Anyone who’s driven Acura’s RLX Sport Hybrid knows it’s an especially impressive sport-luxury sedan, especially in top-line Elite trim. It’s just suffering from forgetful styling, which is nothing…

Dramatic new 2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid revealed

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
Acura has given its RLX a dramatic mid-cycle makeover for 2018, with its sharply chiseled diamond pentagon grille front and centre. (Photo: Acura)

Anyone who’s driven Acura’s RLX Sport Hybrid knows it’s an especially impressive sport-luxury sedan, especially in top-line Elite trim. It’s just suffering from forgetful styling, which is nothing a mid-cycle makeover can’t fix.

That’s what Acura has planned for the 2018 RLX, following the same Precision Crafted Performance design language theme as the recently rejuvenated 2018 TLX, and the MDX that underwent extensive cosmetic surgery for the 2017 model year.

Acura plans to show the new 2018 RLX in the metal at the upcoming Monterey Automotive Week that runs from August 15 through 19 in Monterey, California, where it hopes to find favour with its ideal target market.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
The new RLX now looks as fast as it actually is. (Photo: Acura)

The most noticeable change to the new RLX is the adaption of Acura’s new signature diamond pentagon grille and more pronounced Acura badge at centre, which transforms its front end while giving a new sense of purpose to the entire car.

“This redesign of the 2018 Acura RLX is transformational, creating road presence and styling that better reflect underlying performance capabilities of the vehicle,” said Gary Gill, Acura Senior Manager, Acura Sales and Marketing.

After decades of searching for a trademark brand identity that’s both unquestionably unique and undeniably attractive, Acura created the new diamond pentagon grille first seen on the dramatic 2016 Acura Precision Concept that debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on January 2016, a car we’d love to see brought to production as soon as possible.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
Rear changes are less obvious, but new LED taillights, a revised bumper and reshaped dual exhaust tips complete the refresh. (Photo: Acura)

Additional exterior enhancements with the new RLX include reworked five-element LED headlamps featuring new LED character strips around their outside edges, a totally revised more aggressively styled lower front fascia, a more sharply sculpted hood, more detail along the extended rocker panels including unique chrome mouldings that visually extend from those on the front and rear fascias, redesigned LED taillights, a new rear bumper with an integrated gloss black diffuser, new dual exhaust finishers, and new alloy wheels.

The 2018 RLX is Acura’s third production model to receive the new diamond pentagon grille design, the fabulous NSX Sport Hybrid ironically using a modernized version of the outgoing grille’s general shape, although it might be challenging to graft the bold new look onto the sleek mid-engine supercar’s narrow front fascia.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
The new LED taillights are quite complex close up. (Photo: Acura)

The NSX marked the second hybrid in Acura’s lineup when it arrived late last year as a 2017 model, the first being the RLX since model year 2015, while the Japanese luxury brand added the new MDX Sport Hybrid earlier this year.

The RLX Sport Hybrid powertrain bridges the gap between the blisteringly quick NSX Sport Hybrid and the more family-oriented MDX Sport Hybrid. The former utilizes a similar tri-motor electrified setup as the more conventional models, albeit completely reversed due to its mid-engine sports car layout. The NSX puts out a sensational 573 net horsepower and 476 lb-ft of torque, which makes it an honest challenger to the Audi R8 e-tron, BMW’s i8, and other hybrid supercars, whereas the MDX Sport Hybrid produces a more modest 321 horsepower and 289 lb-ft of torque due to a smaller 3.0-litre V6. This makes the 3.5-litre V6-powered RLX Sport Hybrid’s 377 horsepower and 341 lb-ft of torque the mediator, an apropos position to be in for an executive sedan.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
Acura has reportedly improved interior materials quality, although the outgoing RLX was already nicely put together. (Photo: Acura)

Of note, the 310 horsepower conventionally powered front-wheel drive model sold in the U.S., featuring a new 10-speed automatic transmission as well as Acura’s Precision All-Wheel Steering (P-AWS) won’t be offered in Canada.

Like the other Sport Hybrid models, the RLX Sport Hybrid uses Acura’s three-motor powertrain with electric torque vectoring, featuring an internal combustion engine (ICE) powering the front wheels in concert with an electric assist motor. The RDX defaults to this most fuel-efficient mode in the dry or under light loads, but if increased throttle input, hard cornering, or driving on slippery surfaces causes the need for rear-wheel propulsion an electrified version of Acura’s torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) provides traction from all four tires via two rear wheel-mounted electric motors.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
There won’t be a fully configurable TFT gauge cluster for this refresh, but the multi-info display is nice and large. (Photo: Acura)

Acura dubs this system Sport Hybrid Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (Sport Hybrid SH-AWD), resulting in a long enough name to make the German’s proud, and while it’s a particularly advanced hybrid powertrain, its sophistication only scrapes the surface of all the technology aboard the RLX.

Like the 2017 RLX Sport Hybrid we reviewed earlier this year, the new 2018 RLX Sport Hybrid will carry forward with the AcuraWatch suite of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) including forward collision warning with autonomous collision mitigation braking, blindspot monitoring and lane departure warning with lane keeping assist and road departure mitigation, and rear cross-traffic alert, which was enough to earn the 2017 RLX an IIHS Top Safety Pick rating, while new for 2018 is Traffic Jam Assist, a first for Acura.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
Acura’s dual-screen infotainment system will soldier on for 2018, complete with standard navigation and more. (Photo: Acura)

Traffic Jam Assist works together with another AcuraWatch feature, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low Speed Follow, helping reduce driver fatigue and stress amid congested traffic by keeping the RLX within its lane at a set interval behind the car ahead. Consider it low-speed autopilot, which is certainly a safer way to implement fully autonomous driving than some premium carmakers.

AcuraWatch combines millimeter wave radar together with monocular camera sensing technology in order to detect lane markings and surrounding vehicles, which not only keeps the car within its lane, but can also intervene in order to prevent a collision or mitigate the severity of impact.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
The old model’s seats were superb and still appear plenty comfortable and supportive. (Photo: Acura)

Additional standard 2018 RLX Sport Hybrid features include LED fog lamps, remote start, colour head-up display, navigation, voice recognition, a heated steering wheel, heatable front and rear seats, and more, while the sensational Krell audio system will continue forward in the new model.

Acura will offer three new exterior colour choices to 2018 RLX customers, including Brilliant Red Metallic (shown) and Majestic Black Pearl that fall under the premium paint category.

Premium in mind, Acura promises some interior enhancements including improved materials on key touch points, such as redesigned seats featuring high-contrast stitching and piping, plus a new Espresso interior option.

2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
The RLX was the first of Acura’s Sport Hybrid models, with three now available. (Photo: Acura)

A more detailed list of features, prices and fuel economy information will be released ahead of the car’s November 2017 on-sale date.

Rarely does a mid-cycle refresh make such a dramatic difference, and no doubt Acura is hoping the new design direction helps raise the RLX Sport Hybrid’s currently slow sales volume, which resulted in just 37 Canadian sales over the first six months of 2017 and a mere 107 during all of last year. This meant that at the close of 2017 the RLX was the sixth slowest selling car in Canada, right behind the seventh slowest selling Infiniti Q70 that’s arguably its closest competitor. At least Acura can take some solace in selling more flagship luxury sedans than Lexus and Kia sold full-size LS and K900 models, the latter Canada’s least popular car of all, whereas Audi, Porsche, Maserati and Jaguar won’t be feeling too smug in ninth, 12th, 13th and 14th slowest for their A8, Panamera, Ghibli and XJ respectively—Lexus’ GS sedan’s 17th placement making it the top-selling direct rival on the bottom 20 list.

Expect the 2018 Acura RLX to climb up through the ranks after November, but don’t count on it catching up to the ultra-popular RDX and MDX crossover SUVs anytime soon.

Say hi to the Acura RLX. It’s actually been around since 2013, but slow sales make it a rare sight on Canadian roads so you may not have seen many. The RLX is Acura’s flagship sedan, but it’s no…

2017 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Elite

17 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Elite
Conservative yes, but the RLX wears its Acura shield well, and was the first to sport the brand’s Jewel-eye LED headlamps. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Say hi to the Acura RLX. It’s actually been around since 2013, but slow sales make it a rare sight on Canadian roads so you may not have seen many.

The RLX is Acura’s flagship sedan, but 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.

2017 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Elite
The RLX’ tall roofline provides excellent interior headroom. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Mercedes sells almost a third more Es than BMW purveys 5s, while it outpaces Audi’s A6 by approximately 3.5 to 1, Jaguar’s XF by about 5.5 to 1, Lexus’ GS by more than 7 to 1, Infiniti’s Q70 by 19 to 1, and so on. The only car in the segment to outsell it is Chrysler’s 300 that ironically is based on a much older E-Class architecture, and to be fair the near premium 300 is priced much lower and therefore isn’t really targeting the same luxury audience.

2017 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Elite
A well-built cabin with Acura’s latest features makes the RLX one comfortable ride. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

So it’s an uphill battle for the RLX and many of its peers, but that didn’t stop Acura from investing thousands of Bordens (my Canadian twist on Benjamins, although I probably should have called them Fukuzawas being that we’re talking yen) into this innovative car.

2017 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Elite
Go ahead and get comfortable with powered, heatable and cooled front seats. (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. Acura claims net output of 377 horsepower and 341 lb-ft of torque via a 3.5-litre V6 and a rear-wheel mounted dual electric motor/lithium-ion battery combination, with the internal combustion engine (ICE) powering the front wheels until rear-wheel traction is needed, which prompts intervention of the electrified AWD. A seven-speed dual-clutch automated transmission provides quick shifting duties enhanced by steering wheel paddles no less, heightening the RLX’ sporty nature, but I best leave it there or you’ll have no reason to return for the full review.

2017 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Elite
Rear seat room is very generous. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

We’ll be covering the top-line Elite model, so everything Acura has to offer is included. Whether you’re seriously interested in purchasing or simply curious, I recommend coming back to take a look as the RLX has long been the mule used for developing much of the sophisticated powertrain technology now harnessed by the fabulous new NSX supercar.

For the time being, enjoy a small assortment of gallery photos that we’ll expand upon when the review arrives…

Big flagship luxury sedans don’t change up as quickly as more volume-oriented premium models, such as BMW’s ultra-popular D-segment 3 Series in comparison to its full-size F-segment 7. And for those…

2017 BMW 750Li Executive

2017 BMW 750Li Executive
Stylish new BMW 7 Series is best experienced in top-line extended wheelbase 750Li guise. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Big flagship luxury sedans don’t change up as quickly as more volume-oriented premium models, such as BMW’s ultra-popular D-segment 3 Series in comparison to its full-size F-segment 7. And for those customers at the top, this reality seems to be okay. The previous fifth-generation F01/F02/F03 body style lasted eight years before it saw the current G11/G12 arriving in 2015 as a 2016 model, so as you probably can ascertain this 2017 7 Series in our garage is not all that different from last year’s version.

2017 BMW 750Li Executive
The 750Li is long although nicely proportioned, while its details are exceptionally well finished. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

It’s difficult to imagine a luxury car being any better than the 750Li Executive parked there. Along with its Li moniker comes a 140-millimeter (5.5-inch) longer wheelbase for extended rear legroom, and BMW has taken full advantage of that extra length (as have we) by adding an available Executive Lounge package that provides one of the best first-class airliner-style reclining passenger seats that’s ever been integrated into a car.

2017 BMW 750Li Executive
LED headlamps and fog lights, plus big multi-spoke alloys set top-tier trims apart. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The simple press of a digitized button integrated into the removable rear iDrive tablet that sits atop the fixed centre console powers the front passenger seat forward while automatically lowering an ottoman and positioning a fairly large TV screen in just the right position for easy viewing, while various massage features do wonders with your tired aching back, seat heating or cooling keeps you at the right temperature, and of course powered memory functions get the seatback into the ideal position and keep it there.

2017 BMW 750Li Executive
The only thing that might lure you away from the beautifully finished driver’s seat… (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Additional rear controls are added for the four-zone auto HVAC system, again adjustable via the tablet or iDrive tablet, while that aforementioned console includes a gorgeous pullout table, device chargers, and more, plus your surroundings include a beautiful dual-pane panoramic moonroof overhead, powered sunshades all-round, thicker glass for better sound insulation, the best quality quilted perforated leathers, satin-finish metals, lacquered woods, vertical parlour-style lights, and the list goes on.

2017 BMW 750Li Executive
… is the even more amazing rear quarters when the Executive package is added. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The 750Li Executive isn’t only about the rear seating area, mind you, although I could go on ad infinitum about its lengthy menu of features, its incredible materials quality, and the superb craftsmanship throughout, but such can also be said for the driver’s experience that starts with the smartest smart key ever created, even capable of autonomous remote control parking and then rolling down an LED light carpet upon approach. It’ll put itself back too, or self-park if you don’t feel up to it, including self-braking if you don’t notice something in the way. What’s more, the new 7 can drive in full autonomous mode for up to 15 seconds (it could do more, but BMW is much more conservative than Tesla).

2017 BMW 750Li Executive
Stretch out and relax like you’ve never been able to do in a car before. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Self-synching soft-closing doors gently pull themselves shut while a fully configurable colour TFT primary gauges greets you once inside, as does a state-of-the-art 10.2-inch widescreen iDrive infotainment system that allows hand gestures in the air for controlling features. You’ll be seated in one of the best driver’s seats in the industry replete with ventilation and massage functions (why should the rear passenger get all the goodies?), while a fragrance dispenser in the glove box wafts nice perfumes (or aromatherapy scents) through the air, and then you’ve got to factor in that it’s a BMW, so the overall driving environment might make you want to take over the wheel more often than relaxing in back anyway.

2017 BMW 750Li Executive
The new 750Li is a truly special kind of executive limo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

As usual with the In Our Garage segment I’ll leave any experiential info until later, but suffice to say its adjustable air suspension does what it’s supposed to and more, even adjusting itself ahead of otherwise pesky pavement imperfections such as bumps, potholes, manhole covers, bridge expansion joints, etcetera. Rear wheel steering is available, all of which is designed to make the most of the 750i’s 450 horsepower twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8, eight-speed automatic, and standard all-wheel drivetrain. It’s even fuel-efficient with a rating of just 14.3 L/100km in the city and 9.3 on the highway.

Believe it or not there’s a lot more to cover, so come back soon for a full review including more detail about the drive, the comfort, the technology, the insanely powerful Bowers & Wilkins audio upgrade, and just how much all of this costs…

Is the new Continental a game changer for Lincoln? Ford’s luxury brand is hardly the first choice for most of today’s high-flying execs, but its new 2017 Continental could change market perceptions…

2017 Lincoln Continental Reserve 3.0L AWD

Is the new Continental a game changer for Lincoln? Ford’s luxury brand is hardly the first choice for most of today’s high-flying execs, but its new 2017 Continental could change market perceptions as well as Lincoln’s fortunes.

2017 Lincoln Continental Reserve
The Continental’s rear styling is even more distinctive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

How do we know? We’ve got a near top-line 400 horsepower 3.0-litre turbo V6 Reserve trimmed model in our garage this week and so far so good… or rather, so far so great!

The Continental offers a brand new face in the luxury segment, which is nothing new for Lincoln that’s been changing up its design language every half decade in a seemingly never-ending quest for a new trademark look since the classic Rolls-Royce-like waterfall radiator went out of style back in the ‘90s, along with the last car to wear the Continental nameplate. Still, Lincoln may just be onto something that sticks with the new Continental.

2017 Lincoln Continental Reserve
Lincoln takes its interior refinement to a whole new level with the Continental. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

We weren’t first to question the new model’s familiarity to Jaguar, a brand Ford Motor used to own along with Land Rover, Aston Martin and Volvo within its now defunct Premiere Auto Group division. Ford has come under fire for unabashedly borrowing key design cues from these brands in past and current models, Land Rover styling purged for the Explorer, Aston Martin for the Fiesta, Focus and Fusion, and the Jaguar E-Type’s muse previously called upon for the big oval grilles in ‘90s Taurus and Contour models. Now that the Continental is parked in our driveway, however, it takes on a look all its own.

2017 Lincoln Continental Reserve
Check out these 30-way powered seats, the closest that car seats get to first-class airline perches. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Our Burgundy Velvet painted 3.0 GTDI AWD Reserve tester gets a Cappuccino luxury leather interior with (get this) 30-way powered multi-contour front seats! They look like they’re right out of a concept car, and are some of the most comfortable perches in the industry. Additional features include full LED headlamps with auto high beams, proximity keyless access, pushbutton start, a heatable steering wheel, a fully configurable TFT colour gauge cluster, Sync3 infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 360-degree surround parking monitor, sensational sounding 19-speaker Revel Ultima audio, heated rear outboard seats, a panoramic glass sunroof, plus a host of autonomous driving technologies like adaptive cruise control, self-parking, pre-collision assist, and more.

2017 Lincoln Continental Reserve
Rear seat legroom is Town Car like, but the seats are much more comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

We’ll leave the driving dynamics details for our upcoming road test review, but suffice to say that standard torque-vectoring AWD and electronically controlled damping makes sure this big sedan handles like Lincoln’s old LS without the ride harshness. Considering the new Continental sits on a stretched and otherwise modified version of the current mid-size MKZ platform architecture, that’s a sound bit of automotive engineering.

Come back soon for a thorough road test review, when we’ll go over the Continental’s trim lines, standard and optional features, as well as the functionality and ease of use of those features, plus a whole lot more…