2014 Acura RLX With Advance Package | Road Test and Review By Carey Russ
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
The Auto Channel
2014 Acura RLX With Advance Package
Technology has always been Acura's claim to differentiation in the luxury class. And please note that here "technology" means more than merely the latest in electronic gadgetry for entertainment, information, and safety. Technology for performance, efficiency, and handling ability is also part of the corporate character -- this is the company that brought us the NSX and Integra GS-R and Type R, after all.
If the maximum performance for the sake of maximum performance character of those products of Acura's past seems, at a glance, to be missing in action, look closer. It's still there, but is covered with a veneer of luxury comfort. No demerits for that, as the RLX competes in the heart of the luxury sedan class, against the best from around the world. And don't confuse the RLX with the late RL -- much more than a name change was involved in the transition. The RLX is larger than the RL, especially inside, where the RL was lacking. It has an all-new and slightly smaller engine, which makes more power on less fuel. Yes, it's still a V6 -- Acura has never made a V8 -- but concern over fuel economy and emissions reduction has led many competitors to abandon V8 power. Someone inside Acura is smiling at that!
Current examples of the RLX have a front-wheel drive configuration. An all-wheel drive version is slated to appear during the 2014 calendar year, but expect the unexpected -- the engine will drive the front wheels, with rear-drive assistance from electric motors, and all under computer control. The RLX's extensive array of standard equipment includes the expected amenities including a rearview camera (here with multiple viewing angles), comprehensive information system display, power everything (windows, mirrors, front seats, steering wheel, and sunroof), a premium audio system with all current input modes including Bluetooth® streaming, and LEDs for interior and exterior lighting, including headlamps and tail lamps and Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW) safety systems and more even in "base model" trim.
In Acura fashion, "trim levels" are option packages, with "RLX With Navigation" adding a voice-recognition navigation system, the AcuraLink® telematics system, a GPS-linked tri-zone automatic climate-control system, and color, instead of monochrome, Multi-Information Display (MID). "with Technology Package" adds larger wheels, premium leather and ebony wood interior accents, a blind-spot information system (BSI), upgraded audio, acoustic glass for a quieter interior, and retractable side mirrors. The "Krell Package" further upgrades the audio and improves sunshades for rear passengers. "Advance Package" means premium level, with Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Collision Mitigating Braking System (CMBS), the Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), parking sensors, ventilation added to the front seats and heating to the outboard rear, and more.
So, yes, the new RLX has plenty of communications and safety technology, just like everything else in the class. There is one more system that makes the RLX unique - Precision All-Wheel Steering, P-AWS for short. Shades of the Japanese supercars of the 1980’s, P-AWS is meant to transparently improve handling and stability. It changes toe-in under braking, adding stability. The rear wheels are moved in the same direction as the fronts during medium- to high-speed maneuvering, and opposite the fronts in low-speed corners. This improves response, reduces understeer, and ever so slightly reduces tire scrub for a small improvement in fuel economy as well. Agile Handling Assist can activate one rear brake to help quicken turn-in when cornering. Both systems are found in all front-wheel drive RLXes.
Including my most recent test car, which was the Advance Package model. Tech on top of tech, but not to the detriment of the car's character. Yes, it's more a luxury sedan than a sports sedan, and so should appeal to a greater audience. As equipped, the RLX is every bit a contemporary high-tech luxury machine -- with surprising performance when needed as yes the venerable Honda top-end rush is there. But so is everyday torque and the refinement expected in a luxury car -- think of the top part of the power band not as a necessity (as in the hot Integra’s of yore) but as "overhead" in the parlance of the high-end audiophiles. And it has the road manners to happily handle all the powertrain can give, safely and quickly.
APPEARANCE: Acura's grille design has undergone many a transformation over the years, but its basic five-sided shape establishes continuity, if the details have sometimes been more than a little controversial. The current grille would be identifiably Acura even without the "A" logo in the thick top crossbar. Ditto for the overall shape, with graceful proportions, sharply-sculpted details, and signature wheel arches. Technology is announced by the multi-faceted Jewel-Eyeâ„¢ LED headlights. They are very different from the more familiar halogen and HID lights. Chrome trim around the grille, headlights, and side windows gives the expected luxury touch. LEDs are used in the front door handles, and light when the fob-carrying driver gets within five feet or so, a thoughtful touch at night. LED taillights dominate the rear, and quad exhausts exit ahead of the bumper, with reflectors in the bumper where exhausts used to be. Preparation for future hybrid or even electric tech?
COMFORT: One of the major reasons given by people who might have bought an RL but didn't was space. Or lack thereof. That won't be a problem here, as the RLX is the most spacious Acura sedan made so far, especially noticeable in the rear. In Advance trim, rear outboard positions have two-level heat. Which won't impress front passengers, who get three levels of heat or cooling instead of the standard two of heat. Seat comfort is as expected in a luxury car, long trips a specialty. Milano leather graces the Navigation and higher models, and stitched leather is found on the doors, instrument panels, and steering wheel rims of all. It's a handsome, contemporary package, with good ergonomic design and useful storage -- the console box opens from the side, either side, for convenience of both front occupants. Instrumentation is bright and easily visible, and, in upper models, twin screens allow display of navigation and information simultaneously -- with further information directly in front of the driver, between the tach and speedometer. And yes, it's all programmable, with enough to keep a technophile happy for a while. There's plenty of trunk space, although, as is common in the luxury classes, the rear seat does not fold.
SAFETY: Nearly all existing electronic safety systems are either standard or available in the RLX. Its "Advanced Compatibility Engineering, unibody structure and full suite of airbags form a solid base for passive passenger protection, while antilock disc brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution and the maneuverability advantages of the P-AWS and Agile Handling Assist systems take care of active safety. The 2014 RLX is expected to score at the top of government and industry safety ratings.
RIDE AND HANDLING: The RLX's double-wishbone front, multilink rear suspension is tuned in the European luxury manner for a good balance between comfort and cornering ability. Comfort prevails, but maneuverability is good as well. Understeer is reduced and turn-in sharpened by the P-AWS and Agile Handling Assist systems (and yes, controllability and maneuverability aren't merely enjoyable aspects of driving, they are important to safety). Steering effort is moderate, never too light or too heavy. The acoustic glass used in Technology models and above further helps cabin quiet.
PERFORMANCE: You don't have to run the RLX's 3.5-liter V6 up to redline to get anywhere. Statistics of 310 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 272 lb-ft of torque at 4500 hint that everything happens high in the rev range, but the i-VTEC valve control system ensures that there is plenty of low- and mid-range torque for everyday driving. Put the shifter in D and relax, or, especially when the road is interesting, use "S" sport mode with shifting of the six-speed automatic re-mapped for quicker acceleration. Cylinder deactivation further improves highway economy, as power is needed for acceleration, but not necessarily for maintaining a steady pace. With a sub-6.0 second 0-60 time, the RLX is quick enough for its mission. Shift for yourself via the paddles behind the steering wheel, and you will become acquainted with a seriously strong top end. EPA mileage figures are 20 mpg city, 31 highway. In mostly secondary road and city driving, I got between 19 and 22 mpg. A highway drive, at realistic speeds, returned 27, with plenty of hills to deal with. The week's average was 22, but that could be easily improved by more highway driving. Or easily decreased by keeping the revs up!
CONCLUSIONS: The new RLX combines technology, refinement, and performance in a very Acura manner.
2014 Acura RLX With Advance Package
Base Price $ 60,450 Price As Tested $ 61,435 Engine Type aluminum alloy SOHC 24-valve V6 with direct fuel injection, Variable Cylinder Management, i-VTEC variable valve timing and lift control Engine Size 3.5 liters / 212 cu. in. Horsepower 310 @ 6500 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 272 @ 4500 rpm Transmission 6-speed multi-mode automatic Wheelbase / Length 112.2 in. / 196.1 in. Curb Weight 3997 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 12.9 Fuel Capacity 18.5 gal. Fuel Requirement 91 octane premium unleaded gasoline Tires 245/40R19 98W m+s Michelin Primacy mxm4 Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD, BA, VSA standard Suspension, front/rear independent double wishbone, independent multi-link Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 20 / 31 / 22 0 to 60 mph 5.8 sec
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Destination Charge $ 985