Used 2016 Acura RLX Review

Edmunds expert review

Some full-size luxury sedans are designed to draw attention, but maybe that's not your style. If you'd rather fly under the radar, the 2016 Acura RLX obliges with subtle styling on the outside and a slew of advanced features inside. Let's see if this reasonably priced flagship belongs in your garage.




What's new for 2016

The 2016 Acura RLX stays largely the same as the 2015 model, but it does see the addition of 19-inch wheels as standard equipment, chassis and suspension upgrades for improved ride quality, and expanded availability of the RLX's collection of driver assistance aids and collision mitigation features. There are also a few new safety features: road departure mitigation, rear cross-traffic alert and a 360-degree camera system. Lastly, the RLX's previous base trim level has been discontinued, while the Sport Hybrid variant will arrive later in the model year.

Vehicle overview

Mostly unchanged for 2016, the Acura RLX will likely continue to drive below the radar of most midsize luxury sedan buyers. Honestly, its styling is pretty conservative and, after its debut just a couple years ago (as a replacement for the RL), it still doesn't have much name recognition behind it. But that's not to say the 2016 RLX is without merits.

The big draw here is that for the money, the RLX provides an impressive list of standard features. Even the base trim level (now the RLX with Navigation) comes with features that are normally optional for sedans in this class, such as a navigation system, LED headlights and keyless ignition and entry. And this year the RLX's suite of collision avoidance and driver's aids becomes standard with the Technology and Advance Package trim levels. The addition of these features as standard equipment is notable because the MSRP of the 2016 RLX, across all trim levels, has not increased from the previous year.

The 2016 Acura RLX is conservatively styled but delivers a lot of luxury-oriented features for the money.

Carrying over from the 2015 model is the same, smooth 3.5-liter V6 engine that drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. However, Acura has seen fit to modify the chassis and suspension tuning in an effort to improve ride quality, handling and reduce road noise and vibration levels. The RLX also gets a few new safety features this year, including a road departure intervention system and a 360-degree and top-down parking camera system. Returning for 2016 is the RLX Sport Hybrid, which Acura introduced for 2014 but then skipped for 2015.

We like the hybrid variant and the RLX's feature content, but otherwise there's not a whole lot else about the car that impresses us. Competitors like the Audi A6 and Lexus GS 350 are more luxurious on the inside, while the Hyundai Genesis can outdo the RLX on price. And with the Advance package and/or Sport Hybrid pricing, the RLX finds itself in even deeper waters, as the two stalwarts of the midsize luxury sedan class, the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, are within reach at that level. Both offer more sophisticated ride and handling as well as an array of gasoline, diesel and all-wheel-drive variations. Overall, we think the RLX is worth consideration if value is a priority, but otherwise, it's likely you'll be happier with one of the aforementioned rivals.




Trim levels & features

The 2016 Acura RLX comes in three main trim levels (mostly referred to by Acura as packages): Navigation, Technology Package and the Advance Package, but you'll have to special order the Navigation trim level through the dealer. The 2016 Sport Hybrid comes only with the Technology or Advance packages.

The RLX with Navigation (the lowest trim level) comes well-equipped with 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, tri-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leatherette upholstery, eight-way power adjustable front seats (with four-way power lumbar), heated front seats, driver memory settings and a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. The list of standard electronics includes dual displays, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a 10-speaker ELS sound system with a CD player, HD and satellite radios, a USB/iPod interface, smartphone app integration (with Pandora and Aha Internet radio integration) and an auxiliary audio jack.

Choosing the Technology option package bundles automatic wipers, leather upholstery, adaptive cruise control and a 14-speaker ELS sound system. On top of that the Advance package adds a power rear sunshade, manual rear passenger window shades, remote start, auto-dimming outside mirrors, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a 360-degree parking camera system and a Krell Premium sound system, also with 14 speakers. Both the Technology and Advance packages come with a suite of driver assistance aids known as AcuraWatch (detailed in the safety section below).

Every 2016 Acura RLX comes standard with dual dashboard display screens.

The RLX Sport Hybrid comes standard with the Technology package and can be upgraded to the Advance package. A head-up display is an exclusive standard feature for the Sport Hybrid.



Performance & mpg

For 2016, the regular Acura RLX comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine putting out 310 horsepower and 272 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission are standard.

The RLX Sport Hybrid combines the V6 with a three-motor hybrid system, a seven-speed automated manual transmission and all-wheel drive (Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive [SH-AWD]). Total system power is rated at 377 hp and 341 lb-ft of torque.

In Edmunds testing, an RLX with the Advance package went from zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, which is average for a midsize luxury sedan with a base engine. The EPA rates the RLX at 24 mpg combined (20 city/31 highway), which is also average for a six-cylinder luxury sedan.

The Sport Hybrid delivers superior acceleration and fuel economy. In our testing, it zipped to 60 mph in a quick 5.4 seconds. The EPA lists fuel economy at 30 mpg combined (28/32). On our highway-biased evaluation route, however, we observed a lackluster 27.8 mpg.

Safety

Standard safety systems for the RLX include forward collision warning, lane departure warning, a rearview camera and stability and traction control. Front side, side curtain and a driver knee airbag are also standard on all trim levels.

The Technology and Advance Packages also include forward collision mitigation with automatic braking, lane departure intervention, road departure intervention (similar to lane departure intervention, but it can help prevent the car from leaving a paved surface), blind sport monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. The Advance Package also comes with an additional parking camera system that can simulate a top-down, 360 degree view of the car to aid in tight maneuvering.

In Edmunds testing, the RLX managed a 60-0-mph braking distance of 120 feet, an average, if not slightly underwhelming number for this class. The Sport Hybrid came to a stop in 124 feet.

In government crash tests, the RLX earned a top five-star rating (out of a possible five), with five stars for total frontal impact safety and five stars for total side-impact safety. The RLX similarly excelled in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests where it posted a top score of "Good" in all tests including both moderate- and small-overlap frontal-offset collisions plus side impacts, roof strength and seatbelt and head restraint design (for whiplash reduction).

Driving

The 2015 Acura RLX's V6 engine is quiet and smooth and pairs well with the six-speed automatic. It's sufficiently powerful and should suit most buyers just fine, though rival sedans with turbocharged or supercharged six-cylinders, or even a V8, feel noticeably quicker. The Sport Hybrid is noticeably quicker, and its quick-shifting transmission imbues the car with a sportier feel.

Compared to rivals like the Audi A6 or Lexus GS, the 2016 Acura RLX suffers from lackluster handling and performance.

Previously, the RLX didn't ride with the same composure as other sedans in this class. The 19-inch wheels contributed to the harshness felt when driving over rough patches at low speeds, while the ride on the highway could be bouncy. This year's model is more composed, thankfully, and better able to absorb impacts over rough pavement. Low levels of road and wind noise are the RLX's greatest attributes. Still lacking, however, is a sense of driver engagement. Modest handling limits and numb steering and braking all conspire to make you wonder what happened to Acura's traditional levels of sport.

Interior

From the moment you step inside the cabin of the 2016 Acura RLX, you can't help but notice the spacious feel of the interior. But it's the rear passengers who will be most surprised by the accommodations, as the RLX offers nearly 3 inches more legroom than most other sedans in this class. Though it is perhaps the most adult-friendly rear seat in the category, taller passengers may want a little extra headroom and more toe room under the front seats. And those front seats, while perfectly comfortable for most trips, left us wishing for more support on longer journeys.

The interior does get points for both its array of the latest technology and its ease of use. The available navigation system is a good example of this intuitive operation, allowing you to enter destinations using the large control knob, the 7-inch touchscreen below the 8-inch map display or by voice commands. But there are a couple of negatives here, including graphics that aren't as crisp as those in other luxury models and several basic functions that aren't as instinctive as we'd like.

Out back, the RLX offers a trunk with 15.3 (15.1 with the Krell audio system) cubic-feet of luggage space. As the rear-seat back does not fold down, the center seat pass-through is the only way to carry longer objects. Sport Hybrids have a noticeably smaller 11.6-cubic-foot trunk.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.