ROAD TEST | ACURA RL

For years the RL has struggled to compete in the midsize luxury-import category. When it came to snob appeal, performance and style, it lost out to BMW and Mercedes. But take a look at it now. The 2005 RL sparks with a 3.5-liter VTEC V-6, 300-horsepower engine, advanced all-wheel drive and electronics that should make any geek happy. One excellent feature, the keyless entry and ignition, means you carry a transmitter to lock and unlock doors and to start the engine.

The best thing about the RL is that it comes in only one fully loaded trim level. That means tidbits like leather seats, navigation, audio system, moon roof--even XM Satellite Radio--come standard. How fabulous is that? Less terrific is the hard-to-use computer system, activated by a mouselike central dial. It controls fan speed, audio and navigation. I had to pull over more than once to figure out how to locate a radio station and lower the air conditioning. Should you buy the RL, and there are many reasons why that's a good idea, be prepared to take a computer class.

Tip: The RL's engine is so advanced, you'll go 100,000 miles before the first scheduled tuneup.

ROAD TEST | ACURA RL | News