Now that the 2014 Acura RLX has debuted at the L.A. Auto Show, the RL has been officially relieved of its duties. With a paltry 361 units sold through November, the former flagship goes down quietly, but not before passing the torch onto its replacement. Before we get behind the wheel of the new RLX, though, we took one last whirl in the RL. If Acura really wants a more successful midsize premium luxury sedan, it’ll have to learn from the mistakes of the forgotten RL. So what exactly does the outgoing Acura RL do right and wrong?
Making a stronger first impact would be a good first step for the front- and all-wheel-drive 2014 Acura RLX variants. After my inamorato rode inside the 2012 RL, he commented that he wasn’t sure what I could write about: “It’s so boring.” Even after driving it all over L.A. for a week, the luxury sedan didn’t leave much of an impression. It looks like a 2005 model year car instead of one from 2011 or 2012 inside and out. The light brown upholstery was drab, and when combined with wood trim on the dashboard and steering wheel, made me feel like I was driving a hand-me-down from my grandma. Neither she nor I would likely be able to easily make out all the letters on the navigation screen. With the high-resolution display available on an eight-inch screen in the 2014 RLX, this problem might be behind Acura.
From the outside, it’s clear Acura tried to spice up the RL’s styling in the 2011-model-year refresh, but the effort may have come too late. Motor Trend online news director Zach Gale described the car’s face as “a mess of a front end.” Around back, I liked the chrome bar on the trunk lid along with its sharp turbine-like wheels, but they couldn’t distract me from the awkward front clip and drab interior. After viewing a 2014 Acura RLX in-person at the L.A. auto show, it’s clear the new midsize entry has a more substantial presence, but aside from the chrome-topped grille, has a noticeably subdued design.
On a positive note, the RL’s cabin was hush-hush, and the ride was silky smooth. Rear passengers also praised the RL for its roominess (37.2 inches of headroom, 36.3 inches of legroom, and 54.0 inches of hiproom). Then again, the cheaper TL has nearly as much headroom and legroom, and slightly more hiproom. The 2014 RLX comes prepared when it comes to rear-seat space, as the car rides on an stretched wheelbase and has a sizeable 38.8 inches of legroom.
The outgoing RL’s bread and butter though, was that it was the first to feature Acura’s esteemed SH-AWD handling system, which uses torque vectoring to help improve handling and cornering grip. On a canyon run, the SH-AWD did its job by keeping all four tires clawed into the asphalt when entering corners at faster speeds. You can even see the system at work on a small (and dated) screen in the instrument cluster. The 300-hp 3.7-liter V-6 engine also surprised me with its peppiness, especially when put into sport mode. But, for nearly $60,000 as tested, the RL we drove reminded us how it became irrelevant next to the TL.
With the TL set to be replaced in the next few years, Acura needs to make sure the RLX isn’t overshadowed by its less-expensive sibling. With much-improved fuel economy, a more modern interior, and a technologically advanced 370-hp all-wheel-drive hybrid model, the 2014 Acura RLX may be capable of escaping the stigma of its predecessor, but we won’t know for certain until we can fully evaluate the front- and all-wheel-drive 2014 Acura RLX, so stay tuned. Learn more about the 2014 Acura RLX in our First Look here.
Read more: 2012 Acura RL Last Drive - What the 2014 RLX Can Learn from its Predecessor - WOT on Motor Trend
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