The Acura brand is at a crossroads. After inventing the entire idea of a Japanese luxury brand, Acura was quickly surpassed--and outclassed--by its rivals Lexus and Infiniti. Since the mid-90s, Acura has struggled to gain an identity that's distinct from its parent company Honda, but also an equal to the heavy hitters from Japan and Europe. Unfortunately, its flagship car, the Acura RL, was outsold and outgunned even by its own stablemate, the larger (and less expensive) Acura TL.
But Acura is done pecking around the edges, and the 2014 Acura RLX Sedan may just be the car that breaks the Japanese automaker out of the "premium" category, and into the more prestigious "luxury" realm. The 2014 Acura RLX is bigger. It looks luxurious. It offers more interior space, technology that's new for the brand, and even new for the whole luxury market. Finally, its innovative drivetrain may finally put to bed the chattering class, which says Acura can't compete against V-8 competitors with its V-6 engines.
Who It's For
Acura makes no bones about who it wants to buy the 2014 Acura RLX: BMW 5-Series, Audi A6, and Lexus GS350 buyers. Considering Acura's past efforts in this market, it's going to be a tough sell, but it's not like Acura's bringing a knife to a gunfight. The 2014 Acura RLX is packed with technology, much of which isn't even available on the three vehicles noted. It offers up more interior space than any of them, and with the new styling--especially those LED headlights--it certainly looks the part.
Acura is throwing everything it knows at the 2014 Acura RLX. Among the many features is a 3.5-liter engine with 310 horsepower, or an advanced hybrid system that drives the rear wheels electrically and bumps total power to 370 hp. It's also bigger inside than its predecessor, offering class-leading interior space, and those Jewel Eye LED headlights just look cool. But the 2014 Acura RLX will also feature:
- Agile Handling Assist, which uses the brakes to help the driver steer confidently through a corner.
- Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow, which takes active cruise to the next step by continuing the control even in stop and go traffic.
- Lightweight materials, which helps not only with fuel economy, but with agility as well.
- Excellent fuel economy. The standard RXL promises 20 mpg in the city, 31 on the highway and 24 mpg combined; the RLX with Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive will over 30 mpg in all three categories.
- More acronyms to dazzle your friends: There's the Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH SH-AWD); Precision All-Wheel Steer (P-AWS); Adaptive Cruise Control with Low Speed Follow (ACC LSF); and Variable Cylinder Management (VCM), just to name a few.
- A Krell "ultra-premium" audio system, which Acura says "sets a new benchmark for high-fidelity sound in a luxury vehicle."
What We Think
On paper, the 2014 Acura RLX Sedan has the goods. There's advanced technology, including a whole new application of Acura's hybrid system. The new RLX certainly looks the part, and Acura promises newfound levels of refinement inside.
After seeing the 2014 RLX in person, it's clear that Acura has delivered, at least in part. The interior is a vast improvement, not just over this vehicle's predecessor, but over any Acura, ever. The styling is dead-on: Luxurious, comfortable, and classy, but without the button overload or scattered low-end feeling materials. The creme color of the car on the stand will get dirty in no time, but before then, wow, what a looker. Virtually everything you touch was given consideration; even the inside of the door pulls are lined in rubber for a high-end feel. Acura has also managed to decrease the nearly comical array of buttons that used to festoon the interior; while the layout is still familiar, it's far cleaner.
But the question we have, and which will undoubtedly be on the minds of shoppers is this: Will luxury shoppers be bothered that the RLX is still, fundamentally, a front-wheel drive car? For all the new technology being introduced on the vehicle, even the RLX Hybrid with its Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system is still, technically, a front-wheel drive car at least as far as the gasoline engine is concerned. That front-wheel drive nature has been a stumbling block for Acura in the past. Time will tell if the 2014 Acura RLX Sedan can overcome it once and for all.
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