Acura RL: 472,000 Miles in 10 Years

The Acura RL (so-named for its “refined luxury”) was born in 1996 as the Acura brand’s top-line replacement for the Legend which ran from model years 1986 to 1995.

Since then, the RL has undergone a number of refinements and performance enhancements to showcase the brand’s capabilities.  A sophisticated all-wheel-drive system called Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) debuted on the 2005 model.  Navigation capability, active (swiveling) headlights, power folding mirrors, and an innovative wheel noise-quieting technology called a “Helmholtz resonator” were also adds to the long list of notable features over the years.

Despite its perceived value and reputation, the RL was never a high selling model, topping the list of worst-selling vehicles in 2011 at only about 1,000 units.  It didn’t do any better in 2012 but was excluded from the contest since it was set to be discontinued after the 2012 model year.  Few have appreciated what the RL has to offer.

Last month in Los Angeles, the RL’s successor, RLX was unveiled, set to go on sale as a 2014 model.  My write-up about the experience at the auto show is found here in a prior Drive to Five post.


One of the many Acuras my family has owned was this 2000 3.5 RL, finished in beautiful Nighthawk Black Pearl with black leather interior and the Premium package.  This picture was taken on May 2, 2005 when I picked up the car at just 22,000 miles on the odometer from its original owner named Terry in Concord, California.


That trip will forever live on as one of my favorite car memories.  A delayed bank funds transfer for the purchase price of the car meant I needed to stay one night at the seller’s home.  He was gracious enough to allow me.  The 680-mile drive home to Utah was a rewarding experience – the first time I’d been in a vehicle so plush and refined.  My mom went on to drive that RL to about the 50,000 mile mark, at which time it was sold to my uncle who’s still driving it today.


Elsewhere in the family, this beautiful Heather Mist Metallic 1997 3.5 RL resides in the garage of my grandma.  She’s driven it since 2004 and it only has about 118,000 miles on the odometer.  Mechanically it’s been a great ride, though one mishap does stand out in my memory.  We were coming home from Beaver, Utah via I-15 southbound and the right rear window rolled down part-way but wouldn’t roll back up.  It was raining, too.  I’ll never forget my aunt Jodi’s flustered face as she shoved a pillow into the window’s gap in a vain attempt to keep the water out.

Keen Acura eyes will note that this car is equipped with 7-spoke OEM wheels from the 2002 model year instead of the 1997-issued ones which to me always shared a resemblance to a pie plate.

Why all the talk about RL’s today?  I came across a contender on Autotrader this afternoon for the next Drive to Five celebration.  This nice looking 2003 model in Ohio has racked up a whopping 472,000 miles.  That means that whoever drove this thing has been putting more miles on it (per year) than even I drive.  At 472,000 miles over 10 years, that’s 129 miles per day, 365 days a year, for 10 years.  Has this car ever been parked longer than a few minutes?






Somebody needs to buy this thing and drive it another 27,648 miles so it, too, can achieve Legendary status.

Any takers at $5,495?

6 Responses to “Acura RL: 472,000 Miles in 10 Years”

  1. Tyson- interesting reading your blog about RL’s. Pretty timely for sure! And pretty neat seeing one rack up almost 500k miles. You are aware of my parent’s recent ‘adventures’ with their 2002 RL; which unfortunately dont include much driving but much time in the shop. At 125k miles, a bad extension shaft that ruined the trans. Then 2500 miles later a rod knock which is almost unheard of on the 3.5L. So now with a complete trans and engine transplant from a 63k mile donor car, it is back on the road again. You know I am as big of a Honda/Acura fan as any, owning many over the past 20 years. This was one that has been an anomoly. But being the solid and refined car that it is as well as still
    being in great shape after 11 years, we invested the time and money to get it back on the road. Being the successor to the legend we could not just let her die so easy! Sorry for the long post but could not resist after reading this installment 🙂

    • Marc, I couldn’t help but think of your experience with the recent maintenance on your parents’ 2002 RL as I was putting this post together. It’s like we were talking about – takes a lot of trust to sink money into an 11 year old car with faith that it will continue to provide reliable service. Sounds like at this point everything is in pretty good mechanical order with that one, so onward to 500k!

  2. The RLX has me drooling 4WS is a very interesting solution to under steer, happy Honda is bringing back. Ultimately it will depend if they have brought back that Honda magic in the chassis, digital and analog in perfect harmony. Honda has proven it can do it with their new accord CVT with a torque converter clutch, I mean who else would think of that and lane watch assist, genius. I do miss the double wishbones but I have yet to drive the new accord so I will withhold judgment.

    • I agree, lots of innovation here! Honda has never been one to take huge risks but I really have been impressed in recent years with the company’s willingness to try developing new technologies. I sat in a demo car featuring the Lane Watch at the LA Auto Show last month and it was pretty cool!

  3. If I had a spare 5 grand I would hop on that offer in a second, just to have another black RL in the garage. I miss that car! I am pretty sure I’ll be back in an Acura within the next few years.

    I will never forget that “delayed transfer of funds” experience when you were picking up the black RL from Terry. I did not know that funds transfers online had a limit, and because it was after banking hours Saturday, we had to find an open branch on Sunday to release you from being held hostage! haha I felt like I was paying ransom money for your release — but with a bonus (a car that I adored for a couple years, anyway). I recall well waiting on the curb for you to round the corner as you approached our house.

    Lots of Acura memories!

    • Definitely! That trip for me actually started with a flight to Los Angeles – remember? I was supposed to be buying a black RL for you, but when I got to the dealership it was a dark gray! We pulled the plug on that deal. I left the showroom with my overnight bag, took a cab to the airport, and bought a one-way ticket from LAX-SFO so we could make a deal with Terry on his RL instead. It ended up being worth it!

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