|Topic Review (Newest First)|
|06-02-15 08:30 AM|
Technological Tour de Force 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Goes On Sale June 3 with Greater Feature Content
Acura’s flagship luxury sport sedan receives additional premium features including AcuraWatch™ suite of safety and driver assistive technologies plus new "Surround View" Camera
Jun 2, 2015 - TORRANCE, Calif.
With pricing unchanged from the current model, the 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD will be available at Acura dealers nationwide beginning June 3 boasting new features including AcuraWatch™, now offered as standard equipment on all models, and an available 360-degree Surround View Camera system. The only luxury sedan with a 3-motor, torque-vectoring hybrid powertrain, the 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid will carry a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $59,950 with Technology Package and $65,950 with Advance Package.
Producing a combined 377 horsepower and 341 lb-ft of torque2, the RLX Sport Hybrid is powered by a direct injected 3.5-liter V6 engine and 3-motor hybrid system with Acura's signature Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system. This highly effective powertrain provides a unique combination of exhilarating all-weather, any-road dynamic performance, and exceptional acceleration, while also receiving an impressive 32 mpg EPA highway fuel economy rating3. These performance attributes are matched by the RLX Sport Hybrid's luxurious appointments and for 2016 even more comprehensive feature content including the AcuraWatch™suite of safety and driver assistive technologies and available Surround View Camera4, bi-directional starter and heated steering wheel.
All RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD models now include AcuraWatch™, which helps to improve the driver's situational awareness and, in certain circumstances, intervene to help avoid a collision or mitigate its severity. The AcuraWatch™ suite of available features includes:
Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow (LSF)The 2016 Acura RLX is available in 2 trims, RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD with Technology Package and RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD with Advance Package. The RLX with Technology Package has been enhanced with AcuraWatch™ as standard. The RLX with Advance Package has been additionally improved with Surround View Camera4, bi-directional keyless remote engine starter and heated steering wheel.
At the heart of AcuraWatch™ is the fusion of camera and radar technology that can sense the roadway and objects within it, including other vehicles and pedestrians. This technology underpins the systems that help provide the driver with improved vision around the vehicle, can alert the driver of potential issues and, if necessary, intervene to help keep the RLX Sport Hybrid from departing a lane, departing the road, or help to avoid or mitigate the severity of a collision. These systems include Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) and Cross Traffic Monitor, both of which are new to the RLX Sport Hybrid.
Road Departure Mitigation (RDM)4
New for the 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid, Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) uses a Monocular Camera (mounted on the upper portion of the windshield) to identify solid or dashed painted lane lines, Botts' Dots and Cat Eye markers. RDM uses both steering force, via EPS, and braking force, via VSA, to help the RLX Sport Hybrid from leaving a detected lane or detected roadway.
The monocular camera can recognize lane features and identify a lane or roadway edge. If the RDM system determines that the RLX Sport Hybrid is about to leave a detected lane or roadway defined by solid lines without a turn signal in use, it will provide steering assist (primary) and, in rare occasions when steering is not sufficient, braking assist to help the driver stay on the road. If a lane only identified by dashed lines, Bott's Dots or Cat Eye markers and the system determines that there is an unintended departure, no braking assist will be provided. Instead, the RLX Sport Hybrid will use active steering force to help return to the detected lane. RDM is integrated with the Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system to provide moderate braking, and with the Electric Power Steering (EPS) system to provide steering input.
Multiple visual and audible warnings alert the driver when the RDM system is taking corrective action. These include a lane departure warning on the driver's Multi Information Display (MID) along with an audible warning. RDM also has a customizable initial warning of either a steering wheel shake/vibration and/or an audible alert. This can be customized in the vehicle settings.
Cross Traffic Monitor5
Another new driver assistive technology included with AcuraWatch™, the Cross Traffic Monitor works in conjunction with the RLX's blind spot information (BSI) radar sensors to enhance driver confidence when backing up. The system is especially useful when reversing in congested parking lots with an obstructed view from the driver's seat.
The system utilizes a pair of radar units located in the rear quarter panels. When Reverse is selected and an approaching vehicle is detected, arrows indicating the approaching vehicle's direction are shown on the center display's rear camera image. An audible warning is simultaneously emitted.
Surround View Camera6
For 2016, the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid with Advance Package includes Acura's Surround View Camera system6 that provides a 360-degree image of the area around the vehicle. The surround view camera system is designed to assist drivers during critical and precise maneuvers in snug parking situations. Using 4 separate cameras, views from behind, directly in front of, and both left and right sides of the vehicle can be displayed on the navigation screen. The system can also use all 4 cameras to seamlessly create a composite bird's eye image, to provide the driver with information about the surroundings. In addition, dynamic on-screen guidelines help the driver see their projected path relative to the lines demarking parking spaces or other objects, allowing them to maneuver with greater confidence.
|03-18-15 08:08 AM|
|walker67||The electric SH-AWD system on the RLX Sport Hybrid eliminates the conventional drive shaft and rear differential, replacing them with 2 high-output 27-kilowatt electric motors. The rear motors dynamically distribute both positive (drive) and negative (regenerative braking) electric-motor torque, depending on driving conditions, and which torque vectoring assists in cornering. The system is further aided by a 35-kilowatt front electric motor that supplements engine torque to the front wheels and provides regenerative brake torque to charge the vehicle's 260-volt lithium-ion battery pack.|
|07-21-14 06:40 PM|
|Hyperion88||Got to drive the 14 RLX. Really nice car.|
|02-21-14 04:51 PM|
It wasn’t that long ago I had an Acura RLX for a week. If you recall that review, I came away liking the car but found little joy in the price tag. Despite wearing a fantastic stitched leather interior, there was just no way I could justify the $10,000 premium over the AWD turbocharged competition from Lincoln, Volvo and others. Can a new dual clutch transmission and 3 electric motors turn the RLX from being a good car with the wrong price tag to a value proposition?
Because of the RLX’s FWD drivetrain, I was forced to view the RLX with an eye towards the Volvo S80, Lincoln MKS and the Lexus ES. With the Sport Hybrid model, Acura has done 2 things to take the RLX out of that pool and dive into another: AWD and a hybrid system. On paper a 377 horsepower hybrid system should put the RLX head to head with the Lexus GS 350, Infiniti M35h, and BMW AciveHybrid 5.
On the outside, the RLX cuts an elegant and restrained pose. Although the cars Acura allowed us to drive at a regional event were pre-produciton, fit and finish was excellent. Lincoln has certainly made strides in recent years, but there is a difference in build quality between the MKS and the RLX that didn’t go unnoticed. Acura attempts to further distinguish the RLX from the other near-luxury brands by going aluminum intensive with the hood, quarter panels and all four doors courtesy of Alcoa. I find the RLX unquestionably attractive but the overall form fails to beat the Cadillac CTS or BMW 5-Series in my book. I place the RLX’s exterior form a tie with the Infiniti M and a hair behind the Lexus GS, especially if the GS is wearing that funky F-Sport nose.
While German interiors continue to be somewhat spartan and cold, the RLX feels open and inviting. Stitched dash and door panels elevate the cabin well above what you will find in a Lexus ES Hybrid or Lincoln MKS. The same is true for the rear of the cabin. Constructed out of the same high quality materials as the front, this is a definite departure from the hard plastics found in the ES and MKS. Most of my day was spent in an RLX with a grey and ivory motif that played to my personal tastes. On the down side, Acura continues to woo luxury shoppers with obviously fake looking faux-wood. This decision is doubly perplexing, as the new MDX is available in Canada with real wood trim, but not in America. Why don’t they offer it in America on either car?
Front seat comfort is among the best in the luxury set, beating the Mercedes E350, Lexus GS 450h and Infiniti M35h that I drove that day, but falling short of the million-way BMW M-Sport seats. Because the RLX rides on a transverse engine platform, there is an inherent space efficiency and the direct beneficiary is the rear cabin where you’ll find 2-3 inches more rear leg room than any of the other hybrids. I had hoped the Sport Hybrid design would allow a low “hump” since there isn’t a driveshaft going rearward, but unfortunately Acura decided to use this space for hybrid drivetrain components. It’s probably just as well, since the middle seat is considerably higher than the outboard rear seats making it impossible for a 6-foot passenger to ride in the middle. Thanks to lithium-ion batteries(rather than the nickel-based packs Toyota and Lexus use), the RLX maintains a decently sized trunk capable of swallowing 4 golf bags.
For reasons unknown, Acura decided to use the Sport Hybrid to re-invent the shifter control. I know that everyone else is doing this, but Acura’s 4-button arrangement strikes me as 1 of the most unusual. Instead of a flat button bank ala-Lincoln, Acura uses a bank that is designed to have some meaning. Park is a button, Drive is a differently shaped button, Neutral is yet another shape of button and Reverse is a button on its side that you push toward the rear of the vehicle. While that sounds logical, it was far from elegant when we had to make several 4-point turns in San Francisco. Anyone else prefer a regular old console shifter?
Infotainment, Gadgets and Pricing
Like the regular RLX, the Sport Hybrid combines a 7-inch haptic feedback touchscreen with an 8-inch display only screen set higher in the dash. The engineers say the concept is as follows: the lower touchscreen handles the audio, freeing the upper screen for navigation and other tasks. My opinion of the system has improved since I 1st encountered it on the MDX but I still think the casserole needs more time in the oven. You can change tracks and albums using the touchscreen but changing playlists or genres requires you to use the rotary/joystick lower in the dash to control the 8-inch screen. In my mind this sort of kills the dual-screen sales proposition. On the positive side the system is very responsive and the graphics are all high-resolution and attractive. iDrive is still my favorite in the mid-size luxury segment, but AcuraLink ties with MMI in 2nd.
Base Sport Hybrid models get a speaker bump from the gas-only RLX’s 10-speaker sound system to the mid-range Acura ELS system. As you would assume, the Sport Hybrid model is well equipped versus the gasoline model and all models come with navigation, tri-zone GPS-linked climate control and keyless go. Keeping things simple there is only 1 option, the “Advance package” (no, Advance is not a typo), which adds Krell speakers, ventilated front seats, sunshades and seat warmers for the rear passengers, front parking sensors, power folding mirrors, radar cruise control, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, a pre-collision warning system and electric front seat belt tensioners.
Now for what makes the RLX a Sport Hybrid. 1st up, we a direct-injection 3.5L V6 producing 310 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of twist that now sports start/stop technology. This engine is mated to a brand-new 7-speed transaxle developed specifically for the RLX. The new transaxle is a hybrid of sorts (and I’m not talking about the motors yet) blending a 2-speed planetary gearset with a 6-speed dual-clutch robotic manual transmission. The 2 technologies allow the entire unit to be as compact as possible. 1st gear is obtained by setting the dual clutch gearbox to 5th gear and the planetary gearset to low while “2nd” through “7th” use DCT gears 1-6 in order with the planetary set to high. I found this solution particularly interesting because it would, in theory, allow Acura to obtain more than 7 ratios from the same unit with some software programming. 12-speed anyone? After the transmission is the 1st (and largest) motor/generator, rated for 47 horsepower/109 lb-ft. Thanks to the dual-clutch transmission, the engine can be decoupled from the drivetrain, making this different from Honda’s IMA system where the engine is always spinning.
Linked by a high-voltage electrical system is a rear mounted 2-motor drive unit. The single inboard housing incorporates twin 36 horsepower /54 lb-ft motors and a clutch pack. The clutch pack is used to connect the motors together when the system needs to deliver equal power to each rear wheel. Combined with the lithium-ion battery pack in the trunk (the same one used in the Accord Hybrid), you get 377 total horsepower and 377 lb-ft of combined torque. Until you reach approximately 75 MPH at which point you have around 310 horsepower because the rear motors gradually disengage and completely disconnect over 80 MPH. The whole shebang is good for 28/32/30 MPG (City/Highway/Combined).
Why bother with two motors in the rear? Torque vectoring. The dual rear motor arrangement separates Acrua’s system from the e-AWD systems in the Lexus RX 400h and Highlander Hybrid, or the mechanical systems in the Infiniti Q50 Hybrid or Lexus LS 600hL. Although it produces about the same amount of power as Toyota’s rear hybrid motor and likely weighs more, splitting things in 2 allows it to vector torque all the time, power on or off. Say what? Yep, you read that correctly, this is the 1st production system that torque vectors when your foot isn’t on the gas. Think of it like a canoe. If you’re moving forward and you plant an oar in the water, the canoe will rotate around that axis. Instead of oars, the RLX uses motors.
Let’s get 1 thing out of the way right now – this isn’t a replacement in my mind for Acura’s mechanical SH-AWD system. The mechanical AWD system uses an overdrive module to make the rear wheels almost a full percent faster than the front wheels causing the vehicle to behave like a RWD biased vehicle. In that setup, the front wheels are being “pushed” by the rears and the result is steering feel that is very much like a RWD sedan when under power. When the power was off in the old RL, the car would plow into the bushes like a front-heavy Audi. The RLX Sport Hybrid is completely different.
Under full acceleration, the rear motors in the RLX contribute 72 ponies while the engine serves up 310 to the front wheels. The numerical imbalance between that total and the 377 “system horsepower” is consumed in the power curve of the motors and engine and the use of the front motor to draw a little power off to send to the rear. This means that while the old RL could effectively shuttle the majority of the power to the rear wheels, the RLX hybrid is at best an 80/20 split (front/rear). As a result, flooring the RLX from a stop elicits 1-wheel peel, a vague hint of wheel hop and a smidge of torque steer. Once the road starts to bend, the hybrid system starts to shine. By not only accelerating the outside rear wheel in a corner but essentially braking the inside one (and using the energy to power the outside wheel), the RLX cuts a near perfect line in the corners. Point the RLX somewhere, and the car responds crisply and instantly. And without much feel.
The downside to the rear wheels contributing so much to the RLX’s direction changes is that the steering is next to lifeless. The analogy that kept coming to mind was a video game. The RLX changes direction more readily and easily than a front heavy sedan should, yet there is little feedback about the process. When the power is off, things stay the same, with the RLX dutifully following the line you have charted in a way the FWD RLX or the old RL never could.
Acura was confident enough in the RLX to provide a GS 450h for us to play with and the difference was enlightening. The GS is less engaging from a drivetrain perspective thanks to the “eCVT” planetary hybrid system, something the RLX’s dual-clutch box excels at, but the well-balanced GS platform is by far the driver’s car on the road. The Lexus feels less artificial, more nimble, and more connected to the driver. The RLX is not far behind in terms of raw numbers, and is faster off the line, but the RLX feels less connected and more artificial in the process. It is also important to note that the RLX is the only AWD hybrid in this class since the Infiniti Q50 hybrid is Acura TL sized and the Lexus LS 600hL is considerably larger and more expensive. That feature alone makes the RLX attractive to anyone living in areas where winter traction is a consideration.
The 2014 RLX Sport Hybrid is an amazing bundle of technology. Combining a dual clutch transmission, a torque vectoring AWD system and 3 hybrid motors, the RLX is the gadget lover’s dream car. As a technology geek, the system is an intriguing solution to 2 problems plaguing near luxury brands like Acura, Volvo and Lincoln: How do we make our FWD platforms compete with RWD competitors, and how do we put a green foot forward. In doing so the RLX Hybrid may have also solved the value proposition I complained about with the FWD model. According to Acura's thinly veiled charts, we can expect the RLX to be priced the same as the Lexus GS 450h which is $5,000 more than the M35h and about $1,000 less than BMW’s ActiveHybrid 5.
Factoring in the AWD system’s $2,000-$2,500 value and standard features on the RLX and the value proposition gets better. At the high end, the “Advance” package is likely to represent a $10,000 discount vs a similarly configured Lexus or BMW. The RLX Sport Hybrid has caused me to look at the RLX in a different light. Instead of thinking the FWD RLX should be $10,000 cheaper, I now think it is irrelevant. The Sport Hybrid has what it takes to compete with the Lexus and Infiniti hybrids head on and the value proposition to tempt potential BMW shoppers, but that turns the front-drive base model into a potential image liability. I’ll reserve my final judgment until we can get our hands on 1 for more than a few hours, but until then, it appears Acura has crafted a compelling hybrid system that should be on any snow-belt shopper’s list and may provide enough value to sway RWD luxury hybrid shoppers. Stay tuned for more pricing information in the Spring.
|12-18-13 10:30 PM|
The 2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid offers all-weather traction and V-8-like performance, with the fuel-efficiency of a 4-cylinder.
That's 1 way to sum up this tech-loaded luxury flagship, which will begin reaching Acura dealerships next spring. But after spending a few hours driving it, we can attest that's not this model's raison d'être.
What is that? To put it as simply as possible, the Sport Hybrid has fantastic handling. And it's the technology behind why it handles so phenomenally well that separates it from any other luxury hybrid—and any other sport sedan, really.
Like an overly modest Olympic athlete, the RLX Sport Hybrid doesn't freely flaunt its talents. Ease your speed up in a series of tight switchbacks, as we did, and you simply work up to a disconcerting shriek of the tires, as the front wheels plow and this big sedan understeers slightly.
It would be quite the shame if we had simply left our introduction to the RLX Sport Hybrid right there, and written this off as a quick but hardly athletic luxury sedan. But we'd gotten a taste of what this special hybrid all-wheel-drive system could do out on the track in Japan last year, so we pushed on for that.
Instead, drive it like you stole it, as they say, and what you think was a ragged edge wasn’t that at all; using what feels like physics-defying magic at the rear wheels, the RLX reads that as a sign to send power selectively to each of the rear wheels—the outside rear wheel especially—nudging your trajectory back right where it should be.
It's rather unsettling at 1st, because you feel that nudge from the driver's seat, but not through the steering wheel. But the novelty doesn't wear off. We can see the RLX's attributes being just as useful on a weather-slicked highway, making an emergency maneuver, as we can on the mostly empty backroads where we test-drove the RLX.
Nudges you back on course, doesn't scrub off speed
No, the system won't make the RLX feel like a rear-wheel-drive sport sedan, but that's not the intent; instead, it nearly instantly banishes all the understeer, and makes it neutral. You don't slow down; tires aren't howling; stability control isn't buzzing; it merely works its magic and you barrel through, dynamically confident and still at full boil.
At those moments it feels like the system is doing more than keeping you stay on track; it's actually nudging you faster. And it's fast. We'd venture to say that, by power to weight (even though the Hybrid is about 350 pounds heavier than the standard RLX, at just over 4,000 lb.), it's 1 of the fastest sedans through the curves, at any price.
Acura's so-called Super Handling All Wheel Drive system was already 1 of the best on the market—because it can essentially steer with its rear wheels, sending more power to the outer rear wheel in a corner. Now it's effectively taken that system a step further with strong electric motors at the rear wheels; between the rear wheels, 1 can deliver forward torque while the other can counter it by smartly engaging regenerative braking at the same time.
1st, we should give you a little background on how Acura pulls all this off. Under the hood, there's a version of Acura's 3.5-liter V-6, with i-VTEC variable valve timing plus VCM (variable cylinder management). It's hooked up to a new 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual gearbox with integral electric motor. That motor system makes 35 kilowatts and 109 lb-ft and serves not only as motivation for the sedan in low-speed and lower-load conditions but a way of filling in the gaps between gears and smoothing shifts.
But that's only part of it. Mounted at the rear subframe is a so-called Twin Motor Unit that includes two 27-kW, 54-lb-ft electric motors, with a clutch in between. That allows torque from both motors to be sent to 1 of the sides in some situations, or for 1 motor to be boosting and twisting forward while the other is resisting and recovering energy through regenerative braking.
Altogether, while the V-6 makes 310 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, the Sport Hybrid system makes 377 hp and 377 lb-ft.
With sophisticated electric controls that can recognize the difference between performance driving and slippery conditions, Acura allows 7 different drive modes, including moving using the rear motors only on gentle launches and lower-speed cruising, using combinations of the engine and front motor in higher-speed cruising and moderate acceleration, and using all 4 wheels during aggressive acceleration. Likewise, there's a traditional AWD mode that allows a little slip for snowy driveways.
So smooth, the way it blends power sources
While you might hear the V-6 chime in as you're accelerating, it'll be hard to distinguish exactly when it started back up. The RLX Sport Hybrid has 1 of the smoothest engine restarts we've found in any hybrid—thanks in part to a motor-controlled active engine mount system, and to a special vibration-quelling strategy that closes the intake valves momentarily on startup. There's also active noise cancellation inside, which helps keep the cabin quiet and free of unwanted boom and whine. Sound-insulating glass and a special noise-reducing wheel design pitch in as well.
A battery pack—actually, a so-called Intelligent Power Unit, with 72 lithium-ion cells for 1.3 kWh and 260 volts—is located at the far front of the trunk, just behind the rear seatback. That eliminates the possibility of folding seatbacks—or even a pass-through—but it doesn't interfere with rear-seat space, and it still leaves the trunk space of a generously sized compact sedan or smaller mid-sizer.
The RLX Sport Hybrid interior has all the comfort and space of its front-wheel-drive sibling—already a package that offers more space in back especially (best in class, they say) compared to any of the German luxury sedans close to its size. Ride quality is also great, thanks to Amplitude Reactive Dampers that allow that sharp handling response while soaking up minor imperfections.
Inside, the cabin appointments and interface are virtually the same as for its front-wheel-drive counterpart; but the RLX Sport Hybrid is also the 1st Acura model to get a new electronic gear selector, located on the left side of the center console and just beside your right knee. And the head-up display that's offered here is a step up from most, allowing a customizable display that even allows you to keep abreast of the torque vectoring, wheel by wheel.
1 other interesting piece of technology in the RLX Sport Hybrid is the so-called Reactive Force Pedal, with which the accelerator can not only allow different levels of sensitivity but also feel like it's sprung more heavily or lightly. While Sport Mode turns that (and Active Cylinder Management) off—instead allowing a traditional, more linear feel—in other situations it will push back with more force to help you get better fuel economy, or when any of the RLX's many active-safety systems sense danger.
Like an electric car, with the soundtrack of a gasoline sport sedan
Altogether, in either of the modes (there are just 2 here, regular and sport), the powertrain feels perky and responsive, however, and when you put your right foot into it the RLX gathers velocity with the steadiness and near-instantaneous response of an electric car. You hear the dual-clutch gearbox knocking off shifts and changing the tone of the engine's intake note, but you don't feel the shifts—just a smooth, uninterrupted rush of power. And quick stabs of the accelerator bring out quick coordination between the electrics and the gearbox to make sure you don't miss a beat.
Over in Sport mode, the transmission always felt half a beat ahead of us, downshifting a gear or 2 the moment we lifted and dabbed the brakes—and making us feel like we'd use the steering-wheel paddle-shifters a lot less here than in most other sport sedans.
While we were left wanting for steering feel—it centers nicely, but there's really none here, and the ratio feels too long—the RLX Sport Hybrid has 1 of the most confidence-inspiring brake-pedal behaviors we've ever experienced in a hybrid model. It's not quite up to non-hybrid standards, but quite easy to precisely stop exactly where you want.
The down side of this system is that it doesn't reward finesse. You need to push the car dynamically to really feel the benefits of the system, as it's effective but completely unobtrusive otherwise. If we have 1 complaint about the system, it’s the obvious: It makes it so easy to push the limits and drive irresponsibly that it removes some of the learning. And some of the fun.
The up side, of course, is that it recasts the hybrid system as a true asset to performance driving—not a hindrance to it.
The other big benefit, of course, is fuel efficiency. Acura emphasizes that performance is the priority with the RLX Hybrid; yet if you drive it very gently, you could do surprisingly well on a gallon of gas. EPA ratings stand at 28 mpg city, 32 highway (30 Combined). Our observed 22 mpg over 2 different driving loops—mostly enthusiastic driving on back roads—didn't show anything close to that, but we're eager to see what the RLX Sport Hybrid will do in everyday driving.
Acura sees the RLX Sport Hybrid's competition including the Lexus GS450h, the BMW ActiveHybrid 5, and the Mercedes-Benz E400 Hybrid—as well as the Audi A6 3.0T. We had access to an A6 3.0T and a GS450h on the drive, and found that while the A6 was more 'intuitive' in the corners at 1st go, the RLX was unquestionably quicker—and frustrating power-delivery delays sapped any fun from the GS Hybrid, compared to the others.
Underwhelming in some ways—but performance isn't one of them
Based on our drive, the RLX Sport Hybrid underwhelms at 1st, but then overdelivers in a spirited drive. It's a car that will confound you in its presentation (its conservative interior and frustrating infotainment interface are still low points) yet wow you when it's pushed to perform—and quite possibly prove you wrong.
The powertrain of the Sport Hybrid, by the way, provides a special preview of what's going to be installed in the upcoming Acura NSX—only with the gasoline engine powering the rear wheels there, the motor system in front, and a lot more power per pound, of course.
If your reaction after a fast, enthusiastic drive in 1 is anything like ours, you'll probably find that it takes your preconceptions of what a hybrid should be, and of what a sport sedan should be, and shakes them up.
That's a very positive trajectory for Acura, and a great sign for the NSX.
|12-13-13 02:13 PM|
|12-09-13 09:29 AM|
Acura has taken its RLX sedan, strapped to a 3-motor hybrid system that gooses horsepower to 377 from 310 with the added benefit of all-wheel drive, and transformed its vanilla full-sized luxury sedan into a stronger competitor.
The basics: Under the hood of the RLX Sport Hybrid is the same 3.5-liter direct-injection V-6 as the base RLX, but it gets a 7-speed, dual-clutch transmission mated to an electric motor. When combined with the 2 hybrid motors linked to the rear wheels, it creates "the most powerful Acura ever built."
The electric motors in Acura's hybrid system are designed to do more than boost power and save fuel. During cornering, the motors also power a torque-vectoring system that sends positive torque to the outside rear wheel and braking torque to the inside rear wheel. In theory, this creates an "optimal yaw moment," or more precise turn-in.
The hybrid motors allow the car to cruise in "EV mode" at up to 50 mph, with the gasoline engine off and transmission uncoupled. At cruising speed when the engine is running, cylinder deactivation maximizes fuel economy.
Many hybrids kill the engine when the car is at a full stop, but the engine's restart can often be abrupt and jarring. The RLX has active engine mounts and a changed camshaft profile to reduce that shock. Under braking, the rear motors provide regenerative power to the lithium ion battery.
The hybrid system is similar to what will be installed on the NSX supercar that comes in 2015.
Standard equipment in the RLX Sport Hybrid includes 2 information screen displays and a 14-speaker stereo.
Notable features: Because it's a front-wheel-drive car, the RLX has acres of legroom compared with its rear-wheel-drive competition. Acura claims its LED headlights have longer, wider and more defined "throw" of light than the high-intensity discharge lamps of the competition.
The hood, door panels, fenders and bumper beams are made from aluminum instead of steel, saving 76 pounds. The traditional gearshift has been replaced by 4 buttons, with reverse gear requiring a finger-pull upward to activate.
Standard features include a power moonroof, paddle shifters, retracting mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry, 2 information screen displays, navigation with live traffic, 12-way power front seats, 14-speaker stereo with satellite radio and Pandora Internet radio, 19-inch aluminum wheels with in-wheel resonators that reduce noise by 7 decibels and a head-up display that shows speed, turn-by-turn navigation and other status reports.
Safety features include: 7 airbags, hill-hold brakes, blind-spot warning and wide-view backup camera. Optional safety features available as a package include lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control with "low speed follow" and a collision warning system with automatic brake activation.
What Acura says: The sport hybrid system allows the RLX to combine takaburi, which translates to "smart exhilarating luxury," with inomama, which means "handling at the will of the driver," said Hitoshi Aoki, the vehicle's chief engineer.
Compromises and shortcomings: The awd system is fwd at heart, and with a 57/43 weight distribution, the front-heavy car's corner-entry handling still tends to understeer -- despite a front double-wishbone suspension. The RLX's on-center feel is vague, even in sport mode, with at least 15 degrees of steering wheel play before any real reaction occurs. The brakes are oddly numb at high velocities, yet choppy at parking lot speeds. Even though the RLX is the automaker's only platform not shared with a Honda-badged product, the interior cannot escape its Honda roots and lacks the panache of the Lexus GS' stylish bamboo-trimmed interior.
The market: Acura will announce pricing closer to its spring 2014 launch, but expect the RLX Sport Hybrid to compete closely with the Lexus GS 450h, Mercedes-Benz E400h and BMW ActiveHybrid5. The typical customer is a 48-year-old man in a household that earns more than $200,000.
The skinny: The idea is V-8 performance with 4-banger fuel economy, and the reassurance of well-planted all-wheel drive.
It doesn't quite accomplish any of the above but comes close. At a price point likely around $60,000, that may not be good enough to win customers of prestigious luxury brands over to Acura's "smart luxury."
|12-09-13 09:28 AM|
Acura is nothing if not techno. Most cars, laden to the gills with the latest in computer technology, are now 2-ton versions of your iPad and so it’s no surprise that last week’s introduction of the RLX hybrid all-wheel-drive luxury sedan was steeped in the electronic arts.
The RLX launch (that’s what car companies call an introduction) started in a briefing room at the 4 Seasons Hotel in San Francisco. Each of the dozen or so invited auto scribes could watch the illustrated lecture on individual iPads placed on the writers’ desks or on a big flat-screen TV set to the right of whatever Acura official was at the lectern. On the drive north, up California Route 1 in a handful of new RLX cars, our route was provided in three ways – on the car’s nav screen, in a printed route guide (print? really?) and on an iPad sitting on the center console.
I mention all this not as a complaint – it’s hard to whine about driving a new luxo barge through some of California’s most spectacular coastal scenery while snow storms are snarling the Midwest – but just to underscore the techno theme engendered by this new car, and how Acura (read Honda, its corporate parent) is pinning its faltering sedan sales hopes on the ground-breaking high-tech hybrid systems of the new RLX hybrid “SH-AWD” (super handing all-wheel-drive).
The major innovation in all this is the addition of 3 electric motors (hence the hybrid designation) combining with the 3.5-liter V6 engine to put out 377 horsepower. 1 electric motor is embedded in the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. 2 more motors are mounted in the rear of the car. It’s the 2 aft motors that are the key to how the RLX hybrid performs, says Acura.
“It’s the twin-motor unit that’s the most important part of all this,” said Carl Pulley, an Acura technology spokesman. When the car begins to move, Pulley said, it “uses only the rear electric motors.” Then the front-wheel-drive gas engine kicks in to give the car more impetus. Then it reverts to the rear-motors as speed picks up. When you accelerate strongly, all the motors and the gas-powered engine are powering the car.
The result is a fuel consumption rating of 28/32 mpg city/highway. The RLX’s sister car, an RLX with front-wheel-drive only and no hybrid system, gets 20/31 mpg city/highway. Acura says the new hybrid car will be in showrooms in the spring of 2014. Prices have not been released, but it’s a safe bet that the RLX AWD will be in the range of $61,000 or more.
On the road, much of the RLX hybrid’s techno mumbo-jumbo is deliberately camouflaged in the wrappings of the typical 21st century luxury sedan. You’re swaddled in leather and soothed by 14-speaker stereo. To reduce noise, Acura made the window glass thicker, among other things. Gear selection is now done with electronic buttons (a questionable design decision, given that most drivers are used to shifting gears with a console-mounted lever) and the center stack screen can show both the navigation route and the little blue and green squiggles that tell you what’s happening with the hybrid system’s innards. I was mesmerized by those little noodles of color, trying to figure out whether those rear wheels were being powered for these few seconds and then, when we slowed down, were regenerating electricity for the overall health of the car’s batteries.
Driving through the hairpin turns of the road out of Mill Valley toward Stinson Beach, it’s clear that the car handles well. I got a far better taste of how the RLX behaves when we switched drivers and my co-pilot, James, took over and, within about 10 minutes, made me realize that during my turn at the wheel I had been driving like the proverbial old lady (apologies to the 72-year-old distaff Corvette drivers out there.) James, who is also an auto writer, promptly punched the transmission into Sport mode and took off. He helpfully pointed out that the gearbox was doing its job correctly, downshifting at the right time as we approached a particularly gnarly turn, and I concluded that these test drives reveal far more when the driver is pushing the car close to its limits and, as in this case, knows what he’s doing. James drove for the rest of the day, which was fine by me. (A few years ago, I had a daylong drive in a Lamborghini LP640, with Lamborghini’s factory test driver, Valentino Balboni, at the wheel. At 1 point, he offered to let me drive. I quickly declined, figuring I was having a lot more fun watching him thrash this beast around Northern California than I would doing it myself.) Our RLX drive reminded me of that day.
Alas, as Acura freely points out, much as this car is fun to drive and will haul five people around the countryside in comfort, the sales figures for Acura sedans are woeful.
Acura’s target buyer, according to product planner Leo DaSilva, is a 45-to-50-year-old male, with a $200,000 annual household income. Typically, this guy might have an Acura MDX SUV for weekend kids-to-soccer-game duty but in most cases will be doing his weekday commute in a go-fast sedan made by another firm. Indeed, DaSilva said the RLX competes with Lexus GS series, Infiniti M, Mercedes-Benz E-class, BMW 5-series and the Audi A6.
This is how a year’s worth of sales, ending in October 2013, placed these competitors, according to figures compiled by goodcarbadcar.net: Mercedes-Benz E-class, 52,462; BMW 5-series, 43,701; Audi A6, 17,630; Lexus GS, 15,548; Infiniti M, 4,552; Acura RLX/RL, 3,780.
It’s well known in the industry that no matter how good a car you might build, there’s the somewhat ineffable aspect of auto-snobbery – buyers attach a certain prestige to symbols (the 3-pointed star of Mercedes, for example) and it’s difficult to get them to deviate.
On the other hand, there are some buyers who don’t need the symbol and might well opt for a car that isn’t often seen by the valet parking crews at the nation’s hotels and country clubs.
If that’s the case, the RLX AWD hybrid is well worth checking out.
|12-09-13 09:13 AM|
The enthusiast's takeaway of the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD is that it's a fat version of the future NSX, except with too many doors (2 too many); too many seats (3 too many -- or 4, depending on the audience); and too much trunk space (12.0 cu. ft., more than 3 less than the front-drive RLX because of a 1.3-kW-hr lithium-ion battery). Plus, the engine and electric motors have been positioned in the wrong places.
Of course, the all-wheel-drive RLX is not the NSX. It's not even an AWD vehicle in the traditional sense. Automotive convention has taught us that AWD systems have a baseline torque split between the front and rear axles (i.e., a 50/50 f/r split) with an available dynamically adjusting range (25/75, 10/90, etc.) that supports maximum grip and performance over a variety of road conditions. The unifying key is there's a single source routing the power around.
The RLX's Sport Hybrid Super Handling All Wheel Drive takes a completely different and fascinating approach. The front wheels have their own power source, as do the rears. When starting slowly from a stop, 2 rear e-motors (1 for each wheel) are responsible for propelling the car with no contribution from the front engine. A gentle right foot will coax the big sedan up to 15 mph on battery power alone, and by then, any speed higher in electric drive is a tough proposition. With sufficient battery charge and after engine assist, the car can cruise at slightly higher city speeds (think 30-40 mph) on the rear e-motors at the expense of greater energy draw, and therefore, fleeting e-drive. The RLX can, in certain situations, be RWD.
It can be FWD too. Backtracking to the slow start scenario, the back wheels will eventually need assistance as the battery runs down. While passing 15 mph, the 3.5-liter V-6 takes over and turns the RLX into a front-driver. It's FWD at a high-speed highway cruise as well, where the engine (the V-6 has a different intake cam profile and no belt-driven A/C compressor compared to the regular RLX) can operate more efficiently. It's a comfortable highway runner, quiet, with just whiffs of tire noise from the 245/40-19 Michelin Primacy MXM4s. With enough electrons in the battery, the car can cycle between engine-on FWD and engine-off RWD, depending on speed and driving load. You can watch the power shuffle in digitized graphics in the head-up display or on the 8-inch center screen.
Finally, here's the entire reason why it's called Sport Hybrid SH-AWD: Hard acceleration and cornering bring AWD into the fold, empowering a peak combined system output of 377 hp. The front e-motor integrated into the fresh-out-the-oven 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is primarily supposed to be a generator and help recharge the battery, but it can provide up to 47 hp when the car requests full power. It dives out of the gate thanks to an AWD launch, good power from low to top end from the advantageous switch from the e-motor to engine powerbands, and the blink-of-an-eye DCT shifts. We're estimating a 0-60-mph time in the high fours, but seat of the pants says it could be a mid-4-second car (the FWD RLX tested out to 5.8 seconds). 1 caveat: The rear e-motors' 10.383:1 reduction ratio and 11,000 max rpm mean they declutch from any acceleration duties near 80 mph.
Much fuss has been made about the torque vectoring abilities, where the rear e-motors can accelerate or decelerate either back wheel independently of 1 another to help rotate the car into corners. Fundamentally, when driving quickly through curves and assuming there's adequate traction, it's in an AWD or RWD vehicle's best interest to try to "overdrive" the outside rear wheel, whether mechanically through the driveline or by timely braking of the inner rear wheel to induce usable yaw.
Since the RLX's rear end is fully electrically powered, the Sport Hybrid SH-AWD system has lightning-fast reaction times and isn't constrained by the amount of air being pumped into the engine. It's fascinating because the AWD setup is programmed to be proactive with pivoting the car onto and keeping the desired driving line. Radical off-throttle torque vectoring and active slowing of the inner rear wheel with regenerative rather than friction braking translates into the car aggressively turning even during periods of lift-throttle. Customarily, a front-biased vehicle without these features, on drop throttle with the sudden load shift to the front tires, defaults to understeer.
Instead, this RLX dances like a much smaller sporty car. Driven in Sport mode, the DCT is willing to downshift and hold gear without driver prompting. The rack-assist electric power steering is accurate but we'd welcome more feedback. An Electric Servo Brake system yields a very stiff brake pedal that simultaneously helps mask the handover from initial regenerative to more powerful hydraulic braking. We're looking forward to testing 1 to see if the back end can step out as much and as long on and off power as our early drive foreshadows (hint: a lot).
We honestly can't imagine the RLX not being the 1st to market with Sport Hybrid SH-AWD. The Acura flagship's lineage, of which the RLX is now entrenched, includes the pioneering Legend and SH-AWD-debuting RL. The family line is a proving ground for Acura's vehicular statements. Super-conservative styling aside, a car with Sport Hybrid SH-AWD, an estimated 30 combined mpg with 377 hp, a nicely trimmed cabin with gaggles of technology, and brand 1sts such as the DCT, electronic gear selector, head-up display, and variable accelerator-pedal effort is a natural fit.
|12-05-13 08:53 AM|
|11-19-13 03:35 PM|
2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
|11-19-13 12:23 PM|
|11-19-13 08:11 AM|
Acura RLX SH-SH-AWD
2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD: The Most Powerful and Technologically Advanced Vehicle in Acura History to be Showcased at LA Auto Show
The 377-horsepower Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD luxury-performance sedan will be on public display for the 1st time this week at the Los Angeles International Auto Show, showcasing Acura's dynamic new 3-motor hybrid system.
The 2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD, which launches next spring, is the 1st vehicle to deploy Acura's new 3-motor hybrid powertrain technology. The system combines a highly efficient, direct-injected V-6 engine with an all-new, Acura-designed, 7-speed dual clutch transmission with built-in electric motor and an electrically powered variant of Acura's highly regarded torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD).
This advanced new hybrid powertrain delivers exhilarating driving performance with incredibly responsive power delivery and precise, sure-footed handling performance like no other vehicle in its class. Supported by the instantaneous torque delivered by its high-output electric motors, the RLX Sport Hybrid runs a 0-60 mph time comparable with competitor's V8-powered machines. This performance, however, is coupled with a 28/32/30mpg (city/highway/combined) EPA fuel economy rating1, which is in the range of 4-cylinder-powered luxury sedans.
Powertrain and Drivetrain
The RLX Sport Hybrid's 3.5-liter, 310-horsepower, i-VTEC® V-6 engine with Variable Cylinder Management™ (VCM™) includes an idle-stop feature to help maximize fuel efficiency. The engine is mated to an all-new, 7-speed dual clutch transmission with built-in electric motor. In automatic mode, the transmission provides highly responsive and intuitive gear selection, including matching engine revs during downshifts, in manual mode, the Sequential SportShift paddle shifters give the driver gear selection control to make virtually seamless ratio changes.
The electric SH-AWD system on the RLX Sport Hybrid eliminates the conventional drive shaft and rear differential, replacing them with 2 high-output 27-kilowatt electric motors. The rear motors dynamically distribute both positive (drive) and negative (regenerative braking) electric-motor torque, depending on driving conditions, and which torque vectoring assists in cornering. The system is further aided by a 35-kilowatt front electric motor that supplements engine torque to the front wheels and provides regenerative brake torque to charge the vehicle's 260-volt lithium-ion battery pack.
Body and Chassis
With a longer wheelbase and wider greenhouse than competing mid-luxury sedans, the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD delivers full-size interior space in a nimbler, mid-size luxury sedan package. The RLX boasts the longest rear-seat legroom (38.8 inches), and best front (59.6 inches) and rear (57.0 inches) shoulder room in the mid-luxury class. The RLX advanced body design makes extensive use of high-strength steel and aluminum, further aiding its outstanding fuel efficiency, straight-line performance and superior handling agility.
In front, the RLX's double-wishbone, lower double-joint front suspension with Amplitude Reactive Dampers significantly improves handling agility, driver confidence and security, and ride sophistication. In back, the RLX's multi-link rear suspension is optimized for a flat ride during cornering, confident turning capability, and a smooth ride in a variety of urban, highway and open road scenarios.
Acura technology firsts on the 2014 Sport Hybrid also include the Acura electronic gear selector and Acura Head-Up Display System. The Acura electronic gear selector replaces the conventional, center console-mounted shift lever with an efficiently packaged push-button array that allows the driver to easily select the desired drive mode—Park, Drive and Reverse, as well as Sport and Normal driving modes. The Acura Head-Up Display System provides the driver with at-a-glance access to key driving information projected on the windshield. Display modes include Sport Hybrid system operation, turn-by-turn navigation, speedometer and compass, as well as alerts from various driver-assistive systems.
The RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD features Acura's signature Jewel Eye™ LED headlights, which offer outstanding light distribution and excellent down-the-road illumination performance and light characteristics. The RLX taillights utilize periphery LED illumination that is both effective and highly distinctive.
With the expanded range of standard and available technology features built into the RLX, substantial engineering effort was put into making each feature intuitive and easy-to-use. The focal point of the new instrument panel is a large, 8-inch color screen that combines audio/information and navigation functions and provides access to an array of customizable features. An additional 7-inch color On Demand Multi-Use Display™ (ODMD) touchscreen is positioned within easy reach and controls the audio system and many other features.
Audio and Connectivity
Exceptional audio performance has long been an Acura hallmark, and in the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD, 2 audio systems are offered. The Technology package includes the Acura/ELS Studio® Premium Audio System with an advanced 14-speaker array. In the Advance package, the 14-speaker Krell system — with speakers and amplifiers engineered by Krell, 1 of the most respected audio companies in world — sets a new benchmark in automotive audio performance.
The RLX is equipped with the next-generation AcuraLink® cloud-based connected car system, delivering a comprehensive array of media, convenience, and security services via embedded two-way communications and web-enabled devices. AcuraLink® leverages Pandora® interface for streaming audio and the Aha™ by Harman cloud-based interface to provide users with thousands of customizable cloud-based news, information and media feeds. The next-generation AcuraLink® also delivers an array of available, subscription-based, security and convenience features, such as AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic™ featuring freeway traffic and, for the first time, surface street traffic information.
Safety and Driver-Assistive Technologies
The new RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD offers an extensive array of advanced safety, visibility and driver-assistive technologies that put the RLX on the leading edge of collision avoidance and assisted driving capability. Standard and features include a Multi-Angle Rearview Camera, Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW), along with Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow and Blind Spot Information (BSI) system.
Utilizing Acura's next-generation Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) body structure, along with seven airbags (including a driver's knee airbag), the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD is anticipated to earn top-level safety ratings, including a 5-star NCAP Overall Vehicle Score and an IIHS "TOP SAFETY PICK+" rating, plus a GOOD rating in the IIHS small overlap front collision test.