Acura's RLX is an all-new luxury sedan at the top of their lineup. It replaced the previous RL, and is available initially with front-wheel-drive followed by a 370hp AWD hybrid model coming late in 2013. While the RLX is not a radical departure from its predecessor, it offers more room and all the latest automotive technology.
The test car reviewed is the 2014 RLX Advance, and is powered by a 3.5 liter V6 rated at 310hp and 272lb-ft torque. A six-speed automatic routes the power to the front wheels, and provides for a 0-60 time of 6.3 second (Edmunds' data) which is average for a luxury midsize sedan. EPA ratings are 20mpg city/31mpg highway and 24 combined. The Advance package offers essentially everything in terms of electronic gadgets, and has a MSRP of $60,450 (total vehicle price is $61,345 including destination/handling). By comparison the base RLX starts at $49,345.
Technophiles will absoutely love the RLX; it offers all-speed adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation system, blind spot warning system and a lane departure warning system. Audiophiles will appreciate the optional 14-speaker Krell premium audio system, which had amazing clarity and was distortion-free even at high volume levels. The technology tour de force continues with Acura's cloud-based smartphone applications that provide additional music content, improved rerouting capability for the navigation system and emergency services.
The issue that Acura runs into with the RLX is that it's in a very busy segment, and buyers have quite a few choices in this price range. Audi's A6, BMW's 5-series and Lexus GS 350 offer a more engaging driving experience, while the Mercedes E350 is more luxurious. Additionally, Cadillac's new XTS and Hyundai's Genesis offer many similar features for less money.
The RLX is a midsize luxury sedan offered in five trim levels; base, Navigation, Technology, Krell Audio and Advance. Standard equipment is extensive - the base car has 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, a sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, eight-way power front seats, heating and memory functions for the front seats, leatherette (vinyl) upholstery and tri-zone automatic climate control, 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.
Moving up to the Navigation package adds navigation capability for the 8-inch screen plus access to the AcuraLink suite of smartphone apps. Additionally, the climate control system uses the nav system's GPS to adjust cabin temperature according to the angle of the sun.
The Technology package includes 19-inch wheels, rain-sensing wipers, power-retractable mirrors, a blind spot monitoring system, noise-reducing acoustic glass, leather upholstery, wood interior accents and a 14-speaker ELS sound system. Upgrading to the RLX with Krell Audio provides the deluxe 14-speaker Krell sound system, plus full sunshade coverage for the backseat. The Advance package adds adaptive cruise control, a collision mitigation system with automatic braking, a lane keeping assist system, front and rear parking sensors, ventilated front seats and heated rear seats.
The car's interior space is impressive with legroom adequate for a 6-foot tall passenger, both front and rear. The navigation system is fairly simple and intuitive, using a central control dial to input destinations while a 7" touchscreen (below the nav screen) provides haptic and audible response to inputs. The interior fit and finish is impressive although the dash does look a bit cluttered with all the techno stuff Acura has crammed in.
On the road the RLX impresses with its quiet cabin and comfortable ride. The V6's power is more than adequate for any passing situation although the overall feel of the car is more slanted toward luxury than sportiness. The transmission shifts quickly and smoothly, with no searching for the proper gear. The 19" wheels do detract from the overall ride quality on less than perfect pavement, but on smooth pavement there are no complaints. Normal turning maneuvers don't upset the car and steering is precise, assisted by Acura's standard rear-wheel steering.
The RLX is a good fit for drivers more inclined toward a luxury ride versus a sport sedan's athleticism. The styling is conservative, and that means it tends not to stand out against other sedans in its segment. The RLX address many of the issues of the RL predecessor, and adds a heaping helping of driver-assist gadgets and infotainment for the technology-obsessed.