The news reports haven't been favorable to the new 2007 Acura RL sedan. It's not that the fleet's flagship luxury sedan is getting bad reviews, or that the styling is unsightly. The negative reports are about the low numbers that the RL is producing. Sales figures, that is.
According to Forbes.com, for some reason the Acura RL was the lowest and slowest selling Acura of the entire lineup in 2007, with sales dropping a whopping 35 percent from the previous year. That means only 11,501 RLs were taken off the sales lot in nationwide in 2006. Not a number that the Acura marketing department is promoting, I'm sure.
But look on the bright side. If you were one of those lucky few who purchased an Acura RL from the 2006 fleet, you were among a select group who now claim ownership to the vehicle. Instead of being the first on your block to own an Acura RL, you might be the only RL owner in the entire state. You can probably drive for days before you come across another '06 RL on the freeway. You can start an RL owners club and not have enough attendance to move it out of your garage. You will certainly save money on name tags, pencils, pretzels and coffee.
But not only can you enjoy the psychological benefits on top of being the first and only RL owner in your region, you can also take pride in the fact that the vehicle you purchased is actually a very nice, sporty and luxurious, mid-sized sedan. One that not only talks the talk, with sleek styling and a sensuous interior -- but it also walks the walk by kicking up some 290 horsepower from its 3.5 liter V6 VTEC engine.
In fact, while 90 percent of RL drivers will opt for daily driving with the smooth automatic transmission, racing fans will make the choice to go for the fancy flip paddles behind the steering wheel to shift gears while the transmission is in the M or manual mode. Like the Formula One racers, the paddle shifts allow the driver to maintain complete control of the steering wheel while still shifting on the go for maximum fun.
OK, so if it wasn't the snazzy shifter that turned off potential customers, perhaps it was the strange circular dial on the center console that gave them pause. I can understand that feeling, because even after a week in the RL, I still hadn't mastered the art of dialing for music, maps, or trip information on the LCD screen that shares a multitude of display options. All those great gadgets are worthless if you can't figure out how to access them.
"This is too confusing" repeated my 13-year-old daughter as she searched in vain for some of her hip-hop favorites with the dial. Fortunately for her, the standard XM radio was already preset for the Top 20 on 20 channel, satisfying her desire for today's teenage tunes.
Even more confusing was the wide array of control buttons on the steering wheel. In addition to the aforementioned gear-shift paddles, there are buttons for the cruise control (on/off, set/decel, rec/acc); stereo volume (up/down, mode, channel); phone on/off (for Bluetooth users); vehicle information; and a couple of blank buttons for items you may wish to add later.
A nice exterior feature on our sleek and stylish "Opulent Blue Pearl" sedan was the handy lighted door handles that provide clear view in the dark with the touch of the remote unlock button. Other fun features include power-adjusted lumbar supports in the driver's seat, power-adjustable steering wheel and a color backup camera that provides a great view of the otherwise unseen area directly behind your rear bumper.
For safety, the RL features front and side airbags and curtain airbags for rear passengers, front seat belt pretensioners that cinch up in emergency braking and a Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS). The radar-driven adaptive cruise control allows you to set a specific cruise speed, and then adjusts the actual speed when another vehicle appears in your path. The cruise control will keep you a safe distance behind the vehicle until it leaves your air space, and you speed back up to the predetermined speed.
The RL is now available in three trim levels: the RL, the RL with Technology Package plus CMBS and PAX run-flat tires. The RL with Technology Package includes Acura Satellite Navigation System and AcuraLink with Real Time Traffic, Active Front Lighting and an upgraded wood interior.
Even with the extra power, the RL achieves fuel economy of 18/26 mpg (city/highway). Base price for the Acura RL is $45,780, with the RL CMBS/PAX starting at $53,200. The test model drive included $670 destination and handling charge for a total price of $53,870.