2015 Acura RLX Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO
Acura's RLX combines luxury refinement and comfort with engineering, safety, and entertainment technology and impressive performance
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY
• SEE ALSO: Acura Buyers Guide
Don't confuse the Acura RLX with its RL predecessor. There is much more difference than the minimally-changed name would suggest. The RLX is larger than the RL, especially inside, and there especially in rear seat space, where the RL was lacking. Its V6 engine is smaller in displacement -- and makes more power on less fuel. And while it is Acura's flagship luxury sedan, it does not lack for performance and agility.
Or technology, another Acura trait. While the word "technology" is now often used to refer to electronic infotainment, safety, and gadgetry systems, and the RLX can be had with the current state of the art in all of those systems, here it also refers to the underlying engineering. Direct fuel injection and Variable Cylinder Management give its new 3.5-liter V6 310 horsepower and 272 lb-ft of torque when needed -- and deactivate cylinders for fuel savings when power is not necessary. "Precision All-Wheel Steering", hereafter known as P-AWS, transparently aids 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. Shades of the Japanese supercars of the 1980s, but much-improved thanks to modern electronics. Both systems are found in all front-wheel drive RLXes.
Want all-wheel drive in your RLX? That's almost a different car -- the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD. The V6 and a 47-hp electric motor drive the front wheels, while rear drive is taken care of by twin 36-hp electric motors, with torque vectoring under computer control. Combined system maximum horsepower is 377, the highest yet in an Acura. You want impressive technology? There it is, and consider that a test run for the next-generation NSX.
But my test car for the past week was a "regular" RLX, in premium Advance trim. The P-AWS system gave it surprising agility and controllability, important not only for driver enjoyment but also for active safety -- the accident you can avoid is one you don't have. It felt like it had a good AWD system, like Acura's own (non-hybrid) SH-AWD. As a midsize, mid-luxury sports sedan, the RLX's competition includes the best efforts of the German, American, and Japanese manufacturers, such as the Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CTS, and Lexus GS. The late RL was under-equipped for that fight. The RLX is more than competitive.
In Acura fashion, "trim levels" are option packages. All have 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 taillamps and Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW) safety systems and more. "RLX With Navigation" adds 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, yes, more. It's beyond fully-equipped…
Watch the original introduction of the RLX Concept
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-Eye™ 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 the exhausts are hidden.
COMFORT: It's not quite a stretch limo, but close. RL sales were lost because of a lack of rear-seat space. That will not be an issue here. The RLX is the most spacious Acura sedan yet, especially 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. There is a lockable ski pass-through.
SAFETY: Nearly all existing electronic safety systems are either standard or available in the RLX. Its "Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ II 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.
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 21, but that could be easily improved by more highway driving. Or easily decreased by keeping the revs up… Yes, there is more than a bit of sport with all of the luxury comfort.
CONCLUSIONS: Acura's RLX combines luxury refinement and comfort with engineering, safety, and entertainment technology and impressive performance.
2015 Acura RLX Advance
Base Price $ 60,450
Price As Tested $ 61,345
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
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 20 / 31 / 21
0 to 60 mph 5.8 sec
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Destination Charge $ 895