The 2003 Acura RL is a mostly unchanged luxury flagship for the Honda subsidiary. Since its creation in 1996, it has seen few changes. It does offer a fair amount of luxury and comfort along with solid handling for the price. It is under-powered compared to its competition and can’t offer the driving thrills of a BMW 5 Series car, but it does have a price advantage.
Body styles: sedan
Engines: 3.5-liter V-6
Transmissions: four-speed automatic
Models: Acura RL 3.5
For 2003, the Acura RL receives only minor alterations, which include a new taillight design, restyled wheels, and different interior trim colors.
The 2003 Acura RL luxury sport sedan comes in one trim, the 3.5. This one trim level does offer a generous package of standard features, including 16-inch alloy wheels, speed sensitive wipers, power door mirrors, heated door mirrors, rear defogger, power glass sunroof, xenon high-intensity discharge headlamps, and double wish bone suspension in the front and rear.
The RL was introduced in 1996 and remains largely unchanged in terms of exterior design, save for a bit of a redesign in 1999. The RL has the dimensions similar to the more expensive Lexus LS 460. That makes the RL a luxury flagship in the Acura fleet. This means it is the largest, priciest, and most luxurious car in the Acura line-up. Given this status, one would expect a bit more flair, style, or uniqueness than the RL provides.
The Acura RL’s cabin offers quite a lot in the way of standard features and comforts, including leather upholstery; eight-way power driver seat with adjustable lumbar support; four-way power passenger seat; heated front seats; remote power door locks; power windows; cruise control; multiple storage compartments; speed-proportional power steering; tilt and telescopic steering wheel; audio and cruise controls mounted on the steering wheel; interior air filtration; climate control; leather trim on the steering wheel and shift knob; leather and wood trim on the dash, doors, and center console; memory settings for two drivers, including steering wheel settings; OnStar and a premium Bose 225-watt audio system with AM/FM; and trunk-mounted multiple cd player and eight speakers. Acura’s satellite based navigation system is an available option.
The RL offers a nice interior with luxury that is comfortable, well-laid out, easy to use, and quite pleasant thanks to sumptuous seating and a quiet atmosphere. It has a fair amount to offer for its price and is a good buy for this much luxury.
Performance & Handling
The only power plant used by the RL is Acura’s 225-horsepower, 3.5-liter, 24-valve, V-6 engine that produces 231 lb-ft of torque and hooks up to a four-speed automatic transmission. This gearbox employs Acura/Honda’s Grade Logic Control, which reduces gear ?hunting? when going uphill and helps engine braking while traveling downhill. The EPA certifies the 3.5 RL as a Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV). The RL is a front-wheel-drive vehicle. While the RL doesn’t have the mid-range strength of a V-8, it does have class competitive power and turns an 8.1 second zero-60 mph sprint. The RL should handle most traffic situations well enough.
The RL certainly won’t tangle with a BMW when it comes to handling, yet it is rather agile for a sedan, with responsive steering and minimal body lean. The brakes are as good as one would expect from an all-wheel antilock system. The ride quality is surprisingly supple given the taut and firm nature of the suspension. The noise level is quite low, making for a serene ride at any speed.
The 2003 Acura RL boasts a fine list of standard safety equipment that includes dual front impact airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags that have occupant height and position sensors in the front passenger seat, front seat belt pretensioners, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, remote anti-theft system, rear center 3-point belt and rear child-safety seat tether anchors. Vehicle Stability Assist, Acura’s electronic stability system, helps with both traction control and stability assistance and is included as standard gear. In NHTSA testing, the RL earned four out of five stars for driver, passenger, and rollover safety. IIHS tests proved to be a mixed bag, as the RL received the second highest rating of ?acceptable? for frontal offset crash safety but the lowest rating of ?poor? for rear crash protection/head restraint safety.
EPA Fuel Economy
Acura RL 3.5: 16/22 mpg city/highway
- Low cabin noise
- Smooth ride
- Standard features
- Low price
You Won't Like
- Weak acceleration
- Not really sporty
A bit lukewarm for a flagship car.
If You Like This Vehicle
- Infiniti Q45
- BMW 5 Series
- Mercedes-Benz E-Class
- Lincoln LS
- Lexus GS
- Jaguar S-TYPE