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The RLX is Acura’s new top-of-the-line flagship model. Its job is to bring the luxury sedancustomer back into the Acura fold.

While there are plenty of Acura fans, many see it more as a premium brand rather than a luxury brand. Their cars have a reputation of being good to drive, but Acura wants luxury customers to give it more consideration.

Luxury cars are based on the idea that it’s a car you buy not because you have to, but because you want to… and, most importantly, because you can.

This new generation RLX replaces the RL and is really a mid-luxury competitor, which means it competes against the Five-Series BMW, Lexus GS, Infiniti M and the E-Class Mercedes.

While the RLX is bigger and has more technology than before, Acura officials say it will still be less expensive than its primary competitors. Compared to the previous generation RL, the RLX has a 2-inch longer wheelbase, is 1.8 inches wider and .4 inches taller.

Although it’s about the same length, it looks larger and inside the cabin, it feels much more spacious. At the front, there’s 2.1-inch less overhang and in the rear, another half an inch overhang is added to make the trunk larger. It now has 15.3 cubic feet of trunk space.



Since it’s a new platform, engineers were able to bring about serious change. For example, 55% of the body, particularly around the cabin space, is high-strength steel. Using aluminum for door panels reduced weight by about 76 lbs.

Engineers were also able to add features like camera and radar systems to give even more information to the car’s various computers, which add safety capabilities such as lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and suspension, steering and brakes controls. With each new generation, the computers speak more often and more clearly to each other, cooperating to make driving as safe and comfortable as possible.

The RLX is smooth, the interior large, and the amenities quite appropriate to its role of top-of-the-Acura line. The design is a nicely modern interpretation of the Acura look. This RLX has more presence than the car it replaces; its front face, for instance, is more dramatic. While the grille is still the Acura grille, the headlights and the chin spoiler give it a more aggressive look.



The LED headlights are both great looking and effective. There are five of them on each side and are all aimed differently to provide better lighting in a broader, longer light field.

It has a larger greenhouse, which opens up the cabin. Inside, the instrument panel is modern, with complex lines and premium materials, designed to create a premium image. The seats are comfortable with12-way adjustable power seats in front.

The rear seats are also comfortable, with enough shoulder room as well as plenty of legroom. For those who frequently carry a couple of adults in the back seats, this should offer an advantage.



The car also has active noise and sound control. A microphone in the cabin listens to the sound level, then uses a speaker to create counter noises to offset the sound — a system much like the sound deadening headphones many travelers use on airplanes.

Mechanically, there are plenty of changes as well. The front suspension is new; in front, it uses a lower double-joint A-arm suspension and the subframes are aluminum. There’s also electric power steering.

The engine is a new 3.5-liter V6 direct gasoline injection engine that produces 310 hp. and 272 lb.-ft. of peak torque. The engine also uses cylinder management so the car can operate on three cylinders when engine demand is low. Fuel efficiency ratings for the car are 20 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway, for a combined rating of 24 mpg

The car comes with a six-speed automatic transmission that includes a Sport mode. When used, the throttle response adjusts shifting points, and steering input work together to make the car drive more aggressively.

Acura officials are most proud of their new all-wheel steering system, which uses not only the four-wheel-drive steering mechanism but the other electronic systems as well. The rear wheels operate independent of each other to help you steer around corners.

Other electronic assists include forward collision and lane departure warning, which uses a camera to take a look at what’s happening to the lanes and notify you when you seem to be wandering.

The cars also comes standard with adaptive cruise control, which can completely stop the car and then start up again when you flip the button on the cruise control or touch the gas pedal. The cruise control system is still active after you stop.

At Sonoma raceway, we took the RLX through several exercises to show its capability. In a quick slalom turn, the car was smooth. Later this year, a super handling all-wheel drive and hybrid version of the car will hit showrooms.

This car isn’t a slouch on the road, but it focuses mostly on comfort. The climate control system has three-zone system that allows independent control for the driver, front seat passenger and the rear seats. A seven-inch multi-function display handles the controls for the audio system, air conditioning and heating. Upper trim lines also make available an electric rear window sunscreen and manual screens for each of the rear doors.



There are three audio systems available. The standard uses 10 speakers; in the next higher model, you get system speakers; and the top-of-the-line Krell system uses 14 speakers for excellent audio sound.

Acura’s latest version of data services called AcuraLink includes serious XM radio, Pandora Internet radio and aha, a new cloud-based news music and information service. There are also phone apps for smart phones that will let you control some features of the car as well as receive diagnostic data.

There’s a subscription service that lets you choose from three levels of service; basic service is complementary for three years.

Acura officials report that the Acura RLX’s target customer is male, married, aged 45–50, and has a household income of $200,000 a year.

The car will go on sale March 15. Prices for the RLX base model are $48,450; for the Navigation version, $50,950; for the Tech, $54,450; and for the Krell Audio-equipped model, prices starts at $56,950. The top-of-the-line Advance is priced at $60,450.

2014 Acura RLX pushes "top of the line" a bit higher
 
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