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2014 Acura RLX Review By Larry Nutson

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2014 Acura RLX
The Perfect Drive

by Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, New York Bureau
The Auto Channel

Over the last couple weeks I’ve had the chance to get up close, get inside, and drive about 160 different new cars, SUV’s and trucks. Now I didn’t drive all 160 but I drove many. Those, for the most part, being vehicles I hadn’t previously driven.

This drive opportunity occurred first at the International Motor Press Association (IMPA) Spring Brake in Bear Mountain, New York, which is located just to the south of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The second was at the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) Spring Rally held at Road America Race Track in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

One of the cars that interested me was the all-new 2014 Acura RLX, which fortunately was available to drive at both events. I had a total of about an hour of driving time in two different RLXs and also plenty of time to study the interior layout and exterior package.

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The 2014 Acura RLX is an all-new mid-size luxury sedan at the top end of the Acura model range. It replaces the discontinued RL. The word luxury will tell you right away that the RLX might be a bit pricey. So if a starting price of $48,450 doesn’t scare you off then keep reading.

At present, the 2014 RLX comes with only one powertrain, and that is a 310HP direct injection 3.5-liter V6 coupled to a 6-speed automatic driving through the front wheels. At the two driving events where I drove the RLX the roads were very different and gave me a multitude of different acceleration and handling opportunities. I found the RLX to be quire responsive with satisfying acceleration…reports have it in the 6.3second range for 0 to 60mph, and comparable to most cars in this class.

EPA fuel economy ratings are 24mpg combined, with 20 city mpg and 31 highway mpg. These are pretty good numbers for a mid-size luxury sedan and with its 18.5gal fuel tank, featuring capless fueling that eliminates the fuel cap and improves ease of fueling, it delivers what I call a no-refueling all-day-road-trip driving range.

The road to low fuel consumption includes keeping the weight down. The RLX uses aluminum for the hood, front fenders, door skins, bumper beams, floor pan and steering column mounting beam.

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As far as overall driving dynamics go, the RLX has an all-new suspension design and also features a new all-wheel steering system, going by the appropriate name P-AWS. The system is capable of independently controlling the rear wheels to increase stability during lane change or heavy braking and also tighten the turning radius at low speed. The effects are not really detectible by the driver but do their job to enhance handling.

We could have a long conversation on front drive v. rear drive v. all-wheel drive at this point. Given the nature of front wheel drive cars, the RLX does well in overall ride and handling. It’s not a sport sedan and I wouldn’t expect it to offer dynamics like a sport sedan. I’m sure most RLX buyers will be very satisfied.

Seven spoke 18x8J aluminum-alloy wheels and 245/45 R18 all-weather tires are standard, while Technology, Krell and Advance grades feature 19x8J wheels and 245/40 R19 tires.

The RLX is very quiet. I’m always listening for wind or tire noise and I didn’t detect much. The alloy wheels feature a noise-reducing design that lowers tire noise by 7 decibels across the audible frequency range. Additionally, the RLX uses acoustic glass windshield and door glass.

The 2014 Acura RLX is available in five trim levels: base, RLX with Navigation, RLX with Technology package, RLX with Krell Audio package, and RLX with Advance package. There are no stand-alone options, but a few dealer-installed items are offered.

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The base RLX, the $48,450 model, features 18-inch wheels with 45-series tires, Jewel Eye LED headlights, a sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, eight-way power front seats (with four-way power lumbar), heating and memory functions for the front seats, and tri-zone automatic climate control. Also standard are a rearview camera, Bluetooth, SMS text-to-speech capability for MAP-enabled phones and a 10-speaker ELS sound system with a CD player, digital music storage, a USB/iPod interface, HD radio and satellite radio.

The RLX with Navigation adds navigation capability for the 8-inch screen, plus access to the AcuraLink suite of smartphone apps. Plus, the climate control system uses the nav system's GPS to adjust cabin temperature according to the angle of the sun.

The Technology package equips the RLX with 19-inch wheels with 40-series tires, rain-sensing wipers, power-retractable mirrors, a blind spot monitoring system, noise-reducing acoustic glass, Milano leather seats, wood interior accents and a 14-speaker ELS Studio audio system. Also, the keyless system now works on all four doors, rather than just the front doors and trunk.

The RLX with Krell Audio provides the deluxe 14-speaker Krell audio system, plus rear door and rear window sunshades.

The RLX with Advance package, at $60,450, adds adaptive cruise control, a collision mitigation system with automatic braking, a lane keeping assist system, front and rear parking sensors, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and rear seat footlights.

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At both events I drove the RLX Advance model, so I got to experience the best Acura has to offer. The Jewel Eye headlights are noticeably distinctive and although I didn’t do any night driving they should light the way very well. The Krell sound system is “amazing”, to use a word of today. And it is certainly more enjoyable in the very roomy and very quiet cabin. Acura claims the RLX has the most spacious 5-passenge seating in its class. A small detail Acura-touch that I like is the very easy to find red start/stop button. I would like to also have driven the 18-inch wheel 45-series tire equipped models to compare overall ride differences.

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Coming later this year on the RLX, the Sport Hybrid Super Handling All Wheel Drive (Sport Hybrid SH-AWD) is an innovative new drive system that blends hybrid power with Acura's advanced Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). With 370 HP and an all-wheel drive system featuring electric motors at the rear wheels, fuel economy is expected to be 30mpg combined.

On sale since mid-March, the 2014 Acura RLX should be “the perfect drive” for many an average American driver.

Larry Nutson