2020 Acura RLX Hybrid
2020 Acura RLX Review
- Quiet, comfortable interior
- Spacious cabin and seating, especially for rear passengers
- Long list of standard safety and convenience features
- Dual-screen infotainment system is outdated and nonintuitive
- Interior design looks dated
- Subpar ride and handling for the class
- The hybrid fails to offer standout efficiency
- The RLX carries over unchanged for 2020
- Part of the first RLX generation introduced for 2014
Blingy crossovers may have taken over the landscape for the time being, but the luxury sedan still carries a certain savoir faire that cemented its place as a status symbol long ago. So it would seem there's room for a rival to the BMWs and Lexuses of the world, especially one from Acura, the company responsible for the exotic NSX, backed by Honda build quality and reliability.
Unfortunately, that sedan is the RLX. The flagship Acura sedan is well-made, offers a strong engine and comes with loads of standard features to undercut the competition. But its ride quality is not befitting of a luxury car, especially against heavy hitters from Audi, Cadillac and Genesis. The infotainment system is not only outdated but also confusing to use. An optional Sport Hybrid version offers dual electric motors but with slightly improved fuel economy, less trunk space and a smaller gas tank. It amounts to little considering the substantial leap in price.
Buyers looking for a good entry point to the luxury segment will find things to like. The interior is comfortable and spacious, with materials of a higher order than what's used in most sedans on the road. But the RLX doesn't stand out, and in many areas it falls noticeably short in a crowded field. The car hasn't been significantly updated since it first debuted in 2014. And it shows.
While engineers clearly put care into the build quality of the Acura RLX, its parts don't add up to much. The luxury sedan struggles to meet class benchmarks. It's hamstrung by a confusing, outdated infotainment system, and the optional Sport Hybrid SH-AWD trim is neither sporty nor fuel-efficient enough. Buyers spoiled for choice have little reason to consider the RLX.
How does the RLX drive?
The best driving qualities in the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD are right there in its name. The hybrid powertrain provides smooth electric torque to help its V6 engine achieve 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. Meanwhile, the unique all-wheel-drive system encourages throttle through corners to erase the big sedan's understeer. Unfortunately, the RLX falls apart from there.
The electric power steering feels numb. The RLX has more body roll than a sedan that wants to be sporty should. And braking is a struggle. Not only does the regenerative braking system come off as unrefined, the traditional brakes simply aren't very effective. The RLX stopped from 60 mph in 126 feet, which is poor for a luxury sedan. An NSX this is not.
How comfortable is the RLX?
The comfortable seats and airtight cabin show that Acura still knows how to create a luxurious experience for the driver and passengers. It's a shame that quality doesn't carry over into the ride. Bumps easily unsettle the heavy RLX Sport Hybrid, which struggles to maintain a smooth ride over road imperfections and even textured surfaces.
Some of the climate controls have hard buttons, while others are tucked into the touchscreen menus. Backseat passengers will appreciate sunshades on each of the hybrid's windows to keep out the glare. The cabin of the RLX is a nice place to be, and the hybrid powertrain adds to that with smooth transitions and a nice growl under hard acceleration. It's a pity the ride itself isn't so pleasant.
How’s the interior?
The RLX is a mixed bag inside. Dual screens are rarely a good idea — especially when one is a touchscreen and the other uses a rotary selector. It's difficult to navigate between them, and asking drivers to change something as simple as fan speed through the menus is a miss.
The sedan hits its marks physically, though. There is plenty of space inside, including ample headroom up front. A 14-speaker audio system is standard, and the Sport Hybrid gets a premium version. Backseat passengers have an elevated position and good legroom, with slightly less headroom with the sloping roof a downside. Outward visibility is good, and a plethora of camera views helps, though the resolution could be higher.
How’s the tech?
A flagship luxury sedan should simply be better. The RLX shows its age with an outdated infotainment system, especially compared with the pleasing touchpad in the RDX. Instead, the touchscreen offers poor graphics and worse responsiveness to the touch. There is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. You can connect a phone via Bluetooth, but after two attempts it hardly seems worth it.
Driver assist safety aids also struggle to keep pace. Adaptive cruise control works down to a stop. But the minimum following distance is too far, and the RLX constantly speeds up and slows again to match the desired speed.
How’s the storage?
The RLX offers clever interior storage for small items but drops the ball with larger ones. The center console is spacious and modular, making it easy to configure as you wish. The cupholders can handle various sizes, and the rear armrest has dual cupholders. The spacious back seat makes it easy to install child seats — even larger rear-facing ones — with reachable car-seat anchors.
Yet the trunk is small for the class, at just 12 cubic feet, and the hybrid battery takes up space that makes it shallow. Making matters worse, there is no pass-through for long items, and the rear seats don't fold down. Though the back seat is large, its raised center portion limits child seats to two at a time.
How economical is the RLX?
We observed 27.1 mpg on our 115-mile evaluation loop of mixed driving conditions. The RLX Hybrid's 28 mpg combined rating (28 city/29 highway) is respectable but falls short of its primary competitor (Lexus ES 300h). The RLX Hybrid beats the regular RLX by 8 mpg in the city but only matches its highway number.
Is the RLX a good value?
The dichotomy of the Acura RLX is on display again with regards to overall value. It has luxury materials and build quality but an outdated design and functionality. It's nice that the RLX comes well-equipped. Its performance and fuel economy aren't strong enough, though, to separate it from BMW and Lexus hybrid sedans.
The RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD has a respectable fuel economy rating from the EPA. However, its highway rating is equal to the non-hybrid version's, and our test vehicle slightly underperformed its average rating on our 115-mile evaluation loop. It is equal to or better than competitors in warranty coverage but doesn't match some roadside assistance or maintenance plans.
There's nothing about the Acura RLX that stands out against its competition. And in many circumstances, the car struggles to keep pace with the most basic expectations from a modern luxury sedan. The interesting powertrain can get going in a hurry, but that doesn't make up for subpar ride quality, handling and braking. The RLX doesn't stand out in a crowd, and those drawn to its supposed value will need to contend with outdated technology.
Which RLX does Edmunds recommend?
Acura RLX models
Acura offers only two trim levels on the 2020 RLX. The first is the RLX P-AWS, a well-equipped front-wheel-drive sedan with all-wheel steering. The second is the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD, which upgrades to all-wheel drive and a hybrid powertrain, as well as a bevy of standard luxury and safety features to justify a big bump in price.
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2020 Acura RLX video
2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Test Drive
NOTE: This video is about the 2018 Acura RLX, but since the 2020 Acura RLX is part of the same generation, our earlier analysis still applies.
Our experts’ favorite RLX safety features:
- Adaptive Cruise Control
- Lets you set a desired speed and maintain distance between you and the vehicle ahead, even bringing you to a complete stop.
- Collision Mitigation Braking System
- Alerts you of obstacles detected ahead. Provides visual alerts first and will automatically brake if you don't react.
- Lane Keeping Assist System
- Detects lane markings and will guide the car back to the middle if you begin to drift out of your lane.
Acura RLX vs. the competition
2020 Acura RLX
2020 Acura TLX
Acura RLX vs. Acura TLX
Both sedans suffer from outdated technology and bland driving characteristics. The RLX holds the edge for its enormous interior space and standard V6 engine. However, a TLX can be optioned up to the same V6 and several enticing features that still leave it priced well below the RLX.
Acura RLX vs. Honda Accord
Though the Accord is a more pedestrian sedan, it holds several distinct advantages over the RLX. For one, it's much more fun to drive. Ride quality and handling are leagues better in the Honda, even on models that are nearly half the price of the RLX. Newer infotainment and more accessible storage are also strengths in areas where the RLX struggles. Read Edmunds' long-term road test of the Honda Accord.
Acura RLX vs. Lexus GS 350
The Lexus GS checks just about every box a luxury sedan buyer is looking for. Its interior is properly sumptuous, and the smooth ride easily justifies its attractive starting price. There is a performance F Sport model with upgraded suspension, brakes and styling. The biggest drawback is the infotainment system, but the RLX has its own issues in that department.
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Is the Acura RLX a good car?
What's new in the 2020 Acura RLX?
According to Edmunds’ car experts, here’s what’s new for the 2020 Acura RLX:
- The RLX carries over unchanged for 2020
- Part of the first RLX generation introduced for 2014
Is the Acura RLX reliable?
Is the 2020 Acura RLX a good car?
How much should I pay for a 2020 Acura RLX?
The least-expensive 2020 Acura RLX is the 2020 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD 4dr Sedan AWD (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid 7AM). Including destination charge, it arrives with a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $61,900.
Other versions include:
- Sport Hybrid SH-AWD 4dr Sedan AWD (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid 7AM) which starts at $61,900