2008 Acura RL Elite
2008 Acura RL Elite
2008 Acura RL Elite
2008 Acura RL Elite
2008 Acura RL Elite: steering wheel houses loads of buttons; wipers lack a rain sensor; and power mirror controls are located on the dash. Click image to enlarge

Manufacturer’s web site

Acura Canada

Review and photos by Michael Clark

Photo Gallery:
2008 Acura RL

When you’re this big, they call you Really Large.

It’s hard to miss the shadow cast by Acura’s flagship RL sedan but its styling direction could only be described as ‘Subdued’. An informal “man-on-the-street” price estimate pegs this top-of-the-line Acura in the neighbourhood of $40,000, a touch shy of the RL Elite’s MSRP of $69,500. (Price quoted does not include freight, PDI, or regional incentives.) So one has to wonder what makes this top-of-the-line Acura worth so much. Well, with its unique Super Handling all-wheel drive system, it’s more about the dash than the flash. For today’s Inside Story, let’s take a close look at the place where you and your fans will spend the bulk of your time.

The Cockpit

How many tabs and switches can you fit on the average steering wheel, without the arrangement looking like a flock of 1950’s fraternity brothers jammed in a phone booth? The RL’s answer is 16, controlling such features as audio, cruise control, trip monitoring, and voice recognition functions for Bluetooth phones, Navi, even climate control adjustment. Shift paddles for manu-matic treatment of the automatic gearbox are small in stature, though easy to manipulate, with quick gear-change feedback. The column is positioned in a power fashion for tilt and telescope, doing so automatically with the two driver’s seat memory settings. The gated floor shifter sports a separate manu-gate, where the shifter must be placed for paddle tap to occur. The driver’s door houses power release keys for trunk and fuel door, seat memory settings, and full Auto window lifts for all panes. Headlamps also receive an Auto setting. Power heated mirror control is dash-mounted, next to the headlamp washer switch. Intermittent wipers are speed-sensitive, as opposed to moisture-specific. The entire suite of traction and braking control systems

2008 Acura RL Elite
The RL’s centre stack requires some studying. Click image to enlarge

is found at eye level, to the right of the instrument pod.

The Centre Stack

As with most luxo-barges, the race to add as many features as possible into the vehicles collection of electronic brains results in one obvious conclusion; not enough real estate for the switches. That means a joystick, for the RL’s Multi-Information Display. It’s intuitive enough, but be prepared to spend an afternoon with the RL firmly in Park, to firmly grasp the nuances. Dedicated keys skip to most-wanted needs, such as Navi or audio. The HVAC may seem overly simplified, until you tap the A/C tab for customization. Dual zone temperature is posted topside, in the display above the EveryScreen, which also provides rear camera views. The first 12-volt powerpoint is a flip-up affair, next to the gated shifter.

Cubbies!

2008 Acura RL Elite
2008 Acura RL Elite
The locking glove box has a dedicated spot for the owner’s manual (top photo); the centre console bin is lighted. Click image to enlarge

This glovebox locks on purpose, with a power trunk release lock-out switch. An upper drop-down tray is the sensible address for the owner’s literature. The main cavity is ample, with flocked lining. The front doors sport tip-out access door pockets, with no provisions in the rear doors. The front console cupholder is revealed by a tip-up cover. If only it revealed a bevvie-grab system worthy of the Acura brand. There is an inner tray, which tips down to elevate the beverage height, if desired. The only cinch system is a dual C-shaped catch that descends from the cupholder door, which misses most take-out coffee receptacles completely. The rear cupholder extends from the centre armrest, with plunger-style tabs of minimal tension. The centre console gets two compartments. The upper deck compartment uses a clamshell door, while the inner compartment contains the second 12-volt powerpoint, the auxiliary audio jack, and the ultimate in “Why Didn’t Almost Every Manufacturer Think Of That Yet”; a light. Rear seatbacks add robust pockets, with elastic cinchers.

2008 Acura RL Elite
2008 Acura RL Elite
The overhead console houses numerous controls (top); the rear seats don’t fold down. Click image to enlarge
The Overhead:

Keeping the Glare Bear at bay is an auto-dimming mirror with cancel mode. The overhead control pod houses keys for sunroof, power rear window shade, HomeLink keys, and a power headrest dump for back-up ease. Speaking of shades, the rear passenger doors incorporate manual retractable shades with a dash of Cumbersome in the Operation Department.

Seat treat

One of the easiest cues for a hefty MSRP is the inclusion of matching front power seat articulation for both driver and passenger, even power lumbar. Front seats receive three-step heating and cooling.

Cargo embargo

Here’s another Manor Born styling cue; fold-down rear seats are not part of the mix. There is a lockable pass-through, presumably to accommodate long tubes of architectural drawings for the summer villa. There are four robust pop-up cargo cleats in the trunk floor, and another “Why Didn’t Almost Everybody Think Of That” feature; dual trunk lamps.

Spare care

The trunk floor biscuit reveals the expected temporary-use spare, with tool insert. Acura will change it for you, during the first four years of ownership, with no distance limit.

The mill

The underhood exercise of the Japanese uber-makes continues unabated. Much like Toyota/Lexus and Nissan/Infiniti, the RL takes its Honda 3.5-litre corporate mill, and quickly makes it a dealership experience for anything other than the most basic of fluid checks.

2008 Acura RL Elite
2008 Acura RL Elite. Click image to enlarge

Thankfully, those checks are easily accessed, with a hood catch release that requires minimal fumble, and dual gas struts to keep the hood aloft.

The Verdict

Luxury should possess a balance. It isn’t simply about rare woods and exotic animal hides. There has to be a flow, with a sense of purpose, instead of gaudy gimmicks. Most of the luxo brands have finally caught on, but it is the Acura philosophy that continues to set a standard of sensibility, while still warming your backside with heat, or giving you navigational voice prompts. All it needs is a proper cupholder, which means a star score of 4.75.

Next week: 2009 VW Tiguan

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