What It Is
A large, luxury sedan that will give the Cadillac XTS fits.
The Advance Package. It's one button away from letting the RLX drive itself.
The navigation screen and analog clock look outdated and out of place.
The 2014 Acura RLX helps create some space from its mainstream sibling, Honda, which is something that both brands are in desperate need of.
The first thing you need to know about the 2014 Acura RLX and its predecessor, the Acura RL, is that the only thing the two cars share are the "R" and "L" in their names. Acura is hoping there will be another important distinction, too: You'll actually see the RLX out on the road.
The Acura RL never really caught on with the masses in North America as the brand's flagship. Too small, too expensive, and too close to its Honda relatives, the RL was a solid car that failed to capture the imagination. So Acura has redesigned and relaunched what it's calling an "all-new" vehicle in the form of the RLX. It's bigger, more luxurious, much quieter, and packed with technology. It's also front-wheel drive, and still has a little too much Honda in it for some people's tastes. Is it enough to make it a true flagship vehicle for Honda's luxury arm? We spent a week with the 2014 Acura RLX to find out. Here's what we uncovered.
What We DroveAt $60,450, the 2014 Acura RLX is for those who have a refined and exclusive taste (and a big pocket book). If you select the Tech Package and Advance Package, like our tester had, the price rises to $61,345. This final price includes an $895 destination and handling fee. Unlike other manufacturers, Acura rolls packages into a complete vehicle model and just slaps a final asking price on it, instead of having the choice of adding on select options. In this case, our 2014 Acura RLX tester came strapped with the Advance Package, which also includes the Technology Package, Krell Audio Package, and navigation. In other words, it was the top level RLX model offered.
Standard safety features on the 2014 Acura RLX include dual stage driver and front passenger airbags, stability control, ABS, and electronic braking distribution. Other notable standard safety features include Agile Handling Assist, Dynamic Braking, lane departure warning, and LATCH points in the rear seat. Neither the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tested the 2014 Acura RLX.
The CommuteThis is the biggest car that Acura has ever made, and it feels like it inside. The interior is supremely huge, with plenty of room for four carpoolers, or even just one very lucky driver. There's plenty of room to spread out, and the engine, transmission, and brakes make getting up to speed in traffic--and back down to a crawl again--a snap. The ride quality at speed is also excellent, maybe just a hair below the 2013 Cadillac XTS. Even still, that's like choosing between Batman and Superman; both are going to get the job done just fine.
Of course, having good music along for the ride is essential, and the 2014 Acura RLX welcomes that. It only took one attempt to hook our smartphones up through the RLX's Bluetooth feature and immediately, music began thumping through the Krell audio system and its 14 speakers positioned strategically throughout the cabin to provide premium sound. A subwoofer stretches the length of the back window and provides enough bass to make the mirrors shake, your teeth chatter, and your chest rumble. That is, if you're into that kind of thing, of course. You can adjust it to a less herculean level of bass though, in which the Krell audio system provides a strong sound no matter what you're listening to.
Overall, we had little to pick on inside the 2014 Acura RLX, but then we laid eyes on the center console. Acura and Honda have been suffering from a dated looking navigation system for a while now and, for a final asking price of $61,345, you'd think the RLX would be free of this problem. Not the case. Like other Honda and Acura models that cost half as much, the RLX relies on the same outdated looking map, but it still passes the eye test because it got us where we needed to go without issue. One other nitpick we had was the analog clock that sits to the left of the navigation screen. It's reminiscent of Honda and Acura models from 10 years ago and it definitely doesn't deserve a spot in a luxury flagship vehicle.
The Grocery RunWith 14.9 cubic feet of cargo space, you're going to have to pick and choose what goes in the trunk of the RLX after going on a grocery run. The cabin, on the other hand, offers up a ton of space if you run out of real estate in the trunk. The RLX's wheelbase is stretched out two more inches over the RL, but if you're familiar with how to park the predecessor, you'll have no trouble navigating the RLX into a parking spot. If you've never been behind the wheel of an RL though, never fear, as the RLX is still easy to park due in part to the all-new Precision All-Wheel Steer system. This new system adjusts the angle of the rear wheels through steering and braking inputs. This helps to shrink the RLX's turning radius as well as make it lighter and more agile on its feet.
The Weekend FunBig cars usually have a reputation for being comfortable on a long trip and the 2014 Acura RLX is no exception. As mentioned above, we let the RLX stretch its legs on a two hour journey down to San Diego, covering over 100 miles each way in doing so. In keeping with Acura's reputation of possessing scalpel-like handling, the RLX boasts a sporty ride, while still being able to sail over any road surface comfortably. A new electric power steering system allows you to be light on the wheel and it's especially evident when making you're working your way through some curves. The brakes provide enough bite without throwing the nose down and the pedal applies pressure evenly.
Southern California's Interstate 5 is comprised of straightaways and sweeping curves. If you're lucky enough to commute on a road like this, the 2014 Acura RLX's Advanced Package is the closest thing you can get to an autopilot in a vehicle today. Collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control (with the capability to follow the vehicle in front of you even at low speeds), and lane keeping assist all work together to keep the RLX moving at highway speeds without careening out of control. The best part of this system is that you only need to dial up two buttons and set the cruise control. After that, keep your hands on the wheel and feet planted on the floor, the RLX will take care of everything else. We were particularly impressed with the Advanced Package when the lane keeping assist kept the RLX in line with minimal steering input (you still have to hold onto the steering wheel though or a warning sign will pop up on the dash), even when going around a broad curve.
SummaryThe large, luxury sedan segment is currently a three dog race with the BMW 7 Series, Cadillac XTS, and Acura RLX all keeping each other at arm's length. No matter where you fall, all three of the aforementioned vehicles do its job well while providing ample comfort and technology. The 2014 Acura RLX separates itself from the pack with its razor-sharp handling and the Advance Package, which is a button short of letting the vehicle drive on its own. The 3.5-liter V-6 engine, which offers up 310 horsepower, is the RLX's only offering but it rolls the power on evenly and without any lag. The Cadillac XTS has a slight advantage in ride comfort over the RLX and the 7 Series does the best bank vault impression when it comes to build quality and ride noise. Even still, the 2014 Acura RLX provides just the right mix of comfort, technology, and handling, making it a solid contender in a competitive field. After spending a week with Acura's revamped flagship, we've determined that the 2014 RLX is deserving of the pièce de résistance title, but for real this time around. If you're in the market for a large, luxury sedan, we can easily recommend the 2014 RLX without any hesitation.
Spec BoxPrice-as-tested: $61,345
EPA City: 20 mpg city
EPA Highway: 31 mpg highway
EPA Combined: 24 mpg combined
Cargo Space: 17 "grocery bags" Child Seat Fitment, Second Row: Excellent
Child Seat Fitment, Third Row (if applicable): Not Applicable
Estimated Combined Range: 444 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Not Rated
Notebook Quotes"The [Precision All-Wheel Steer system] is definitely noticeable on this car as a gentle pushing from the rear end. It's not as if it wants to get away from you, rather, it's sort of corrects your line. As the front end pushes out, the P-AWS feels like it's trying to get the rear to slide a bit more, to counteract that feeling." -Keith Buglewicz, News Director
"The Honda Link works flawlessly, but the interface is the exact same one you'll find in the sub-$30k Accord. The haptic feature seemed to work better than Cadillac XTS, too. But the screens are the same ones you'll find in a $30,000 Accord. So are most of the controls." -Jacob Brown, Online Editor
"The Krell audio system blew me away. It is the most articulate and well-balanced car audio I have ever heard. Better yet, it displays no coloration at any frequency." -Jason Davis, Associate Editor, Photographer