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Photos: 2009 Acura RL

The 2009 Acura RL remains at the cutting edge in terms of features, and while not necessarily sporting, its performance and ride are very smooth. Interior electronics are due for at least a facelift, however.

CNET Reviews staff

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Acura updates the RL for 2009, which means changes to the styling, a bigger engine, and adding necessary features to the cabin tech.
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Acura makes few options available on the RL, but one, Collision Mitigation Braking System, uses this grille-mounted radar to detect imminent crashes. The system can cinch up seat belts, unlock doors, and hit the brakes.
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Acura's most controversial styling feature, the beak-like grille, gets enhanced for the 2009 model.
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Acura boosts engine displacement from the previous generation's 3.5-liters up to 3.7-liters. This V-6 now puts out 300 horsepower.
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In profile, the RL has fairly mundane looks. It is a modern four-door sedan with no special nods to sport or luxury.
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At closer inspection, big, Acura-branded brake calipers are visible in front. The RL uses an advanced all-wheel-drive system to move power from front to back, and from rear-side to side.
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As a reasonable-size sedan, the RL holds four passengers comfortably--or five with some closeness in the back seat--and luggage.
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Acura attempts to bring the RL up to Mercedes-Benz and Lexus standards with a little woodwork, but the car still falls short of that level of luxury.
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The RL's steering wheel is overloaded with buttons, similar to what we've seen in past generations.
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Acura keeps its gauge design very clean, but the cluster lacks an auxiliary display between the tachometer, such as you would see in an Audi or Mercedes-Benz.
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We complained about the five-speed transmission in previous RLs, but Acura seems to have remapped the shift points on this new one for performance. Cruising at near 100 mpg, we found the fifth-gear powerband wide enough to keep engine speed down to 3,000 rpms.
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Acura's navigation system has some nice features, and was the first to incorporate traffic reporting, but it is still DVD-based, making its performance and map storage capacity inferior to hard drive-based units.
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Inputting city or street names can be tedious with this interface.
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One new feature for the 2009 model year is weather reporting. This new feature complements the traffic routing also added to the navigation system.
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An iPod and USB connector sits in the car's console--another new addition for the 2009 model year.
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Navigating a USB drive is basic, merely letting you browse folders, as opposed to letting you sort by artist and album name.
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The RL gets a Bose-branded 10-speaker audio system. Strangely, Acura hasn't gone to the ELS system used in its other models.
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Another new, and welcome, feature is imported contact lists for the Bluetooth phone system, along with Bluetooth-audio streaming for the stereo.
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A back-up camera has also been added to the RL, although it is basic and doesn't offer any advanced guidance overlays.

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