Sunday, December 15, 2013

Long Term Test: 2011 Acura RL Tech Wrap-up

Current Miles: 16,640

December 14, 2013 marks the final day our Forged Silver Metallic, 2011 Acura RL Tech spent with our family. This RL, the second one we have owned, has served us well for the last three years. Besides a very minor paint quality issue I noticed when we picked up the car (which was fixed under warranty), the car has been trouble free. What surprised me most was the fact that the transmission did not suffer any issues and was not recalled for any problems. It is an odd thing to be surprised about, but considering Honda's history on rolling out new transmissions, the fact that there were no problems left me a touch amazed. 

To refresh everyone's memory, when Honda rolled out their new five-speed automatic transmission, there were some major issues that caused Honda to recall all cars with the new transmission. Our 2001 Acura 3.2 TL at the time was one of the cars with the new transmission. Considering that the 2011 Acura RL was the first of Honda's vehicles to roll out with the new six-speed automatic, I was naturally very skeptical. Luckily, nothing happened with the transmission. Hallelujah!

During a road trip to Pismo Beach, CA last year, we drove the RL. During the three hour drive, the car proved to be comfortable and quiet, even on pot hole filled roads and uneven pavement. On a detour to a local winery, it remained composed, despite a number of muddy unpaved roads. On the drive back during heavy rain, the car never felt nervous or uneasy, thanks to the SH-AWD (Super Handling All Wheel Drive) system smartly managing the available traction.

Throughout our three years with the RL, there are only three major complaints I can think of. The first one is the technology. For a car from 2011, the navigation system and rear view camera are incredibly dated. I later learned that throughout its life cycle, the second generation RL had used the exact same DVD navigation system for the entirety of the seven years the car was in production. It bothered me more because the same year we picked up the RL, we also acquired a 2011 Acura MDX Tech that had the newer, brighter, and higher resolution hard disk based navigation system. The fact that Acura thought it would be OK to use technology from 2005 on its flagship sedan was a potentially fatal flaw for the car's sales.

My second complaint is with the car's fuel economy. Though the 3.7L V6 performed admirably, its gas mileage suffered quite a bit. While the gas mileage problems may have a lot to do with driving style more than the engine, being strapped to an all-wheel drive system and the extra weight that it adds does not help either. Throughout its life, the RL seemed to only average about 18 mpg. Granted, most of the driving the RL sees is city miles, but it is still pretty poor for a V6 in this day and age.

The third complaint is a recent development. For one reason or another, the navigation system has developed a hiccup where it will ask you for the four digit factory navigation code after the car starts. Normally, this only occurs when the battery dies or if there are any power surges in the car, and usually the car will ask for the radio code as well. What makes this situation strange is that the RL is not showing any symptoms of the battery running out of power, nor is it ever asking for the radio code. A brief search into the problem reveals that owners of the first generation TSX with navigation, as well as third generation TL owners with navigation are running into the same problem. At this time, I have not yet found a solution, and neither has anyone else. It is bothersome, but seeing as the car is no longer in our hands, it is now Acura's problem to deal with before reselling the car.

Overall, the RL was largely a reliable, comfortable, and capable performer. Because the car's exterior was fairly conservative, it never drew a lot of attention, which suited us just fine. Maintenance costs were a bit on the higher side thanks to the extra drive line components for the SH-AWD, but aside from the minor paint issue mentioned in the first paragraph, we never had to take the car in for anything other than scheduled maintenance. Long story short, the 2011 Acura RL Tech was a great driving and luxurious sedan. It is a shame it never quite lived up to its competitors.

So, as we say goodbye to the 2011 Acura RL Tech, we also welcome the addition of a brand new car to the East-West Brothers Garage long-term fleet: the 2014 Acura RLX Tech. Even though we have already reviewed the car, please look forward to what we have to say about the RLX Tech during its extended stay in our fleet!

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