This is the newbie FAQ for the 1996-2004 Acura 3.5RL/Honda Legend (same car, different name.)
As we all know, the 1996 Acura 3.5RL debuted in late 1995 to replace the aging Acura Legend as the Acura flagship sedan. The 3.5 refers to the displacement of the C35A and the RL stands for whatever you want it to.
If you are expecting a true competitor to the Lexus LS400 in the 3.5RL you are in for disappointment. The same disappointment the auto industry had when the RL debuted in 1996. They were expecting a Rear-Drive V8 powered sedan and they got a front-drive, V6 powered sedan and were like WTF when they saw it. As disappointed as the industry was, few could find fault in the car because it did everything well, but nothing exceptional...which tends to be a Honda staple as of late. Think jack-of-all-trades but master of none.
Anyway, let's start off with the 1996-1998 3.5RL
Gas Cash: 18/24
From 1996-1998, the RL was offered in a few different trims: Base, Premium, and Premium w/NAV with a Special Edition package debuting in 1998. The SE is nothing more than a Base RL with a two-toned paint job and different wheels. 1998 was the start of the suspension upgrades for the RL as it became the first year to have an upgraded suspension that made the car more um "sporty". I have a 1998 and it still rides like a creampuff. My 2004 rides on rails...just about.
The wheel types on the 1996-1998 Acura 3.5RL are as follows:
The 7-spoke (found on the SE)
The Directional Multi-Spoke
1996-1998 Acura 3.5RL Trim Levels
Now, I could say that all Base model RL's during 1996-1998 came with the sunflower wheels. I can't say if that's a dead giveaway because all of the trim levels, sans the SE, looked the same on the outside. Where you can begin to be picky is on the interior.
Base RLs came with no heated seats, no TCS, and no CD changer. The CD changer was optional on the base model and if it wasn't selected the car came pre-wired for it anyway. Base RL's also had the option of a Harddrive based Navigation system. No burlwood insert in the dash for you! all leather baby! awkwardly enough, Acura decided to nix the burlwood insert in the passenger side dash in 1999. I liked that insert...
As with the Base model, I'm sure I could say that all premium trims of the RL came with the directional multi-spoke wheels, however I can't say for sure. Again, the car is a premium RL if it has heated seats, TCS, and a CD Changer in the trunk. The CD changer was standard equipment in the premium trim with navigation also being optional. Premium models had a burlwood insert in the passenger side dash.
The SE is the dead giveaway by it's wheels. the 7-spoke wheels and the two tone paint. The two tone paint was either black/grey or white/gold. No green on green like the Legend SE. The SE also came standard with heated seats and the cd changer, but no TCS. The SE did not have navigation as an option. SE also had the burlwood insert in the passenger side dash. SE trim probably came about in 1998.
Follow that up with the 1999-2004 3.5RL
Gas Cash: 18/24
It must be said that in 2002 the RL received a revised exhaust system as well as a sport-tuned suspension and beefier tires (215 to a 225 series). This bumped the RL's horsepower and torque ratings as well as made the car more sporty and less of the boat that it was in previous years.
Gas Cash: 18/24
The wheel types from 1999-2004 are as follows:
1999-2001 8 spoke
These wheels along with black side skirts and mudflaps are the keys to identifying this specific year on the road.
2002 7 spoke
The 7-spokers along with body colored side skirts and mudflaps are keys to identifying this specific year on the road.
2003-2004 10 spoke
These wheels along with the Red/Clear tailights and the XM/GPS antenna on the roof are the keys in identifying this specific year on the road.
Trim levels for the 1999-2004 Acura 3.5RL
This one is easy...there was none. The only level offered, AFAIK
, was Acura 3.5RL/NAV or Acura 3.5RL/No Nav...until 2004 when Navigation came STANDARD.
The differences between the model years lies on the interior. Differences in gauge cluster, gauge cluster backlighting, navigation screen size and center console layout.
1999-2001 gauge cluster looks like this:
1999-2001 center console looks like this:
2002/2003 gauge cluster looks like this:
The difference between the 2002/2003 cluster and 1999/2001 cluster is the font.
2002 center console looks like this:
Yes, I know its the exact same layout as the 1999-2001, but it's not. The screen is bigger!
2004 gauge cluster looks like this:
2004 center console looks like this:
The smoked wood trim is an option. It's not one that I recommend as it turns green eventually. The leather/wood select knob is standard in either smoked or burlwood finish.
1996-2004 Acura3.5RL DIY's
Instrument Cluster bulb change courtesy of 97_RLer
DIY: 1st Gen Acura RL Instrument Guage Cluster LED Bulbs - The Acura Legend & Acura RL Forum
AT shifter --> chrome shifter courtesy of RL me
make your AT shifter into chrome. step by step instructions inside - Acura Forum - Acura World.com
Aux. In done on a 99 RL courtesy of RLuke
How to: AUX IN for 99 RL (iPOD, MP3 players, etc.) - Acura Forum - Acura World.com
Cabin filter replacement courtesy of Jinny
RL cabin air filter replacement DIY - Acura Forum - Acura World.com
Changing RL brake pads courtesy of Jinny
RL brake pad change DIY - Acura Forum - Acura World.com
Rotor replacement courtesy of RLuke
Rotors replacement 2002 RL - Acura Forum - Acura World.com
RL Main Relay replacement courtesy of map95003
Changing the Main-Relay on the RL - DIY - Acura Forum - Acura World.com
EGR and Intake Manifold Cleaning courtesy of petthepeep
DIY: EGR and Intake Manifold Cleaning - Acura Forum - Acura World.com
SRS reset DIY courtesy of imaginasian vboy
Resetting SRS Light DIY - Acura Forum - Acura World.com
Aero Kits for 3.5RL