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 2004 Luxury Buyer's Guide
by Martha Hindes

Acura RL Luxury Sedan
2004 Acura RL Luxury Sedan

Sometimes sneak peaks are what make the world go round.or at least they make it more fun.

The Japanese luxury automaker, Acura, tweaked our fancy a few months ago in New York by alluding to but not quite confirming what it would launch as the redesigned model of its flagship sedan, the RL, for 2005. That was April. This is now. Despite the time lag, what Acura showed off as a prototype is almost guaranteed to remain essentially what RL buyers will be viewing in showrooms probably sometime around October.

If the redesign is as promised, the RL from the company that has never used a V-8 engine will have so much power you won't even know a larger engine is missing. That's because Acura's finely tuned 3.5-liter, 24-valve VTEC engine will generate 300-horsepower, as much or more than the V-8s in some competitors' luxury cars. Base that on a sport-tuned chassis and what Acura calls a "Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive System" - the first ever that distributes more driving power from side to side as well as the usual front- to rear-wheel exchange - and you know it's going to be an exciting, performance-oriented ride.

The new, more environmentally friendly RL isn't lacking in style. It is shorter and wider, but more "muscular" that its predecessor but is roomier inside. An aggressive, more sloping front gives a sense of motion, accented by huge, 20-inch wheels. Safety enhancements include swiveling headlamps that follow the road curve during turns, plus body structure improvements. Among the major changes to the RL is a totally new navigation system that won't have a 48-state boundary as the previous one. No more "Too bad, Hawaii and Alaska."

Acura officials won't whisper the price. That's not due out for a few weeks yet. But it can't be too far off the current $46,000-plus including destination. And since Acura makes most amenities, including navigation system, standard it leaves little room for variance - and no sticker shock surprises.

Acura RL Luxury SedanJaguar XJ Long Wheelbase
BMW 645 CiLexus LS 430
Cadillac STSLincoln Town Car
Chrysler 300CMercedes-Benz S-Class
Infiniti Q45Volkswagen Phaeton