2018 Acura RLX

2018 Acura RLX Review

The RLX is a high-tech luxury car that can't quite stand out from the pack.
7.3 / 10
Edmunds overall rating
author
by Will Kaufman
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

The 2018 Acura RLX is quiet and comfortable and offers an impressive mix of power and fuel economy from the Sport Hybrid version. But this year's updates (read more about them in our RLX First Impression review) just don't go far enough in addressing the issues that make the RLX hard to recommend over similarly priced luxury competitors.

Certainly, there are positive aspects to Acura's top sedan. The Sport Hybrid is pretty cool. It's all-wheel-drive, and each rear wheel is independently driven by an electric motor; an electric motor in the transmission helps the V6 drive the front wheels. This system produces a total of 377 horsepower and returns an EPA-estimated 28 mpg combined. The Sport Hybrid is smooth and unobtrusive in city driving, and it provides competent handling when you're driving on twisty roads.

The rest of the RLX is a mixed bag, however. Although Acura packs in plenty of features as standard, the overall interior design comes off as dated. The biggest offender is the dual-screen infotainment system. It's frustrating to use, lacks many of the bells and whistles that other luxury marques offer, and belies all the other impressive technology that's available in the RLX.

We think it's worth checking out a few other midsize luxury sedans even if they cost a little more. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class was recently redesigned and sports a richly appointed interior. The Volvo S90 offers a likewise impressively modern interior and a hybrid option. The Audi A6 offers one of the best tech interfaces in the segment, while the venerable BMW 5 Series and value-packed Genesis G80 are also great choices. Overall, the 2018 Acura RLX is likable enough, but the competition is generally more desirable.



What's new for 2018

The Acura RLX receives a variety of updates for 2018. They include new front-end styling, new front seats, an upgraded suite of driver safety aids, a retuned suspension, a new 10-speed transmission for the front-wheel-drive trim (called P-AWS), and a slightly smaller battery in the Sport Hybrid. Acura has simplified the RLX's trim levels as well.

We recommend

The RLX Sport Hybrid makes an impressive case for itself with its acceleration, handling and efficiency gains over the base model. It also comes fully loaded for a reasonable price. The one drawback is that total trunk space is reduced by the battery pack. Otherwise, this is the RLX to get.



Trim levels & features

The 2018 Acura RLX comes in just two trims. The base front-wheel-drive version (referred to as P-AWS) comes with a list of features that's more comprehensive than what you'll get on many competitive base models. The Sport Hybrid comes with an impressive all-wheel-drive hybrid drivetrain and even more premium features.

The base RLX P-AWS is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine making 310 horsepower and 272 pound-feet of torque. It sends power to the front wheels via a new 10-speed automatic transmission.

Standard equipment on the P-AWS trim includes 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, a power sunroof, automatic windshield wipers, a rearview camera, and keyless entry with push-button start. Inside you'll find three-zone automatic climate control, heated and power-adjustable front seats, leather upholstery, a power-adjustable steering wheel, a dual-screen infotainment system, navigation, Bluetooth, and a 14-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD and satellite radio, a USB-iPod interface, smartphone app integration (Pandora and Aha internet radio integration), and an auxiliary audio jack.

Both the P-AWS and Sport Hybrid come with a full suite of active safety features and driver aids, including adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.

The Sport Hybrid also adds LED foglights, auto-dimming and power-folding side mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, remote start, and a surround-view camera system. Inside, the Sport Hybrid gets ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a power rear sunshade and manual rear-door sunshades, a head-up display, and a premium 14-speaker stereo system.

Obviously, the biggest upgrade is the hybrid drivetrain. The V6 motor drives the front wheels through a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission with a built-in electric motor, and each rear wheel has an independent electric motor. Total system power is 377 horsepower and 341 pound-feet of torque.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions, although trim levels share many aspects. The ratings in this review are based on our First Drive of the 2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD as well as prior full tests of a 2014 Acura RLX Advance (3.5L V6 | 6-speed automatic | FWD) and a 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD Advance (hybrid 3.5L V6 | 7-speed dual-clutch automatic | AWD).

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall7.3 / 10

Driving

7.0 / 10

Acceleration7.5 / 10
Braking5.5 / 10
Steering6.0 / 10
Handling7.0 / 10
Drivability8.5 / 10

Comfort

8.0 / 10

Seat comfort7.0 / 10
Ride comfort8.0 / 10
Noise & vibration9.0 / 10

Interior

7.5 / 10

Ease of use7.0 / 10
Getting in/getting out8.0 / 10
Roominess9.0 / 10
Visibility8.0 / 10
Quality7.0 / 10

Driving7.0

The RLX is relatively nimble and wields enough horsepower to handle everyday tasks with ease. Although it's dynamically competent, others in the segment offer a more engaging driving experience and a wider selection of powertrains.

Acceleration7.5

The 310-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 is a strong, refined engine and even better when paired with three electric motors, for 377 hp combined. Both RLX models pull hard to redline and are always smooth, though acceleration times aren't any quicker than those of most competitors.

Braking5.5

Brake performance is slightly below average for the segment. The RLX required 120 feet, and the Sport Hybrid 124 feet, to reach a stop from 60 mph. The pedal feel is linear and predictable.

Steering6.0

The steering is accurate but numb and artificial, so you can't feel what's going on with the front tires, hurting driver confidence in low-grip situations (e.g., winter driving).

Handling7.0

Acura Precision All-Wheel Steering (P-AWS) delivers predictable, confident and competent handling, but it's not a class leader. The same goes for the Sport Hybrid whose Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system helps mask some inherent handling deficiencies.

Drivability8.5

The RLX combines luxury and performance in a way that makes it an excellent everyday commuter. The powertrains are smooth and tranquil; the transmissions deliver seamless shifts; and sufficient thrust is there at the ready.

Comfort8.0

RLX ride comfort varies between models, but seat comfort falls below our expectations at this price. Noise and vibration, however, are kept at bay, which helps preserve some cabin serenity.

Seat comfort7.0

In our First Drive of the refreshed RLX, we found the updated seats to be both more comfortable for long-distance driving and more supportive for aggressive driving. Some competitors offer more luxurious optional seats, but the new RLX seats are an improvement over the old buckets.

Ride comfort8.0

Ride quality is on the firm side in the standard RLX and somewhat softer and more forgiving in the Sport Hybrid, though it will wallow occasionally over some road surfaces. We consider it average for the segment.

Noise & vibration9.0

A low-level hum of tire noise finds its way into the cabin, but it's mainly noticeable because of the lack of wind and engine noise. The transition from electric to gas power in the Sport Hybrid is pleasantly smooth.

Interior7.5

The RLX interior is best described as functionally pleasant; there isn't much of a wow factor. The top infotainment display has a lower resolution than the bottom touchscreen, and the controls look dated and lack an intuitive flow. You'll find better interiors at this price.

Ease of use7.0

The dual-screen setup takes practice: One is a touchscreen; the other uses a push-knob rotary selector. The menus aren't overly intuitive, and the lack of a hard switch for fan speed is a poor choice. More thought needs to go into organization.

Getting in/getting out8.0

All doors open wide with big entryways, especially the rear. The easy-entry electric steering wheel aids driver entry (a common feature in this class), but the dash extends low at the knee area, limiting space. On the other hand, it's cushioned in case of contact.

Driving position

A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, highly adjustable seats and minimal side bolstering nearly ensure that all body types will fit.

Roominess9.0

The RLX is the largest Acura sedan to date. Elbow and shoulder room and rear legroom are generous and among the best in class. Passengers with tall torsos may be affected by the slope of the rear roofline, though a relief in the ceiling opens up some lost headroom.

Visibility8.0

Speakers in the windshield pillars make for slightly larger blind spots out front, and a high trunklid partially obscures rearward visibility. The Advance package, however, includes multiple cameras and selectable viewing angles that greatly enhance overall awareness.

Quality7.0

The leather surface stitching is tight and clean, and all materials feel of good quality with soft-touch surfaces in all the right places. Some minor inconsistencies, such as interior door gaps, only become apparent when you look for them. The design may be a little dated, but it doesn't feel cheap.

Utility

The RLX offers generous amounts of passenger space but fails to impress with its trunk accommodations and in-cabin storage for personal effects.

Small-item storage

The RLX's glovebox and door pockets are modestly sized, which leaves the three-way-access armrest compartment as the most usable space. The rear center armrest has slide-out cupholders.

Cargo space6.5

Trunk space is average, though the lack of a spare tire allows for underfloor storage. There's a ski pass-through instead of fold-down rear seats in the standard RLX, and the Sport Hybrid sacrifices the pass-through due to its batteries, dropping cargo room from 14.9 cubic feet to 12 cubic feet.

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.