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2013 Acura RLX Debut

Acura's flagship finally gets a technological makeover befitting, well, a flagship.


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What's New

It may come as a surprise to some luxury car shoppers, but Acura still builds something called the RL. So long in the tooth that it could pass for an elephant, the RL has been fundamentally unchanged since 2005. A buck-toothed grille (going on with the dentistry theme) and some sound deadening couldn’t keep the RL relevant in a market that left it far behind.

The RLX, as it’s slated to be called, will pack what Acura spokespeople call a “reverse NSX drivetrain.” The slinky, knife-edged NSX concept, if you’ll remember, featured a mid-mounted V-6 driving the rear wheels and two electric motors up front. The RLX will feature the reverse: a 3.5-liter V-6 with direct injection sits up front, while an electric motor sends power and torque to the rear wheels, splitting the amount of torque from side to side based on cornering levels. With all-wheel-drive hybrid models featuring this system, the RLX promises to take Acura’s vaunted Super Handling AWD system to a new technological extreme.

Lastly, the styling of the RLX plays it very safe, with touches of Lexus GS and BMW 7-Series in the flanks. This is a generally conservative segment anyway, and the RLX is certainly sized within its 5-Series and E-Class rivals. Whether it’ll be enough to lure buyers away from the Germans remains to be seen.

Who It's For

The last Acura RL started off sleek and strong, but ended up getting outclassed even by its TL sibling. How embarrassing. Not this time around—the RLX should combine all of Acura’s hybrid, four-wheel-drive, and performance technologies to something more befitting the biggest sedan the company makes. Acura is targeting Japanese rivals Lexus and Infiniti with the technological onslaught, but with the keen handling properties of SH-AWD, Audi, BMW and Cadillac could be put on notice. The Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, and Lexus GS will presumably stand to be the RLX’s main competition.

Key Features

The RLX is all new for 2013, and since it's still a concept, Acura's mum on some of the specifics. But here's what we do know:
  • Super Handling All-Wheel Drive with individual torque vectoring
  • Two electric motors in back to control the rear wheels individually
  • A V-6 engine up front, presumably the company's 3.7-liter V-6, currently powering the TL
  • New levels of interior sophistication, comfort, and roominess

What We Think

It’s about time Acura came out with something less embarrassing than the chrome-beaked, puffy-cheeked RL. With its three-engined drivetrain, the RLX will be an unusual choice in the high-end luxury market: will it deliver the handling and efficiency as promised by its flexible drivetrain? We can wait and see, but frankly, we’re pretty excited to see Acura deliver a genuine world-beater.

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