The RL, an abbreviation for “refined luxury”, is the flagship midsize sedan by Japanese luxury brand Acura and is manufactured in Saitama. Here are changes it underwent through the years.
First generation (1996-2004): The introduction
The first-generation 3.5RL, known as the “KA9”, was introduced to the North American market in 1996 to replace the Acura Legend. The “Legend” name was dropped when market research showed consumers knew Acura’s products by model names, for example, “Legend” or “Integra”, without associating them with the manufacturer, Acura.
The 3.5RL got a front and rear facelift with xenon high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps, integrated fog lights, revised bumpers and hoods, and driver- and front passenger-side airbags in 1999.
In 2000, a larger navigation system screen was added, along with easy-to-replace DVD map databases. By 2002, it had painted lower trim and mudflaps along with redesigned alloys and a sportier suspension setup. More insulation was also added to the engine compartment.
The navigation system became standard, along with a redesigned center console and chrome door lock pulls, in the 2003 and 2004 RLs. The 1996-2004 3.5RL’s engine was the last in the Acura lineup not to use the variable valve timing system (VTEC), but was instead outfitted with a 3.5-liter 90-degree V6 engine known as the C35A.
Second generation (2005-2013): The unraveling
Known as the “KB1”, the new-generation car which was launched late 2004 for the model year 2005 featured a sophisticated all-wheel drive system and traction control to improve handling called “Super Handling All-Wheel Drive”.
It was the first all-wheel-drive system to vary the distribution of power not only from front to back but also from side to side using a technique called torque vectoring, directing up to 70 percent of available torque to the rear wheels and up to 100 percent of that available rear torque to just one wheel.
A very interesting feature 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, doing away with the need to use a remote control.
XM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth hands-free technology, and voice recognition—the system can recognize spoken city and street names and send a variety of messages to the car including appointment reminders—comprised the vehicle’s technological offerings.
The car was installed with a unique heating and air conditioning system that can automatically send cooling air to the sunny side to keep the passenger there comfortable, while not freezing the occupant on the shady side.
In 2006, the RL had the “Technology Package” which included three new features: adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking system, and Michelin PAX system run-flat tires. This model year also allowed the installation of an optional rearview camera.
Additional insulation, improved isolation acoustic windshield design, and a new implementation of the Active Noise Cancellation system combined to make the 2009 RL’s interior quieter, not only canceling out low frequency boominess from the engine and exhaust, but also doing away with higher frequency road and tire noise.
The 2011-2013 Acura saw the onset of new features which included a six-speed automatic transmission, credited by the Environmental Protection Agency for a gas mileage improvement of 2 miles per gallon in highway driving; power folding mirrors; and rear backup/parking sensors.