2014 Acura RLX is more powerful and more fuel efficient than
its predecessor, the RL.
Strip away the
$61,345 price tag and ignore all of its competitors, and the 2014
Acura RLX isn’t a bad car.
quiet, luxurious and stylish front-wheel-drive sedan that sits at
the top of the lineup for Honda’s premium brand.
the RLX has plenty of competition, since it swims in the choppy
waters of the mid-size luxury pool. Its peers throw into sharp
relief the fact that the RLX feels and drives too much like a Honda
to justify even the $48,450 base price.
other car in this class holds a meaningful advantage the RLX lacks.
The king of
value is the Hyundai Genesis. Tank-like construction? The Mercedes
E-Class. The Audi A6 and Jaguar XF are more stylish, the Lexus GS
hybrid and Lincoln MKZ hybrid are more fuel efficient.
Japanese reliability will prefer the Infiniti M, while shoppers who
want spirited driving have the BMW 5-Series and Cadillac CTS to
accolades that set this Acura apart are ample rear-seat space and a
pile of electronic goodies. But they’re not enough to help the
lagging fortunes of Acura in this segment.
predecessor to the RLX — the RL — had more than a little trouble
distinguishing itself in its segment. After peaking in its inaugural
year in 2005 with more than 17,000 sales, according to Edmunds.com,
the fall has been precipitous. By 2012, the RL sold just 379 copies.
All year. The BMW 5-Series averaged more than that over a long
correct the RL’s unpopularity, Acura made several changes to the
formula for its biggest sedan.
It started by
stretching the wheelbase by 2 inches and throwing the dividends from
this growth into rear legroom, which is now the best in the class.
The extra space is appreciable, and comfort and space in the front
and rear seats is excellent. But how high does rear legroom rank on
shoppers’ list of priorities?
made the RLX more powerful and more fuel-efficient than the RL.
Acura’s recently subdued metallic beak-grille is a smooth-revving
V-6 engine. At 3.5 liters, it’s 0.2 liters smaller than before,
yet horsepower is up by 10 to 310. Torque rises by a single
pound-foot to 272.
Acura rarely fail to bolt together an enjoyable engine. This is no
exception. Though the RLX is no lightweight at an eyelash under
4,000 pounds, this V-6 remains composed when pushed hard (though
drivers must engage the car’s Sport mode for best results). The
only problem is that this is a segment in which impressive engines
are as common as seat belts.
deserve credit for adding direct-injection and lower-friction
surfaces in the engine to eke out better fuel mileage while
increasing power. The RLX has a six-speed automatic transmission.
Fuel economy is rated at 20 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the
In 215 miles
of testing, we averaged 21 mpg. But for the same money as this
Acura, there are a myriad of better hybrid models for those who want
a fuel-efficient luxury car.
Later in the
year, Acura itself will put on sale a hybrid version of the RLX. It
will combine all-wheel drive with at least 370 horsepower, a
seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, and expected fuel economy of
30 mpg in both city and highway driving.
been announced, but it will probably sell for at least several
thousand dollars more than the $48,450 base price of the
this more powerful hybrid model as making a play for customers who
would opt for a V-8 from a rival brand. This philosophy is similar
to how Lexus positions its GS hybrid, the 450h.
biggest reason to wait for this uber-RLX is it should clean up the
woeful front-wheel-drive tendencies of the model we tested.
the RLX competes with, only the Audi and Lincoln are also
front-wheel-drive, though a majority of Audi buyers opt for the
all-wheel-drive version. The rest of the field is driven by the rear
wheels, the way God, or at least physics, intended.
power to the same wheels that are steering, and with nearly 61
percent of the car’s weight hanging over those front wheels, the
RLX meets enthusiastic turns with poor grip and a sloppy line.
to have mitigated this Achilles’ heel of front-drive cars with
what it calls Precision All-Wheel Steer, or P-AWS. This electronic
system is standard on all models. It steers the rear wheels in the
opposite direction from the front during turns for better agility.
It can also move the rear wheels on the same path as the front for
quicker lane changes.
hype, this system only marginally improves the RLX’s tendency to
plow through curves when pushed. It had an equally minor effect on
making the car behave like a proper rear-wheel-drive sedan. There’s
just not enough electronic lipstick to mask a front-wheel-drive pig.
was further discouraged by the transmission’s manual mode. Start
tapping the standard paddle shifters and the car rolls off upshifts
so slowly you’d think they were relayed by carrier pigeon.
electronic wizardry that’s optional on the RLX proved more useful.
Our tester had the Advance package, which added a hefty $12,000 to
the base price. Included in this package is adaptive cruise control,
the best lane-keeping assist system we’ve encountered, and forward
collision warning and braking.
also added heated and cooled leather seats, a 14-speaker Krell audio
system, blind spot monitoring, moon roof and a navigation system
with real-time traffic updates. Items including a backup camera,
Pandora radio, iPod integration, seven air bags and lane departure
warning are standard on all models.
are what Acura calls Jewel Eye LED headlamps. Together with handsome
(non-jeweled) LED taillights, they make up the only interesting
element of the RLX exterior. The car certainly isn’t ugly, and in
the flesh it exudes a conservative yet stately air.
This is all
fine until a Jaguar XF pulls up next to you and suddenly you feel as
if you’re driving the nicest Honda Accord in the world. It’s all
Inside the RLX,
this feeling continues. To be clear, this Acura has the right amount
of leather-covered surfaces, digital screens and dabs of brushed
metal and faux-wood that let it lay claim to the luxury club.
dual-screen setup in the dashboard is a particularly nice touch. One
large display screen for the navigation system sits at the center of
the console. Below it is a second, smaller touch screen. Its
functions vary between audio and climate, and this layout wisely
conserves space. The rest of the cabin is quiet and comfortable.
the insides of the RLX lack the intangible gravitas of something
like a Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Passengers are further reminded about
this by the cheap, hollow noise put out by the suspension when the
wheels run over rough surfaces.
Viewed on a
macro scale, know that if you find yourself at an Acura store with
at least $50,000 to spend on a new car, there’s no outright reason
not to buy the 2014 RLX. Just don’t look across the road at a
rival lot that sells any of its peers. You’ll quickly learn why
Acura dealers always want you to shop there last.
2014 ACURA RLX:
excluding destination charge: $48,450