2014 Acura RLX AdvancePosted on October 28th, 2013
Midsized sport sedan hits the heart of the luxury segment
By Nina Russin
The all-new RLX replaces the Acura RL as the brand’s midsized sport sedan. Powered by a 310-horsepower direct injection V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission, the RLX raises the bar on smart engineering fans of the brand have come to expect. For example, a new feature called precision all-wheel steer monitors driving conditions and automatically adjusts the amount of toe. In layman’s terms, it makes the car track more accurately for better steering response.
Variable cylinder management automatically cuts power to half the engine cylinders when power demands are low, stretching the sedan’s highway fuel economy to 31 mpg. A host of new safety features include adaptive cruise control with low speed follow for stop-and-go-driving, lane departure warning, forward collision warning and a multi-view rearview camera.
Pricing for the base model starts at $48,450, excluding the $895 destination charge. The Advance grade tested starts at $60,450 and is a completely loaded car, including keyless entry and start, tri-zone climate control, Bluetooth with hands-free SMS text messaging, AcuraLink with a three year complimentary subscription, heated and ventilated front seats, navigation, Pandora radio, blind spot monitoring as well as the safety features listed above. Final MSRP is $61,345.
Test drive in Phoenix
I spent this week behind the wheel of the RLX on surface streets and highways in my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona as well as a section of the Gila River Indian reservation south of town. At the end of the experience, I have mixed feelings about the car.
What I love about the RLX is its performance. The engine is powerful, the steering precise, braking firm and linear, and suspension responsive. The RLX lives up to engineers’ promises of precise steering feedback, which is a rarity in these days of electric power steering systems.
The direct injection engine develops up to 90 percent of its peak 272 foot-pounds of torque as low as 2000 rpm: a slight tip of the throttle. Despite being smaller than the 3.7-liter block in the outgoing RL, it offers better power performance throughout the power band. The six-speed step transmission with manual gear selection is a similarly impressive piece of machinery, progressing smoothly through the gears and responding to the driver’s style with necessary downshifts.
Engineers improved torsional rigidity throughout the chassis, making the RLX handle like a much smaller car than it actually is. The double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension offers Honda and Acura fans the nimble ride and flat cornering they love, without feeling overly stiff.
Nineteen-inch wheels with low profile tires dress up the exterior and provide an ample footprint for high-speed performance.
Visibility around the perimeter is good, with blind spot monitoring illuminating LED signals when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. The rearview camera eliminates blind spots in the back corners and below the rear glass. Lines superimposed over the camera image show the vehicle’s trajectory according to steering inputs.
A new headlamp design diffuses the LED signals, projecting a wide bright beam that is close to daylight. It makes a big difference in visibility on poorly lit rural and suburban roads.
What I didn’t like about the car was some of the new safety technology that seemed to me to be more distracting than useful. For example, the forward collision warning set off audible and visual cues more than once for no perceptible reason.
When a large red warning saying ‘BRAKE!’ lit up in the gauge cluster I did just that, only to find drivers around me wondering what I had been thinking. There was no vehicle stopped in front of me, nor a stop sign or red light.
Although lane departure warning seems like a good idea on paper, it can be very annoying, since it sets off warnings whenever drivers stray across a painted line without signaling. I find it to be a problem on freeway entrance ramps, when the lines painted on the road might not be the best line into the turn.
The outside mirrors are supposed to automatically retract when the driver turns off the ignition and then fold out when he starts the car again. At one point, just the opposite happened and I found myself in thick traffic with the outside mirrors folded flat.
By pushing the wheels to the corners of the chassis, designers gave the Acura RLX interior space comparable to a full-sized sedan. This is most noticeable in the second row, which has an abundance of legroom.
Keyless entry and start enables the driver to enter the car and fire the ignition without removing the key fob from his pocket. The bright red ignition button is a nice design touch.
I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust, with ample lower lumbar support for longer road trips. Heated and ventilated front seats keep occupants comfortable in temperature extremes. The separate set of climate controls and air vents for second-row occupants is important in climates such as the southwest, when hot summer weather can make the back of the car uncomfortable.
I didn’t have the opportunity to explore the plethora of new infotainment features on the car, but I found the audio system easy to program and the navigation feature intuitive to operate. Real-time traffic updates give the driver the option of rerouting to avoid delays.
The center stack screen is large and easy to read except in bright sunlight, when it washes out. A hood over the screen would solve the problem.
The trunk is quite spacious, with plenty of room for luggage, groceries, golf bags and smaller camping equipment. Cyclists will be better served with the Acura MDX crossover.
The 2014 Acura RLX comes with front, side, side curtain and driver’s knee airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, lane departure warning, tire pressure monitoring, and an electronic parking brake. A hill hold feature keeps the brakes applied for 10 minutes after the driver takes his foot off the pedal, and releases the brakes when he uses the gas pedal.
The all-new RLX is on display at Acura dealerships nationwide
Like: The RLX is a midsized sport sedan with the ride and handling of a sports car, thanks to its powerful engine, precise steering, nimble suspension and firm braking.
Dislike: Some optional safety features seemed more confusing than helpful.
Model: RLX Advance
Base price: $60,450
As tested: $61,345
Horsepower: 310 Hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 272 lbs.-ft. @ 4500 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 20/31 mpg city/highway
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