Acura has been in the mid-luxury sedan business since the mid-90?s but buyer?s haven?t taken the car seriously and for good reasons. Traditionally, these upper level sedans are roomy, rear-wheel drive, with V-8 engines, cutting edge styling and all the latest technologies. Acura has tried to compete with a moderately powered V-6 engine, uninspired styling and just a sampling of the latest technologies.
The 2014 Acura RLX ? all new from the name up (formerly called the RL) — is advancing on the competition, but holding tight to some of the features that have probably handicapped sales in the past. However, maybe that?s the place to be. After all, we?re starting to see many of the other manufacturers stepping down to V-6 and four-cylinder engines and even front-wheel drive on occasion. Perhaps down the road, Acura will become a leader in the segment.
A lightweight new body and aerodynamic tweaking releases more interior space and now Acura claims the longest rear-seat legroom (38.8 inches), and best front legroom (59.6 inches) and rear shoulder room (57.0 inches) in the mid-luxury class. The body weight is trimmed down by adding more aluminum and high-strength steel to the mix.
The engine is an all-new 310-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 with Direct Injection for the first time as part of their new ?Earth Dreams Technology.? This seems to be another one of those Zen-like changes that makes the engine more powerful and economical. We don?t pretend to understand the changes, but you can certainly feel a difference ? with numbers like a 5.8 second 0 to 60 mph time and fuel economy numbers like 20 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. We actually averaged 26.5 mpg during our week of mixed driving. The engine also has a Variable Cylinder Management cylinder system that cut it back to four or three cylinders during lighter load conditions.
The transmission is a six-speed automatic with sequential SportShift and shift paddles. The transmission is smooth, with quick shifts automatically or using the much appreciated paddles for more driver control.
The previous generation RL had all-wheel drive and AWD is scheduled to be a feature on the Sport Hybrid model due out later in the model year. It?s going to be a blend of hybrid power and the advanced Acura Super-Handling AWD. Acura was the pioneer in building AWD that would allow the power to move from wheel to wheel in the rear, not just back and forth from front to rear axle.
What the new RLX does have however, is a new Precision All-Wheel Steer? system, which continuously monitors and calculates the correct amount of independent rear-wheel steering necessary to help the RLX maximize handling stability.
Acura has moved forward in the technology department with some interesting firsts like the Jewel-Eye? LED headlights. They do a great job of lighting up the road, and have a very cool look even when they are off. Acura has also advanced the top-level Audio system to a new Krell system with 14 speakers. It sounds good to us, but we have to confess, were far from audiophiles.
On the safety and convenience front, we especially like the Adaptive Cruise Control system with Low-Speed Follow, which even works in stop and go traffic. Other important new features include the Blind Spot Information, Lane Keeping Assist System, Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning. We love them all!
The 2014 Acura RLX is a significant step forward from the previous generation in all respects and it looks more upscale both inside and out. It handles beautifully and you?d never really know it?s front-wheel drive unless it?s pushed to the limit.
The 2014 Acura RLX has a base price of $49,345, including the destination charge. The technology package with navigation, ELS Studio Audio, rain sensing wipers and several other features adds $3,500 and the Krell audio along with a power rear sunshade and manual door shade adds another $2,500. The Advance Package is $61,345, adding the ?works? including all those important safety features along with heated and cooled seats, heated rear seats, the Adaptive Cruise, Parking Assists, etc. If you can afford it, this is the model to get, because it pampers and protects you and your family the best.
Will the 2014 Acura RLX be enough to appeal to luxury shoppers? Even though it?s a significant improvement over the previous generation and an impressive car, we don?t expect to see a major move to the Acura flagship. The big-name European Brands are playing hardball and making major improvements, too. Perhaps the hybrid version slated for later in the year will offer some new innovations to attract more attention to the RLX.