$8,696 - $10,107

2009 Acura RL Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2009 Acura RL was new.


Performance: 8.4

Reviewers say the RL's impressive SH-AWD (Special Handling All-Wheel Drive) system helps it stick to the road like few other cars, and its V6 gives up almost nothing to V8s from other manufacturers. But its fuel economy, 16/22 mpg city/highway according to the EPA, is a real letdown. Why buy a V6 when more efficient V8s are available? 

  • "The chassis still isn't as brilliant as a BMW, but an all-wheel-drive 5-series would be a lot more money with a comparable engine." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Driving the RL, it's easy to forget how powerful the engine is, or how much technology goes into making everything easy for the driver." -- Mother Proof
  • "That transmission is connected to Acura's SH-AWD system, another standard feature on the RL. It's a slick piece of drivetrain engineering that, during aggressive cornering, can send up to 70% of the available 271 lb-ft of torque to either rear wheel." -- Motor Trend
  • "Acura's flagship sedan offers a nice balance between a cushy ride and competent handling and, as a result, makes an excellent everyday luxury sport sedan." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

The RL is not the fastest of the large luxury sedans, but it is surprisingly powerful and very smooth, even up to high speeds. Only a five-speed automatic (with manual shift capability) is offered. Most competitors offer six speeds, but Acura's doesn't seem to hold the car back.

  • "The 5-speed automatic with paddle shifts worked well and the engine was a model of refinement, something customers have come to expect from this brand." -- MarketWatch
  • "Acceleration also stays essentially flat, with the 0-to-60-mph run taking 6.5 seconds." -- Car and Driver
  • "Despite having only a five-speed automatic, the RL turns about 3,000rpm at the century mark and feels very solid and composed." -- CNET

Handling and Braking

Reviewers are impressed with Acura's new SH-AWD system, which gives the RL remarkable road grip even in high-speed cornering. The car's electrically-assisted, speed-sensitive steering doesn't win universal approval -- some say it feels artificial. Handling is also hurt by a very wide turning circle.

  • "Turn-in feels vague, as if the steering wheel doesn't share a mechanical connection to the front wheels. Not helping is the RL's large 39.7-ft turning radius, which is greater than even the Chevrolet Tahoe's 39.0 ft." -- Motor Trend
  • "As before, the RL's niftiest gizmo is its Super Handling All-Wheel Drive, which selectively overspeeds outside wheels to induce yaw and create the impression of livelier steering. It works, keeping the RL near the top of our handling charts. Also, as before, you must be caning the car hard through corners to enjoy its full benefits, an exercise most luxury-car buyers do as often as most SUV buyers go winch crawling." -- Car and Driver
  • "Whether you're making a U-turn or navigating a parking lot, turning is a breeze. This mama really enjoyed all the power and control, something I don't feel very often." -- Mother Proof
  • "The RL also passed my steep, snow-covered driveway test with flying colors, powering its way to the summit with no problems." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The SH-AWD system in the 2009 Acura RL works transparently but very effectively to maintain traction under the worst of circumstances and, along with the newly firmed-up suspension, provide cornering abilities that are more ‘sports car' than ‘luxury sedan.'" -- Edmunds

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