2014 Acura RLX Road Test & Review: Introduction
The German luxury car brand Audi may have coined the phrase “Never Follow” for its advertising efforts, but truth be told, it fits Acura too. First of all, Acura (or more precisely Acura’s parent company Honda) led the wave of Japanese flagship luxury cars in the United States. Acura was the first Japanese luxury car to be offered here.
Further, where large flagship models tend to be either rear- or all-wheel drive and powered by V8 engines, the Acura flagship has always been either front- or all-wheel drive and powered by a V6 engine. Many will say this is because Honda has no V8 engine for a road car. While this may well be the case, a company as renowned for engineering as Honda could certainly come up with one if its management decides to do so. They just don’t believe they don’t need one. And frankly, as time progresses, they are being proven right more and more often.
Acura (nee Honda) has always pursued a more efficient approach, endowing its large luxury model with light weight, and by extension, superior fuel economy. Yes, sales may have suffered a bit in the past against those torque-rich V8 engines, however it should be noted; today every one of Acura’s competitors also offers its commensurate models with a six-cylinder option.
If we’re saying “Never Follow”, in those regards, Acura has been a leader.
That said, the outgoing Acura RL model had been allowed to wither on the vine well past its “best consumed before” date. Further, it ran way too long with way too few changes. This situation all but eradicated the leadership position Acura had established with the introduction of the original Acura Legend back in 1986.
But now, we have an all-new Acura flagship to evaluate.
The question is, has Acura gone far enough with the 2014 Acura RLX?
2014 Acura RLX Road Test & Review: Models & Prices
For 2014, there are two versions of the Acura RLX on offer—the base model and the hybrid. This article will focus on the base model. For the base model, five trim levels are offered; RLX with Navigation, RLX with Technology Package, RLX with Krell Audio Package, and RLX with Advance Package.
Standard equipment on the $48,450 RLX base model includes:
- Acura’s “Jewel Eye”LED headlights
- Front 12-way power adjustable seats
- On Demand multi-use displayinfotainment monitor
- Acura’s ELS 404-watt, 10-speaker surround audio system
- USB audio interface with iPod integration
- Aha and Pandoracompatibility
- Bluetooth telephone interface and audio streaming
- Multi-view rear camera
- Keyless Start system
- Forward Collision Warning
- Lane Departure Warning
The $50,950 RLX Navigation Package adds:
- Acura Navigation system
- Voice recognition system
- AcuraLink real-time trafficinformation streaming
- Note function music-reminder for SiriusXM satellite radio
- Bluetooth HandsFreeLinkphone-book exchange
- Color multi-information display monitor
- Next-generation AcuraLink
- Automated appointments
The $54,950 RLX Technology Package adds:
- ELS Studio588-watt, 14-speaker surround audio system
- Milano premium leather-trimmed interior
- Woodgrain-look trim on console and doors
- Rain-sensing windshield wipers
- Power-folding side mirrors
- Acoustic front and rear side glass
- Blind spot information system
- 19-inch aluminum-alloy, noise-reducing wheels
The $56,950 RLX Krell Audio Package adds:
- Krell 450-watt, 14 speaker Audio System
- Power rear sunshade
- Manual rear door sunshades
The $60,450 RLX Advance Package adds:
- Collision Mitigation braking systemwith heads-up warning
- Lane Keeping Assist system
- Adaptive Cruise Control (with Low Speed Follow)
- Six-way heated and ventilated front seats
- Heated rear seats
- Rear footwell lighting
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Auto-dimming side mirrors
2014 Acura RLX Road Test & Review: Design
In a world where luxury cars are pretty much defined by their presence, power, technology and appointments, the new RLX makes it on three of the four at least. Truth be told though, there is a certain segment of the populace that prefers to blend into the background rather than standout—even while they enjoy all of the latest technology in a quiet, comfortable and spacious sedan.
In other words, there is a lot to love about the RLX, but design-wise it really isn’t a standout. Which—if we’re to be completely honest—can be said for all current Acura models. When you see them, you know they’re nice cars and you know they’re expensive too. You just can’t really characterize them as beautiful.
“Anonymous” is more the word that comes to mind in that regard. Looking like a cross between an Acura TL and an Infiniti G37—in a slightly larger package, the styling of the 2014 Acura RLX just doesn’t say special.
But don’t let that sway you—after all, looks are only skin deep. Besides, you ride inside the car—not outside. Just make it a point to remember where you parked it.
2014 Acura RLX Road Test & Review: Comfort & Cargo
Getting back to Honda’s engineering prowess, the design team responsible for the RLX has done a car that looks mid-size on the outside, but feels full-size on the inside. The interior of the RLX is positively cavernous—and in a very good way.
There’s plenty of leg- and shoulder room. Headroom up front is more than adequate for practically everyone, while rear seat passengers pushing past the six-foot mark might find the rear headroom just a tad on the thrifty side. Outward visibility is excellent, and the seats are quite comfortable for the most part. Longer drives may produce a bit of fidgeting from your passengers—as the seats could be more supportive, but it’s a minor annoyance at best.
Naturally, the full complement of cupholders, map pockets, seatback pockets, and storage bins are well represented. Further, trunk space is well on par with the RLX’s competitive set in the mid-size sedan category. The rear seats are fixed into place, however the product planning team did prescribe a center pass-through to accommodate longer, narrow items—such as skis or etc.
2014 Acura RLX Road Test & Review: Features & Controls
As you’d expect from a Honda product—particularly the top-of-the-line Honda model—the 2014 Acura RLX is flat bristling with hi-tech toys. The revised version of AcuraLink delivers a wealth of information, media, convenience, and security services via an embedded two-way communications system as well as web-enabled devices. In addition to the expected freeway traffic information, the new AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic system also provides information on surface street traffic.
Interfaces are logical to the point of being second nature. In fact, the 2014 Acura RLX has one of the easiest to use Bluetooth pairing procedures we’ve ever encountered. Similarly, the navigation system gives you no less than three ways to input a destination. The touchscreen is fast reacting, provides tactile as well as audible feedback, and is laughably easy to read.
And the audio systems—oh, the audio systems!
Even the basic one is absolutely glorious, but if you get one of the high-end ones you may never want to leave the car. Both of the ELS systems are amazing in their ability to reproduce recorded audio with clarity and surround decoding that will absolutely change the way you listen to music. The Krell system though—it’s the next best thing to being in the studio with the musicians.
2014 Acura RLX Road Test & Review: Engines/Fuel Economy
With the 3.5-liter V6 it has installed in the 2014 Acura RLX, Honda has introduced direct injection to its flagship model for the first time. Producing 310 horsepower and 272 ft-lbs of torque at a relatively high 4500 rpm, the V6 continues the Honda tradition of big horsepower/small torque. Thus, the RLX engine doesn’t make it the fastest sedan in the land when it comes to streaking away from the line. But it is quiet, smooth and refined.
In addition to direct injection, the engine also benefits from variable valve timing, drive by wire throttle, and variable cylinder management. Its cylinders reside in cast-iron liners sequestered into an aluminum block. The aluminum head uses pent-roof combustion chambers and four valves per cylinder.
The six-speed automatic transmission shifts crisply and cleanly, with no hesitation or hunting between gears. In its manual mode, it continues to exhibit those characteristics, making it a useful tool when you need shift it for yourself.
The EPA says to expect 20 miles per gallon in the city, 31 on the highway and 24 combined. And oh, by the way, when you do go to refuel your RLX for the first time don’t fret, they didn’t forget the gas cap—the 2014 Acura RLX employs a capless fuel filler system.
2014 Acura RLX Road Test & Review: Driving Impressions
According to Acura’s press materials, the 2014 Acura RLX employs technologies designed to make it more responsive to a driver’s inputs.
And we quote; “Agile Handling Assist uses active braking to help the driver smoothly and easily trace the desired line through a curve with smaller steering inputs. Meanwhile, Precision All-Wheel Steer continuously monitors and calculates the correct amount of independent rear-wheel steering (toe angle) necessary to help the RLX meet driving conditions with the utmost ease and stability.”
In other words, the car has four-wheel steering and if you get crossed up in a corner, the RLX will selectively brake a wheel to try to get you back on line. For the most part it all works rather well. Still though, if you’re looking to go chasing 5 Series BMWs with the RLX, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing—chasing them.
The combination of low torque and a suspension system biased a bit more toward ride than handling makes the RLX an absolute dream around town and on the highway. But if a singularly visceral experience is on your list of expectations too, well—you might want to look at something else.
This is not to say the Acura handles poorly, quite the contrary in fact. It’s just that so much of the competition is so much better in this regard, the Acura is relegated to average in this area. Again, though it’s not bad. In fact, around town is it actually quite good.
If you’re after a more engaging driving experience, we’re told the hybrid model is the way to go. Featuring all-wheel drive, and an additional 60 horsepower, it definitely has a shot at being more winning.
2014 Acura RLX Road Test & Review: Safety Equipment
The safety profile of the 2014 Acura RLX is quite strong.
Leading the way are features such as Lane Keep Assist, Active Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and Blind Spot Monitoring.
The RLX also features electronic pretensioners for the front seatbelts. These allow the belts to remain slack during steady state operation, making them more comfortable to wear. In an emergency maneuvering situation—or if sudden braking is applied, the belts tighten themselves into position. According to Acura’s reps, this is the first pretensioning system to consider yaw movement as well as braking forces.
Naturally, all of the other usual safety suspects are in place for a car of this caliber; rearview camera, antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a driver’s side knee airbag. The aforementioned AcuraLink system also provides security services including summoning assistance in emergency situations.
2014 Acura RLX Road Test & Review: Final Thoughts
So, overall, what do we think of the Acura RL’s replacement? It’s definitely a step in the right direction. Thing is, it should have been here like four years ago. Were the RLX headed into mid-cycle refresh right now, we’d prescribe more dynamic styling cues, better handling, and more power.
But it’s an all-new model.
Considered in that regard, the RLX has a pretty tough row to hoe. While it does indeed offer much tech, it’s tech all of the RLX competitors already have—residing in much more dynamic packages.
Again, we are NOT saying this is a bad car.
We’re just saying it isn’t really a swinging for the fences home run. And frankly, that’s what Acura really needed to do with this car to sway buyers away from brands A., B., L,. I., and M.B.
2014 Acura RLX Road Test & Review: Pros & Cons
• Solidly crafted
• A wealth of tech
• Easy to use interfaces
• Quiet and smooth engine
• Spacious interior
• Good fuel economy
• Anonymous styling (and yes, we realize this is subjective)
• Engine needs more torque, lower in the rev range
• Driving experience could be more dynamic