2014 Acura RLX First Test
Competent Sedan Seeks Relevance
If it's not already too late for the RLX, the new Sport Hybrid SH-AWD model could establish the sedan as a worthwhile choice for more than just loyal Acura buyers. Now that a 5.8-second 0-60-mph time is mid-pack performance for a base engine, large luxury sedan, the 2014 Acura RLX could benefit from the buzz-building boost an advanced hybrid might provide. After recently testing a front-drive 2014 Acura RLX, we're taking another look at the car whose 2014 Motor Trend Car of the Year journey ended as a contender, not a finalist.
A colorful array of competitors plays in the 2014 Acura RLX's $50,000-$60,000 price range, from the 240-hp, four-cylinder rear-drive BMW 528i to the 365-hp, six-cylinder all-wheel-drive Lincoln MKS, as well as the eight-cylinder Chrysler 300C and Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec for a little less money. While we're guessing many RLX customers are longtime Acura drivers, the premium midsize and large sedan segments are bursting with options. As for the RLX, the Acura's 3.5-liter V-6 produces 310 hp at 6500 rpm and 272 lb-ft at 4500 rpm. With a six-speed automatic, the RLX we tested carried 61 percent of its 4008 pounds on the front wheels. Of all the cars mentioned above, it's no surprise only the BMW 528i is more efficient, at 23/34 mpg city/highway to the RLX's 20/31 mpg. For comparison, a 2014 Mercedes-Benz E350 is EPA-rated at 21/30 mpg, while the 2014 Lexus GS 350 comes in at 19/29 mpg.
On the track, accelerating the RLX from 0-60 mph took 5.8 seconds, not quite as quick as a rear-drive 2013 Lexus GS 350 F Sport (5.4 seconds) or an all-wheel-drive 2013 Lincoln MKS EcoBoost (5.2 seconds), but quicker than a 2012 BMW 528i (6.2 seconds) and an all-wheel-drive 2009 Acura RL (6.9 seconds). The RLX's passing acceleration from 45-65 mph was respectable, with a 3.0-second time compared to the GS 350's 2.6 seconds, the MKS EcoBoost's 2.8 seconds, and the 528i's 3.3 seconds. When the RLX isn't driven the way you would an NSX, a few Car of the Year judges commented on how well it handled. It's not clear how active the Precision All-Wheel Steer system (P-AWS) is in relaxed driving, but the RLX is a quiet and comfortable cruiser.
The RLX is also quiet when it comes to exterior styling, but perhaps that's not such a bad quality. "Its styling is crazy conservative [and] I don't like the grille, either," said testing director Kim Reynolds at Car of the Year testing, "but frankly I like it better than a whole lot of cars that are trying to be stylish."
With P-AWS technology, the RLX at Car of the Year completed our figure-eight course in 27.3 seconds at 0.64 g average, a bit lower than the 528i's 26.5 seconds at 0.68 g. Move off the track and onto the highway and the RLX is more in its element. The top-of-the-line Advance model includes an adaptive cruise control system that, when paired with the Lane Keeping Assist system, provides an excellent preview of the autonomous cars coming in the future. The car can accelerate or brake to adjust to the speed of the car ahead, and even steer around gentle curves. Take your hands off the wheel for too many seconds, though, and the car will flash a "Steering Required" warning.
The system is easy enough to use and, along with those standard LED headlights, helps justify the 2014 Acura RLX Advance's as tested $61,345 price. Aside from the semi-autonomous driving technologies, at that top-of-the-line price you also get front and rear parking sensors, heated/cooled front seats plus heated rear seats, a power rear sunshade and manual rear side-door sunshades, a Krell 14-speaker sound system, 19-inch alloy wheels, Milano leather, a navigation system, LED headlights, and hands-free keyless access.
Though the 2014 Acura RLX offers an impressive set of features, buyers of $50,000-$60,000 cars often seek something more emotionally satisfying than a spacious interior and innocuous styling. That's where the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD -- if it's well-received -- might help. As a flagship luxury sedan, the RLX hybrid could improve public perception of the regular RLX. Suddenly, styling some people label "boring" becomes "tastefully subdued." If the all-wheel-drive RLX hybrid doesn't have that effect, the automaker might go another four to six years with an overlooked yet competent luxury sedan that primarily appeals to loyal Acura fans.
|2014 Acura RLX P-AWS|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$61,345|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||3.5L/310-hp/272-lb-ft SOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4008 lb (61/39%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||196.1 x 74.4 x 57.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.8 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.3 sec @ 97.8 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||119 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.80 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.3 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||20/31 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||169/109 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.82 lb/mile|