When it comes to high tech with high luxury, Acura’s new RLX flagship certainly doesn’t come up short. Where the RLX lags is in driving enjoyment. Well that just might change with the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid. It not only takes Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive concept to the next level; it’s more efficient too. We call it: cake eaten!
The 2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid may look for the most part like a regular RLX luxury sedan. But underneath it couldn’t be more different.
The direct injection 310-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 under the hood is the same in principal, but it does get some updates including a tweaking of the camshaft valve timing.
Attached to it is perhaps the best part of all; a new 7-speed DCT transmission with a 35kW electric motor built into it, boosting power output to 377-horsepower and 377 lb-ft. of torque.
But wait there’s more. Two additional 27kW electric motors are mounted in the rear of the vehicle, each providing power to one of the rear wheels. For those keeping score, that’s 4 power sources and 3 of them are electric!
And, it all works together fairly seamlessly, as mechanical and electrical power is constantly being distributed to different wheels in different amounts at all times.
As you might guess this should also benefit handling, as we found out on the great roads just north of San Francisco the moment we turned into the first corner. With Acura’s Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive, power is automatically biased to the outer wheels to help you scoot around the corner with less understeer.
Where the new Sport Hybrid system also shines is that regardless of your throttle inputs, the electric motors will not only add more power to the outside wheel, but will regen brake the inside rear for even more rotation.
As driving enthusiast we are happy to say that Sport Hybrid model is exactly what the RLX needed to catch and keep our interest. It adds a “sport” moniker to an already notable luxury sedan.
Plus, much like a traditional hybrid, the Sport Hybrid can run on EV power alone up to 50 miles-per-hour or with any combination of engine and battery power depending on throttle inputs.
The regenerative braking is also very smooth and pedal feel is amazingly neutral. The accelerator pedal also gets some attention for a more progressive touch. Give it your full attention and you’ll quickly see the improved acceleration of the Sport Hybrid. Factory 0-60 time is 5 seconds flat.
The only real hybrid compromise is a 20% reduction in trunk space due to the 1.3kWh lithium-ion battery pack behind the rear seats. However, it’s still a good 12.0 cubic-ft.
The Sport Hybrid is set apart from the front drive RLX by a dark chrome finish to the grille, and new LED fog lights and turn signals. Acura’s jewel-eye headlights come standard on both.
There are also hybrid badges on the front fenders, as well as unique 19-inch wheels.
Inside, there are some unique materials on the dash including exclusive chestnut finish wood grain trim.
The center console has also been redesigned to accommodate new push-button controls for the transmission. Or, one can use the steering wheel mounted paddles for manual-mode shift.
There’s also a new multi-color Head Up Display with 5 different information screens to choose from.
Like the regular RLX, front seats look inviting. With standard leather trim in the Sport Hybrid, they are also ultra-comfortable and supportive, and can be both heated and cooled.
Rear seats are equally comfortable and there is plenty of leg room for stretching out. Rear sunshades also come with Advance trim.
Center stack controls include Honda’s now familiar twin screen interface. The top screen is for audio and standard navigation info, while inputs are made with a central controller mounted below. The lower touch screen takes inputs for the radio, and just beneath are a row of buttons for climate control.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 28-City, 32-Highway, and 30-Combined. Not quite 4-cylinder territory, but close, and a 25% improvement over the front drive RLX.
The Energy Impact Score is very good too at 11.0-barrels of oil per year and emissions of 4.9-tons of CO2.
Look for the RLX Sport Hybrid in base Tech. trim to start a $60,000. That’s about $10 grand more than regular RLX.
In both size and price the 2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD easily slides in between rival mid- and full- size luxury sport contenders and it should prove attractive to buyers considering either. The three-mode hybrid system is indeed complex in design. Yet, in operation, it is also virtually invisible. Now, that’s the kind of technology we love, and it will make the RLX a lot more appealing to a lot more people.
Long Term Updates
Date: March 2014
This 2014 Acura RLX is without a doubt the most luxurious, and high tech sedan we have ever had in our long term fleet.
Like all Acuras, it came very well equipped, with our RLX Advance including cutting edge safety features like radar mitigated braking and lane keeping assist. Both we are finding very useful.
But, we’re also finding the RLX more fun to drive than expected. Despite not having the electric all-wheel drive system of the RLX Sport Hybrid, our RLX came standard with Precision All-Wheel Steer that adds rear toe angle to greatly reduce front drive understeer.
As to economy? After 2 months and 4,000 miles, we’re managing 25.9 miles per gallon of premium. Not bad for a V6 prestige sedan with a near full-size interior.
We’ve had few problems getting around during our worst then usual ice and snow season. Although the extra traction of the Sport Hybrid SH-AWD would have been welcomed.
Date: April 2014
Since our 2014 Acura RLX is front-wheel drive, we thought we might have some issues with late winter snows. But, we didn’t. With a very effective traction control system, it charged right up snowy hills.
Although if we bought one we’d go for the RLX Hybrid with Super Handling All-Wheel Drive.
Still, our RLX Advance, matches it capabilities with an extremely comfortable, but not over the top, luxurious interior. It’s also heavy on electronics and has kept us well entertained, informed, and protected, over 4 months and 12,500 miles.
We’re also pretty pleased with 25 mile per gallon fuel economy. But, it does require premium gas.
To feed its very energetic 310-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. The 6-speed automatic shifts quickly and easily. The ride is Euro firm as is the handling. In sum, the Acura RLX cuts up a road nicely anyway you slice it.
Date: June 2014
While a utility vehicle is great for family vacations, sometimes you just have to take that long trip in a luxury sedan to really feel like you have arrived. And, we continue to arrive in high style in our 2014 Acura RLX.
The RLX, with its warm, understated interior, high tech infotainment, and nearly impeccable road manners, makes any road trip both enjoyable and stimulating.
Acura’s well founded reputation for quality is rock-solid based on our RLX experiences after nearly six months and 17,000 miles.
We did find that the avid skiers in our group wish the rear seat folded, rather than just have a pass through, so more skies can be carried inside.
And, Honda needs to update their NAV system to match the best out there in ease of use.
But, that’s about it. The 3.5-liter V6 is a jewel, and rewards us with 24.8 miles per gallon of Premium.
So, when we can leave the SUV at home, the Acura RLX is clearly a pleasurable way to go!
Date: August 2014
A lot of buyers fanaticize about buying a luxury car, but few premium models exceed expectations in the manner of our 2014 Acura RLX Advance.
That’s because the RLX provides large-car style and luxury, wrapped in technology, wrapped in sporty performance, at a price that puts German rivals to shame.
While Acura refuses to consider a small V8, the RLX’s 3.5-liter V6 leaves us with no complaints. It’s smooth, as well as reasonably thrifty. After nearly 23,000 miles, fuel economy stands at 25.0 miles per gallon of Premium.
Add in not a thing gone wrong, and the Acura RLX makes fans wherever it goes.
Date: October 2014
The miles are quickly mounting up on our long-term Acura RLX Advance, with the odometer now showing 25,000 miles.
Clearly a long-haul favorite, this summer the RLX has taken us all over the east coast and even well into the mid-west.
Most of our staff have grown to like the dual-screen Multi-Use Display with lower touchscreen, though it will take your eyes off the road a bit too much until you get used to it.
As a tweener, the RLX’s not quite full, not quite mid-size size has been Goldilocks. Particularly as the driving experience clearly skews more to the mid-weight end of things.
Fuel economy has risen slightly since our last report to 25.2 miles-per-gallon of Premium for the 3.5-liter V6 and 8-speed automatic package.
After 9-months of trouble-free driving, we did have a slight hiccup this past summer, as some front-end pulsing under braking necessitated having the front rotors turned. It was not under warranty.
The RLX certainly looks high-tech both inside and out, including the standard jewel-eye headlights. Even with low beams, there’s enough brightness to light up a football field. Unfortunately, that has caused some oncoming motorists to flash their lights at us for blinding them.
Date: December 2014
As we approach a year with our long-term Acura RLX, we have a hard time figuring out why the RLX has not been a bigger sales success for Honda.
Sure, Mercedes-Benz and BMW have anchored the luxury sedan segment for years; but the RLX has a lot to offer the discerning buyer that’s looking for something different.
The clean and high tech design, both inside and out, should certainly be appealing to luxury buyers.
Comfort and roominess are strong points as well, as even back seat passengers have plenty of room to stretch out and get comfortable.
We’re approaching 30,000 miles, and while the RLX has been an effortless highway cruiser, it has enough of a sporty edge to keep you entertained when the roads get curvy.
Perhaps spending more time on those windy roads, has caused our mileage numbers to slip a little as of late, but at 24.9 miles-per-gallon of Premium; we’re still over the government’s Combined rating.
And that’s with great power delivery from the 310-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. No complaints about our front-wheel-drive’s 6-speed transmission, either.
On the negative side, we’ve noticed an increasing amount of noise from the rear suspension. We’ll keep an ear on that…
Date: February 2015
Over the past year, the RLX has rarely sat still as it leaves us with almost 34,000-miles on the odometer.
A bit of a rolling contradiction, the RLX showcases a high tech design featuring Acura’s signature JewelEye LED headlights, every luxury and safety amenity you could want, and even all-wheel steering. Yet it features a normally aspirated, single overhead cam V6 and just a 6-speed automatic transmission in the powertrain department.
No matter, the combo delivered both seamless power and 25.0 miles-per-gallon fuel economy. Sometimes simpler really is better.
We’ll certainly miss the RLX’s smooth highway ride, and wealth of space provided in all seating positions.
Engine: 3.5-liter V6
Torque: 377 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 5.0-seconds
EPA: 28 mpg city/ 32 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 11.0 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 4.9 tons/yr