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Pick of the Day: 1997 Acura 3.5RL, still living up to the Legend

Flagship sedan of Honda’s luxury division represents a luxury-sedan bargain

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(Editors note: This being the traditional deadline week for filing federal income taxes — yes, we realize that deadline has been extended this year because of the pandemic — nonetheless were focusing the Pick of the Day selections to vehicles being advertised for sale for four figures. The thought is that you might be getting enough of a refund to buy one of these cars, or after paying Uncle Sam, you might have enough left over to consider one of our suggestions.)

Some would argue that when Acura, Honda’s luxury division, stripped the “Legend” nameplate away from its flagship sedan in the mid-1990s, the car lost not only its identity but also some of its relevance in the marketplace.  

After all, by then such key competitors as the Lexus LS400 and the Infiniti Q45 were employing the use of V8 rear-wheel-drive engineering, while the Acura RL stuck with a more-conservative front-wheel-drive V6 configuration. 

acura

Twenty-five years later, the RL (and its successor from 2014-onward, the RLX) remain underappreciated in the used car marketplace, making it relatively easy to land a sub-100k-mile, well-appointed luxury sedan for under $10k. 

The Pick of the Day is a 73,000-mile 1997 Acura 3.5RL listed on ClassicCars.com by a dealer in Fredericksburg, Texas, with a modest asking price. Finished in a Cayman White Pearl exterior, the RL in the listing looks like a well-kept example. 

The selling dealer states that the car is “perhaps the finest bargain in our current inventory. This car runs and drives beautifully, and the quality of construction is evident in every switch and button.”

acura, Pick of the Day: 1997 Acura 3.5RL, still living up to the Legend, ClassicCars.com Journal

After a 10-year run with the Legend as its top-tier model, the Acura design team went a different direction with its largest sedan when the RL launched in 1996.  A greater emphasis was placed on comfort over sportiness, with conservative styling and unprecedented isolation in driving dynamics. 

Acura designed the 210-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 to be quieter, smoother and more durable than the outgoing Legend’s 3.2 powerplant.  A four-speed automatic was the only available transmission, further moving away from the Legend’s sporting nature since the Legend had been offered with both 5- and 6-speed manuals.

acura

At $41,435 (or just shy of $70,000 in 2021 dollars), the attention to detail in the RL was high, with such amenities as a power moonroof, power-tilting steering wheel, heated and memory-equipped leather seats, and automatic climate control.  The RL’s price point undercut its Infiniti and Lexus competitors by about $10k, and it did so while still offering customary Honda reliability. 

The majority of Acura RLs in the marketplace today have easily surpassed the 100k or 200k mile marks, so finding one with fewer than 100k miles has become a bit of a rarity. 

acura, Pick of the Day: 1997 Acura 3.5RL, still living up to the Legend, ClassicCars.com Journal

Even now that the first-generation RL has hit 25-year-old “classic” status, its understated exterior won’t turn very many heads.  But at an asking price of $8,950, this is a smooth-driving luxury flagship at an economy price.  Not to mention, it has the gold emblem package for ultimate status. 

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

Hagerty
Tyson Hugie
Tyson Hugie grew up in a family of gearheads and enjoys anything to do with automotive and motorsports. He is a contributing editor to Redline Reviews, a YouTube channel with coverage from major auto shows. He also writes for Arizona Driver Magazine and holds leadership positions with a number of car clubs. Tyson has lived in Arizona for 10 years and his current obsession is Japanese cars from the early 1990s which, though hard to believe, are now becoming classics. Tyson can usually be found exploring offbeat and obscure road trip destinations on his blog "Drive to Five," which started as a way to share travel stories and experiences with his now-550,000-mile Acura.

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