THE PROS & CONS
What’s Best: Good looks and solid engineering all at a very attractive price for the segment.
What’s Worst: It’s not exactly underpowered, but a twin-scroll turbo would be just the ticket to match its competitors’ punch.
What’s Interesting: Acura Precision All-Wheel Steer that allows the rear wheels to tow in and out independently to aid in cornering, steering and braking.
2015 Acura RLX Elite 2015 at a glance
BODY STYLE: Four-door, full-size premium sedan.
DRIVE METHOD: Front-wheel-drive
ENGINE: 3.5-litre V6 engine with six-speed automatic transmission front (310 hp, 272 lb/ft of torque)
CARGO CAPACITY: Base, 423 litres; Elite (as tested) 417 litres
TOWING CAPACITY: NA
FUEL ECONOMY: 10.5/6.4/8.6L/100km city/highway/combined.
PRICE: $62,190 not including $1,995 shipping fee
The Acura RLX is in some ways the forgotten full-size luxury sedan.
A competitor against the likes of the S-Class, A8 and now the Cadillac CT6, the RLX bowed at the 2012 New York Auto Show to critical acclaim.
In the flesh, it is very handsomely styled. In fact during my week with the RLX Elite as tested here, several people commented on its looks, but also asked me what it was.
They had all heard of the SUVs such as the MDX and RDX. Most knew about the sedans TLX and the entry-level ILX and even the upcoming NSX super car, but not the RLX.
It’s certainly not for lack of engineering. Acura/Honda build and assembly values are among the highest in the world.
In terms of making an impression, the multi-lens LED headlights identify the RLX from literally a block away and the back seat is simply huge.
And when it comes to price, it is more than competitive in its segment.
Let’s look deeper.
While there are four RLX models, there are in fact really two.
Three of them are front-drivers starting with the Base RLX ($49,990), the RLX Tech Package ($55,990) and the RLX Elite Package ($62,190) as tested here. Shipping fee is $1,995.
I should point out this week’s tester is a late 2014, but is mechanically identical to the current 2015 model.
RELATED: 2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Review
The other is the exotic RLX Sport Hybrid ($69,990) and by exotic it offers the same engine and front drive as the other RLX models, but adds a hybrid drive mode with lithium-ion battery pack and two electric motors each driving a rear wheel, with independent all-wheel-drive and a combined 377 hp and 341 lb/ft of torque making it the most powerful Acura built to date.
This hybrid power system is the heart of the Acura NSX supercar; the difference being the engine is mounted mid-ship driving the rear wheels with the two electric motors at the front driving the front wheels.
But that, dear reader, is another story for another time.
All RLX models, including the Sport Hybrid, employ Honda/Acura’s long-serving SOHC 3.5-litre V6 now with direct injection with six-speed SportShift sequential transmission with “Sport” button that changes the transmission shift point for more performance.
In this case it produces 310 hp and 272 lb/ft of torque. NRCan 2015 fuel numbers for the RLX Elite are 10.5/6.4/8.6L/100km city/highway/combined.
What impresses is the vast amount of passenger space in the rear, where they can literally spread their feet out. In fact, total passenger volume is 2,891 litres.
That’s not surprising when you figure the wheelbase on the RLX is 2,850 mm, not that far from the 3,000 mm of the Honda Odyssey three-row minivan with similar engine and drivetrain, the largest vehicle in the Honda/Acura fleet.
Cargo volume on the RLX/Tech is 423 litres and 417 litres on the Elite, due to the intrusion of speakers for the high-end, 14-speaker Krell surround sound audio system shared by the Elite and Sport Hybrid.
The Krell system is interesting in many ways in that there are eight-inch woofers in each front door with tweeters made with magnesium. Another driver set is on top of the dash instead of in it, so it’s like the band/singer is playing directly to you. Lastly there are eight-inch sub-woofers made with carbon-fibre mounted beneath the rear shelf behind the seats under a mesh cover that covers the whole space.
If you want sound – this is where to come.
In terms of content, the Elite starts as a Technology Package model with features such as Acura navigation with voice recognition, colour TFT multi-function display, blind spot warning, wood grain interior trim with Milano leather including heated rear seats and heated steering wheel, to name just a few.
The Elite adds adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and Collision Mitigation Braking System, again, to name a few.
With the exception of the Sport Hybrid, all RLX models come with something Acura calls Precision All-Wheel Steer (P-AWS).
Simply put, it allows the rear wheels to tilt slighting in or out (called toe in or toe out) in addition to be being the first such system to allow the rear wheels to change toe angle independent of each other.
RELATED: 2015 Acura TLX review
In normal driving, the rear wheels point straight ahead in a “neutral” position. But in a lane change, they can pivot as much as 1.8 degrees in the same direction as the front wheels.
In a corner, the rear wheels angle slightly in the opposite direction from the front wheels (reverse-phase) to help rotate the car into the turn. Similarly at low speeds, reverse-phase steering helps the RLX maneuver in tight areas.
Lastly, in case of high-speed braking, each rear wheel angles inward, increasing braking ability and stability.
To find out if it really works, I went to one of my favourite twisty roads in Ontario, the Forks of the Credit Road leading up the Niagara Escarpment to Belfountain.
Loaded with sharp elevation changes and switchbacks, there is one, uphill turn where the road doubles back on itself with a road sign making it look not unlike a paper clip.
With the nose swinging around with a moderate head of steam on, I could feel the back end pirouette in the crux of the corner – marvelous.
And all the time, the RLX actually felt light for its size, which shows the engineers got the suspension geometry and balance right even with the complication of P-AWS.
The Acura RLX has everything going for it except for perhaps the mystique of a three-point star or blue and white roundel badge.
But that, I think, is going to change when the NSX super car arrives later this year.
That is going give Acura a huge boost in stature and, hopefully, that will rub off on the RLX as people find out just how good it is.