Used 2014 Acura RLX Hybrid
Pros & Cons
- Abundant standard features
- spacious cabin
- fuel-efficient standard V6
- sharp handling and strong fuel economy from Sport Hybrid.
- Harsh ride with the 19-inch wheels and tires
- disconnected steering feel
- so-so display screen graphics with distracting interface
- front seats get uncomfortable on longer drives.
Edmunds' Expert Review
The 2014 Acura RLX has all the technology you'd expect in a midsize luxury sedan, but it's eclipsed by similarly priced competitors that offer a more polished driving experience and more elegant design.
Acura has struggled to find its identity in recent years, and nowhere has that been more apparent than at the top of the lineup. The 2014 Acura RLX is the brand's new flagship and the successor to the discontinued RL, a midsize luxury sedan that found few customers in spite of its solid credentials. Although not radically different in design or personality, the RLX is a more spacious car and it's packed with all the latest technology. Plus, the new Sport Hybrid version promises 370 horsepower and 30 mpg combined, with the added bonuses of all-wheel drive and sharper handling.
The RLX comes standard with front-wheel drive and a 3.5-liter V6 engine rated at 310 hp. Although you'll likely be content with the car's acceleration in traffic, you might be put off by the big Acura's often busy ride: An Edmunds pre-production test vehicle with the available 19-inch wheels and tires had difficulty filtering out bumps and ruts, both large and small. On the upside, the RLX feels sure-footed around turns thanks in part to its rear-wheel-steer system (P-AWS). The RLX Sport Hybrid is even sportier, as its AWD system can redirect power to individual wheels to enhance the car's stability and quickness. With either RLX, however, numb-feeling steering takes away some of the sporting cred.
By far, the best reason to consider the 2014 Acura RLX is its tech-laden interior. New driver aids include all-speed adaptive cruise control that provides set-it-and-forget-it capability in heavy traffic, along with a collision mitigation system, a blind spot warning system and a lane departure system that's able to both warn you and nudge you back into your lane via steering input.
There are now two grades of Acura's typically excellent ELS audio system, plus an elite 14-speaker system designed by Krell, a company that specializes in high-end home audio. Getting started with the navigation system couldn't be more straightforward, and on top of that, Acura is offering three cloud-based smartphone apps that provide additional music content, improved rerouting capability for the nav system and emergency services. If a user-friendly audio-navigation interface is really important to you, the RLX deserves a look, particularly if you plan to make extensive use of your phone in the car.
In other respects, though, the RLX fades into the midsize luxury sedan pack. The base model is an unremarkable car to drive, and apart from its arresting LED headlights, the styling is utterly forgettable. Even the high-tech interior is lacking in elegance, as the navigation screen is the same size and resolution as the one you'll find in a Honda Accord. Buyers have plenty of choices in this price range, of course: The 2014 Audi A6, 2014 BMW 5 Series and 2014 Lexus GS 350 are more entertaining to drive, while the new 2015 Hyundai Genesis offers many of the same tech features while undercutting the RLX on price.
The RLX Sport Hybrid is far more appealing. We like its strong fuel economy compared to other hybrid luxury sedans, along with its improved performance and handling. If you're thinking of getting an RLX, the Sport Hybrid would be our pick.
2014 Acura RLX models
The 2014 Acura RLX is a midsize luxury sedan available in two models: base and Sport Hybrid. There are also a series of packages, which Acura technically refers to as trim levels. There are no stand-alone options.
The base RLX starts you off with 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated eight-way power front seats (with four-way power lumbar), driver memory settings, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery and tri-zone automatic climate control. Also standard are a rearview camera, Bluetooth, SMS text-to-speech capability for MAP-enabled phones and a 10-speaker ELS sound system with a CD player, digital music storage, a USB/iPod interface, HD radio and satellite radio.
The Navigation package adds navigation capability for the 8-inch screen that's already at the top of the dash, plus access to the AcuraLink suite of smartphone apps. In addition, the climate control system uses the nav system's GPS to adjust cabin temperature according to the angle of the sun.
The RLX Sport Hybrid includes all of the above equipment, but also adds its unique gas-electric powertrain, special noise-reducing 19-inch wheels, a head-up display, an electronic gear selector and a special accelerator pedal that encourages economical driving.
The Technology package equips either RLX model with rain-sensing wipers, power-retractable mirrors, a blind spot monitoring system, noise-reducing acoustic glass, leather upholstery, wood interior accents and a 14-speaker ELS sound system. Also, the keyless system now works on all four doors, rather than just the front doors and trunk. The base version also gets 19-inch wheels.
The Advance package adds adaptive cruise control, a collision mitigation system with automatic braking, a lane-keeping assist system, front and rear parking sensors, ventilated front seats and heated rear seats.
The Krell Audio package is exclusive to the base RLX and adds a deluxe 14-speaker Krell sound system and full sunshade coverage for the backseat.
Performance & mpg
The base Acura RLX comes standard with a 310-hp 3.5-liter V6 engine. Front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission with both a Sport mode and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters are standard. In Edmunds testing, a 2014 RLX with the Advance package went from zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, which is average for a midsize luxury sedan. The EPA rates the RLX at 24 mpg combined (20 city/31 highway), which are above-average numbers for a six-cylinder luxury sedan.
The RLX Sport Hybrid comes with the same V6, but things get different from there with the addition of three electric motors. One is integrated within the Sport Hybrid's seven-speed automated manual transmission to assist the gasoline V6 in powering the front wheels, while the others power one rear wheel each. The result is a unique all-wheel-drive system and a total output of 377 hp. EPA-estimated fuel economy is an excellent 30 mpg combined (28/32).
The 2014 RLX comes with antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. A rearview camera is standard, but you have to move all the way up to the Advance package to get front and rear parking sensors. That package is also your ticket to collision mitigation and lane keeping assist. A blind spot monitoring system is included starting with the Technology package trim level.
In Edmunds testing, the 2014 RLX managed a 60-0-mph braking distance of 120 feet, an average number for this class.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has performed its battery of tests on the RLX, resulting in a top score of "Good" in all tests for moderate-overlap and small-overlap frontal-offset impact safety, side-impact safety, roof strength, and seatbelt and head restraint design for whiplash reduction.
Most owners will be satisfied with the performance of the 2014 Acura RLX in normal driving. Its V6 doesn't feel as potent as the six-cylinders in the A6 and 5 Series, but this engine is quiet and smooth, with plenty of power for passing when you need it. The transmission provides quick, smooth shifts.
The RLX doesn't ride with the same composure as other sedans in this class. When fitted with the 19-inch wheels, it feels harsh when driving over rough patches at low speeds, while the ride on the highway can be bouncy. Only on truly smooth pavement does the RLX ride like a luxury sedan. Take it around a few turns, and the big Acura is steady but not particularly athletic. The numb steering is at least precise, though, and the car's standard rear-wheel-steering system subtly and effectively steers the rear wheels ever so slightly to help the RLX get around tight corners.
Things get better with the Sport Hybrid, as its trick electric all-wheel-drive system can accelerate an outside rear wheel while braking the inside one to whip you around corners with tenacity. The added power provided by those rear electric motors also provides an exciting burst of acceleration that you don't get from the base RLX or other all-wheel-drive sedans. Unfortunately, though, nothing changes in terms of that numb steering and despite its commendable abilities, the Sport Hybrid still falls short in terms of the engagement one expects from a proper sport sedan.
You'll immediately be struck by the sheer amount of space inside the Acura RLX. It feels noticeably roomier than the old RL or the TL. Legroom is plentiful in both the front and rear, but 6-footers will find the headroom tight in the backseat and clearance under the front chairs is low, so forget about sliding your feet under them. The front seats are broad and comfy, but we've found them lacking in support on longer drives. Trunk versatility is limited due to rear seats that do not fold (there is a ski pass-through), but its 15.3 cubic feet of space (15.1 with Krell audio) is certainly average for the segment. It does go down to 12 cubic feet with the Sport Hybrid, but that's actually pretty good for a hybrid sedan.
Using the navigation system is simple and intuitive, as Acura allows you to look up destinations by the central control dial, a new 7-inch touchscreen interface (mounted below the 8-inch nav screen) or an enhanced voice recognition system. Unfortunately, neither screen boasts the super-crisp graphics we've come to expect of this class, and some of the more basic functions (such as turning on the seat heaters) require multiple pushes of virtual touchscreen buttons, which can be distracting. A relative lack of radio presets is another disappointment.
The Sport Hybrid's cabin differs slightly. A standard head-up display (an Acura first) shows hybrid system power distribution along with the usual speed readout, while the traditional shifter has been replaced by an odd electronic selector. It has push buttons for Park, Neutral and Drive, but Reverse is engaged with a switch you pull up. It's ergonomically awkward and different for the sake of being different.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Features & Specs
- Side Impact TestGood
- Roof Strength TestGood
- Rear Crash Protection / Head RestraintGood
- IIHS Small Overlap Front TestNot Tested
- Moderate Overlap Front TestGood
More About This Model
It's not the blind crests, lack of shoulders or even our own unfamiliarity with California State Route 121, also known as Monticello Road here in Napa Valley, that's curtailing our fun. In fact, those things actually enhance the experience. Rather, it's the occasional frost-covered shady patch and the fact that the 2014 Acura RLX's thermometer hovers between 32 and 34 degrees that's got us nervous.
There is no room for error.
Underneath us there's a new all-wheel steering system and a new suspension design. Power is sourced from a direct-injected version of the Accord's 3.5-liter V6 driving a paddle-shifted, rev-matching six-speed transmission.
We settle into a quick but prudent pace that keeps both our confidence and the RLX on solid footing. Push too hard and the big Acura's dampers can't keep up. It's not slow exactly, but we can't avoid the notion that our confidence isn't peaked. Driving the RLX harder than seven-tenths rapidly exceeds its comfort zone. And ours.
What the Acura RLX Isn't
It's possible that Acura's 2014 RLX sedan will be more widely remembered for what it doesn't offer than for what it does. With a transverse power plant driving the front wheels, the RLX (as it's being introduced) flies in the face of conventional midsize luxury layouts, where a longitudinal engine driving either the rear or all four wheels is the status quo.
Later this year, the flagship RLX (a hybrid all-wheel-drive version with electric motors powering the rear wheels) will be available. For now, though, this big Acura is all about the front wheels, and in more ways than one.
But according to Acura representatives and simple reasoning, most buyers aren't purchasing these sedans for the dynamic benefits offered by a rear-drive platform. These sedans aren't, after all, sports cars.
"We learned with the [all-wheel-drive] RL, which was among the best handling cars in the class, that having the best handling car doesn't mean you have the best-selling car," one Honda executive told us.
True. But maybe rear-drive, or at least a rear-drive philosophy, does.
Whether sales are a product of philosophy or function is irrelevant because Acura desperately needs a winner in this class. Last year it sold fewer than 400 RLs, while Lexus and BMW both sent more than 12,000 rear-drive GS 350s and 535is to new homes.
Though Acura isn't keen to predict sales, it's clear that it intends for the 2014 Acura RLX to fix that problem.
But Will the RLX Succeed Where the RL Failed?
Power won't be an issue. Certainly the RLX can't pump iron with the V8-powered competitors in the segment, but this Acura is not underpowered. Though its engine is downsized relative to the outgoing RL's 3.7-liter power plant, the new mill is both more powerful and more efficient. Cranking out 310 horsepower and 272 pound-feet of torque, the engine adds 10 hp and 1 lb-ft of torque to the sedan's résumé.
Variable Cylinder Management (VCM in Honda-speak), in conjunction with direct injection, yields a big bump in efficiency to 20 city/31 highway/24 combined mpg, up from the RL's 17 city/24 highway/20 combined mpg ratings. Contrary to most fuel-saving strategies, Acura lowered the ratios of all six gears and the final drive in the RLX, which should improve acceleration.
There's a Sport mode that increases throttle and transmission response and increases gain on the rear-wheel steering system, though the transmission still won't hold gears at redline.
More puzzling is a lack of optional adjustable or adaptive suspension, which is available on the RLX's biggest competitors. We're big fans of a single suspension calibration, but aren't convinced that the RLX delivers the driving experience luxury buyers want in this segment.
What's Holding the RLX Back?
Three words: Front-wheel drive. Despite being a capable front-drive sedan, there's no escaping front-drive dynamics.
Acura made a 2013 BMW 535i and 2013 Mercedes-Benz E350 available to drive back to back with the RLX on a small handling course where body control, transitional stability and the ability to power out of low-speed corners were priorities. But thanks to the 535i's adjustable damping, this was not the demonstration Acura had hoped for. We preferred the BMW and would put money on it being quicker through the course. The Benz, however, was clearly not as controlled.
It's fair to say that most luxury sedan owners won't subject their cars to such a test. Still, it illustrates the confidence Acura has in its new sedan: confidence which is largely a product of the RLX's Precision All-Wheel Steering (P-AWS). The system is capable of independently controlling the rear wheels so it can execute stability-increasing moves like adding toe-in under heavy braking. Otherwise, its behavior is not unlike previous systems, which steer the rear wheels in phase or out of phase with the fronts depending on a number of factors.
In practice, the effects of rear steering are subtle enough that you'll likely never notice. Certainly it enhances the RLX's handling, but you won't find yourself aware of crabbing across lanes during a freeway lane change. Chassis engineers also use the individual brake application to introduce yaw in certain conditions, which they call Active Handling Assist.
Given its size, the 2014 Acura RLX is a respectable-handling front-driver, but its dynamic abilities aren't game-changing.
Its Looks Are Not Deceiving
Let's face it. The RLX isn't the most striking sedan to ever come out of Japan. Or from anywhere. It's been pegging our forgettable meter since its quiet debut last November at the L.A. auto show, which is ironic given that Acura names "elegant and exclusive style" as the No. 1 priority of luxury sedan customers.
But it is big, inside at least.
It's here that the RLX can make some real claims, like best-in-class interior space. Specifically, and maybe most importantly, that means more rear legroom than its rivals from Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz. At 112.2 inches the RLX's wheelbase is 2 inches longer than the RL's and is identical to the Lexus GS 350.
There's also less narrowing of the greenhouse above the beltline than these competitors, which results in more shoulder room and head space. Indeed, sit anywhere in the RLX and there's no sense of confinement and visibility is good.
Despite its interior dimensions, the 2014 Acura RLX encapsulates its driver and front passenger in a warmly personal space. Its 12-way adjustable seats will suit for long stints and its steering wheel is both small in diameter and thick-rimmed, giving the sense that you're controlling a smaller machine. Materials and assembly quality are befitting a car in this segment.
Instrument panel space is split evenly between a large tachometer on the left and a large speedometer on the right, both of which are typically clear in presentation. Otherwise, Acura's strategy for secondary controls is to allow multiple means to access features, which pays off in keeping the button count reasonable.
The RLX's cabin is among the most serene we've experienced thanks to a set of active engine mounts and active noise cancellation through the audio system. And if you're into that sort of thing, there's an available 14-speaker Krell audio system that even makes Paul Simon sound tolerable. Combined, these amenities make the RLX a solid long-haul choice, as good as or better than its competition.
Genuinely Useful Tech
Perhaps the RLX's most impressive feature is its ability to steer itself. Acura calls this feature the Lane Keeping Assist System, and it does just that. Truth is, the car steers itself for about 10 seconds. Then it wants you to steer again, which seems fair.
A forward-looking camera monitors lane position and keeps lane wanderers from wandering too far. On mildly curving roads it's so subtle and effective that we hope every driver in Los Angeles gets one. In longer corners we noticed the system making small corrections against our input. Still, it's worth it most of the time and easily switched off.
Besides being extremely well-calibrated for the inevitable space-cushion thief, the RLX's Adaptive Cruise Control will now comfortably stop the car and requires only a tap of the throttle or "Resume" button to once again begin tracking back to its preset speed.
The Cost/Benefit Ratio
The 2014 Acura RLX will be available with five packages (Base, Navigation, Technology package, Krell Audio package, Advance package) starting at $49,345 including destination when it hits dealers next month. The car we drove here, outfitted with the Advance Package, will cost $61,345, which will get you a BMW 535i with the Technology and Dynamic Handling packages or a loaded rear-wheel-drive Lexus GS 350.
The full verdict on the RLX won't be in until the all-wheel-drive hybrid version shows up. But even then, the ultimate question facing the RLX isn't whether it can be competitive on features and price, but rather if it can be desirable.
All-wheel drive will help, and the RLX needs all the help it can get.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2014 Acura RLX Hybrid Overview
The Used 2014 Acura RLX Hybrid is offered in the following styles: Sport Hybrid SH-AWD 4dr Sedan AWD w/Advance Package (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid 7AM), and Sport Hybrid SH-AWD 4dr Sedan AWD w/Technology Package (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid 7AM). The Used 2014 Acura RLX Hybrid comes with all wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 7-speed automated manual. The Used 2014 Acura RLX Hybrid comes with a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. basic warranty, a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 6 yr./ 70000 mi. powertrain warranty.
What's a good price on a Used 2014 Acura RLX Hybrid?
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Used 2014 Acura RLX Hybrid Listings and Inventory
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Should I lease or buy a 2014 Acura RLX?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.