For the latest model year, the RLX gets a new front end and a handful of powertrain improvements.
Sporting Acura's newest design language, the RLX features crisp character lines, a graceful rendition of the automaker's corporate diamond pentagon, and distinctive "Jewel Eye" all-LED headlamps. However, it's beneath the sheet metal that the RLX's most impressive elements are to be found.
Although its overall dimensions are similar to the outgoing RL model, Acura significantly increased interior space by pushing the wheels farther towards the corners of the sedan. As a result, rear passengers receive stretch-out legroom and more overall space than all similarly priced mid-size luxury sedans.
Up front, there's an impressive array of technology to be found. The center stack houses not one but two LCD screens: an eight-inch upper unit for the navigation system, below which is a seven-inch touchscreen that provides one-touch access to climate control, entertainment, and navigation functions.
Along with smartphone integration, Pandora radio and text-to-voice SMS text capability, the RLX offers the cloud-based AcuraLink connectivity system, which brings real-time traffic and weather updates and a concierge service that can make restaurant reservations. Also part of the system is Aha radio, which can play streaming internet radio stations and podcasts as well as read aloud content from Facebook, Twitter, audiobooks and news reports.
Material quality throughout the new cabin is impressive, with wood-grain and metal accents, a stitched-leather instrument panel hood and available Milano perforated leather seats. Audiophiles can choose from no less than three audio systems ranging up to a impressive Krell ultra-premium setup.
Efficient, Tech-Packed Powertrains
The RLX is available in two distinct flavors - front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive hybrid.
Regardless of driven wheels, both RLX models start with a 3.5-liter V6 that delivers 310 horsepower and 272 lb-ft of torque. The all-wheel-drive model adds a pair of electric motors at the rear of the car to power the rear wheels exclusively, which brings total output up to 377 horsepower while also improving fuel economy.
Just what is Acura's Sport Hybrid SH-AWD system? In the automaker's upcoming NSX sports car, it uses twin electric motors to send power to the front wheels, while the rear wheels use the gas engine. In the RLX, the opposite is the case: The rear wheels are motivated by the electric motors, while the front wheels are powered by the gas engine.
The system provides all-wheel-drive traction and also works as a torque vectoring system by instantaneously transfering torque between the electrified wheels for improved traction. Uniquely, the motors can provide positive or negative torque automatically to create what Acura calls an "on-the-rails" feel. The setup eliminates the need for a more complex differential to achieve the same handling-improving effect.
Front-wheel-drive RLXs feature the automaker's new All Wheel Steer system, which independently adjusts the toe angle of the rear wheels by working with the car's stability control and its variable gear ratio electric power steering. All Wheel Steer is designed to both make the RLX more nimble in urban situations and to make its handling faster, more stable and more direct at highway speeds.
The front-wheel drive RLX uses a 10-speed automatic transmission, while the hybrid model carries on with a seven-speed automatic.
Fuel economy checks in at 20 mpg in the city, 29 mpg on the highway, and 23 mpg in a combined cycle for the front-wheel drive model. Selecting all-wheel drive yields figures of 28, 29, and 28, respectively.
Standard and Optional Features
The RLX with Technology Package comes standard with LED headlights, LED-illuminated door handles, heated mirrors, an acoustic glass windshield, remote-operated windows, leather-upholstered sport seats, a locking trunk pass-through, tri-zone A/C, heated front seats, keyless entry, a push-button ignition, a moon roof, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, Bluetooth connectivity, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, navigation, a 14-speaker sound system, a HomeLink transceiver, and ambient lighting.
The Advance Package brings LED fog lights, auto-dimming and power-folding mirrors, parking sensors on both ends, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, sunshades, an upgraded Krell stereo, and a remote engine starter.
All RLX models come standard with dual front, front side and side-curtain airbags in addition to a driver's knee airbag, traction and stability control systems and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
Buyers can order the RLX with AcuraWatch, a suite of camera-based electronic driving aids and safety features that includes adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, collision mitigation braking system, a lane departure warning system, a blind spot information system, and a rear-view camera.
The RLX's most direct rivals is the Lincoln MKZ, which is also a FWD/AWD "tweener" luxury sedans that offers near-full-size space for mid-size money while packing loads of technology features. Alternatively, potential buyers could check out smaller but more prestigious rides such as the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi A6.