2008 Acura RL


2008 Acura RL Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2008 Acura RL was new.


Performance: 8.3

While reviewers are consistently impressed with the RL's braking, suspension and powertrain, some remain disappointed in the steering, referred to by Edmunds as "a bit numb and slow, but precise." In addition, several performance-minded reviewers would prefer a V8 engine option for that extra punch. "The V6 had plenty of power but not enough of the oomph that's so thrilling when you floor it," says BusinessWeek.

Despite any qualms, reviewers feel the RL delivers the responsive handling of a sports sedan with a smooth ride. Motor Week gushes, "It is dry road handling that makes the all-wheel drive RL so unique and enjoyable.  Without being reckless, we just couldn't force the RL out of its smoother cornering lines. The words safe, secure, and solid played over and over again around every bend." Similarly, USA TODAY raves, "The RL is both easy and fun to drive. That combination isn't guaranteed in all high-power sporting machines. The RL has the enviable ability to raise your pulse while zipping to work and soothe your pain while dragging home at day's end. A lot of cars do one or the other, but few do both so remarkably."

Acceleration and Power

Under the hood, the 2008 Acura RL boasts a 3.5-liter, 24-valve V6 engine capable of producing 290 horsepower and 256 pound-feet of torque. Cars.com says, "The previous RL was an excellent road car with a solid, heavy feel. That's still the case, but it's augmented by even stronger performance. A shortage of power is never a concern, and the automatic transmission shifts easily and promptly." According to the EPA, the RL's fuel economy numbers, described by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as "impressive for such a powerful engine," are 16 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on the highway. But the New York Times reviewer feels differently, noting "Given today's high gasoline prices, offering the V6 looks smart. I was nonetheless disappointed by the mileage." The RL is tuned to run on premium fuel.

MSN's reviewer is impressed with the V6 engine, noting "I found myself traveling at highway speed while I was still on a short highway entrance ramp and had yet to merge into traffic. The engine sounds good, too, in a refined, almost Lexus-like way."   Though reviewers report that the engine packs a lot of punch for a V6, many are disappointed with the lack of an available V8. The San Francisco Chronicle comments, "When that AC Transit bus started edging over into my lane on the Bay Bridge recently, I really wanted a bit more power than the 3.5-liter V6 could muster up. Floor it and the tach needle jumps, but the car doesn't exactly leap forward."

The engine is paired with a five-speed Sequential SportShift automatic transmission which receives mixed reviews.  For performance lovers, there's a semi-manual mode with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to enable up- and down-shifting. "This transmission, like the engine, is silky smooth in the usual Acura fashion," the New York Times praises. Consumer Guide finds that the "transmission shifts smoothly and responds quickly, particularly with the manual shift paddles."

But Edmunds notes the five-speed transmission may not be adequate. "It could use those additional gears even more than its V8-engorged competitors," the reviewer says.  And of the semi-manual mode, MSN complains, "The paddles are too small for comfortable use, and the console gear shifter is notchy."

Handling and Braking

Though the RL's handling is widely praised, some reviewers have complaints.  Cars.com says, "The ride is fine on smooth surfaces, but this sedan gets jittery on harsher pavement." A majority of reviewers agree that the feel of the RL's rack-and-pinion steering is good, but leaves something to be desired. AutoWeek says, "About the only letdown with the car is the steering, which in typical Honda fashion, lacks feel. This latest RL's steering is...not quite up to par with the best of the German rivals in terms of on-center feel." On the other hand, a minority of reviewers find the steering more than adequate for their needs. The Los Angeles Times comments, "The steering is perfectly weighted and lively."  Cars.com adds, "The ride is fine on smooth surfaces, but this sedan gets jittery on harsher pavement. Steering is firm and positive."

The 2008 RL uses an independent, double-wishbone front and multilink rear suspension that pleases reviewers.  About.com notes, "The suspension swallows up potholes and speed bumps like a champ, softening the edges and remaining connected to the road." A final plus is the 2008 RL's brake system, which employs four-piston aluminum calipers in front and ventilated discs in the rear. The car comes standard with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) to improve vehicle stability and minimize stopping distances. In addition, an anti-lock braking system (ABS) helps the driver maintain steering control in hard braking situations, and Brake Assist applies full braking pressure for drivers to help avoid collisions. Auto Mall USA's reviewer represents the general consensus, commenting, "We found the brakes to be excellent, with a good, firm pedal."

All Wheel Drive

A standout feature on the 2008 RL is the all-wheel-drive system, first implemented in the 2005 model, which Acura calls Super Handling AWD (or SH-AWD).  The system, which is standard on all RLs, sends 70 percent of traction to the front wheels and can send a maximum of 70 percent to the rear wheels in heavy acceleration. This means less understeer and oversteer, "giving the RL an uncanny sense of poise and balance through most high-speed corners," according to the Detroit News. Edmunds concludes that the RL has "Outstanding all-weather handling," adding that "Acura sets itself apart with its standard Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive system that not only aids wet-weather traction, but provides tenacious grip in corners by sending more power to the outside rear wheel to push the car through a turn."

The Chicago Tribune praises the car as displaying the "balance and agility of a professional athlete. It provides a sense of security because it hugs the road so well, especially at speed and most notably in twists and turns." In city driving, "the all-wheel-drive system works so seamlessly you can hardly feel it," marvels the Kansas City Star.  "I drove an RL on a track last fall, and the benefit was immediately obvious at higher speeds. I could feel it pivot around turns as the outside rear wheel helped rotate the car."  Edmunds has good things to say about the SH-AWD system as well, noting that "When the stability control is also engaged it would take a bulldozer to push the RL off course."

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