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Eight Luxury Sport Sedan Comparison Front Collage

Executive Privileges: Luxury Sport Sedan Comparison


Captain of Curves is Otherwise Behind the Times

The verdict was unanimous: Our editors grew very fond of the Acura RL's Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system. "SH-AWD does improve cornering feel noticeably," says Markus, adding, "The corner exits are its real forte. I ended up thinking it worked a lot better than the numbers suggest." Mortara notes, "I never thought this car would be such fun on a mountain road." But it was. Despite ho-hum exterior styling -- a freshening for 2009, replete with Acura's controversial bucktooth grille, did little to spruce up this flagship's conservative lines -- and midpack lateral acceleration of 0.82 g, the RL managed to get our adrenaline flowing once on a twisty road. The reason, of course, was SH-AWD, a nifty technology that can apportion up to 70 percent of the available 271 pound-feet of torque to either of the outside rear wheels. Thus, when charging through turns, the RL maintained a rather neutral behavior, displaying minimal understeer and a knack for composed rotation and fast exit speeds. In this way, the RL acquits itself like a bigger and heavier Mitsubishi Evo X.

Alas, other than its grin-inducing handling, the RL struggled to wow our crew. The culprits were many, notably a five-speed automatic that came across as archaic among six- and seven-speeds. "Transmission is weak in this field and only performs adequately," says Loh. "Shifts are reasonably quick for just driving around, but not great when you're running through the canyons." Further, the RL's suspension transmitted too much vertical motion, its cabin suffered from a "big Mess o' Buttons" and questionable plastics, leather, and trim, and its sweet-sounding, smooth-revving V-6 nevertheless produced the most underwhelming acceleration numbers of the group. A 300-horsepower sport/luxury sedan that needs 6.9 seconds to hit 60 mph? That performance is arguably unacceptable in a day and age when the heavier and less powerful Lexus RX 350 -- a sport/utility, mind you -- requires just 6.8. Further, the RL, at 13.4 mpg, returned the field's lowest observed fuel economy, guzzling more gas than the V-8 Jaguar and the supercharged V-6 Audi.

It's rare for the most premium of premium Hondas to finish this low in a comparison test, but the RL is simply a dated entry in an especially progressive segment. - Ron Kiino

2009 Acura RL Front Three Quarters Passenger
2009 Acura RL Side
2009 Acura RL Engine
2009 Acura RL Cockpit
2009 Acura RL Center Stack
2009 Acura RL Driver Seat

2009 Acura RL
Base price $47,490
Price as tested $54,910
Vehicle layout Front engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
Engine 3.7L/300-hp/271-lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 4082 lb (58/42%)
Wheelbase 110.2 in
Length x width x height 195.7 x 72.7 x 57.2 in
0-60 mph 6.9 sec
Quarter mile 15.4 sec @ 93.0 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 125 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.82 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 27.8 sec @ 0.61 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 16/22 mpg
MT observed fuel econ 13.4 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.06 lb/mile

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Vehicle Buyer's Guide

2011 Acura RL
2011 Acura RL
MSRP: $47,200 - $55,150
Body Style: Sedan
Sum Up: N/A
Motor Trend Rating:  Stars
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Additional Photos

Eight Luxury Sport Sedan Comparison Front Collage 2009 Infiniti M35 S Front Three Quarters Static
Eight Luxury Sport Sedan Comparison Rear Collage 2009 Infiniti M35 S Rear Three Quarters Static
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Community Comments

unamericankars  (12/16/09 11:52 PM)

Germans on top again.  No question about it.

F_USM.SAE_H  (12/17/09 12:23 AM)

Without even reading the article, I already have a problem with it. Two of the cars in this comparison (the BMW and Infiniti) have already been replaced by newer models. One more car (the Audi) will be replaced within the next year or two.

So without even testing the cars, three vehicles are at a disadvantage for being significantly older than the competition, even though their newer replacements have already been revealed or will be shortly.

Just doesn't seem fair to me. If you couldn't wait to get your hands on a press car, than hold off on the comparison. Just my two cents...

Sino52C  (12/17/09 12:36 AM)

The GS, RL are also very disadvantaged. Granted, I think the A6 on that list is fine because the supercharged version is practically brand new.  This comparison would've been interesting 3 years ago (without the CTS and XF though).  I bring you to C&D's review at that time.  

I don't get why MT doesn't like the M compared to C&D.  This has been fairly consistent too.  I mean come on, the RL better than the M? I don't find many people who will agree.  Better acceleration, fuel economy, handling (in terms of numbers), even space.

blk6speed  (12/17/09 01:01 AM)

CTS is better than infiniti M and Lexus GS? REALLY? omg this comparison is sooo biased

unamericankars  (12/17/09 03:20 AM)

They should also have night-time shots of the interiors.  I think Audi would take the cake.  BMW's would be kind of bland.  I'm curious as to how the Jag and Caddy would look.

slu1979  (12/17/09 04:10 AM)

just give me the jaguar or the lexus and dump the rest in the sea.

mo_pho  (12/17/09 04:25 AM)

I hope you're kidding, blk6.

bos_pen  (12/17/09 05:28 AM)

Uh......looks like someone forgot the Genesis.

E39M  (12/17/09 06:07 AM)

I'm thrilled with the winner here, and I'm glad to see some people here still know what makes a car great. No one builds a car like zee Germans... And no one forgot the Hyundai Genesis. That is a car for luxury poseurs who don't want to spend money.

uncanny_man  (12/17/09 06:22 AM)

Dang I hate bmw.  I'm so sick of reading subjective statements like "near magical blend of road isolation and feedback" in reviews.  Makes it hard to not read it as bias.

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