Welcome to Depreciation Appreciation! Every month, your buds at autoTRADER.ca dig up an instance of how depreciation can make for an extraordinary used-car deal.
This month, it’s all about discreet flagship luxury, smooth performance, and quiet styling from one of the most reliable-looking used flagship sedans on the planet – and one available after a few years of use for highly compelling prices.
We’re talking about the Acura RL: a vehicle that embodied everything Acura, and parent company Honda, know about building cars. Bigger on discreet luxury and sleeper handling than all-out performance firepower, this range-topping, VTEC-powered cruiser boasted build quality to challenge thrice-the-price land yachts, a lengthy list of the period’s ultimate in technology, and looks so under-the-radar that most passersby won’t give it a second look. If you’re after all-season confidence, all-weather handling, good fuel economy, top-line feature content, and a fuss-free ownership experience, a used copy of the Acura RL might make a great deal of sense.
All Acura RL models from this generation were four-door sedans powered by a VTEC V6 engine, with either 3.5 or 3.7 litres of displacement, and up to 300 hp. An automatic transmission with paddle-shifters was standard, as was Acura’s trick Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system, which did some pretty amazing things for handling and agility when drivers found occasion to flog it.
Mostly, the RL was focused on delivering a comfy and library-quiet driving experience, though it was more than happy to be driven hard, in any weather, too. Notably, active noise cancellation, and unique noise-deadening hardware installed to the wheels helped keep noise levels to a minimum.
Feature content included adaptive xenon lighting, navigation, a premium ELS audio system, climate-controlled seats, a sunroof, Bluetooth, a rear window sunshade, radar cruise control, collision-mitigation braking, and more. Various facelifts and updates throughout this generation of RL improved styling and feature content as the model aged.
Owners say they love the RL’s hushed styling, comfortable and quiet ride, great build quality, and reliability.
Approximate New Value
For much of its sales life, the RL commanded base-level pricing between about $65,000 and $70,000, depending on the trim grade chosen. If you’re after a top-line model, search out an Acura RL Elite.
Approximate Used Value
Today, and often with reasonable mileage, a used copy of this satisfying luxury sedan can be had from under $20,000, even for a post-facelift model like this 2010. That’s a once $65,000 car, available now for less than a third of its original price. If you’re okay with more mileage, a unit like this 2008 can be had for under $11,000! Heck, even the lowest-mileage unit we could find – a fully loaded 2012 with under 80,000 kilometres – is asking just $25,000.
Note that the RL was never a huge seller, so the market isn’t flooded with used copies for sale. Further, it’s the RL’s reliability, as much as its low pricing, that helps make it a used luxury sedan buy that’s hard to pass up.
Test Drive Tips
Approaching the used RL, be sure the intelligent key fobs allow you to lock and unlock the doors with a touch on the handle, and confirm both remotes work as expected. Ditto the trunk release. Note that some owners have reported a need to replace the sensor-equipped door handles if the system doesn’t work properly, and replacement parts can be pricey.
Move on to standard checks, including the tires and brakes, which should be inspected for signs of excessive wear. If the seller is trying to pass off a brake job or tire replacement, call it into pricing negotiations. Check the edges of the wheel wells, lower edges of the doors and trunk, and the front edge of the hood, for signs of rust or paint damage.
An Acura technician should inspect the RL’s underside for signs of excessive rust and fluid leaks, especially from the engine, transmission, and AWD system/rear differential, though these aren’t likely. On the topic of fluids, budget for a full fluid change on the model you’re considering, at an Acura dealer, if you’re unsure of its service history.
Check for proper operation from the audio system, power seats, sunroof, all windows, trunk-release button, climate control, and all lights. Be sure neither of the xenon headlamps is burned out – as these can be pricey to replace, and may require a visit to the dealer.
Other checks should include all power windows, and a check of the RL’s ball joints by a mechanic, as some owners have reported earlier-than-expected wear of these expendable suspension parts.
Ultimately, winding up with a healthy used RL should be as simple as having a qualified Acura technician fully inspect the vehicle before your purchase. The owner’s community reports no major, systematic or worrisome issues of note. Note that a dealer certified model with some form of remaining warranty is ideal where long-term confidence is concerned.