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2005 Luxury  Buyer's Guide

by Martha Hindes

2005 Acura RL
2005 Acura RL

Want the inside story? Then you must be thinking of Acura RL for '05. The newly redesigned flagship sedan from Honda's luxury marquee turned itself inside out, so to speak, to get its customer priorities right.

Almost any advanced electronic add-ons at high altitude level are on the new RL. A top-notch navigation system with eight-inch display shows 3-D graphics and recognizes 560 different voice commands (more than some teen vocabularies, it seems). Acura pulls down XM satellite-fed traffic data through its AcuraLink feature, and then churns out real time traffic information without delay. That, in itself, could be worth much of the $50K price tag for anyone forced to navigate the country's 20 most congested cities during rush hour every day.

Remote key access operates doors, trunk and starter. Bored with the console-mounted shifter? Use steering wheel-mounted paddles instead. On the driving side, put the RL in gear and something called "Super Handling All-Wheel Drive" connects. Unchallenged, it gives the RL front-drive characteristics. But when needed, more driving force goes to the rear, and the outside wheels can spin faster than inside ones in a tight turn to maintain control. (Think wheelies, or doughnut turns while nearly anchored in one spot, or Acura's description: "Sports car prowess.")

The RL's only powerplant, a 3.6-liter VTEC V6, doesn't seem to suffer from V8 envy as it churns out some 300-horsepower and 260-lb. ft. of torque, while delivering 18/26 miles per gallon and meeting super low ULEV emissions standards. But there seems to be more attention paid to fuel economy than to drag strip take-offs, which is probably not a bad thing lately as gas prices continue to escalate before our eyes.

Acura has designed the RL so it's less identifiable as a cousin of Honda Accord. With it's wedge-shaped, high beltline, hunkier appearance, think distant relative instead. That's just one of RL's outside updates. A stiff-bodied, largely aluminum exterior features an enhanced crash-worthy front. Headlamps swivel as much as 20 degrees to follow the turning angle of tires, illuminating roadway surprises that otherwise might loom into view too late to avoid.

And when it's a traffic jam that's unavoidable, even with up-to-the-second traffic information, RL delivers again. With the eight channel, 10-speaker Acura/Bose system offering FM/AM, XM, MP3, 6-disc CD and DVD-Audio, at least one can endure it in superior listening style.


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