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Discussion Starter #81
FenceViewer


Honda Motor Co. USA created its Acura Luxury Car Division back in the 1980s with the 1st models going on sale in the States in 1986 — 3 years before Lexus or Infiniti debuted. Key to that early Acura success was the top, premium model — the midsized near-luxury sedan named the Legend.

Essentially a slightly larger Accord, the Legend represented a new attitude and direction for Honda, allowing the brand to expand beyond its typical and customary middle-class roots and attract a wider, more lucrative audience. A volume based Civic-derived Integra model also appeared, plus Acura created the vaunted NSX sports car — an Asian Ferrari, if you like. This exotic car for the masses allowed Acura to command the highest prices for any Asian car sold here back then — and now. Out of production for several years, Acura is toying with reintroducing a super-performance hybrid NSX.

In the early 1990s, Acura added another sedan to its lineup, the oddly named Vigor. Again, loosely based on the Accord platform, the 5-cylinder-powered Vigor only marginalized the Legend’s volume instead of significantly expanding overall sales. Despite the Legend’s ease of competing with the larger, more expensive Lexus LS series sedan, this BMW-fighter sedan was not growing sales each year. By 1996, Acura had, incredibly, dropped both the Vigor and the Legend and created a new large sedan, the RL. A midsize TL series quickly followed. The Legend, 1 of the best car names ever, had been abandoned for an alphabet-soup designation that marketers liked better.

Today, the 2 best-selling Acura nameplates are the midsize MDX crossover and the compact class RDX. The best-selling Acura car is the midsize TL, while the ILX is the Integra replacement model — which is still based on the present Civic. Do any of these generic labels instill passion in the buying public?

The RLX sedan seen here is the all-new replacement for the large sedan RL. Still a front-wheel-drive design, the new Acura flagship skirts the dimensions of the midsize/full-size segments — too big for the former, too small for the latter. However, the latest RLX also will be available with a high-performance hybrid powertrain, 370-combined horsepower output with gas and electric motors that uses Acura’s 1st car-only AWD system.

The standard RLX, starting at $48,450, is a close competitor to the Lexus ES models. Stretching to 196 inches long on a 112-inch wheelbase (2 inches and 3 inches longer, respectively, to the midsize TL sedan) the new RLX weighs in at 2 tons. The tried-and-true Honda 3.5-liter SOHC V-6 engine with variable cylinder management and VTEC programming helps to produce 310 peak horsepower. Mated to a smooth 6-speed automatic transmission — with steering wheel paddle shifters — the RLX realizes an EPA fuel economy rating of 20/31-mpg with a combined rating of 24 mpg. During our time together, over 800 miles, the RLX returned a consistent 26 mpg. Power delivery is very lineal and throttle response to energetic driver requests is generally very satisfying.

The RLX competes in a very well-endowed segment. The aforementioned Lexus models are big sellers, while the class benchmarks remain the Audi A6/A7, BMW 5-series and 6-series cars, plus the Mercedes E-class. Lincoln’s new MKZ plus Cadillac’s CTS also are rivals. Have you got all of these alpha-numeric names mentally organized yet? Would the ‘Legend’ name perhaps stand out in this segment? Just a thought.

Acura is marketing the numerous electronic systems available in the latest RLX as the differentiator. And this latest Acura is well-stocked with ‘goodies.’

There are essentially 4 total trim levels defined by the RLX’s optional packages. The Technology Package ($54,450), the KRELL Audio Package ($56,950) and the Advanced Package ($60,450, shown) round out the lineup. The hybrid model will arrive later this year.

Standard pieces include Jewel-eye LED headlamps, LED-illuminated door handles, 12-way power leather seats, On-Demand touch-screen interaction, Triple-zone climate controls, 404-watt 10-speaker audio system, keyless start, multi-view rear camera, forward collision warning system, and lane departure warning system. Navigation can be added to the standard car for $1,500.

Our top Advance model included Graphite-luster paint, 19-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, heated and cooled leather seating with memory, power folding side mirrors, heated rear seats, front and rear parking sensors, Pandora Internet radio, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, power rear sunshade with manual side window shades, lane-keeping assist system, adaptive cruise control with automatic low-speed following programming, plus Acura’s new collision mitigation braking system.

1st off, the RLX’s interior works well. It is nicely detailed, handsome to look at and comfortable to enjoy. The touch-screen symbols produce a vibrating signal when activated, confirming your interaction, while the symbols, controls, and switches are intuitive and relatively easy to use while driving. The thumbwheels on the steering wheel for audio and information-panel interaction earn particular praise for their ease of use as well as overall tactile feel. The soft-touch leather steering wheel and a full array of pleasant fabrics and materials complement the RLX’s design. A solid ‘A’ here.

Access is good, but taller rear seat occupants commented about the lack of thigh support despite a large bench perch that provides ample head and leg room. The seat back does not fold to expand the 15-cubic-foot trunk.

Systems: there are a lot and they are mostly quite impressive.

Dynamic cruise continues to be an impressive display of what the engineers are able to accomplish with today’s modern electronics and computer programs. The Acura’s was sometimes inconsistent with spacing intervals, yet you can follow a forward car right through the toll booth, dropping from 70 mph to 20 mph, without touching a single pedal.

Building from that engineering, the Acura uses a forward collision system that should improve a driver’s chances when they mindlessly let distractions replace good driving. Ignore your closing speed on vehicles in front of you and there is a flash warning on the dash. Fail to react and a loud beep sounds plus a brighter light flashes BRAKE! Continue to doze and the collision mitigation braking intervenes and the seat belt automatically tightens as the car expects an imminent crash. I did not allow that to happen, despite the annoying stop-n-go traffic of Boston’s infamous Route 128.

From the helm, the RLX drives nicely too. This is a car that grows on you, a boulevard cruiser that doesn’t wow you with any particular superlatives, but a sedan that whisks you to your destination in quiet comfort. Throttle response is good, braking feel is strong, and the car feels lighter than its poundage. It rolls along well.

The RLX’s handling and ride, however, are not up to the par established by the Germans. Certain surfaces initiate excessive chassis rebound, while the wheels clomp over some terrain that does not ruffle other big cars. Despite the innovative P-AWS rear-wheel steering, the Acura doesn’t appear to deliver any handling edge over its rivals. At best, the RLX chassis is average in a class that usually delivers more compliance and composure.

Previous RL sedan sales were a fraction of what the former Legend model achieved. If this new RLX model doesn’t move the needle higher, Acura will have to reset its lineup to find cars that sell as well as its crossovers.

RLX pros: roomy and upscale cabin, great features list, more attractive styling, good track record on reliability.

RLX cons: clumsy rough road ride, heavy price for the AWD option, no heated steering wheel?
 

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Discussion Starter #82
HeraldWheels


For the 2014 model year, the RLX has officially replaced the RL in Acura’s lineup. Despite its discreet styling and performance, RLX is the most advanced vehicle Honda has ever built for the road.

As a flagship sedan, this machine serves as a rolling showcase of what Acura has been working on. Apparently, they’ve been working quite a bit on autonomous driving because at any given moment, the RLX is scanning the world around it using cameras and radar, making calculations, contemplating collected information and preparing to warn you of, or protect you from, potential hazards.

For instance, the RLX can tell you if there’s a car hiding in your blind spot, if you’re about to rear end someone or back into something, or if you’re drifting out of your lane.

Without your help, RLX can slow down and speed up automatically based on traffic conditions, steer you back between the lines if you’re heading off the road, or even apply its brakes to prevent or minimize a collision.


Any more self-aware, and they’d have to ship it with a name and a birth certificate and, if cars get much more self-operational than the RLX, I’ll be out of a job as a car reviewer and likely be reduced to restocking toiletries at my local Super 8.

Acura’s new V6 engine powers up the RLX driving experience; a cutting-edge 3.5-litre unit with cylinder deactivation and direct injection technology, it was exhaustively engineered for pleasing performance and great fuel mileage.

Mission accomplished.

Though the 310 horsepower output level is hardly aiming for the top of the segment, the RLX hustles along urgently when called upon and gets by slower traffic in a jiff when drivers prod the throttle. The engine is pleasing to put through its paces, but drive it like a responsible adult and it’s mostly quiet and laid back.

Fuel mileage, additionally, is excellent. Your writer was delighted at a test overall consumption of 8.8L /100 km, which puts the big RLX in mid-sized, 4-cylinder, family-sedan territory.


Overall, the driving experience is easygoing to the max. While you relax and let the RLX handle nearly everything for you, you’ll enjoy the leather that lines the seats, dash, doors and nearly everything else. 2 full-color display screens are stacked in the centre console for a distinctively high-tech look that sets off an otherwise welcoming and laid-back cockpit.

RLX’s cabin isn’t big on stimulation, but its’ relaxing, comfortable and formal. It’s also easy to board and exit, packs plenty of at-hand storage space and keeps road and wind noise nicely in check at speed.

Suspension calibration sees a slight firmness dialed in to make the RLX a bit more engaging to drive. Though many cross-shopping the market’s offerings will find a comparable Lexus or Mercedes to have a more all-out comfortable ride, the RLX won’t likely disappoint where long-haul comfort is concerned.

At the time of filming, all RLX’s were front-drive, though an AWD hybrid is on the way. The tester did pack a new Precision All Wheel Steering (PAWS) system, which sharpens up handling at high speeds by calling upon the rear wheels for steering assist which rotates the RLX on its axis. Translation? As the RLX approaches understeer in fast corners, the rear-end swings out slightly as a countermeasure. The PAWS system also enhances maneuverability at low speeds.


Driver relaxation in the RLX is furthered by fully automatic lighting, wipers and climate control and, if you’d rather take in some music, the great big Krell audio system is happy to help. Vivid clarity and nice imaging are the up-level stereo’s biggest assets for the avid audiophile.

For fuel efficiency, comfort and discreet-looking delivery of flagship sedan amenities, the RLX hits the mark. Performance and handling are appreciable, though they aren’t the centerpiece of the driving experience. Neither is the cabin, or the styling, or the big stereo.

Ultimately, your writer found the best part of the RLX to be its non-intrusive character. Performance, though available, doesn’t overshadow the driving experience. The cabin, though comfortable, modern and posh-looking, doesn’t demand an ounce of the drivers attention or effort.

From the driver’s seat of the RLX, you feel surrounded by space and luxury, but it all fades quickly from attention as the scenery floats by and the automatic features handle everything for you. This is 1 of those machines ideal for many consecutive hours of comfortable, non-stimulating, and relaxing travels and with the fuel mileage, stops can be virtually as few and far between as drivers like.


Complaints? The infotainment system comes with a learning curve before intuitive operation is possible and I missed some of the secretly sporty flare that characterized the last-generation Acura RL. Further, the paddle-activated shifts are executed after a notable delay that makes their use largely irrelevant.

Compared to the RLX, the new Lexus GS350 is a more athletic all-around performer and packs a more striking, upscale cabin execution. An Audi A6 or BMW 5-Series with similar power output figures will feel like it’s in more of a rush when drivers push it hard. Finally, a Chrysler 300 can provide more affordable access to a similarly high-tech, luxuriously appointed experience for less money.

The RLX will appeal most strongly to a shopper after a machine that flies under the radar and doesn’t beg for attention. Add in Acura’s lustrous reputation for reliability, resale value and owner satisfaction and it makes a smart choice for a shopper after a discreet luxury flagship experience.

The specs

Engine: 3.5-litre V6, direct injection, 310 horsepower
Drivetrain: front-wheel drive
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Observed average mileage: 8.8L /100km
Features: KRELL audio, AcuraLink connectivity, voice command, automatic climate control, climate controlled seats, LED headlights
What’s hot: Excellent on fuel, big and comfy, nice stereo, loaded with the latest high-tech
What’s not: falls short on visual and performance excitement, generic looks
Starting price: $49,990​

 

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Discussion Starter #83
AutoMedia


The simmering heat and desolation on the long drive to Palm Springs is an empty canvas just begging for color to be splashed across it, and in many ways, the 2014 Acura RLX is just the scythe of jewel-eyed modernity this desert oasis craves.

Palm Springs is the perfect escape from the claustrophobic cluster of Los Angeles just 100 miles to the west; a timeless throwback to old glamour and style in the most unlikely of places. It’s a place where architects and city planners have had a 50-year field day designing their dream projects without limits, without rules, without constraint.


They went crazy, unleashing dynamic shapes and bold color to break up the monotony of an endless desert and unrelenting sun. The whole experience is slightly psychedelic; and that’s before you hit the pool bar. I’ve brought the all-new RLX here for the weekend, to escape the smog and see if the newest Acura luxury sedan can itself be a breath of fresh air. The RLX is flashy, sure – but is it a work of art?

Effortless thrust comes from the direct-injected 3.5L V6 engine, and 310 horsepower is soon cruising across the desert, slicing through heat that quickly climb into triple digits. Variable Cylinder Management keeps things running smoothly, and early into the trip the 2014 RLX is averaging an eye-popping 34 MPG. 2 tons of car whooshes past thousands of massive windmills along the San Gorgonio Pass, with nary a sound nor vibration entering the well-appointed cabin.


Outside, a desolate brown landscape unfurls itself 1 mile after another. Inside, the A/C and buttery power seats combine to create a driving haven. Ventilated front seats and 14-speaker Krell audio system make you quickly forget the suffocating heat. The fantastic interior is without fault, and almost single-handedly justifies the $61,345 MSRP of the RLX Advance model.

By the time the streets of Palm Springs roll into view, mountains and stoplights have robbed the RLX of its impressive fuel mileage. From the Saguaro Hotel parking lot, the display screen reads 31.5 MPG. The display screen also reads 108 degrees. The pool is calling me.


The next morning, we hit the town. There are a few different ways to beat the heat during the summer months: Tourists are drawn to enormous public fountains like moths to a zapper; some businesses simply close until September; 1 awesome dude is rolling around in an era-appropriate seafoam droptop ’56 Bel Air. I make a note to bring 1 of those next time.

Palm Springs makes the most of its desolation with fascinating architecture and public art, and the 2014 Acura RLX holds its own as the 19-inch alloys roll down Palm Canyon Drive. Like a summer home stationed along the TPC fairway, the RLX uses long stretches of glass for a glamorous Day Light Opening (DLO) in the side windows. Its distinctive LED projector headlamps add a jolt of character and the front fascia is led by an eye-catching pointed beak. The car even appears athletic with swooping side sills and a slender, creasing character line that curves over the front wheels and dives backward.


This is a massive improvement over the past RL that it replaces, but it’s more a collection of shiny pieces than a truly inspired design. The 2014 RLX suffers from the same affliction that bothers me with cars like the new Lexus IS – bold design accents are very nice, but a collection of parts means comparatively little when the shape of the car is overall the same as before. As a whole, the RLX wears an old silhouette affixed with attractive bolt-on parts. Just because it’s built on the Honda Accord platform doesn't mean it has to be shaped like 1.

The RLX sure doesn't drive like an Accord, though. Yes, the 3.5L V6 is the same, but a front double wishbone and rear multi-link suspension pair with the Precision All-Wheel Steering (P-AWS) system for a unique experience.


Electric power steering is naturally light, but quickly bulks up when you click into Sport mode. Take an aggressive attitude into a corner, and the seatbelts automatically tighten while the rear wheels turn themselves to assist with understeer. Controlled by an onboard computer, both rear wheels will turn out by up to 2 degrees, swinging the rear around and giving the sensation of a rear-wheel drive car. P-AWS is the saving grace on the only luxury sedan in the class – populated by the aggressive BMW 5-Series and Cadillac CTS – that doesn’t offer rear or all-wheel drive.

Rejuvenated after a 2-day stay, I pilot the 2014 Acura RLX out of town, ducking into the ritzy Vista Las Palmas neighborhood for 1 last goodbye. Homes jut into the air at all angles and splash enormous glass windows across broad walls, a style appropriately coined Southern California Modern back in the 50’s. All hide enormous pools to escape desert life.

I jump out to take some photographs in front of Elvis Presley’s famous Honeymoon Hideaway estate – its “batwing” roof beams and octagon living room bearing over the RLX – then duck back in. Everything in this town is an effort to forget about the heat.
 

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Discussion Starter #85
cars.com


The all-new 2014 Acura RLX may be aimed more at the grandparent set, but it offers plenty of room for a small family and a great driving experience for parents. A look at its price tag cements the fact that this is for luxury shoppers only, and families looking for a large sedan should look elsewhere unless they're ready to spend more money for all the tech features in the RLX.

There's no denying the RLX is a nice car, and after you take it for a spin, you'll find it's great to drive. It's only after looking at the sticker price that confusion starts to set in: My test car cost $61,345 but had plastic and faux-wood trim inside.

It seemed like a strong competitor against the redesigned Toyota Avalon and Hyundai Azera. However, the RLX has higher aspirations of competing against the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW's 5 Series.


Sticker shock aside, there was plenty to like about the RLX. The 310-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine is powerful but smooth. The RLX uses premium gas and gets an EPA-estimated 20/31 mpg city/highway; I averaged 20 mpg during my weeklong test drive.


Some of this car's luxury features — namely the ventilated front seats, power rear sunshade and manual rear side sunshades — were dreamy. There's an arsenal of techie-type safety features on the car as well: a collision mitigation system that will brake on your behalf if necessary, lane departure warning alerts and even active "nudges" from the steering wheel if you aren't staying between the lines, thanks to the lane keeping assist system. Everything else in the RLX seemed average at best, and this is an above-average priced car.


Room inside the cabin looks somewhat spacious, but just as I experienced in 1 of the RLX's siblings, the Acura TSX, things are a little tighter inside than they initially appear. It is a larger sedan — it sits between midsize and full-size sedan dimensions — but it doesn't offer as much front legroom as the Azera, and that's where I find the most similarities to the E-Class and 5 Series. Sadly, the similarities stopped there. The RLX has 42.3 inches of front legroom and 38.8 inches of rear legroom. The Azera has an impressive 45.5 inches in front and 36.8 in the backseat. The E-Class comes in at 41.3 inches in front and 35.8 in the backseat, and the 5 Series has 41.4 in front and 36.1 in back.


2 child-safety seats fit easily in the RLX. Even though it's not big enough to hold 3 car seats across its backseat, the RLX can likely fit an older child (sans safety seat) between the 2 car seats. Rear-facing car seats also fit easily.


Trunk size is adequate but not awe-inspiring at 14.9 cubic feet of space. Only the 5 Series is smaller at 14.0 cubic feet; the Azera has a 16.3-cubic-foot trunk and the E-Class sedan comes in at 15.9. Typical grocery runs and single strollers will fare well in the RLX, but proceed with caution when it comes to a double stroller — you might want to test it before committing to an RLX if you haul a double stroller on a regular basis.

Overall, the RLX is nice, but at this price point, I want something closer to magical for my family and me.
 

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Discussion Starter #88
TechHive


I was driving with 1 finger on the steering wheel. The 2014 Acura RLX that I was barely controlling remained centered in its lane, even around a slight bend in the road, as if guided by an invisible force. I turned to my wife: “Look, no hands!” She smiled—and winced. She wasn’t sharing my appreciation of the Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) that makes the Acura RLX 1 of the most intelligent cars on the road.


The new lane-keeping approach: steering not braking

Lane-keeping isn’t really a new feature: Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti already offer an intervention system that puts you back in the lane. However, these earlier systems corrected you, usually by applying slight side braking.

Along with the 2013 Audi S6, the 2014 Infiniti Q50, and the Mercedes-Benz S550 and C-Class, the 2014 Acura RLX is 1 of the 1st cars to use electronically controlled steering that can maintain lane centering. (It’s also available in the 2014 Acura MDX.) Acura’s LKAS uses a camera mounted above the rear-view mirror to watch the lane markings on the road, and adjusts the steering to maintain a center position in the lane. You turn it on by pressing 2 buttons on the steering wheel, and it operates at highway speeds of 45 to 90 mph. (The Mercedes-Benz S550’s system works at speeds from 0 to 124 mph.)

Acura’s LKAS is a helpful aid for everyday driving at present, and it offers a tantalizing glimpse at how close we’re getting to a car that can steer itself. Although self-driving or autonomous cars remain many years away, many of the basic technologies required for these vehicles have been available for a while. “Lane assist is absolutely another step towards fully autonomous driving,” Ed Kim, vice president of industry analysis at AutoPacific, told TechHive.


The Acura RLX is 1 of the 1st cars with a lane-keeping system that guides by steering, not braking.​

While Kim calls technology like LKAS a bridge between past tech and future tech, he also cautions that it’s mostly a safety feature. Systems like Acura’s LKAS are designed to supplement your own steering, making gentle nudges that you can always override.

After using it for a little while, however, you feel as though the car might just be ready to take over for you. And let’s admit it: The interesting—and fun—part is doing what you’re not really supposed to do, which is to take your hands off the wheel completely and see how the car will manage on its own.

“Lane-assist technology is a critical element in realizing self-driving capabilities and automated steering in particular,” Thilo Koslowski, vice president and lead automotive analyst at Gartner, told TechHive. “Having the car understand what lane you are in and staying in that lane is a big safety accomplishment and crucial for self-driving.”

Hands on, hands off


The lower-left button on the right side of the steering wheel enables lane keeping.​

I tried the Lane Keeping Assist System on the RLX, both with hands on the wheel, and—briefly, carefully—hands off. Conditions varied. I drove during both day and night. I covered ground on major highways, but also ventured on an old country road.

The Acura LKAS needs clear lane markings to work. On a country road where the lane markings are not as pronounced, LKAS will actually turn itself off. And during 1 test with light rain, the RLX sometimes had trouble seeing markings and veered to the side.

At 1 point, with my hands on the wheel, I found myself on a stretch of road that narrowed suddenly for a construction zone. As I was driving, the RLX automatically kept me centered—there was little chance I’d brush against a pylon. In another case, a long trailer truck was inching into my lane from the right. The RLX didn’t move to the left, but kept me well centered. Wind was not a problem: Slight gusts simply caused the RLX to correct the centering a bit. On tight curves, the lane-keeping system actually made my own steering easier, keeping me on course.

Hands-off on the highway, I was impressed that the LKAS could handle slight curves on major highways on its own. It actually seemed to work best in this situation, as though the system were rising to the challenge.

I timed how long the Lane Keeping Assist System could maintain the lane for me. In most cases, the car stayed the course for about 15 seconds. The top time was 45 seconds. Even if the LKAS didn't veer, it would inevitably detect that my hands weren’t there to help. With a flashing steering icon and a beep, it would threaten to turn itself off unless I put my hands back on the wheel.


When Acura’s Lane Keeping Assist System is turned on, an image of lane markings appears in the center of the instrument cluster. The lane markings turn white when LKAS is actively operating.​

One surprise: I activated the car’s turn signal, and the LKAS tried to keep me centered even as I tried to change lanes. Most lane-keeping systems I’ve used will notice your signal and not resist the lane change. Acura confirmed that its LKAS remains active even if you signal. As noted before, the gentle nudges of the LKAS are very easy to override.

Recently, I tested a 2013 Audi S6 under similar hands-off conditions on the same road. The S6 also maintained proper lane centering for long stretches—in my tests, about 20 seconds or so. But other automakers are more conservative: When I tried the lane-keeping feature on the 2013 Lexus LS, a sensor checked whether my hands were on the wheel and disabled lane-keeping when I wasn’t in direct control.

Who or what will be driving in the future?

Lane-keeping is as close as we’ll get to autonomous cars for a few years. Ford has experimented with a technology called Traffic Jam Assist, announced last summer. Cadillac announced a technology called Super Cruise last year as well. Both automakers have trumpeted tests of these systems, which allow hands-off driving for long stretches, but neither company has provided clear information on when they’d ever be deployed in production cars.

In the meantime, we still have the Lane Keeping Assist System, which accurately maintained its lane centering, even with my hands off the wheel for brief periods. In fact, the lane-keeping system worked so subtly and helpfully that I missed it when it was disabled at lower speeds.

 

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Discussion Starter #89
AutoBlog


Earlier in the year, I reviewed a powder-blue Volkswagen Beetle Convertible, and I witnessed a group of high-school-aged girls ogling the car as it sat in my driveway. In my head, I found it to be a funny-yet-fitting scene that I didn't think of again until a 2014 Acura RLX showed up in my driveway. This time around, an elderly neighborhood couple stopped to give the big Acura sedan a closer look. The RLX is trying to shed past stereotypes of its predecessor, the Acura RL, just like the Beetle. Hoping to avoid becoming the de facto "grandpa car," Acura has completely reworked – and renamed – its flagship sedan.

As the bookend to the new entry-level ILX, the addition of the 2014 RLX might give Acura its strongest sedan lineup ever as the automaker looks to break the cycle of being a middle-of-the-road luxury brand. Stepping up to the big-boy table isn't going to be easy, though, as the competition keeps getting tougher. Forget cars like the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5 Series, the Acura RLX is going to have its hands full with the likes of the Cadillac XTS, Lexus GS and Hyundai Genesis, not to mention a strong consortium of lower-priced, mid-luxury sedans like the Hyundai Azera, Toyota Avalon and Chevy Impala. The 1 thing all of these cars have in common is a reputation for being an old man cruiser.

I spent a week with the new RLX to see if it could shake the stigma of its outdated predecessor or if it would just leave me searching for the nearest early bird specials.



Compared to the ultra-anonymous RL, the 2014 RLX is a sharp car, but line it up against other luxury sedans and it's clear that Acura has played it very safe with this sedan's design. The RLX does have an assertive face with a toned-down version of Acura's signature shield grille and those attention-grabbing LED headlights. These "jewel eyes" might add a little too much busyness to the RLX's face, but they definitely help the car stand out in a crowd, while the sculpted front fenders add some athleticism to the design.

Unfortunately, as your eyes move down the rest of the car, there's very little to get excited about. The doors have a similar slab-sided styling to the RL, and the rear view is a major letdown for us, with those chrome-wrapped reflectors that attempt to mimic exhaust outlets, an uninspired decklid and taillights that look like something that found on a Chevy Malibu or Subaru Impreza. We more easily understand when volume cars like the Honda Civic receive timid redesigns so as not to alienate their hundreds of thousands of repeat customers, but we think Acura really missed the opportunity to get daring (maybe not ZDX daring) to attract more style-driven luxury buyers. It has, in effect, carefully updated the look of the outgoing RL, whose only inherent wildness amounts to its "wildly unsuccessful" sales run.

As is the case with most current Acura products, the lineage to the Honda brand is easily recognizable inside the RLX. This starts right at the dual-hooded instrument panel, which closely resembles what you will find inside a Honda Accord. That's not to say that this car feels anything like the plebian Honda, but there's just not enough 'wow factor' inside the RLX to separate them completely in the minds of buyers. Compounding this issue is the fact that the RLX fails to offer a panoramic roof. In a similar baffling move that left the option of a navigation system out of the sportier ILX 2.4, we have to wonder how Acura could have left out the option of a big glass roof on its begging-to-be-loved flagship. For a car wanting to play with the big boys in its class, this omission for an all-new model is a head-scratcher.



What the RLX's cabin lacks in visual pizzazz, it makes up for with roominess and refinement that truly defines this car as a luxury sedan with excellent infotainment technology to boot. On the technology front, the dual screens are a helpful tool to see and control vehicle information. The top screen displays navigation info, which can be controlled using the lower touchscreen, with the latter also controlling the audio, phone and other functions. Despite the screens offering haptic feedback, Acura still leaves plenty of hard buttons – something plaguing other trick infotainment systems (especially from Cadillac and Ford) – and the only primary function to annoyingly go without a hard button is the climate system's fan speed control. Acura's high-tech cabin is still very user friendly by offering numerous levels of redundancy for the driver, as systems like the navigation and audio can be operated using the touchscreen display, the large center knob or through voice commands.

Compared to the RL, the wheelbase of the RLX has been stretched by 2 inches and the car is almost that much wider, equating to a substantially roomier cabin for all occupants. Up front, the seats are wide but supportive, but it's the rear seating that might be the best place to sit, with ample room to stretch out on long trips and rear and side sunshades on higher level trim lines. Adding to the comfort, all but the base model get nice perforated leather and the upper trim levels receive acoustic glass. Added to all of the other sound-deadening measures, the RLX is left with a whisper-quiet cabin.

That is, until you turn the volume knob up on the optional 450-watt, 14-speaker Krell Audio system. The highlight of this package is the upgraded 'ultra-premium' sound system that 1-ups Acura's top-notch ELS audio system with the higher-quality Krell speakers and amps. The system delivers a crisp, clear sound that is probably better than most living room setups. But you're going to pay for it.



At $48,450 (in base form and not including the $895 destination charge), the RLX is a great car, but the as-tested price of our Krell-equipped RLX rang in at $57,845. That's not an easy pill to swallow even in this segment, and this wasn't even the highest-priced model. Go full boat, and you're looking at the RLX with Advanced Package and a price tag north of $60,000. There are a plethora of luxury sedans to cross-shop when you start playing the "What can I buy for $60,000?" game. As much as Acura would like to think the RLX will compete against rear-wheel-drive German sport sedans, this new 4-door compares better to the aforementioned Lexus GS, Cadillac XTS and maybe even the Audi A6. The problem, of course, is that except for the rear-drive GS, all of the other cars listed here offer an all-wheel-drive system.

Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system may have been 1 of the only reasons to justify the purchase of an RL – it was standard equipment on that car – but, for now, the RLX is only offered in a front-wheel-drive configuration. Sending power to the front wheels is a 3.5-liter V6, which, while smaller than the RL's engine, is more powerful and more efficient. The 1st Acura to utilize direct injection and cylinder deactivation, the RLX puts out 310 horsepower and 272 pound-feet of torque – not much of an increase in power over the RL's 300 hp and 271 lb-ft, but big gains in fuel economy partially make up for it.

Official EPA fuel economy estimates for the RLX stand at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg highway, compared to 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway for the 2012 RL, but there's no doubt this could have been even better had Acura ditched this 6-speed automatic transmission for a more advanced transmission, like the 7- or 8-speed gearboxes that are now commonplace among luxury automobiles. Many of these added-speed transmissions are tuned for squeezing every last mpg from the car, but the RLX's 6-speed automatic still exhibited a tried-and-true feel with every up and downshift being exactly where they should – neither too soft nor too harsh.


Down the road, the RLX Sport Hybrid, making its official debut at the LA Auto Show this week, will bring with it the all-wheel-drive system and 7-speed dual-clutch transmission that this car needs to be competitive. In the meantime, however, Acura buyers wanting a big sedan are stuck with this front-wheel-drive model. 1 redeeming factor that has Acura built into the RLX is the new Precision All-Wheel Steer (P-AWS) system. An acronym that might be better suited for a Jaguar, this system helps the RLX feel less like the front-driver it is by adding some steering assistance to the rear wheels. The rear wheels are able to steer with or against the front wheels depending on vehicle speed, which helps make the RLX easier to maneuver in low speeds and a little more nimble in corners. Taking things a bit further, the rear wheels are also able to angle inward (toe-in) during hard braking to bring the RLX to a stop more quickly. We suspect that last feature isn't particularly good for tire wear, but if you're getting that much use out of it, you're probably putting some good wear on the tires anyway.

The RLX still feels like a front-wheel-drive sedan with a hint of torque steer on hard takeoffs, and if you can get past this FWD curse, it's a decent car to drive. Delivering a smooth and quiet ride that's expected from such a luxury sedan, the suspension setup errs on the side of comfort over handling, but it does so without ever feeling too cushy or disconnected from the road. As we noted during our 1st Drive back in February, the RLX provides some level of fun on twisty roads, but is much more in its element while driving through the city or on long road trips.

That being said, the direct-injected V6 has great power and offers acceleration at just about all engine speeds, whether taking off from a dead stop or passing a car on the highway. If you want a little more, just knock the shifter over into Sport mode for more aggressive transmission shift points as well as quicker throttle and steering response.


The RLX feels much smaller than it actually is thanks to its light-yet-responsive electric power steering that delivers amazingly tight steering maneuvers. Top that all off with a solid brake system that lets the 4,000-pound sedan perform impressively quick stops, and Acura has a well-balanced luxury sedan on its hand with plenty of comfort and just a dash of fun.

With blinders on, the RLX is a big step forward for Acura, but looking at the fullsize luxury sedan segment as a whole, its shortcomings make any improvements over the RL seem less remarkable compared to its rivals. This is, after all, a segment filled with established German sedans and a growing number of high-quality offerings from Asia and the US.

While the RLX didn't blow our minds, it has managed to put up stronger numbers with buyers in its short time on the market, at least compared to the old RL. In just its 1st 3 months on the market (through June), the RLX had already sold more units (1,564) than the RL sold in all of 2011 and 2012 combined (1,475). That minor achievement notwithstanding, the RLX has only sold 3,780 units through October, which still puts it at the bottom of the Acura heap – excluding the discontinued ZDX. It's yet to be seen how the car will resonate with the newer and younger buyers that Acura so badly needs, although based on what I saw in my driveway, it's still your grandfather's Acura. But maybe I shouldn't judge a book by its cover... at least when it comes to my neighbors. I've since spotted that same elderly couple checking out a Subaru WRX STI parked in my driveway. So there's that.
 
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