|You’d never know how quick and capable the RLX Sport Hybrid was by looking at its handsome albeit conservative styling. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The car grew out of fertile Acura Legend roots, which was a four-door sedan created off the back of the Honda Accord for Acura’s initial offering in 1986. It sold very well, reaching a peak of 70,770 units in the U.S. in 1988 (sorry I don’t have Canadian sales info going that far back, but as a rule it’s generally about 10 percent), and helped the brand earn early respect in the luxury sector.
|The RLX rear design is more stately than sporty. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Acura countered the initial RL failure with a totally reimagined car that focused much more on performance and enhanced interior refinement, but its small cabin and limited trunk space made it less practical than the much more popular TL sedan and therefore sales continued to languish, its best U.S. sales results being 2005
|Stunning standard Jewel-Eye LED headlamps make a bright visual statement. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
When Acura changed the RL name to RLX, most thought it had added all-wheel drive, which would’ve made sense being that its front-wheel drive layout had long been considered a drawback when compared to competitors offering more sporting rear-drive and all-wheel drive designs, but the initial car only wore its “X” by name, continuing forward with FWD.
|LED fog lamps join standard 19-inch alloys. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
To say that it ever had any real momentum was paying it more respect than deserved, as its best U.S. sales year was 2013 when it found just 5,053 buyers, followed
|LED taillights are bright and react quickly to brake input. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
While I’ve been calling it a flagship luxury model, to be clear it’s no larger than Mercedes-Benz’ E-Class sedan, which is the most popular luxury model in the mid-size premium segment. By comparison Merc sells about 28 Es to every single RLX, but Acura isn’t the only brand that gets beaten up by the three-pointed star in this category.
|You won’t be disappointed with the RLX cabin. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
I say innovative because it’s the only car in its class available solely as a hybrid, and a performance-oriented hybrid at that (the front-drive gasoline-only model was
|Optional Krell audio system provides these gorgeous metal speaker grilles. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
|RLX cockpit needs a bit more modern-day tech. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
As the saying goes, looks can be deceiving, and the RLX’ conservative clothing can be a benefit for sliding stealthily past radar. I’m not saying its folded bodywork can somehow confuse a radar/lidar gun like a stealth aircraft mixes up enemy signals, but its upright stance and noticeable lack of bling doesn’t attract unwanted attention from the constabulary like a bright red NSX. Strangely enough this lets you move faster through traffic and down the highway than cars that are technically quicker, and you’ll be a lot more comfortable while doing so too.
That’s the RLX trump card. Sure it’s quick off the line and plenty enjoyable through the curves, but its fully independent suspension, consisting of a lightweight double-wishbone setup with lower double
|There’s a colour multi-info display at centre, but this class now requires fully configurable gauges in top-tier trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
|Dual-screen infotainment is an eye-full. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Along with standard acoustic glass and active noise cancellation, some of its sound deadening can be attributed to premium soft touch synthetic and natural surfaces applied just about everywhere. Beautiful French-stitched leathers cover much of the instrument panel, door inserts and armrests, as well as the seat upholstery,
|Superb surround parking camera will keep the RLX’ paint scratch free. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The cabin pulls eyeballs too. Along with that stunning leatherwork, gorgeous high-gloss hardwood adorns the dash front, centre console and door panels, as does tastefully applied satin-finish aluminum and chromed metal trim. There’s no panoramic sunroof opening up the roof overhead, and the primary gauge cluster ahead of the driver isn’t a fully configurable TFT display like some in this segment,
|Unorthodox gear selector becomes second nature quickly. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
A set of controls, including a large rotating controller, prompt the former and your fingers do the walking over the latter, with all the usual premium features included such as a 360-degree surround overhead camera (that’s actually a split-screen simultaneously showing a backup camera with active guidelines), an accurate navigation system with excellent mapping, plenty of car info (especially hybrid details),
|12-way powered seats are extremely comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
As noted the rear outboard seats get three-way heatable elements controlled by switchgear on the backside of the front console, centered by a button for powering the rear window sunshade up and down. Side window sunshades are included too, but they’re manually operated. Rear seat finishings are as impressive as those up front, and roominess deserves the proverbial “limousine-like” commendation, with so much legroom it’s downright silly. It’s not to extended-wheelbase S-Class Pullman levels, but for a mid-size model the RLX delivers much more length and width than average.
|Sunshades are part of the Elite package upgrade. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
For a hybrid that uses much of its rear bulkhead for storing its battery, the squared out 328-litre (11.6 cubic-foot) trunk is quite accommodating. It can’t be expanded upon, but only those heading for the slopes with old-school (i.e. long) boards should have a problem with that. Its floor, seatbacks and sidewalls are nicely
|Limousine-like legroom is standard, as are wonderfully comfortable rear seats. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Now that we’re talking practicalities, Natural Resources Canada gives the RLX a fuel economy estimate of 8.2 L/100km in the city, 7.8 on the highway, and 8.1 combined, which is superb for its class. It should be noted that BMW now offers a plug-in hybrid 5 Series dubbed 530e, which strangely isn’t given an Le/100km rating, but rather is estimated to provide a comparatively lacklustre 10.5 L/100km city, 7.4 highway and 9.1 combined, while Lexus’ GS 450h is good for a claimed 8.1 city, 6.9 highway and combined, which they say is class-leading efficiency, from a 338 net horsepower power unit capable of catapulting the car to 100km/h in
|A fairly large size for a hybrid sedan. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
One thing is for sure, the RLX’ high level of standard features will impress no matter what. For just $65,490 plus freight and fees it comes with most everything already noted plus heatable power-folding side mirrors with driver recognition, reverse gear tilt-down, and integrated LED turn signals, LED fog lamps and taillights, ambient interior lighting, remote start, passive keyless access with pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, a heatable leather-wrapped
|A surprise hidden compartment below the cargo load floor. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Standard safety features are just as impressive, including all the usual active and passive gear as well as forward collision warning with autonomous collision mitigation
|This is one of the more advanced hybrid systems on the market, awaiting more exciting new sheetmetal. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
On top of this, my tester’s Elite package includes the previously noted surround view camera system, Krell audio upgrade, ventilated front seats, and rear sunshades, while also adding auto-dimming side mirrors, ambient rear passenger footwell lighting, plus front and rear parking sensors for $4,500, resulting in a new total of $69,990.
The RLX obviously needs an update, the next change most likely the adoption of Acura’s new larger, more angular Precision Concept-inspired grille so it can fight it out more aggressively with the aforementioned Lexus, at least before a complete redesign arrives. Most prognosticators are targeting the 2019 model year and a 2018 introduction for that all-new model. I’ve seen some fan renderings and they’re impressive, but who knows if Acura will finally get this car’s design right or somehow manage to miss the mark once again. Here’s hoping, because the current model is a superb car waiting for more visual presence.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)