High-tech goodies drive the all-new Acura RLX
Acura has an all-new flagship – the RLX – and it is a much-needed upgrade from the RL, which dazzled us like a librarian dazzles us with conversation.
Simply, not much of style, excitement ... or pizzazz.
Acura dressed up the librarian a bit with the 2014 RLX and taught her better road manners. Still, it's not likely that its bolder design or improved performance is what you'll notice most. That will come from the great improvements in technology, especially its new steering system and an outstanding Krell audio system. Krell? Yes, Krell. Give me a minute.
Let's start with Acura's P-AWS (Precision-all wheel steering) system. Sexy? Perhaps not. Effective? Oh, yeah. It adjusts the rear wheels for greater precision and agility on the road. The car quickly responds to the wheel, whether you are maneuvering at low speeds or taking a corner faster than you should.
Then there's Brake-Hold, a neat feature if you ever get tired of keeping your foot on the brake, say, when someone is offering long-winded directions. When you're ready to go, just push the accelerator to disengage it and you're off again.
RLX also has an adaptive speed control that not only alerts you but will apply the brakes to avoid a collision. And a blind-spot warning system tells you when you're drifting, but it also guides the car back into your lane. The future is here.
Back to Krell. Many who are familiar with the names Bose and Infinity may scratch their heads. Audio geeks will know well that Krell is a producer that usually deals in high-end home audio systems. The 14-speaker system here has a clean, crisp quality that brings music to another level. It is outstanding.
The RLX, which went on sale in the spring, has an edgier design than the RL it left behind. Special attention goes to its dramatic "jewel eye" LED headlamps – 10 of them – which look sharp and offer improved visibility.
Driving the front wheels is a 3.5-liter V-6 that pumps out 310 horses, an improvement over last year. Acceleration is decent – about average for the segment – running to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, according to road tests. Passing power on the open road is adequate, not mind-blowing.
Power is distributed via a six-speed automatic tranny that is smooth as silk. The electronics monitoring the shifts are precise and, frankly, you'd be a fool to think you can outshift it with the wheel-mounted paddle shifters. But they are there if you're feeling lucky.
The EPA says this RLX will get 31 on the highway, but only 20 around town. If it's super mileage you seek, Acura is unveiling a sport hybrid version that will deliver 370 horsepower from a gas/electric system. That model, mated to a 7-speed automatic, will do about the same on the highway but ups the city mpg to around 30.
Overall, the ride is not athletic. But it is luxurious, a soft and comfortable ride, especially on the smoother open road. And it is elegantly quiet, thanks to noise and vibration reducing measures. Get the optional Tech package with acoustic glass, and it cuts back even further on wind and road noise.
Inside, the first thing you'll notice is the roominess. It's much better than last year with plenty of legroom in the front and rear – 2 extra inches back there. Headroom, however, is tighter back there for the taller folks. Also, not much foot room under the front seats.
Materials are high quality, especially the opulent (and optional) Milano leather. Electronic gadgetry, the center stack and controls are simply displayed and easy to use.
Trunk space is decent, with around 15 cubic feet of space. Back seats don't fold down, but there is a pass-through for a fence post or extension pole or water skis.
The driver and front passenger get dual-stage air bags, front-seat side bags and full-length side-curtain air bags with rollover sensor. All trims get a rearview camera, but you must move up to what Acura calls the Advance package to get front and rear parking sensors and lane-keeping assist.
RLX comes in five trim levels – there are no options to be had separately. It's all in packages.
The base is well equipped with tilt-telescoping wheel, 8-way power seats with lumbar adjustments, 10-speaker sound system with CD, satellite radio and USB-iPod interface.
There's a Navigation package that also has access to a set of smartphone applications. The Technology package offers 19-inch wheels plus blind-spot monitoring, and interior amenities like leather upholstery and wood trim and 14-speaker sound system. Another upgrade forward gets you that Krell system.
The Advance package features the lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise, collision mitigation system that brakes automatically, and the front and rear parking sensors.
For sheer luxury and performance, it's tough to compete with the likes of the Audi A8, Mercedes S-Class or Lexus LS. But expect this midsize luxury sedan to get plenty of attention with its comfortable, quiet ride and a barrel full of high-tech goodies.
2014 ACURA RLX:
–Base price, excluding destination charge: $48,450
–Price as tested: $56,950
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