The last-generation Acura RL enjoyed a long and quiet life as the rolling culmination of everything Honda’s premium brand, Acura, knows about building cars. This welcoming Japanese flagship boasted quiet looks, efficient power, creamy and solid comfort, and the latest tech and safety features available in its day. Though the RL was never a heavy-hitter in the sales department, owners enjoyed a world-class luxury driving experience that flew under the radar.
Masterful build quality and materials impressed many owners
All units were four-door, V6-powered, and All Wheel Drive (AWD), making them ideal for year-round use in any weather. Look for feature content including climate controlled leather memory seats, automatic multi-zone climate control, adaptive xenon lights, radar cruise control, the Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) voice command, premium stereo systems, and more.
For shoppers after a luxury flagship experience that’s discreet, smooth and refined, and all wrapped in a body that doesn’t look like it was attacked by a Bedazzler full of chrome, the RLX is worth consideration. Best of all, resale values are highly reasonable, and reliability looks to be very solid.
Note that a 2009 update revised the RL’s powerplant, styling and feature content.
Model years 2005 to 2008 saw the RL propelled by a 3.5 litre, 290 hp V6, mated to an automatic transmission with paddle-shift. From 2009 and on, a new 3.7 litre V6 replaced this powerplant, with 300 hp. All models ran Acura’s patented Super Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system, for seamless extraction of maximum traction from all surfaces.
What Owners Like
Drivers of this generation Acura RL typically enjoy a comfortable and quiet ride, surprisingly agile handling, discreet ‘under-the-radar’ styling, and long-haul comfort and driveability on long trips. Masterful build quality and materials impressed many owners, as did Acura’s promise of reliable performance. Many RL drivers report good gas mileage, too. Several owners have said they’d love to drive their RL until the end of time.
What Owners Dislike
Complaints include small, fussy and complicated controls for the navigation and audio system, inconsistent operation of the intelligent key system, and a relatively small trunk. Some owners report squeaks and rattles from the interior trim as the car ages, and many wish for more off-the-line grunt from the V6 engines, as these powerplants need a moderate amount of revs before they come to life.
The Test Drive
Start your test drive outside of the car. Confirm that both remotes and keyfobs work as intended to lock and unlock the car, both with a touch on the door handles, and via the buttons on the fob. Here’s some more information on potential problems with RL’s remote keyfobs.
Check for signs of excessive tire wear, calling any you note into pricing negotiations. Scrutinize the paint for signs of wear, fading, chipping and rust – particularly around the edges of the rear wheelwells, and underneath lower door and trunk-lid edges. If you don’t like what you see, move to another car, or negotiate for a lower price.
An Acura technician should inspect the RL’s underside for signs of excessive rust and fluid leaks, especially from the engine, transmission, and AWD system / rear differential assembly, though these are relatively unlikely and weren’t reported by owners often enough to warrant much concern. On the topic of fluids, assume all fluids in the RL you’re considering are overdue for a change, until you see service records that prove otherwise. Do NOT extend the fluid change interval of any of the RL’s fluid-filled components, and check the owner’s manual, or with a service advisor, for more details.
The Acura RL has a rear differential that requires fluid changes, too. Some owners do not know this, and never changed the fluid, and you don’t want to buy their used RL. Here’s some useful information of Acura RL fluid changes.
While beneath the car, have a technician inspect the RL’s suspension, with particular attention paid to the ball joints, which some owners say wear out prematurely. If that’s the case on the model you’re considering, you’ll likely hear a knocking or tapping sound from beneath the vehicle as you travel over bumpy roads during your test drive. With a healthy suspension, the RL you’re considering should exhibit no unwelcome noises from below.
Check all on-board electronics, planning to spend 10 or 15 minutes confirming proper operation of the climate controlled seats on all settings, the automatic climate control, the stereo system, the push-button start system, the headlights, the navigation and Bluetooth, and anything else on board that runs on electricity. Now’s the time to be sure your perspective RL isn’t concealing an electronic issue that could cost you money.
Some owners have reported issues with the RL’s torque converter, evidenced as a shudder, vibration or sound experienced at a specific and narrow speed range, typically between about 60 and 80 km/h. Look carefully for these warning signs, as they may be fairly faint. If you detect any, note that updated transmission control software or revised transmission fluid tends to be the fix, but that some owners have had torque converters replaced under warranty if these measures fail to fix the problem. Here’s some more reading.
Another sound or sensation to be on the lookout for is a whine or drone, from the propeller shaft. Like the torque converter issue, this noise is likely to be apparent at a specific speed range, and may be felt with a mild vibration through the floor. The cause may be a bad bearing in the RL’s propeller shaft (AKA driveshaft), and this issue may be more common on colder days. It seems to affect mostly earlier copies of this generation of the car. Here’s some more information.
Numerous owners have complained of dead batteries that occur at random, poor factory battery life, or numerous electronics-related issues caused by a weak or dying battery. Several causes are possible, though the owner’s community seems fairly convinced that many Honda and Acura products simply use sub-par batteries, from the factory. If the RL you’re considering has its original battery, consider replacing it with a quality aftermarket unit for maximum peace of mind, and to pre-emptively prevent problems. A trickle charger, hooked up when you won’t be driving the car for an extended period, may also be a good idea. Here’s some more reading.
Check the RL’s air conditioning extensively, ensuring it activates and stays engaged for an extended period, cooling all the while. If that’s not the case, or if the system fails to engage or only engages a moment before turning off, have a technician check the system out before you buy. Note that if physical checks reveal no obvious issues, the cause of non-functional AC could be a bad control module. This is expensive from a dealer, though owners have sourced cheap rebuilt units from the internet, at a significant savings. More information here.
Solid reliability, compelling pricing and a top-of-the-line driving experience make the Acura RL worthy of consideration by shoppers after an authentic and winter-ready luxury driving experience that doesn’t attract any unwanted attention.
Here’s a list of recalls.
Crash Test Ratings
IIHS: Results here