Disclaimer: Travel to California, accommodations, meals, drinks and a test vehicle were provided by the automaker to this writer – and, as a matter of fact, to this writer’s significant other. All writers were allowed to bring a +1 on the journey, although I doubt you’ll see many writers admitting it.
California is probably the most beautiful place on earth. I don’t know why or how but the colours are just better there. Everything has the yellow-orange tint – yes, even when I took my sunglasses off. It’s a curious phenomenon.
And so is this all-new RLX flagship sedan. Replacing the aging RL, the new model doesn’t quite fit neatly into the market, doesn’t quite match up exactly against the usual competitors. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad. I just can’t really tell what it is yet.
Man, are these Japanese engineers ever proud of their all-wheel steering system. Didn’t seem like such a big deal to me. Other automakers have similar systems, after all.
So once everyone was done talking, I got behind the wheel and did something quite stupid – something you wouldn’t normally do in a powerful front-wheel drive car like this. I turned into a sweeping corner, let the car settle, and then hammered the throttle part way through the bend. Obviously I was expecting terminal understeer, for the car to immediately skid wide and try to throw me off the road. It didn’t. In fact, the car clung onto the road and accelerated through the bend going exactly where the steering wheel pointed.
Okay, I take it all back. All-wheel steer is pretty great on the RLX. It makes this big sedan feel very agile, grippy and keen in the corners. In other words, it makes it feel more like a rear-wheel drive car, which is what all its competitors are.
Still, the RLX isn’t quite a performance sedan. The steering does feel quite numb. If you want rear-wheel drive handling you should still buy one of the great German mid-size luxury sedans. The RLX is for people who want the power of a rear-wheel drive car but with the safe, forgiving handling of a front-wheel drive machine.
The new 3.5-litre V6 with direct fuel injection is more powerful the old 3.7-litre. Now the RLX gets 310 horsepower and 272 lb-ft of naturally aspirated torque. For now, it’s the only engine option, and it puts all power through the front wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox. An AWD hybrid model will follow in the future.
You got that right, there’s no all-wheel drive on the gasoline-only RLX. That seems like a bit of a step backwards.
The new engine does improve fuel economy though. Acura officially rates it now at: 10.5 L/100 km city and 6.4 highway.
The 2014 model is wider, with a longer wheelbase than the outgoing car. As a result, interior space is among best-in-class. In fact, sitting in the back you could be forgiven for wondering if you’re in a mid- or a full-size car.
From the front seat, things are equally airy and comfortable. The ride as well is smooth and luxurious. As you’d expect, the fit, finish and build quality are top rate. On the middle trim level and up, you’ll find leather seats as standard. Heated power front seats are standard on all models.
The new instrument panel with its dual-screens can be rather confusing. It wasn’t immediately obvious how to input a saved destination, for example. And it’ll take some practice to figure out which screen you should be using for which function.
There’s a massive list of standard and available technology features for the RLX: blind-spot warning, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, three-zone climate control, advanced rearview camera, and a lovely Krell 14-speaker stereo.
Acura may have been betting the California sun would make their all-new flagship sedan look that much better. In the metal though it is unfortunately anonymous. Were it not for those new LED “jewel-eye” headlights you may have trouble distinguishing it from competitors.
Where the Acura does stand out though is in value. Official pricing has yet to be announced, but we expect it to be around the same as mid-size rivals, starting in the $60K range and going up from there. It’s not a performance sedan as some might try to persuade you. Despite all this advanced technology, the RLX is still a value proposition: offering more gadgets and interior space than its competitors. Same classic Acura story – now just better.