The Acura RL
is the flagship car for North American luxury brand Acura
— marketed in Japan as the Honda Legend
and manufactured in Saitama
. The alpha call-sign "RL" is an abbreviation for "Refined Luxury."
The first-generation Acura RL was a similarly rebadged
version of the third-generation Honda Legend
, and was first introduced into the North American market in 1996 to replace the second-generation Acura Legend
. The current second-generation Acura RL is a rebadged version of the fourth-generation Honda Legend and was introduced into the North American market in September 2004 as a 2005 model. This iteration of the RL received an extensive mid-generational facelift
for the 2009 model year.
First generation (1996–2004)
First generation (KA9)
Also called Acura 3.5RL
Production 1996–2004 Model years
1996 – 2004 Layout FF layout Engine
3.5 L V6 Transmission
4-speed automatic Wheelbase
114.6 in (2,911 mm) Length 1996–1998:195.1 in (4,956 mm)
1999–2001:196.6 in (4,994 mm)
2002–2004:196.7 in (4,996 mm) Width 1996–1998:71.3 in (1,811 mm)
1999–2001:71.4 in (1,814 mm)
2002–2004:71.7 in (1,821 mm) Height 1996–1998:54.5 in (1,384 mm)
1999–2001:56.5 in (1,435 mm)
2002–2004:54.5 in (1,384 mm) 1996 (KA9)
In 1996, Acura introduced the Acura 3.5RL, known internally as "KA9," to replace the Legend. Acura dropped the Legend name when market research showed that consumers knew Acura products by their model names, "Legend" and "Integra", and did not necessarily associate the names with the manufacturer, Acura.
The 3.5RL's longitudinally mounted V6 engine had its center-line mounted in-line with the car's axis, and not transversely (i.e., 90 degrees offset from the vehicle axis) like most other front-wheel-drive cars. This longitudinal placement allowed for a smaller turning radius and easy in-town maneuverability, as well as 56/44 front/rear weight distribution.
1999–2004 Acura 3.5RL
In 1999, the 3.5RL received a front and rear facelift with xenon HID headlamps
, integrated foglights, revised bumpers and hood, as well as driver and front passenger side airbags. The suspension and chassis were stiffened, and new alloy wheels were offered.
In 2000, a larger navigation system screen was added. Along with that larger screen came the conversion to easy-to-replace DVD map databases. In 2002, the 3.5RL received painted lower trim and mudflaps along with redesigned alloys and a newer, sportier suspension setup. Perhaps the more important change was the engine, which was upgraded to produce 225 hp (168 kW) and 231 lb·ft (313 N·m) of torque. More insulation was added in the engine compartment, and OnStar
was added in 2002. The 2003 and 2004 RLs received clear turn signal lenses in the rear lights, another new alloy wheel design, and various interior upgrades including new color schemes. For 2004, the navigation system became standard, along with a redesigned center console and chrome door lock pulls.
The 1996–2004 3.5RL's engine was the last in the Honda and Acura lineup not to use VTEC
, Honda's variable valve timing system. This 3.5 L 90-degree V6 engine was internally designated as the C35A, and was the last of the Honda C engine
V6 engines used in Honda and Acura lineups, being replaced by the newer Honda J engine
60-degree V6 engines. The 2004 RL was also the last Acura to use the numeric designation (i.e., 3.5) for its engine displacement.
Second generation (2005–2012)
Second generation (KB1/KB2)
Also called Honda Legend
Acura 3.7RL Production 2005-2012 Model years
2005 – 2012 Layout Front engine
, all-wheel drive Engine
2005-08: 3.5L 290 hp (220 kW)
2009: 3.7L 300 hp (220 kW) Transmission
2005-10: 5-speed automatic with sequential sport shift
2011: 6-speed automatic Wheelbase
2005-09: 110.2 in (2,799 mm) Length 2005-08: 193.6 in (4,917 mm)
2009: 195.8 in (4,973 mm) Width 2005-09: 72.7 in (1,847 mm) Height 2005-08: 57.1 in (1,450 mm)
2009: 57.2 in (1,453 mm) 2005 (KB1)
A new-generation car, known internally as "KB1," was launched in late 2004 for the 2005 model year. Still without the much-rumored V8 engine
, it featured a sophisticated all-wheel drive
system Acura calls "Super Handling-All Wheel Drive" (SH-AWD
). It integrates active differentials
with the all-wheel-drive system and traction control to improve handling, similar to the "ATTS" system featured on the 1997 Honda Prelude SH
. At the time of its introduction, the Acura RL's SH-AWD was the first all-wheel-drive system that vary the distribution of power not only from front to back, but also side to side in the rear using a technique called torque vectoring. The RL can direct up to 70% of available torque to the rear wheels, and up to 100% of that available rear torque can be directed to just one wheel. In combination with a specially designed planetary gear set which can over-drive the rear wheels at up to 5% greater speed than the front wheels, the torque directed to one wheel, or torque vectoring, can have a steering effect. As the car speeds around a curve, torque vectored to the outside rear wheel will push the rear end around the curve faster, just as paddling the outside oar of a row boat faster than the inside oar will cause the row boat to turn, to minimize the understeer common in front-heavy vehicles.
The first-generation RL was powered by a 225 hp (168 kW) 90° C-series
engine. The second-generation RL uses a newer design 60° J-series
3.5 L V6 SOHC
VTEC engine delivering 300 hp (224 kW; later revised to 290 hp (220 kW) due to new SAE testing procedures). To give the car a more sporty feel, the car featured drive-by-wire throttle control and a five-speed sequential sport shifting automatic transmission
with shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel. As with the first-generation Acura RL, the second-generation Acura RL used premium unleaded fuel rated at 91 (R+M)/2 octane.
A first for the RL was the use of aluminum 4-piston front brake calipers over 12.6-inch cast-iron ventilated front rotors. These multi-piston calipers derived from racing applications, are extremely rigid. In the rear, 12.2-inch cast-iron ventilated discs attached to their hub with lightweight aluminum collets and were gripped by one-piston aluminum brake calipers.
The RL was equipped with unique five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels and Michelin Pilot HX MXM 4 245/50-R-17 98V
all season grand touring tires. These wheels were one inch larger in diameter, and the tires 20 mm wider in section, than those found on the first-generation Acura RL.
New features on the 2005 RL included a keyless entry system
which allowed the driver to both lock and unlock the car by touching the door handle, without having to use the remote control, and a keyless start system. A new 260 watt, ten speaker Bose
sound system equalized for the RL cabin featured several Bose technologies.
Bose AudioPilot is a noise compensation technology which analyzes background environmental cabin noise and uses an algorithm based on cabin acoustics to boost certain portions of the musical signal so that it may be heard more clearly above environmental sound "clutter" without any apparent change in volume.
Bose Centerpoint processes stereo and matrix surround sound recordings to allow play through the 5.1 sound system even though the source may only be a stereo sound track. Bose Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) rounded out the suite. Always on, whether the stereo was on or not, ANC took input from two microphones placed in the cabin to analyze drivetrain-related low-frequency sound waves entering the cabin. The ANC sent information to the sound system to create a precisely shaped and timed reverse-phased audio signal from the door speakers and the subwoofer. The result was a dramatic reduction in engine and exhaust noise.
XM Satellite Radio
, integrated Bluetooth
hands-free technology for wireless phone use, voice recognition technology with over 560 voice commands to control navigation system and displays, wireless phone, audio system, heating and ventilation controls rounded out the cabin's technological features. Heating and air conditioning systems were tied into a solar sensor and GPS positioning so that cabin temperature remained constant in a mixed sun and shade situation. Based on sun position and cabin orientation, the system could automatically send additional cooling air to the sunny side of the car to keep that occupant comfortable, while not freezing out the occupant on the shady side.
The Alpine Electronics
DVD-based navigation system was integrated with an 8-inch LCD display and a multi-use Interface Dial, which could move up, down, left and right like a mouse, turn like a knob, scroll through preset menus, and click when pushed to act as a selector button. Unlike many in-car navigation systems, the Alpine DVD-based navigation unit allowed the driver to change destinations and routes "on the fly" while driving, rather than being locked out unless the car was in Park. The tightly integrated voice recognition system worked with the navigation system and could recognize spoken city and street names. Also unique at the time was two-way communication via AcuraLink satellite communication. Using a facility of XM Radio service, the system could send a variety of messages to the car, including service appointment reminders (appointments first made via Internet) or important messages such as recall notices. The use of OnStar
was carried over from the previous generation RL. Use of digital/analog trimode (two digital bands and one analog band) technology allowed the 2005 RL OnStar technology to survive the planned 2007 phase-out of the analog OnStar to fully digital OnStar service.
Other new RL features included the Active Front Lighting System
, in which the high intensity discharge headlamps swiveled in concert with the steering up to twenty degrees, for improved night cornering vision. Light emitting diodes (LED
) replaced traditional incandescent bulbs in the tail and brake lights, the turn signals integrated in the side mirror housings, and many interior cabin lights.
Engine bay of the Acura RL
The 2005 RL was also the first Honda vehicle to use the Advanced Compatibility Engineering
(ACE) body structure, which has since proliferated throughout every newly introduced Honda and Acura vehicle design. The ACE structure features extensive use of high-tensile steel and lightweight aluminum components in a front-mounted polygonal main frame, designed to engage vehicles of differing size and weight in a frontal collision and spread the forces through multiple structural pathways, while preventing or minimizing cabin deformation. In practical terms, this means in an SUV
versus ACE structure car collision, there is a greater chance that the ACE body structure will engage with the SUV's frame and dissipate collision forces around the passenger compartment. In more conventional non-ACE car structures, the SUV frame has a much greater chance of missing or over-riding the conventional car's major structural components and a greater chance of deforming the passenger compartment.
The 2005 RL car structure made extensive use of somewhat "exotic" materials for a car at this price point. These included aluminum alloy in the hood, front fenders, trunk lid and frame, front and rear subframes, suspension arms, front knuckles and bumper beams. Magnesium was used in the intake manifold, and the two-piece center drive shaft was made of a carbon reinforced composite. The new RL featured extensive aerodynamic design treatment including details such as industry-first flush side glass, plus underbody covers and diffusers to reduce lift, resulting in a very low drag coefficient
2005 RL Exterior Colors
2005 RL Interior Colors
Premium White Pearl Parchment, Ebony Opulent Blue Pearl Ebony, Taupe Redondo Red Pearl Parchment' Ebony Meteor Silver Metallic Ebony, Taupe Nighthawk Black Pearl Parchment, Ebony Lakeshore Silver Metallic Ebony, Taupe Celestial Silver Metallic Ebony, Taupe Desert Mist Metallic Parchment, Ebony 2005 RL Retail Price
2006 Honda Legend
For 2006, the Acura RL was also offered in a second trim level, the optional 'Technology Package' which included three new features: adaptive cruise control
(ACC), Collision Mitigation Braking System
, and Michelin PAX System run-flat tires
on unique PAX 235 mm x 460 mm A ("A" for asymmetric) aluminum alloy wheels with unique 245-680R460A Michelin Pilot HX MXM 4 all-season Grand Touring type radials designed for the Michelin PAX System
. The metric sized, run-flat Michelin PAX System wheels and tires are equivalent to 18" x 9" wheels and 245/45-R18 conventional tires. The previously standard color-matched mud guards were removed in 2006. All 2006 models had a slight change to the navigation system that allowed the installation of an optional rearview camera
. MSRP increased by $200 over the equivalent 2005 model.
2006 RL Exterior Colors
2006 RL Interior Colors
Premium White Pearl Parchment, Ebony Opulent Blue Pearl Ebony, Taupe Redondo Red Pearl Parchment, Ebony Carbon Gray Pearl Ebony, Taupe Meteor Silver Metallic Ebony, Taupe Nighthawk Black Pearl Parchment, Ebony Lakeshore Silver Metallic Ebony, Taupe Celestial Silver Metallic Ebony, Taupe Desert Mist Metallic Parchment, Ebony 2006 RL Base Package
US$ 49,300 2006 RL Technology Package
US$ 53,100 For 2007, the Acura RL was offered in three trim levels, detailed in the table below: a "standard" or "base" package, a newly defined "Technology Package," and the highest level trim, the "Technology Package with CMBS/PAX."
Base model cars were well equipped, but deleted certain features such as the navigation system and Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS), and substituted plastic simulated wood for the dashboard maple wood trim.
Technology Package cars were essentially the same as the 2005 and 2006 standard models, coming with navigation and AFS, while adding as standard equipment a rear backup camera and a 3.5 mm stereo input jack for Apple iPod and other MP3-type devices.
The Technology Package plus CMBS/PAX trim level had no 2005 equivalent, though it was most similar to the 2006 Technology Package that had also included ACC/CMBS and PAX technologies. While the label "CMBS/PAX" might appear to indicate ACC was dropped as a feature, in reality, ACC was an extension of the CMBS system, and so was included.
As noted above, the MP3 audio player feature (really usable for any device with a 3.5 mm headphone jack) was added to all trim levels. An integrated rearview camera was added to the top two trim levels. An integrated rearview camera could be added to the non-navigation Base model as a dealer installed option. The Base model optional rearview camera was installed in the same manner and position as on the 2006 models, mounted dead center in the trunk trim, with the trunk release button displaced to the right of center (passenger side). The difference was subtle, but the factory rearview camera installation on the Technology Package and the Technology Package with CMBS/PAX is to the left side (driver's side) of the center-mounted trunk release.
In 2005 and 2006, all models came standard with "genuine curly maple wood dashboard trim." With the introduction of three trim levels, the genuine curly maple wood dashboard trim now only appeared on the two higher level cars: the Technology Package and the Technology Package with CMBS/PAX. OnStar was deleted as a feature from all trim levels. Colors were added and deleted. MSRP increased by $100 from the roughly equivalent 2006 trims.
2007 RL Exterior Colors 2007 RL Interior Colors
Premium White Pearl Parchment, Ebony Opulent Blue Pearl Ebony, Taupe Redondo Red Pearl Parchment, Ebony Carbon Gray Pearl Ebony, Taupe Platinum Frost Metallic
Celestial Silver and
Meteor Silver Ebony, Taupe Nighthawk Black Pearl Parchment, Ebony Lakeshore Silver Metallic Ebony, Taupe Desert Mist Metallic Parchment, Ebony 2007 RL Base Package
US$ 45,780 2007 RL Technology Package
US$ 49,400 2007 RL Technology + ACC/CMBS/PAX
US$ 53,200 2007 RL 2007 RL with Technology Package
(in addition to the base package) 2007 RL with Technology and ACC/CMBS/PAX Packages
(in addition to the Technology Package) 290 horsepower (220 kW) Acura Navigation System
with Voice Recognition Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS)
3.5-liter, 24-valve, SOHC VTEC
V-6 aluminum-alloy engine Rearview camera Adaptive Cruise Control
(ACC) Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) AcuraLink satellite communication system with real-time traffic Michelin PAX Run-Flat Technology
10-speaker Surround Sound System GPS-linked, solar-sensing, dual-zone, dual-mode automatic climate control system
XM Satellite Radio Active Front Lighting System (AFS)
Keyless Access System
Genuine curlywood maple interior trim
The 2008 Acura RL continued unchanged in the U.S. market from the 2007 model, with three trim levels. Colors were added and deleted. MSRP increased $500 for each trim:
2008 RL Exterior Colors
2008 RL Interior Colors
Premium White Pearl Parchment, Ebony Opulent Blue Pearl Taupe, (Ebony is dropped)
Redondo Red Pearl Parchment, (Ebony is dropped)
Carbon Gray Pearl Ebony, Taupe Platinum Frost Metallic Ebony, Taupe Nighthawk Black Pearl Parchment, Ebony Lakeshore Silver Metallic Ebony, Taupe Desert Mist Metallic Parchment, (Ebony is dropped) 2008 RL Base Package
US$ 46,280 2008 RL Technology Package
US$ 49,900 2008 RL Technology + ACC/CMBS/PAX
US$ 53,700 In Canada, the 2008 Acura RL was available in two different models, Base and Elite Package. The Elite Package added Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Active Front Lighting System (AFS), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), heated and cooled ventilated front seats, and burled maple wood trim.
2005–2008 A-Spec Performance Package
For the 2005–2008 models, Acura offered an A-Spec package for the RL. The dealer-installed package consisted of a body kit, badging, revised suspension and different wheels. The package was first announced at a late 2004 Specialty Equipment Market Association
(SEMA) trade show in Las Vegas.
It should be noted that the A-Spec package for sale was distinctly different from the Acura RL A-Spec Concept Vehicle announced and shown as a striking dark red one-of-a-kind custom creation in early 2005 at the Detroit Auto Show
The performance part of the package included the A-Spec sport suspension and A-Spec 18-inch alloy wheels, which allowed the use of more sports-oriented lower profile tires.
The A-Spec sport suspension changed out the four spring and damper (shock absorber) strut assemblies. The A-Spec suspension featured lowering springs (approximately 0.75 inch) and revalved dampers. The ride was stiffer, but not overly so, and handling was improved with less body roll, more controlled cornering and enhanced feel. Reportedly Acura chose to make the RL's A-Spec suspension more compliant than the very stiff A-Spec sport suspension upgrade for the Acura TL, in keeping with the two different missions of the cars: luxury for the RL, luxury sport for the TL. Acura RL A-Spec retained the same suspension geometry as the stock Acura RL suspension alignment specifications.
The other A-Spec performance upgrade was A-Spec 18x8 inch alloy wheels, a 10-spoke lightweight design (about the same weight as the 5-spoke 17x8 inch OEM wheels). Recommended tires were either 245/45-18 sized Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 ultra high-performance summer tires or Michelin Pilot Sport A/S ultra-high-performance all-season tires. Alternatively, less sport-oriented Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 Grand Touring All Season tires were also available in the same size. Typical of Acura optional wheels, the 55 mm offset of the stock 17x8 inch wheels was maintained so that suspension geometry could remain untouched.
The A-Spec appearance package consisted of a front air dam, side skirts, rear bumper air diffuser and a subtle trunk decklid lip style spoiler, all designed to give the car a more aggressive "aero" look. The parts came pre-painted from the factory to match factory colors. All parts were dealer installable. If the dealer installed the A-Spec parts at the time of purchase, the original new car warranty of four years/50,000 miles would apply. If installed after purchase, the normal one year/12,000 mile parts warranty would apply.
As of the 2009 mid-model change, A-Spec options were no longer offered. There is a widely held belief that the A-Spec suspension should have been the standard suspension on the Acura RL, and that the stock suspension was too soft, hampering the very capable chassis and drivetrain. This belief seems to be supported by Acura's move for 2009 to a firmer standard suspension, plus larger and wider 18" x 8" inch standard wheels and lower-profile 245/45-18 size tires. More aggressive "aero" look body work was also standard, and a revised trunk decklid spoiler was made available as a dealer installed option.