Premium large car; Built in Japan
  • 4-door sedan
  • longitudinal front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $2,100 – $9,500*

1998 Acura 3.5RL

1996 Acura 3.5RL

1998 Acura 3.5RL interior

1997 Acura 3.5RL interior

1997 Acura 3.5RL

  • Acceleration
  • Build quality
  • Handling
  • Quietness
  • Ride
  • Navigation-system controls
  • Rear head room
  • Steering feel

All told, the 3.5RL is a pleasant luxury sedan, solid and well-constructed, which does everything quite well. Few would ask for anything more on a lengthy journey. Though filled with luxury touches too, the RL does not feel particularly ostentatious.


Replacing the departed Legend sedan, Acura’s flagship model debuted after the 1996 model year began. Larger outside and roomier inside than the Legend, the 3.5RL retains front-wheel drive and a V6 engine.The 3.5RL powertrain consisted of a 210-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine and a 4-speed automatic transmission. Standard equipment included dual front airbags, antilock brakes, and leather upholstery. Traction control, heated front seats and outside mirrors, a Bose audio system with CD changer, and burled walnut interior trim were included in an optional Premium Package.

Yearly Updates

1997 RL
The 3.5RL saw no change for its second season.
1998 RL
Suspension revisions for 1998 promised sportier handling, without loss in ride quality. Standard alloy wheels displayed a new design, and a 3-point rear-center safety belt replaced the prior lap belt.
1999 RL
Acura claimed “more than 400 modifications” for 1999. None substantially changed the V6/automatic powertrain, but side airbags arrived as a new standard feature, along with brighter high-intensity-discharge headlamps; suspension retuning claimed to provide sportier handling, and larger brakes. There were also minor cosmetic alterations inside and out.
2000 RL
All RL models got a Vehicle Stability Assist system, which applied individual brakes to keep the car on course in changes of direction. Seven sensors in the front passenger seat measured the size and position of the occupant to determine whether to deploy the side airbag. Acura’s optional in-dash navigation system got a larger (7-inch) touch screen with matte finish designed for easier reading, plus a digital-video-disc (DVD) database.
2001 RL
An in-trunk emergency opener was added, along with no-cost carpeted floormats for 2001.
2002 RL
RL gained 15 horsepower and a standard General Motors OnStar assistance system in 2002. Other changes included wider tires, larger brakes, and more sound deadening.
2003 RL
Changes for 2003 include clear-lens taillamps, new-design wheels, revised color choices for paint and interior, and adoption of LATCH-system child-seat anchors.
2004 RL
No significant changes as Acura prepared to take the wraps off a completely new flagship in 2005.


longitudinal front-engine/front-wheel drive

Just one powertrain has been employed in the 3.5RL sedan: a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 210 horsepower, driving a 4-speed automatic transmission. In 2002, horsepower jumped to 225 and torque climbed to 231.

ohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.5/212
Engine HP 210-225
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 213-231
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic



Road Test

Despite the fact that the RL does not feel as snappy as the lighter-weight Legend, this sedan is much more luxurious. It also feels markedly stronger at low speeds, though overall acceleration ranks as good rather than great for a premium sedan. Our test RS accelerated to 60 mph in just over 8 seconds–swift for a relatively heavy sedan.

The V6 engine is hushed at cruising speeds and emits a subdued, rich-sounding snarl during hard acceleration. Wind and tire noise also are modest. Gas mileage isn’t bad, though the RL demands premium fuel. We averaged 19.8 mpg, with half of our driving on the highway.

On-the-road performance is generally a pleasure. The RL simply sails over potholes, ruts, and other irregularities with impressive solidity and no hint of shudder or rattle. Ride quality is firm yet supple and comfortable. The RL is agile for a large sedan. Despite its abundant exterior dimensions, the sedan handles like a smaller automobile. Steering is quick and precise, but it’s too light and lacks feel around the center position of the wheel. Body lean is modest in tight corners. Brakes produce short, straight stops from high speeds.

The driver gets a comfortable, easily tailored-to-suit position with a clear view all around. Controls are large, well-positioned, and intuitive. Rear leg and knee room are greater than in the Legend. In the back seat, 6-footers will find their heads just brushing the roof, but front head space is ample. The interior offers plenty of spaces for odd items, and the flat-floored trunk is usefully shaped.

Acura’s optional on-board navigation system is accurate and easy to use, but fingerprints and certain light conditions can render its display almost unreadable at times. GM’s OnStar assistance system is standard on ’02 models.


Model Tested: 2002 Acura RL base

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 6
Fuel Economy - 4
Ride Quality - 9
Steering/Handling - 7
Quietness - 9


Controls/Materials - 8
Room/Comfort Front - 8
Room/Comfort Rear - 7
Cargo Room - 3


Value - 7

Total: 68


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
114.6 195.1 71.3 56.6
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
14.0 18.0 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.6 36.7 42.2 35.5
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 3.5 RL 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 111
Injury 64
Theft 76

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: Transmissions may fail due to lack of thread-locking compound on nut for low clutch. Honda/Acura has extended warranty on affected vehicles to 7 years or 100,000 miles. (1999-2003)
Description: The driver’s seat may rock because the bolts in the motor that controls the up/down movement come loose. (1996)
Vehicle noise
Description: Knocking noise from the front of vehicle is likely due to a worn bearing in the upper suspension arm(s). (1996-98)
Description: The button that prevents the seatbelt tongue from sliding to the floor breaks. (1996-98)
Description: The speedometer may read higher than actual speed. (1996)

Recall History

Description: Ball joints on certain cars could wear out prematurely and, in worst case, separate and cause front suspension to collapse.
Description: Bolt can loosen and fall out, allowing transmission to disengage from differential. Not only would the vehicle lose power to drive wheels without warning, but shifting into “Park” would not lock the wheels.
Description: Brake master cylinder may have internal corrosion, resulting in reduced braking performance and increased stopping distances. Dealers will replace the master cylinder assembly, reservoir, and brake fluid.
Description: Oil applied during manufacture can leak into the brake stop switch and contaminate the electrical contacts.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.