Acura, Honda’s luxury brand, just about completely re-designed the RL this year. The 2009 Acura RL has revised the aluminum hood and trunklid, front and rear bumpers, lower rocker panels, headlights, taillights, interior, suspension, even the engine. Acura says all of the body changes were made to give the car a more aggressive look and better aerodynamics. It’s hard to find an excuse for the most visible change though, the “dynamic power plenum grille”. It even sounds bad.
The Dynamic Power Plenum Grille
The innards are the key update though, and they do a nice job with it; Acura offers the most powerful engine they’ve ever offered in a sedan with this new 3.7-liter V-6. The VTEC technology helps this engine put up 300 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque, which is even better than some of the RL’s 8 cylinder competitors. Still, this new powertrain is rated at a meager 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway.
The 2009 RL has a nearly all new, fully independent suspension as well, with larger-diameter stabilizer bars, a stiffer subframe, and higher-rate (read:stiffer) coil springs. Also, they upped the wheel size from 17 to 18 this year.
The RL’s fancy all wheel drive system, the SH-AWD (Super Handling All Wheel Drive), which seems like a typical traction control system that sends the torque where it’s needed, is apparently much more than that, according to Honda. The SH-AWD system doesn’t have any central differential, and uses a series of clutch packs (like Mitsubishi’s Active Yaw Control) located at the rear axle, and an “acceleration device” with a set of planetary gears to allow all the wheels to turn at different rates when you’re hitting curves to prevent both under- and oversteer.
This is a high tech automobile. In addition to the SH-AWD system, the RL has a grade logic control system. When you’re in certain driving situations, the system takes over the auto transmission appropriately; it’ll keep you in a lower gear when you’re climbing a hill or delay upshifting slightly when you’re going through a curve to avoid screwing up the power delivery until you’re past the apex. High tech stuff.
The 2009 is just a much more responsive, prettier, higher tech version of last years RL. Nearly 80% of the car is all new for 2009, and Acura needs that level of change after last years RL sales numbers. Hopefully for Acura, the changes will boost the $46,000 dollar RL’s appeal to the people. Good luck with that.