Review and photos by Russell Purcell

2005 Acura RL
Click image to enlarge

The Acura RL is all-new for the 2005 model year, and its transformation from a plain-Jane sleeper to a feature-laden flagship is good news for premium sedan buyers.

I always enjoyed my time behind the wheel of the previous iteration of the RL as it was a competent and comfortable car – albeit in a rather mundane skin. If the outgoing car was a tasty bowl of vanilla ice cream, this new model is a super-sized sundae with all the toppings and a cherry on top. I had people flag me down to check out my Nighthawk Black Pearl test car’s sultry curves, buttery leather and high-tech toys.

The shape is all Acura, with hints of the aerodynamic CL coupes of the past mixed in with cues from the current TSX and TL brethren. The car is now almost four inches shorter in overall length than the old model and the wheelbase has shrunk in by a similar amount. This, along with the use of lighter weight aluminum and steel, has given the car a more nimble and sporty feel. On the inside, things couldn’t be better, as the interior has grown to be even more occupant friendly. The cabin is roomier as it is somewhat longer, nearly an inch wider and headroom benefits from the car’s two-and-a-half inch taller stature. Standing 6’2″ tall, I felt comfortable in both the front and back seating positions. However, three full-sized men may feel a little too chummy knocking knees in the back.

Refined road manners

Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system and wider track gives the car a very stable feeling as the driver exercises the car’s 300 ponies and 260 lb.-ft of torque. An advanced four-wheel independent suspension, responsive rack-and-pinion power steering, and a very rigid overall body structure (an improvement of 33%) help give the car its new athletic prowess.

2005 Acura RL

2005 Acura RL
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The SH-AWD system is pretty unique as it is a further adaptation of a system pioneered by Honda in the late Prelude SH: the ability to transfer power to the outside wheel during tight cornering which improves acceleration and enhances grip. The RL’s system distributes torque between the front and rear wheels in an effort to maximum traction (as much as 70% either way), but also varies it from side to side to enhance cornering ability (it can send 100% of torque to the outside rear wheel if needed). Turning forces are amplified helping the car to navigate the turn much quicker than a similar vehicle without the system. The car tracks straight and true, with very little nose plough and just a hint of under-steer.

I never encountered snow but I did slosh around on some sweeping back roads that were partially flooded due to a seasonal deluge of rain. The SH system halted any sensation of wheel spin or traction loss, as it invisibly diverts power to the wheels that are still in contact with the road surface.

Advanced stability and traction control units complement the all-wheel-drive, while multi-channel ABS brakes are backed up Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA). Unless you decide to flog this car at the track, the brakes should be in fine form to catch your fall.

2005 Acura RL
Click image to enlarge

Acura’s ultra-smooth 3.5 litre single overhead cam V6 is their most powerful engine yet. Acceleration is linear and strong as you steam from 0-100 km/h in a touch over six seconds utilizing the nifty steering wheel-mounted paddles or shift lever to shift gears. Leaving the car to do the work slows the launch by about a second. As most of its competitors carry V8 muscle under their bonnets, the Acura has to rev a little higher to generate its kick, but the engine never comes across as buzzy or overworked.

Safety first

2005 Acura RL

2005 Acura RL
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Like many of its rivals, the RL’s high-intensity-discharge (HID) headlights have the ability to see around corners. Acura calls this feature the ‘Active Front Lighting System’ (AFS), which monitors steering inputs to swivel the main lamps up to 20 degrees. This is one technology I hope trickles down the automotive food chain quickly, as we all would benefit safety wise.

A full complement of advanced airbags are on board, including dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags up front, as well as a front side-airbag system, and side-curtain airbags front and rear. In the event of a crash or roadside assistance, the RL also comes with OnStar.

Bells and whistles

2005 Acura RL

2005 Acura RL
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The Acura RL is Acura’s flagship model, so it comes with such niceties as a dual zone automatic climate control system (with Micron Filtration System), heated front seats with power adjustability, leather upholstery, rear sunshades and a power moon roof.
There’s also a tilt/telescopic adjustable steering column, keyless entry and start and Bose-engineered audio system (AM/FM, in-dash 6-disc CD player with MP3 stereo) with ten carefully-matched speakers.

Technology mavens will love the cutting-edge DVD navigation system which offers voice activation and real-time traffic reporting. Hands free cellular phone capabilities (HandsFreeLink) and Homelink are also part of the RL’s long equipment list.

2005 Acura RL
Click image to enlarge

The attention to detail is immediately evident when you get behind the wheel of the RL, as the fit and finish is top-notch. The stylish gauge cluster and all operational controls are easy on the eye and effortless to use and reach.

The bold centre stack offers both the driver and passenger a good view of the navigation and interface screen, making use of this system and the interconnected audio and HVAC components a breeze.

I have just one complaint about the RL’s interior: the dash and console sport real wood trim – as do the doors – but on the latter, I found that its high-gloss finish reflected passing trees and traffic to the point where it was like watching a moving picture of my travels as I motored down the highway.


2005 Acura RL
Click image to enlarge

The Acura RL has been transformed from a stodgy, old-school Mercedes-Benz clone to a sophisticated and edgy luxury sports machine. It’s stylish, powerful and loaded to the gills with innovative technology at a price that’s thousands less than its main rivals from Lexus and Infiniti, as well as the usual suspects from Europe.

Technical Data: 2005 Acura RL

Base price $69,500
Options N/A
Freight $1,400
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $71,000
Type 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
Layout transverse front engine, AWD
Engine 3.5 litre V6, SOHC, 24-valves, variable valve timing
Horsepower 300 @ 6,200 rpm
Torque 260 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm
Transmission 5-spd auto with manual-mode and steering wheel-mounted controls
Curb weight 1,815 kg (3,984 lbs)
Wheelbase 2,800 mm (110.2 in)
Length 4,917 mm (193.6 in.)
Width 1,847 mm (72.7 in)
Height 1,452 mm (57.1 in)
Cargo capacity 371 litres (13.1 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 13.0 L/100 km (22 mpg) Imperial
  Hwy: 9.0 L/100 km (31 mpg) Imperial
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000

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