When it comes to flagship luxury sedans, most European and Asian automakers start with a rear-wheel-drive platform and a standard -- or at least optional -- V8. As an outlier, Acura has held fast to its belief that V6 power is more than capable. This is partly mindful of fuel economy concerns and partly due to the fact that Honda simply doesn't make a V8 for any application outside of motorsports.
The new Acura RLX flagship sticks to the V6 formula, and also offers an update to Acura's all-wheel-drive system that first debuted in the RL sedan in 2005. There's no V8, but the base RLX does get a new all-wheel-steering system, while the hybrid model enhances its all-wheel-drive system with electric motors to send additional power to the front or rear wheels. Despite riding atop a 2-inch longer wheelbase than the RL sedan that it replaces, the RLX uses shorter overhangs, a wider stance and LED headlights to achieve a more compact, athletic look than its predecessor.
Acura has always trailed in this upper luxury segment with its powertrain offerings and has relied on its technological advancements to make a compelling argument. The Acura RLX continues that trend, delivering a dizzying array of tech features that include dual LCD displays, smartphone connectivity, hands-free audio, climate control and text messaging, as well as the next generation of the AcuraLink telematics service. And like most Acura vehicles, the RLX offers a high level of refinement and should deliver above-average reliability. It's enough to make Acura relevant again in this competitive luxury class.
Most Recent Acura RLX
The Acura RLX debuts for the 2014 model year in base and hybrid versions. Both models get a 310-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, although the hybrid uses dual electric motors integrated into an all-wheel-drive system that distribute additional power -- Acura claims 60 hp more -- to both the front and rear wheels. Both models use a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode through steering wheel paddles, while the base model gets a four-wheel steering system that can adjust the angle of the rear wheels for improved cornering and control.
The RLX is available in five trim levels: base, Navigation, Technology package, Krell Audio package and Advance package. Standard and optional features include 18-inch alloy wheels (19-inch wheels on upper trims), LED headlights, a sunroof, keyless entry/ignition, tri-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, a multiview rearview camera, Bluetooth, smartphone integration and AcuraLink connected services, and a 10-speaker audio system. The Krell Audio and Advance packages include an upgraded 14-speaker audio system.
As with most current Acura products, the RLX offers a sumptuous interior, including a stitched instrument panel, steering wheel and center console, with wood and metal accents throughout the cabin. Although Acura doesn't offer the powertrain choices of its European rivals, its cabin environments are among the best in the class. Acura says the RLX also offers best-in-class rear seat legroom, with nearly 3 inches more room to spread out than comparable German and Japanese luxury models, and some of the widest front and rear passenger space in the segment.
Acura has also loaded the RLX with safety features including lane departure, blind-spot and front collision warning systems, lane keeping assist, collision mitigation braking and adaptive cruise control.
Read the most recent 2014 Acura RLX review.