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On the Road Again
After luxuriating in the interior of the RL one could assume that it's just been overlooked in the market place. Cars like the Lexus ES330 or GS300 have nothing on the RL's living space, and the Mercedes Benz E-class could learn a thing or two from the RL about being a pleasant place to spend time (at least from the RL in parchment, the darker interiors are a bit somber). But what really makes a car for us is how it drives. No, we don't evaluate luxury cars by their lap times, but driving dynamics are still important and this is where the RL begins to show some more weaknesses.

Naturally, the ride is one of the first areas of attention on a luxury sedan, and the RL generally doesn't disappoint. The ride is smooth and composed while not being overly floaty over big crests and dips. It is not Lexus cloud soft, nor is it Mercedes Benz firm. It doesn't have the long-travel, heavily damped feel of a BMW either. Rather, it feels very much like what you'd expect a luxury focused Honda or Acura to feel like. Controlled, a bit soft on the compression side with suspension travel a bit on the short side.

The suspension not only does a good job of hiding the ugly bits of the road from you, but it doesn't do so at the expense of total isolation. You actually get a very faint message through the steering wheel about what's happening. "That's a tar strip" it whispers, but you'll have to be paying attention to hear it. Occasionally a sharp one wheel bump will cause it to writhe in an unseemly fashion, but that's about the extent of the bad behavior during normal driving. Overall, while there may be better luxury rides out there, the RL doesn't suffer vis-a-vis its direct competitors here.

Picking up the pace reveals some distinct shortcomings though. While a luxury sedan is not necessarily expected to be a crisp handler (witness the Lexus ES for an example of a soft chassis), it should at least behave in a controlled manner to the driver's inputs. Up to about 5/10ths, the RL seems to do this that. It pivots nicely into corners and powers out reasonably well with minimal understeer - but it all goes wrong after that. As you push further (and we aren't talking particularly high speeds yet), the RL becomes harder to place on the road. It seems to feel bigger as speeds climb and cornering forces build. But the steering doesn't build effort in any sort of predictable fashion and path accuracy begins to suffer. Driving it at higher speeds begins to feel like an exercise in pointing and hoping, as your inputs to the steering wheel are difficult to calibrate to what's happening on the road surface.

Push further still (not that I recommend it) and car simply understeers completely out of line. It's not a safe sort of understeer, where you lift off and tighten your line, the front end just goes all out of sorts and it takes a while to come back. You can mitigate this somewhat by trail braking into the corner entry, but how many luxury sedan drivers do that? And unless you trail brake very late and deep, you won't get much rotation to ease your way through the turn. All the while, the tires sqwak and squeal in a most unbecoming fashion. Clearly this is not a car that's likes being pushed - at all.



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Subject Thread Originator Replies Last Post
  rl
WEST CHESTER ACU 0
  Any chance of an in-car video of the RL?
KenB 2
  This is a great car to pick up USED.
RSX 9
  rwd
Morpheus 3
  Shawn a question about Economy?
brittho 4
  RL vs. 1st gen 3.2TL
TonyEX 4
  Loved it, about handling though..
B&O DK 1
  Excellent. A note on paint...
KenB 0
  Great article!
RAdams 0
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