Vital Stats

Engine:
3.5L V6
Power:
310 HP / 272 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Auto
Drivetrain:
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,981 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
15.1 CU-FT
MPG:
20 City / 31 HWY
Base Price:
$48,450
Earlier in the year, I reviewed a powder-blue Volkswagen Beetle Convertible, and I witnessed a group of high-school-aged girls ogling the car as it sat in my driveway. In my head, I found it to be a funny-yet-fitting scene that I didn't think of again until a 2014 Acura RLX showed up in my driveway. This time around, an elderly neighborhood couple stopped to give the big Acura sedan a closer look. The RLX is trying to shed past stereotypes of its predecessor, the Acura RL, just like the Beetle. Hoping to avoid becoming the de facto "grandpa car," Acura has completely reworked – and renamed – its flagship sedan.

As the bookend to the new entry-level ILX, the addition of the 2014 RLX might give Acura its strongest sedan lineup ever as the automaker looks to break the cycle of being a middle-of-the-road luxury brand. Stepping up to the big-boy table isn't going to be easy, though, as the competition keeps getting tougher. Forget cars like the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5 Series, the Acura RLX is going to have its hands full with the likes of the Cadillac XTS, Lexus GS and Hyundai Genesis, not to mention a strong consortium of lower-priced, mid-luxury sedans like the Hyundai Azera, Toyota Avalon and Chevy Impala. The one thing all of these cars have in common is a reputation for being an old man cruiser.

I spent a week with the new RLX to see if it could shake the stigma of its outdated predecessor or if it would just leave me searching for the nearest early bird specials.
2014 Acura RLX2014 Acura RLX2014 Acura RLX

Compared to the ultra-anonymous RL, the 2014 RLX is a sharp car, but line it up against other luxury sedans and it's clear that Acura has played it very safe with this sedan's design. The RLX does have an assertive face with a toned-down version of Acura's signature shield grille and those attention-grabbing LED headlights. These "jewel eyes" might add a little too much busyness to the RLX's face, but they definitely help the car stand out in a crowd, while the sculpted front fenders add some athleticism to the design.

Acura really missed an opportunity to get daring.

Unfortunately, as your eyes move down the rest of the car, there's very little to get excited about. The doors have a similar slab-sided styling to the RL, and the rear view is a major letdown for us, with those chrome-wrapped reflectors that attempt to mimic exhaust outlets, an uninspired decklid and taillights that look like something that found on a Chevy Malibu or Subaru Impreza. We more easily understand when volume cars like the Honda Civic receive timid redesigns so as not to alienate their hundreds of thousands of repeat customers, but we think Acura really missed the opportunity to get daring (maybe not ZDX daring) to attract more style-driven luxury buyers. It has, in effect, carefully updated the look of the outgoing RL, whose only inherent wildness amounts to its "wildly unsuccessful" sales run.

As is the case with most current Acura products, the lineage to the Honda brand is easily recognizable inside the RLX. This starts right at the dual-hooded instrument panel, which closely resembles what you will find inside a Honda Accord. That's not to say that this car feels anything like the plebian Honda, but there's just not enough 'wow factor' inside the RLX to separate them completely in the minds of buyers. Compounding this issue is the fact that the RLX fails to offer a panoramic roof. In a similar baffling move that left the option of a navigation system out of the sportier ILX 2.4, we have to wonder how Acura could have left out the option of a big glass roof on its begging-to-be-loved flagship. For a car wanting to play with the big boys in its class, this omission for an all-new model is a head-scratcher.

2014 Acura RLX2014 Acura RLX2014 Acura RLX2014 Acura RLX

Compared to the RL, the wheelbase of the RLX has been stretched by two inches and the car is almost that much wider.

What the RLX's cabin lacks in visual pizzazz, it makes up for with roominess and refinement that truly defines this car as a luxury sedan with excellent infotainment technology to boot. On the technology front, the dual screens are a helpful tool to see and control vehicle information. The top screen displays navigation info, which can be controlled using the lower touchscreen, with the latter also controlling the audio, phone and other functions. Despite the screens offering haptic feedback, Acura still leaves plenty of hard buttons – something plaguing other trick infotainment systems (especially from Cadillac and Ford) – and the only primary function to annoyingly go without a hard button is the climate system's fan speed control. Acura's high-tech cabin is still very user friendly by offering numerous levels of redundancy for the driver, as systems like the navigation and audio can be operated using the touchscreen display, the large center knob or through voice commands.

Compared to the RL, the wheelbase of the RLX has been stretched by two inches and the car is almost that much wider, equating to a substantially roomier cabin for all occupants. Up front, the seats are wide but supportive, but it's the rear seating that might be the best place to sit, with ample room to stretch out on long trips and rear and side sunshades on higher level trim lines. Adding to the comfort, all but the base model get nice perforated leather and the upper trim levels receive acoustic glass. Added to all of the other sound-deadening measures, the RLX is left with a whisper-quiet cabin.

That is, until you turn the volume knob up on the optional 450-watt, 14-speaker Krell Audio system. The highlight of this package is the upgraded 'ultra-premium' sound system that one-ups Acura's top-notch ELS audio system with the higher-quality Krell speakers and amps. The system delivers a crisp, clear sound that is probably better than most living room setups. But you're going to pay for it.

2014 Acura RLX2014 Acura RLX2014 Acura RLX2014 Acura RLX

At $48,450 (in base form and not including the $895 destination charge), the RLX is a great car, but the as-tested price of our Krell-equipped RLX rang in at $57,845. That's not an easy pill to swallow even in this segment, and this wasn't even the highest-priced model. Go full boat, and you're looking at the RLX with Advanced Package and a price tag north of $60,000. There are a plethora of luxury sedans to cross-shop when you start playing the "What can I buy for $60,000?" game. As much as Acura would like to think the RLX will compete against rear-wheel-drive German sport sedans, this new four-door compares better to the aforementioned Lexus GS, Cadillac XTS and maybe even the Audi A6. The problem, of course, is that except for the rear-drive GS, all of the other cars listed here offer an all-wheel-drive system.

For now, the RLX is only offered in a front-wheel-drive configuration.

Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system may have been one of the only reasons to justify the purchase of an RL – it was standard equipment on that car – but, for now, the RLX is only offered in a front-wheel-drive configuration. Sending power to the front wheels is a 3.5-liter V6, which, while smaller than the RL's engine, is more powerful and more efficient. The first Acura to utilize direct injection and cylinder deactivation, the RLX puts out 310 horsepower and 272 pound-feet of torque – not much of an increase in power over the RL's 300 hp and 271 lb-ft, but big gains in fuel economy partially make up for it.

Official EPA fuel economy estimates for the RLX stand at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg highway, compared to 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway for the 2012 RL, but there's no doubt this could have been even better had Acura ditched this six-speed automatic transmission for a more advanced transmission, like the seven- or eight-speed gearboxes that are now commonplace among luxury automobiles. Many of these added-speed transmissions are tuned for squeezing every last mpg from the car, but the RLX's six-speed automatic still exhibited a tried-and-true feel with every up and downshift being exactly where they should – neither too soft nor too harsh.

2014 Acura RLX

Down the road, the RLX Sport Hybrid, making its official debut at the LA Auto Show this week, will bring with it the all-wheel-drive system and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that this car needs to be competitive. In the meantime, however, Acura buyers wanting a big sedan are stuck with this front-wheel-drive model. One redeeming factor that has Acura built into the RLX is the new Precision All-Wheel Steer (P-AWS) system. An acronym that might be better suited for a Jaguar, this system helps the RLX feel less like the front-driver it is by adding some steering assistance to the rear wheels. The rear wheels are able to steer with or against the front wheels depending on vehicle speed, which helps make the RLX easier to maneuver in low speeds and a little more nimble in corners. Taking things a bit further, the rear wheels are also able to angle inward (toe-in) during hard braking to bring the RLX to a stop more quickly. We suspect that last feature isn't particularly good for tire wear, but if you're getting that much use out of it, you're probably putting some good wear on the tires anyway.

The suspension setup errs on the side of comfort over handling.

The RLX still feels like a front-wheel-drive sedan with a hint of torque steer on hard takeoffs, and if you can get past this FWD curse, it's a decent car to drive. Delivering a smooth and quiet ride that's expected from such a luxury sedan, the suspension setup errs on the side of comfort over handling, but it does so without ever feeling too cushy or disconnected from the road. As we noted during our First Drive back in February, the RLX provides some level of fun on twisty roads, but is much more in its element while driving through the city or on long road trips.

That being said, the direct-injected V6 has great power and offers acceleration at just about all engine speeds, whether taking off from a dead stop or passing a car on the highway. If you want a little more, just knock the shifter over into Sport mode for more aggressive transmission shift points as well as quicker throttle and steering response.

2014 Acura RLX

The RLX feels much smaller than it actually is thanks to its light-yet-responsive electric power steering that delivers amazingly tight steering maneuvers. Top that all off with a solid brake system that lets the 4,000-pound sedan perform impressively quick stops, and Acura has a well-balanced luxury sedan on its hand with plenty of comfort and just a dash of fun.

With blinders on, the RLX is a big step forward for Acura.

With blinders on, the RLX is a big step forward for Acura, but looking at the fullsize luxury sedan segment as a whole, its shortcomings make any improvements over the RL seem less remarkable compared to its rivals. This is, after all, a segment filled with established German sedans and a growing number of high-quality offerings from Asia and the US.

While the RLX didn't blow our minds, it has managed to put up stronger numbers with buyers in its short time on the market, at least compared to the old RL. In just its first three months on the market (through June), the RLX had already sold more units (1,564) than the RL sold in all of 2011 and 2012 combined (1,475). That minor achievement notwithstanding, the RLX has only sold 3,780 units through October, which still puts it at the bottom of the Acura heap – excluding the discontinued ZDX. It's yet to be seen how the car will resonate with the newer and younger buyers that Acura so badly needs, although based on what I saw in my driveway, it's still your grandfather's Acura. But maybe I shouldn't judge a book by its cover... at least when it comes to my neighbors. I've since spotted that same elderly couple checking out a Subaru WRX STI parked in my driveway. So there's that.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 114 Comments
      thefan1
      • 1 Year Ago
      this is a very very good car it handels great you cant tell its a fwd car great balance in sharp turns very smooth,stable and confident at high speeds 80+ mph you dont notice the speed because the car is so quiet. so im trying to understand the negative comments about this car, i bet 99% of the comments are comming from people that have never driven this car im glad that i did not listen to them because i would have missed out on the best car that i have ever owned no matter what car you drive it will never be good enough for these so called experts, but to the so called experts if you dont drive a bmw,audi,mb or lexus and yes these are fine cars somehow your and idiot. this is nonsense if you dont like this car dont buy it but dont trash it if you have not even driven this car.
      FoxJ30
      • 1 Year Ago
      Is it really a Krell audio system? Krell home theater receivers and amplifiers are 5-figure items on their own, I imagine Krell would charge a significant amount for even a cut down version for a car. Alternatively, this could easily be a decent 3rd party amplifier/pre-amp/processor combination that simply has Krell branding on it. (The same question can be asked of Jaguar's B&W system, VW's Dynaudio system... etc)
        • 1 Year Ago
        @FoxJ30
        [blocked]
      FX Gts
      • 1 Year Ago
      May not be much to look at, but I'm sure it goes down the road waay better than Hyundai luxury offerings..
        • 1 Year Ago
        @FX Gts
        [blocked]
          FX Gts
          • 1 Year Ago
          Well if you wanna buy a luxury vehicle from a company after the CEO was resigned /fired concerning quality control issues go ahead. I would never buy luxury vehicle in the 60k range from Hyundai .
          NightFlight
          • 1 Year Ago
          Seems like there are even less people who want to buy a $50,000 Honda.
          ravenosa
          • 1 Year Ago
          Shouldn't be as sad as the comments from the average McHonda apologist...
      chrismcfreely
      • 1 Year Ago
      That's good mpg for a 310 HP car that size. RWD would make this car pointless. You dummies just go around saying " I WANT RWD!!! I WANTA MANUAL!!! No one cares what you want, so stop complaining. This drive train makes sense for the vehicle. It looks good, and is priced well, as long as you don't get stupid with the options. Why do you trolls feel the need to s**t on all of these perfectly good cars? It is much more reliable than all of those rwd ones, and reliability is much more important.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @chrismcfreely
        [blocked]
          • 1 Year Ago
          [blocked]
          • 1 Year Ago
          [blocked]
          Brandon
          • 1 Year Ago
          *are
          Brandon
          • 1 Year Ago
          Yeah on their entry level models that 25k and up, not 60k.
      Tina Dang
      • 1 Year Ago
      It is actually a nice car, especially in black. I am really surprised I see so many of them around the city.
        adam1keith1980
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Tina Dang
        Are they for sale yet? I have only seen one near the Acura dealership.
          NightFlight
          • 1 Year Ago
          @adam1keith1980
          They've been on sale for months.
          • 1 Year Ago
          @adam1keith1980
          [blocked]
          adam1keith1980
          • 1 Year Ago
          @adam1keith1980
          Hmm...I should check it out at the dealership. The exterior does nothing for me, it's neither exciting nor elegant. Perhaps the interior is the sellign point.
      Andrew
      • 1 Year Ago
      It looks nice in person, and is priced in line with its competitors. There are still Honda/Acura loyalists, and people for whom FWD is just fine, especially when rear seat space is important.
        NightFlight
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Andrew
        They need to sell more than to just loyalists. The RLX is already flopping in the marketplace.
          NightFlight
          • 1 Year Ago
          @NightFlight
          @ Aaronm_mt Yeah, when you only sell such a small amount of inventory, most increases will appear as large gains. You didn't finish school, did you? So you went from selling 5 to 10. Congratulations, your car is still a flop. Stop white knighting for Honda.
          • 1 Year Ago
          @NightFlight
          [blocked]
          • 1 Year Ago
          @NightFlight
          [blocked]
      Rick
      • 1 Year Ago
      If Acura had any brains they would have renamed the new RLX to the "Legend" which started it all. Then people would know that this car is the flagship! When you have names like "RLX, TL, TSX, ILX, ZDX, MDX, RDX" people get easily confused and just end up passing on the brand cause they are frustrated over what model belongs to what prefix. WAKE UP ACURA !!!!
      bofdem
      • 1 Year Ago
      As the owner of a 2014 MDX (and formerly six Acuras including a 2005 RL), this thing is terrible. I'm on my third 535i (my daily driver), and never once considered the RLX. The infotainment system is absolutely infuriating. The touch screen is complete and utter crap, and (in the MDX), the rear-seat entertainment (controlled in the front) has about 25 scenarios in which it randomly shuts off, including adjusting the volume on the steering wheel. The infotainment debacle coupled with "plus-size Accord" and V6-front wheel drive means that this car will be as big a failure - if not more - than the previous generation.
      Droo2u
      • 1 Year Ago
      Who would buy one of these? It's a boring milquetoast design with Chrysler 200/Subaru legacy taillamps, & a front 3/4 angle that looks like any Honda. The technology they bring to the table needs a more distinctive design. plus, bring back the names! Legend had some substance to it!
      ferps
      • 1 Year Ago
      FWD for $60k. Hahahaha!!!!
      aacfx09
      • 1 Year Ago
      I personally think the RL was better looking, even after they put the power plenum grille on it.
      dude
      • 1 Year Ago
      for those who dont want to look like they are trying too hard..... looks great clean and simple, no giant catfish grills like audi and lexus or one million scoops and vents like BMW and Merc...
        NightFlight
        • 1 Year Ago
        @dude
        People who are buying a luxury car don't want it to look like an oversized Honda Accord. The sales of this vehicle prove that.
          • 1 Year Ago
          @NightFlight
          [blocked]
          dude
          • 1 Year Ago
          @NightFlight
          there is a market for those with money who dont feel the need to flaunt it.... some people dont go through mid life crisis
          • 1 Year Ago
          @NightFlight
          [blocked]
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