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2000 Acura 3.5 RL

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SAN FRANCISCO:  The Acura 3.5RL succeeds the original Legend sedan, and flaunts a more chiseled appearance than its predecessor. Its looks like one of the guys when placed next to the popular Mercedes E320, BMW 528i and its fellow Japanese cars, the Lexus LS 400 and GS 300.

Even though the 3.5RL looks and feels like a Lexus LS 400, it comes up 80 horsepower short. At virtually the same size and weight, its main advantage is a significant $10,000 price difference. Compare the 3.5RL to the smaller Lexus GS300, and the Acura's main advantages are more than four more inches of wheelbase, more than seven inches in length, and 200 pounds of extra car.

Against the BMW 528i, the 3.5RL has 17 more horsepower, one inch larger wheels, three inches more wheelbase and is eight inches longer to boot. Prices are similar. The BMW offers a manual transmission, while the 3.5RL insists on shifting for you. The Mercedes E320 would seem to be the 3.5RL's sales target, and the 3.5RL beats the German in price by thousands of dollars, even while it loses by 11 horsepower. How much is a three pointed star on the hood worth to you? More than three hundred changes marked the redesigned 1999 model, including styling, performance, safety and comfort features. Everything but the doors, rear quarter panel, outboard mirrors, roof and glass was new.

For 2000, Acura's flagship sedan receives Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) and a Digital Video Disc (DVD) database for its navigation system. The VSA system adds lateral control to the RL's standard Traction Control System (TCS) and Antilock Braking System (ABS). It is meant to give more control to the driver and is specially developed for a front-wheel-drive car. The DVD mapping database provides coverage of the entire continental United States on a single DVD disc, a real advantage. Also, the new database has eight times more points of interest than the combined databases of the previous set.

All the luxuries desired in a prestige auto are present, of course. The steering wheel and door mirrors can be adjusted and their settings stored for different drivers. The steering wheel automatically moves up and out of the way when the driver enters or leaves the car. Hand selected American leather covers the eight-way power driver's seat. Genuine camphor wood lines the center console. Xenon High Intensity Discharge headlights turn on and off automatically as needed. An Acura/Bose eight speaker sound system entertains, and there's power everything.

No V-8 engine is available for now, but the 3.5RL's 210 horsepower V-6 hauls the 3,840-pound car down the road swiftly, making thoughts of a V-8 seem sacrilegious. This high-tech engine meets strict Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) environmental standards. EPA gas mileage figures are a promising 18 city, 24 highway. Acura is proud of the 3.5RL's airbag technology. One system automatically selects one of two levels of deployment of the front passenger airbag based on crash severity. This is the first use of such a design in a car. The second breakthrough is a side airbag that uses sensors to monitor size and position of the front seat occupant and adjust its deployment. This means if the sensors detect someone in the seat that is too small and out of position, they will deactivate the bag.

Figure $42,455 for the 3.5RL, including destination charges. The Acura Navigation System is a $2,000 option--the only option offered on this car. Despite starting the Japanese luxury brand phenomenon in 1986, before Lexus and Infiniti arrived, of late the Acura offerings seemed a step behind. Now, led by the 3.5RL, they are back in the front rank again. By Steve Schaefer AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  By Steve Schaefer AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Column Name:   "Back in the Front Ranks Again"
Topic:  2000 Acura 3.5 RL Sedan
Word Count:   613
Photo Caption:  2000 Acura 3.5 RL
Photo Credits:  Acura PR
Series #:   1999 - 64

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