Review and photos by Chris Chase
The Acura RL is the third generation of the Honda luxury brand’s flagship sedan, a car that traces its roots to the Acura Legend first sold in North America in 1986. At its redesign in 2005, the RL was the first of the brand’s vehicles to use the SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive) that would become one of Acura’s defining technical features.
While it had been rumoured that the 2005 RL was to use Acura’s first V8 engine, the car was instead powered by a 3.5-litre V6 making 300 horsepower (a figure that would be adjusted to 290 due to revised horsepower measurement standards) and 260 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission was a five-speed automatic (the 2011 model’s only major upgrade is a six-speed automatic).
Natural Resources Canada’s fuel consumption figures for the 2005 RL were 12.9/8.4 L/100 km (city/highway), and would remain there until 2009, when the ratings were adjusted to 13.1/9.0 L/100 km. The 2009 model also got a styling update, including Acura’s new brand-wide front-end design and its controversial grille.
Consumer Reports notes few reliability problems, and lists the RL on its “good bet” list. This is a complicated car, however, so there are a few items worth noting if the RL is on your shopping list.
2007 Acura RL Elite. Click image to enlarge
The RL with “smart key” keyless entry and drive system issues a warning when the batteries in the key fob(s) begin to run low on juice (the keys will still work, though). The fix, of course, is to simply replace the batteries.
The smart key system allows the car to be unlocked when the driver grabs the outer door handle. These are prone to a fault that causes a short circuit and blows a fuse, putting the auto-unlock and keyless start functions out of commission. This post explains how to test which door handle is the culprit. Replacement of the bad handle is the solution.
Consumer Reports doesn’t note this, but there’s evidence out there in the wilds of the Internet of a problem with a propshaft bearing in 2005 and 2006 models. The prop(eller) shaft is the one that takes power from the engine to the rear wheels; it’s a two-piece shaft with a bearing in between the two parts. One concern, aside from the obvious one of the bearing failing outright, is that of additional vibration being transferred to the rear differential, causing it to wear prematurely and possible fail. Here’s a lengthy thread about the problem.
2007 Acura RL Elite. Click image to enlarge
Surprisingly, to me, at least, is that the RL doesn’t suffer from the rampant automatic transmission problems that many other Acuras (and Hondas) experienced in the 2000s. There is evidence of the possibility of transmission fluid leaks from hose fittings on the transmission, but nothing to suggest that the transmission itself is as problematic as those used in other Acuras sold around the same time as this second-generation RL.
For those interested, here’s a link to an online version of the owner’s manual for a 2006 RL.
Used values, per Canadian Black Book, range from $21,275 for a 2005 model to $47,200 for a 2010 model with the Elite option package.
The RL has held up better than many flagship models too, considering how much high tech equipment this car was packaged with. It won’t hold much appeal with extroverts, though, thanks to understated styling that makes it difficult to distinguish from an Accord at a distance; the tight interior and lack of a V8 option might turn off some luxury buyers, too. If you’re not concerned about those things, though, the RL makes a nice Q-ship. Shop carefully to find a car that’s had the A/C compressor replaced (or a car in which the original part is working properly) and that doesn’t exhibit any of the symptoms of the driveshaft/differential problems.
Black Book Pricing (avg. retail) December, 2010:
2005:On certain vehicles, a manufacturing fault with the fuel pump relay could cause the coil wire in the relay to break. If this happens, the fuel pump will not operate and the engine may not start. If the relay fails while driving, the engine may stall without warning and a crash could occur. Correction: Dealers will inspect and, if required, replace the fuel pump relay.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2007387; 1,172
2005-2008: On certain vehicles, the power steering hose may deteriorate prematurely, causing the hose to crack and leak. Power steering fluid leakage onto a hot catalytic converter, will generate smoke and possibly lead to an under-hood fire, causing property damage and/or personal injury or death. Correction: Dealers will install an updated power steering hose.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2007387; 31,503 (includes other models)
2005-2007: On certain vehicles a seal in the brake master cylinder may be susceptible to damage which can result in a leak if certain conditions exist. The polymer content affects the amount of lubrication the brake fluid provides to brake system components that are exposed to brake fluid. If the brake fluid is replaced with a low polymer brake fluid, and the brake fluid is subsequently subjected to a manual brake fluid bleeding procedure, as opposed to an automated brake bleed procedure, it is possible for the seal at the end of the brake master cylinder primary circuit to become twisted within its retention groove. If this seal becomes twisted, it can result in a leak of a small amount of brake fluid each time the brake pedal is applied. Should a leak occur, after some time the driver will be alerted by the illumination of the low brake fluid indicator light on the meter panel before any effect on braking performance results. If the driver continues to drive the vehicle without refilling the brake fluid reservoir, the vehicle will eventually exhibit a soft or spongy brake pedal feel, requiring more stroke to achieve equivalent braking force. Eventually, if this continues un-remedied, braking performance will be affected, and will finally result in a low pedal and a loss of one braking circuit. Correction: Dealer will replace the brake master cylinder seal cup and the master power assembly if brake fluid has leaked.
Crash test results
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.