eight exterior colors are available–5 of which are new–including a new pearl pigment process that improves luster and shine.
Inside, the 2009 RL features a more elegantly styled interior that includes more room for rear seat passengers, easier-to-use front seat belts, door-mounted pull pockets, softer arm rests, redesigned vents, larger/clearer lettering for HVAC controls, and easier actuation of climate control functions. A revised steering wheel with available genuine wood trim (included with the CMBS package) and metal-look accents is now fitted to the RL along with a matching wood-trimmed transmission shift knob. Complementing the steering wheel are upgraded gauges that incorporate brushed metal accents for enhanced appearance. For 2009, additional insulation, a more high-tech design of Acura’s acoustic glass windshield, and a new Active Sound Control (ASC) noise abatement system team to further reduce the RL’s already quiet cabin.
The RL’s perforated leather front seats now incorporate six levels of heated/cooled ventilation. Moreover, just like the driver’s seat, the passenger front seat now has 10-way power adjustability. For 2009, the center panel controls are now more intuitive and are surrounded by a new background color along with improved quality wood patterned panels. These interior upgrades are complimented by advanced electronics that include a satellite-linked Acura Navigation System with Voice Activation™ along with the innovative AcuraLink® satellite communication system with Real-time traffic, AcuraLink® Traffic Rerouting™ and (new for 2009) AcuraLink® weather. The RL is the first vehicle on the market to feature in-dash integrated, continually updated real-time weather information in a single-screen format. The spectacular Acura/Bose® 10-speaker Sound System with DVD-Audio returns but is now upgraded to include Bluetooth® Audio, even richer audio sound, a new Note function for XM® Radio, improved button legibility, and a USB connectivity port.
The 2009 RL retains Acura’s extremely rigid Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) body structure that features extensive use of high-tensile steel and lightweight aluminum components to take vehicle construction beyond conventional safety protocols while keeping overall vehicle weight in check. The ACE™ structure’s front-mounted polygonal main frame is designed to help prevent cabin deformation by distributing frontal impact forces through multiple load bearing pathways–and away from the passenger compartment. For 2009, to enhance safety a new Active Head Restraint System is built into the front seats to help improve neck and head protection in the event in a rear impact collision. To further aid in safety, the RL includes as standard a passenger seatbelt reminder, Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) and six airbags. These advances team to make the 2009 RL the strongest, most powerful, best handling, safest and most luxurious sedan Acura has ever built.
The RL earned 5-star ratings (the best possible) for frontal and side crash tests, and for rollover resistance, from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The RL is the fourth vehicle in the history of the program to earn the top rating of “5-star” in all three test categories. Government star ratings are part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) New Car Assessment Program (www.safercar.gov). In addition, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the RL its top rating of GOOD in Side Impact Collision Evaluation (SICE) along with a GOOD rating for IIHS’ frontal offset crash test. With a new Active Head Restraint System for front seat passengers, the 2009 RL is anticipated to receive a GOOD rating in IIHS rear crash protection