When a car tells me to fasten my seatbelt in a polite but concerned way, I tend to obey. An incessant chime, I can ignore. Not so, when it is the feminine voice of a computer that just fears for my safety as I navigate the parking garage.
The 2008 Acura RL doesn't mind telling you what to do if it's in your best interest. But it also obeys instructions if you have the navigation system with voice recognition.
The system heeds 685 voice commands and has a destination guide with more than 7 million points of interest, 3-D graphics for freeway interchanges, on and off-ramps and turn-by-turn voice guidance.
Acura offers the RL in three trim levels. The well-equipped base version, priced at $46,280 rises to $49,000 with the Technology Package that includes Acura Satellite Navigation System and AcuraLink information system, Active Front Lighting System and plush wood interior.Though still lacking a V8 option that competitors offer, the sedan operates behind one of the best V6 engines on the market, the 3.5-liter, 290-horsepower VTEC. The V6 zooms eagerly and quietly from a dead stop, sending a peak 256 pounds-feet of torque to the wheels through a Sequential SportShift five-speed automatic transmission that can be manipulated through the shift lever or steering wheel-mounted paddle-shifters.
Acura's all-wheel-drive splits torque not only between the front and rear wheels but also between the left and right rear wheels. Under hard acceleration, up to 70 percent of available torque goes to the rear wheels to improve traction. When cornering, the outer rear wheel turns at a higher speed for improved handling.
The independent suspension's balance of road feel and cabin cushioning is pretty close to perfection. And the power, vented-disc brakes with all the electronic systems in reserve, convey a very secure sensation through the left pedal. Creature comforts are excellent in the RL, with eight-way power adjustable seat for the driver and four-way power seat for the front passenger. Back-seat passengers get a center armrest and ventilation system controls.
The Acura/Bose sound system is laudably audible, with 10 speakers and a six-disc changer to accompany the AM/FM/XM Satellite radio.