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You should remember my high school friend Rabbi Yonah Bookstein from this recent piece where you, my delicious readers, voted him in the direction of some new wheels. Your top picks, in case you’ve forgotten, were a Cadillac and an Acura. Since I was in L.A the other week, where Mr. Seymour Torah resides, I contacted the folks from these brands, did a Hebe-gathering drive-by, and hit the test-ride circuit with the Rebbe for a little U.S. vs Japan playoff.

Acura RL

Our first stop was a kosher restaurant in what Yonah refers to as the ’Chood—the Jewy West Side neighborhood where he lives. Since it was Sukkot, a holiday meant to “celebrate” our peoples’ four decades of wandering in the desert, we ate out in the sun inside a flimsy hut. Joining us for lunch was John Kiewicz, Acura’s p.r. mensch, and he brought his full-on Aleph-game: an RL for us to drive, a corporate card to buy our meal, and a Letterman-style Rabbi-Ride Top 10 list, including gems like “the RL’s active noise cancellation will allow the Rabbi to better hear advice from his back-seat-sitting mother-in-law”. Yonah was plotzing before we even got behind the wheel.

The drive only improved his opinion. As we whizzed around Century City, running red lights, cutting off old ladies, and making illegal U-turns, the Rabbi wore a big smile. Riding mameleh reminded me of how Yonah’s driving skills had been honed during our youthful years delivering pizzas: I felt like traifig skin of pepperoni and mozzarella clinging tight to a chewy crust. “Great handling. Beautiful interior. Good acceleration. Slick technology,” the Rabbi said. “The steering’s a bit light for my taste, but still. Nice.”

Rabbi Grade: Aleph minus.

Cadillac STS
Next stop was Santa Monica, where we were met by fab G.M. p.r. diva, Diedra Wylie. Since Diedra didn’t have an STS in her fleet, we had to borrow one from a local dealer, which ended up being strike one (and two) against the car. It’s not like I’m the world’s top auto journo macher or anything; I don’t expect champagne and go-go boys whenever I stop into a showroom. But if you were a retail outlet that had been contacted by your regional headquarters and told that a representative of a national magazine and his close friend, a potential buyer, were going to stop by to sample your wares, would your response on their arrival be to make them wait for 15 minutes in silence, finally greet them by approaching brusquely with hand outstretched demanding “License,” provide them with a bungling and lifeless sales drone to deliver their product tour, and then loan them something that was deficient due to your own negligence? Um, mine wouldn’t.

We tooled around only briefly in the STS, the Rabbi glowering. “The transmission is clunky. The ride feels floaty. The technology is, like, 20th-century. And I would dread going back to that dealership for service. I mean, Oy!”

Rabbi Grade: Daled

Buick LaCrosse

This car wasn’t on the original list. In fact, the Rabbi recoiled when I’d initially mentioned G.M.’s big-in-China tri-shield brand and its French Canadian j.o. slang-named vehicle. But after the Caddy debacle, Diedre wanted to do right. So she arranged for the Reb to receive a week of LaCrosse. (Oui! Owee!) I couldn’t be present for this test, but Yonah sent me his detailed thoughts. He found the vehicle to be “fabulous, speedy, and well thought out, with amazing looks, a great ride, comfy seating and creature comforts, and top-notch tech integration.” Having given up on the General years ago, he was impressed. “Hard to imagine it's a G.M.” And while he prefers a more spirited (if not spiritual) ride, he found the Buick compelling. “It's not sporty, but Lexus-type luxury at an affordable cost.” Would he buy it over the Acura? Unlikely. But still, he felt it made a good showing.

Rabbi grade: Bet plus

So there we have it. Looks like Acura wins the Golden Torah award. (As John Kiewicz said presciently in the peak of his Top 10 list, “#1 It’s right there in the name: RL = Rabbi Limo.”) Stay tuned and see how Yonah does in his quest to find one. And at the right price!

 

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Last fall, the Acura RL won two of the highest honors that can be granted to a vehicle, garnering both the greatest number of votes in Stick Shift’s What Should a Rabbi Drive? poll, and winning the ensuing Los Angeles Drive-Off against its closest competitor, a Cadillac. But while my frummy friend Reb. Bookstein got plenty of wheel time in the Japanese luxo-cruiser, I was relegated to the (roomy) back seat. So when I was offered a week in the brand’s flagship offering this summer, I had to check it out and see if it was nokh emetsns gust (to my liking.)

Turns out, the Acura RL does pretty much everything well. It’s as refined as a 50-pound bag of white flour. It contains as much buttery leather as my mothers’ walk-in closet. Like an ideal bedroom buddy, while it doesn’t appear to be ominously huge, it feels delightfully enormous inside. And, thanks to its torque-vectoring Super-Handling All Wheel Drive, it’s as easy to place into corners as Jennifer Grey is difficult.

If you get it with the Technology Package (like my Titanium tester), it also features a crazily advanced navigation system with enough integrated apps to make the menu at T.G.I. Friday’s jealous. These include a noise-canceling device that plays mind-scrambling synthetic frequencies that counteract the rumble of the road; a hard-driven Zagat guide that allows you to read relevant reviews of every nearby restaurant you pass; and mysterious live traffic reports that appear on the map with eerie accuracy and alacrity (I have a theory that they’re provided by the cell-linked hive of the nation’s tweeting tweens as they’re chauffeured from activity to lesson). One thing that is still left to humans, at least for the time being, is the spotting of unwittingly hysterical vanity license plates, such as this Tranny tag I spotted over the screen’s binnacle near the NY/NJ border. (It reads JOE2JO, if the resolution appears unresolved.)

So what’s wrong with the RL? Well, besides the stubby and unlovely infotainment controller that protrudes from the dash like Hedwig’s inch, and certain rhinoplastically abhorrent aspects of the front fascia (which it shares with every model in the brand’s lineup) not much. Except for the fact that it’s about as interesting to look at as Warhol’s “Empire.” I don’t mean this as an insult—or not only as an insult. Like the white-wigged master’s conceptual touchstone, the design is technically proficient and features a perfectly pleasant silhouette. But after staring at it for about 15 seconds, you’re bored to hell with it. A great car should inspire something more than a recognition of competence. It should pump my pistons. And this sedan, sweet as it is, stirs about as much passion as a greeting-card photo of a long-haired cat sleeping in a prism of sunlight. Purr. Snore.

Acuras were never Maserati-gorgeous, but they used to have a sort of sinewy sexiness that complimented their athletic moves, like the young Skeet Ulrich. Now? Well, have you seen Mr. Ulrich lately? I’m a fan of the brand’s original identity (and, obviously, of anything that answers to”Skeet”), so I hope they both find their way back, soon.

Brett Berk writes gaily about culture, politics, and cars for VF.com, and is the author of The Gay Uncle’s Guide to Parenting. Visit him at Brett Berk: The Gay Uncle’s Guide to Parenting or follow him on Twitter.​
 
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