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Several manufacturers now offer gas-saving hybrid versions of their vehicles but it's surprisingly rare to find 2 companies who have gone about it in the same way.

The early pioneers, Toyota and Honda, fielded completely different systems at launch--and well over a decade down the line Honda has once again introduced a new hybrid system.

Called Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) it debuts in the 2014 Acura RLX Hybrid and could be the most sophisticated hybrid system yet.

It combines traditional hybrid benefits with some of those of certain pure electric vehicles, like torque vectoring to individual wheels.


1 engine, 3 motors

At its heart, the RLX Hybrid has the same 3.5-liter gasoline V-6 as other RLX models.

It features i-VTEC variable valve timing and Variable Cylinder Management, a fuel-saving technology that disables 1 bank of cylinders on light throttle loads to save fuel. Intriguing, but nothing out of the ordinary.


From there, the hybrid components come into play. Honda's traditional automatic transmissions and CVTs have made way for a new 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

Similar to Honda's old IMA hybrid system, it features an integrated electric motor that provides motive power at low speeds, torque-fill between gearchanges and is used for the car's regenerative braking system, feeding power back to the battery pack.

That motor develops 35 kilowatts (47 horsepower) and a useful 109 lb-ft of torque--but it's only 1 part of the SH-AWD system.


At the rear, Honda installs what it calls a 'Twin Motor Unit'. As the name suggests, this comprises 2 more electric motors--1 per wheel--each developing 27 kW and 54 lb-ft.

That's where both the 'Super-Handling' and the 'All-Wheel Drive' come in. As each motor is fed independent power, the RLX Hybrid can vary output from each rear wheel depending on driving conditions.


It should be noted that this is not comparable to a previous Honda system also dubbed SH-AWD--which instead used a conventional central propeller shaft and split power between the rear wheels using an electromagnetic clutch.

The new system eliminates the old drive shaft and rear differential in favor of the twin electric motors.


Benefits

While that's useful for traction-loss situations such as snowy or wet roads, it also means improved roadholding on dry roads too.

Just like the all-electric Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive, varying torque between the rear wheels means the car can adjust its line to reduce understeer--boosting power to the outside tire to help rotate the car.

It's also brisk in a straight line. With a total system output of 377 horsepower and 377 lb-ft, it's 67 hp and over 100 lb-ft stronger than the non-hybrid V-6 drivetrain.

Honda says its performance is comparable with more conventional V-8-engined rivals, yet economy is much improved at 30 mpg combined (28 mpg city, 32 mpg highway).

For further reference, that's 6 mpg better than the standard 2014 RLX's combined mileage, a full 8 mpg better in the city and 1 mpg better on the highway despite the extra weight of all those hybrid components.


Improved hybrids all round

SH-AWD is just one of the new hybrid systems launched by Honda in recent years to replace the old Integrated Motor Assist setup, which debuted with the 1st-generation Honda Insight in 1999.

Sitting below it, and used in the Honda Accord Hybrid, is the Sport Hybrid Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive setup. This uses 2 motors and also comes in a plug-in format.

Below that, is i-DCT, used in the Japanese-market Honda Fit Hybrid.

This is a simpler single-motor system that directly replaces IMA. Unlike IMA it can fully drive the Fit with the engine off, while the old manual and CVT transmission options are replaced with a new dual-clutch transmission for a sportier feel.


Honda's hybrids don't stop there though. SH-AWD will be making a further appearance in the upcoming Acura NSX supercar.

While the RLX's setup is biased for front-drive vehicles, the NSX will pair a mid-mounted V-6 engine and hybrid system with twin-motor power to the front wheels, instead.

Still in development, the new NSX could dethrone the new BMW i8 as 1 of the most sophisticated sports cars on sale.

In the meantime, customers are still waiting to get their hands on the hybrid RLX, which has suffered "technical" delays, according to Wards Auto.

Originally slated for the Spring, it's now expected to go on sale "soon", after Acura delayed it through concerns it didn't meet the firm's expectations.

 

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2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Review
http://img4.catalog.photos.msn.com/Image.aspx?so=4&uuid=adb116da-0d45-4eba-[/CENTER]
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[B]Rating: 7.5[/B]
[U]Bottom Line:[/U]
The 2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD packs a lot of high-tech features and a punch with its integrated hybrid system, but vanilla styling and interesting driver integration choices may not be enough to sway customers away from Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
[INDENT][B]Pros:[/B]
Amazingly smooth transmission
More legroom than the competition
Most powerful Acura built to date

[B]Cons:[/B]
Uninspiring steering feel
Less than stellar gas mileage
Anonymous styling[/INDENT]

Acura's RLX Sport Hybrid takes Acura to new levels both in power and technology. Every driver aid you can think of is available, including lane-keep assist, multiview backup camera and adaptive cruise control, just to name a few, along with an all-wheel drive hybrid system that makes this car the most powerful Acura ever made. But the bells and whistles can't mask an utterly anonymous design, and while the overall driving experience is good, we wonder if it will matter to [I]"sport hybrid"[/I] buyers.

[B]Model lineup[/B]
The 4-door RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD (Super Handling All Wheel Drive) is available in 2 trim levels, with the Advance package as the base and the Technology package as the range-topper. Some common features between the 2 are LED lighting at every corner of the car, a power moonroof, navigation, Bluetooth and satellite radio, and an acoustic glass windshield to help cut down cabin noise. A fine-looking set of 19-by-8-inch wheels designed to reduce noise are shod with 245/40/19 high-performance all-season tires.

A Technology package includes a blind-spot information system, the Acura/ELS Studio audio system with media storage, and a collision mitigation braking system with head-up warning and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Spring for the Advance package and you add a crisp Krell audio system, power rear sunshade, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow and a lane-keeping assist system.

[B]Under the hood[/B]
The RLX Sport Hybrid has a single powertrain option sending power to all 4 wheels. The 24-valve single-overhead-cam i-VTEC 3.5-liter direct-injection V6 engine produces 310 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 273 lb-ft of torque at 4700 rpm that goes to the front wheels. Rear-wheel power comes from a pair of permanent magnet electric motors, each producing 36 horsepower and 54 lb-ft of torque, thanks to a 1.3-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. A single electric motor integrated with the dual-clutch transmission provides a 47 horsepower and 109 lb-ft of boost to the front wheels, as well as regenerative braking for converting engine power to recharge the lithium-ion battery. Total system power comes in at a whopping 377 horsepower — the highest for a production Acura to date.

As mentioned, a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission is responsible for getting the petrol power to the ground and can be controlled by a set of steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Gear selection is no longer through a physical gear selector, but rather an electronic set of Drive, Neutral and Park buttons mounted in the center console (Reverse is selected by its own dedicated switch).

[B]Inner space[/B]
1 of the 1st things you'll notice is the quiet interior. It shouldn't come as a surprise, either, because the engineers at Acura spent a lot of time trying to reduce noise levels over the previous RL. Acoustic material backs just about everything, from the rear deck to the carpets. Special 4.7-mm-thick sound-insulating glass is used for all doors, featuring an acoustic membrane that helps reduce interior noise up to 14.7 decibels over the outgoing RL's thicker 5 mm tempered glass. Their hard work certainly paid off.

A longer, wider chassis allowed for increased interior space, most notably for the rear-seat passengers. At 38.8 inches the RLX has the longest rear-seat legroom when compared with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5-Series, Audi A6 or Lexus GS.

The head-up display that shows vehicle speed and torque vectoring is a bit confusing and distracting, especially when you're trying to actually see the road while driving. Fortunately, the feature can be disabled, allowing you to see the road and not worry about how much torque is going to the right rear wheel in the middle of a turn. It is a cool thing to show the neighbors, though.

Call us old fashioned, but we weren't overly impressed by the dual-screen infotainment display. A 7-inch on-demand multiuse display controls the audio system and relies on a touch screen in lieu of physical buttons. While it reduces clutter, we miss the more direct feel of control provided by physical knobs and buttons. We really missed a central command knob a la Audi MMI controls. The second 8-inch screen displays navigation instructions and vehicle information, including hybrid system performance. That's 2 different displays on top of the traditional gauges and head-up display. It's almost information overload.

Steering-wheel controls are a bit cluttered as well, and their operation can be a bit complicated. By our count there are 8 systems controlled through the various knobs and buttons mounted on the wheel — but again, a tech-savvy prospective buyer might see the clutter as a boon.

The newly styled transmission controls are intuitive and they really clean up the center console, almost leaving it too bare. This could have been a good opportunity for an MMI-like dial for system control.

[B]On the road[/B]
The new RLX Sport Hybrid is fast — faster than both the Audi A6 3.0T and the Lexus GS Hybrid. During normal operation the engine drives the front wheels and the hybrid system lies in wait. The motor connected to the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission is at the ready for a power boost, and both front and rear systems combine when max power is needed.

Also impressive is the new torque-vectoring management of the SH-AWD system. In dynamic driving situations, the system — based on steering and throttle input — will produce negative torque from brake-energy regeneration on the inside rear wheel while the outside rear wheel gets an e-boost from its electric motor, helping to rotate the rear of the car. Unlike the old system, the updated torque vectoring works both in on- and off-throttle situations.

Though you have to really push to feel the effects of the SH-AWD, it's impressive. Fight the urge to countersteer when you've got the tail wagging, and the RLX Sport Hybrid simply sorts itself out. You'll hear the front tires squealing, but the car doesn't actually understeer.

That being said, while the system itself is great for managing the RLX, the steering feel could be a lot better, especially considering the amount of effort engineers put into its development. It's a little light, and the ratio just isn't fast enough. An Audi A6 was on hand for us to compare, and even without the Sport package the Audi's steering was a much more fluid proposition; it didn't feel like we needed to keep correcting midcorner. In the Acura you feel like you turn the wheel, enter the corner, and then have to dial in more steering. On initial steering input, it feels as if you have to turn the wheel too much for the result you're looking for.

At times the car felt a little oversprung, but that's because it weighs 4,312 pounds. Compared with a similarly equipped nonhybrid RLX, the all-wheel-drive hybrid system adds over 300 pounds to the car. When compared with the Audi A6, we have to tip the hat again to the A6 as it provided a more comfortable ride.

The 7-speed DCT is impressively smooth. It's 1 of the best we've driven to date. Sport mode provided aggressive shifts, while Acura's Grade Logic Control System kept the transmission in the best gear instead of continuously shifting around when we went up steep hills. Also impressive were seamless transitions from electric power to gas and vice versa. Acura took the opportunity to optimize the camshafts to smoothly re-engage the engine from an idle-stop as well as to completely close the valves on the rear cylinders when the variable cylinder management deactivates half of the cylinders.

The adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow is a great feature. It uses radar to manage distance to the car in front, as well as regulating distance when you prefer to use a preset speed. The low-speed follow is designed for use in congested traffic and, once you gain trust in the system, reduces driver workload in those stressful situations. Again, using the adaptive cruise control radar, the system can maintain a preset following distance and actually stop the car if it detects that the car ahead has slowed to a stop.

Fuel mileage during our time behind the wheel was a bit confusing. The RLX is rated at 28 mpg city/32 mpg highway, but we had a tough time meeting either of those numbers, even when driving at a reasonable pace. Perhaps we should have relied on the reactive-force gas pedal a little more (it informs the driver when gas mileage is about to worsen, and when traction is less than ideal).

[B]Right for you?[/B]
With production set to take place in Sayama, Japan, Acura is launching the RLX Sport Hybrid in the spring of 2014. We have yet to receive any pricing details, but we expect the RLX Sport Hybrid to retail in the neighborhood of $67,000.

Our struggle with the RLX Sport Hybrid is that we're not quite sure what Acura is trying to accomplish. Behind the wheel it's not fun or fluid enough to really push, so why equip it with all the fancy tech? It's cool stuff, and the closest thing you're going to get to a preview of the upcoming NSX systems, but the car doesn't exactly make you want to go tackle the twisties. Coupled with a design that blends in with its contemporaries, and anonymity is 1 of the RLX's biggest downfalls.
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Collingwood, Ont. – It had been almost exactly a year since I last drove the Acura RLX – the flagship in Honda’s upscale brand – and in getting back into the car you see featured here, I was quickly refreshed on the fleeting impressions it had made on me.

1st off, it’s a handsome car, if somewhat forgettable save for the multi-lens LED headlights. In person, it commands more respect than it does in photos thanks to its solid proportions and imposing scale, letting observers know that this is no entry-level sedan.


Inside, 1 is reminded of an oversized Accord that has spent a few more classes in finishing school. The materials are all luxurious and supple where they need to be, with the appropriate applications of high-grade trim where warranted for visual appeal. The overall effect is lacking some of the artful design emerging in many of the best of the class competitors. The Krell sound system remains one of the highlights of the car with its sensational power and sound quality.

All of that applies to the front-wheel-drive RLX Elite that I drove last year with its P-AWS (active all-wheel steering) and its front-wheel drive, just as much as it applies to the new offering we’re examining here.


Befitting its place in the mid-size luxury sedan class, Acura Canada is now offering a version of the RLX with its SH-AWD (Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive) system. Canadian luxury car buyers have shown with their cheque books that it is their overwhelming preference to have four wheels dispensing the power rather than just 2, so this move was an absolute necessity for Acura to be taken seriously in this segment.

But this is not like Acura’s usual SH-AWD system. This time, the rear wheels are motivated solely by electric power, as the RLX presents the first application of the new Sport Hybrid system.


In what is a world f1st, Acura has incorporated a 3-motor hybrid system. The 1st motor is integrated into the 7-speed DCT transmission. It’s a low-speed unit that essentially replaces 1st gear. It provides up to 109 lb-ft of torque between 500-2,000 rpm and aids the gasoline engine powering the front wheels up to speed from a standstill.

The 3.5L direct-injected V6 is essentially carryover from the FWD RLX, providing the same 310-hp output and 273 lb-ft of torque. Vibrations have now been quelled in this 2015 car, with a camshaft valve timing change, for those keeping track of the minutiae.


Where things really get interesting, is toward the back of the car with a pair of higher-speed smaller motors each directing up to 54 lb-ft of torque to a single rear wheel. This Twin Motor Unit (TMU) enables a host of benefits including improved acceleration, efficiency and even handling.

All of this hardware, in addition to the Power Drive Unit (the same battery pack used in the Accord Hybrid) adds 110 kg of mass to the RLX versus the front-drive version. While additional weight automatically equates to worse performance in most cars, here all is not lost.


For 1 thing, most of the extra mass is clustered around the rear axle, meaning it’s both low in the car, and moved rearward. This translates to a centre of gravity that is not adversely affected, and in fact the fore-aft weight distribution is better balanced on the heavier Hybrid car. Plus the combined drivetrain now peaks at 377 horsepower and 341 lb-ft of torque – considerable improvements versus the non-hybrid RLX.

Much more importantly, the rear Twin Motor Unit has a few tricks up its sleeve to make the RLX Sport Hybrid a more dynamic performance machine. By having two independent motors driving the rear wheels, torque vectoring can dramatically assist the handling. The TMU can generate a yaw moment in the vehicle, essentially rotating it on an axis thanks to positive torque being directed to the outer wheel, while negative torque is applied to the inner wheel. Even in gentle, off-throttle cornering, this benefit can still assist the dynamics of the car.


The benefits of the TMU are much greater than just torque vectoring. Traction for acceleration is obviously improved versus the FWD RLX, but like most hybrid systems, the improvement to fuel efficiency is also significant.

Here Acura has set up seven different drive modes to optimally suit the different types of motoring circumstances a driver could encounter. In EV mode, the rear TMU will launch the car under light acceleration and maintain it under light power – in stop and go traffic, for instance. Under normal, gentle acceleration, the engine and front motor will pull the car along. At high speed cruising, the engine will also be called on to keep the car rolling.

Under heavy acceleration and in slippery conditions, all systems are called to action, ensuring the power is delivered to the appropriate wheels. During deceleration, regeneration occurs to front and rear motors.


The infotainment system and standard Head-Up Display feature graphics that can help show curious drivers in real-time how all the power is being dispensed around the car. The computers will also tell you how efficient the RLX Sport Hybrid is, too. The government five-cycle rating system estimates the RLX Sport Hybrid at 8 L/100 km city, 7.5 highway and 7.7 combined – excellent figures for such a large, capable and luxurious sedan.

One additional benefit to the rear TMU set up: unlike in a traditional rear- or all-wheel-drive car, there’s no prop shaft in the RLX, resulting in virtually no “centre hump” intrusion to the passenger compartment, helping the RLX maintain its best-in-class rear seat space. Plus, power travelling down a prop shaft creates a slight delay in throttle response. With the instantaneous nature of the electric motors, Acura claims a livelier feel and higher level of throttle responsiveness.


The RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD is an unquestionable technological tour de force, but how does it all translate to a real-world driving experience?

Very well, actually. Driven around Collingwood, Ontario, the RLX hybrid is smooth, quiet and refined, just as it should be in this class of luxury cars. Despite being a very large car, it does not embarrass itself when the roads begin to curve.


Although our drive was relatively brief – only a few hours – I would rather press the RLX Sport Hybrid on roads more familiar to me to really assess the effectiveness of the torque vectoring. Most buyers in this category will surely feel the RLX Sport Hybrid delivers performance on par or superior to the competitors without ever really needing to push the car anywhere near its limits.

Passing power and responsiveness is formidable and even the regenerative braking is far less grabby and artificial-feeling than in most other hybrids. The seven-speed DCT transmission will give fun throttle blips before downshifting when Sport mode is engaged. While reasonably rapid, the shifts called upon by the steering wheel mounted paddles were not as lighting-fast or crisp as the shifts executed by some of the competitors’ gearboxes – especially those using the excellent ZF 8-speed transmission.


Acura’s previous flagship – the RL – was as memorable as a stale soda cracker. As a result, Acura needs to work extra hard to lure away buyers of competitive models, and they seem to be serious about it this time. The RLX Sport Hybrid is an excellent offering in a stellar group of competitors, but it also represents one of the best values. Offered only in full Elite trim, the $69,990 RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD undercuts similarly equipped competitors from Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz by anywhere from $5,000 – $10,000. Infiniti’s Q70h skirts under the RLX by a little more than $1,000, but does not offer all-wheel drive.

For buyers intrigued by the latest technological fads, Acura’s offering in the mid-size luxury sedan market puts its high tech to great use, while providing a luxurious and engaging driving experience.

Pricing: 2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH AWD
Base Price: $69,990

Competitors:
BMW ActiveHybrid5 and 535d
Infiniti Q70h
Lexus GS450h
Mercedes-Benz E400 Hybrid and E250 BlueTec

 

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Globe & Mail


There are ski hills aplenty near Collingwood, Ont., but no race tracks. And while the local roads do boast a few challenging curves, enjoyment is discouraged by suffocating speed limits. Just as well, then, that the roads here on the southern shore of Georgian Bay do possess a network of roundabouts.

Why does this matter to the evaluation of a new hybrid-powered luxury sedan? Because the electric part of the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD powertrain (don’t even ask what the SH stands for: the name is long enough already) is intended to benefit its handling as much as its performance and fuel economy. And in the absence of a track, a few laps of a traffic-free roundabout can reveal much.

Like many of its mild-hybrid luxury counterparts, the Hybrid SH-AWD has an electric motor paired with its gasoline powertrain – in this case, a 3.5-litre, V-6 driving the front wheels through a 7-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox. But there is also a pair of electric motors out back, 1 driving each rear wheel.

Besides making the RLX into an all-wheel-driver, the rear motors can be controlled independently to provide, in effect, an element of rear-wheel steering. Orchestrated by super-smart software, this can be used to promote agility or enhance stability as needed. In turn, that should allow Acura to use a softer suspension than would otherwise be the case.

1st-drive impressions at a preview event near Collingwood reveal a gap between the theory and the practice. The ride is distinctly firm, albeit still liveable; and while the RLX feels precise and agile in moderate-to-brisk driving, it hardly seems a quantum leap better than some conventionally engineered rivals. Nor is the steering response especially engaging.

More concerning, our test car’s tail got squirrelly while we energetically negotiated 1 particular back-road curve. Further exploration on a Collingwood roundabout showed it wasn’t a 1-off aberration. And yes, this was on dry pavement.

Another Sport Hybrid we drove a week later kept its tail in line but surprised us instead with sudden-onset understeer through 1 fast curve. Of course, the stability-control system quickly reined in any waywardness, but this was hardly the sure-footedness we expect from an all-wheel drive car.

The performance/economy part of the equation is much more convincing. It would take extreme feather-footing to accelerate this two-ton car from rest on electric power alone, but in cruise mode it’ll skim silently along on battery power at up to 80 km/h for a few kilometres at a time. Depending on battery state of charge and other factors, the transitions in and out of EV mode are somewhat random – but they are also seamless.

We drove the RLX briskly along rural roads, and after about 50 kilometres the trip computer was showing average fuel consumption of 8.1 L/100 km. Then, finding a level stretch of road, we attached our test gear and did several full-bore 0-100-km/h runs. The results averaged out at 5.8 seconds, which is plenty quick. Resuming normal driving, we completed the 94-km route with the computer still showing 9.1 L/100 km – including the acceleration runs – at the finish.

On a purely objective basis, the RLX Hybrid’s package of luxury, technology, space and pace seems enough to justify its $69,990 asking price, with compact-car fuel economy as a feel-good bonus. But to seriously challenge the name-brand luxury heavyweights, Acura also needs to deliver a uniquely compelling driving experience. On paper, the Hybrid SH-AWD technology has the potential to do that. On pavement, we’re still waiting to feel the results.

The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.

You’ll like this car if ... you’d rather take the road less travelled in a car that puts cutting-edge technology and a small carbon footprint before conventional notions of prestige and style.

TECH SPECS

Price: $69,990
Engines: 3.5-litre, V-6 direct-injection gas engine plus 3 electric motors
Drive: 7-speed dual-clutch automated transmission and AWD
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.0 city, 7.5 highway
Alternatives: Audi A6 TDI, BMW ActiveHybrid 5, BMW 535d, Lexus GS450h, Infiniti Q70h, 2014 Mercedes-Benz E400 Hybrid

RATINGS

Looks: Despite some novel sculpting along its flanks, the basic shape maintains a long tradition of conservative, anonymous styling for Acura’s largest and most expensive sedan.
Interior: Luxuriously appointed, and by the numbers it has the roomiest rear cabin in its class (though real-world sprawl space out back is compromised somewhat by tight foot-room under the front seats).
Technology: Apart from the unique Hybrid AWD powertrain, it comes loaded with safety and info-communi-tainment devices including 2 – count ’em, 2 – big-screen TVs on the dashboard
Performance: We’re unconvinced by the rear electric motors’ contribution to handling, but what’s not to like about a big luxury car that can sprint like a V-8 or scrooge like a 4-cylinder?
Cargo: The battery pack in the trunk behind the back seat reduces cargo volume from 423 litres on the FWD RLX to 328 litres in the Hybrid – less than in most compact sedans.

The Verdict

7.0

Acura’s new flagship sedan delivers everything you’d expect in a $70,000 luxury car … except for a truly compelling reason to buy it.​
 

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Driving




Overview Somewhat somnolent styling masks a very sophisticated powertrain
Pros Power, fuel economy, sophistication
Cons Weight, rear trunk storage capacity, complicated AcuraLink infotainment system
Value for money Excellent
What would I change? Less complication to the AcuraLink system and, in an ideal world, build the entire car out of aluminum to reduce the weight penalty of the electric drive system
How I would spec it? Just the way it is

Acura’s new RLX Sport Hybrid may be the best car you’ll never test drive. Never mind the reasons — the somnolent styling or the disastrous name change from Legend to RL — for the drop off in what was once the most popular luxury car in North America (the Legend accounted for almost half of Acura’s sales at its peak), the Sport Hybrid version of the RLX is 1 of the most supremely sophisticated luxury automobiles money can buy. Indeed, not only is the electrified version of Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system the technological equal of Porsche’s million-dollar 918, but it also will provide the underpinning — albeit with the gas engine moved rearward and the electric motors forward — for Acura’s own supercar, the much-anticipated NSX.

Unfortunately, if the recent sales history of the RL is any indication (Acura has sold, on average, less than 150 RL/RLXs annually since 2008), precious few of you will ever find yourself behind the wheel of this gem. More’s the pity.



So, what makes this 2015 top-of-the-line Acura so noteworthy? For 1 thing, it sports no less than 4 separate motivators, 1 of them gasoline — Acura’s ubiquitous 3.5-litre V6, this version with 310 horsepower — and 3 electric motors, one 47-hp version mounted directly to the engine/transmission unit and 2 more 36-hp units individually powering the 2 rear wheels.

More importantly, the finesse with which they power the RLX is nothing short of astounding. Depending on the mode, 1 can have the gas engine alone driving the front wheels or, if all hands are needed on deck, all 4 simultaneously coming together for 1 (fairly rapid) 377-horsepower charge. Under more moderate demands, only the 2 electric motors are used when leaving a stoplight, their low-end torque providing at least modest acceleration. On fairly level ground, the hybrid RLX can also glide at speeds up to 80 kilometres an hour on electric power alone. And in slippery conditions, the combination of the gas engine powering the front wheels and the electric motors powering the rears provides the all-wheel-drive traction needed.

Were this all the trickery the Sport Hybrid had to offer, however, it would be a waste of complexity — far less sophisticated hybrids perform much the same feats. The last little trick in the RLX’s repertoire, the part that has me salivating at the prospect of this technology fully NSX-ed out, is that Acura uses those 2, individually controlled, rear electric motors to torque-vector power distribution.




For the uninitiated, torque vectoring is the fancy-schmancy buzzword for transferring differing amounts of power to the rear wheels to get sporty cars to better turn in. Essentially, what happens is a microcomputer slows the inside rear wheel while simultaneously speeding up the outside rear wheel, both actions encouraging a more rapid pivot. In traditional all-wheel-drive systems — like Acura’s own Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system — this is accomplished by simply braking the inside wheel while sending more power to the outside.

The infinite controllability of the RLX’s electric motors, however, allows Acura to slow the inside rear wheel by reversing the polarity of its motor while sending more electrons to its opposing twin. Keen minds, especially the environmentally conscious, will recognize the inside wheel’s reversal of polarity as the regenerative braking credited for the superior fuel economy of their electrified cars. This means that while cornering hard, the RLX is actually recharging its battery. Many modern cars claim to marry the seemingly disparate capabilities of performance and economy. Only 1 — the RLX Sport Hybrid — can profess to do both simultaneously.




That’s all fine and good, but how does Super Hybridization work in real life? Well, Acura says it offers the performance of a V8 with the fuel economy of a 4-cylinder. Half of that claim is absolutely true, Acura’s specification of 377 horses seeming to underestimate the RLX’s acceleration. On the other hand, positing that it sips fuel like a 4 seems like a fairy tale too far, my 9.3 L/100 km average about 20% higher than the 7.7 L/100 km the RLX is rated for. NRCan’s 7.5 L/100 km highway rating seems pretty spot on, but claiming 1 can get by on just 8.0 L/100 km of city driving seems a tad optimistic. Nonetheless, a 9.3 L/100 km average in a mid-sized luxury sedan weighing 1,980 kilograms is none too shabby. Besides, the Sport Hybrid is, like other hybrids, somewhat temperature sensitive. In warmer temperatures, it switches, more immediately, into its EV mode and will also travel farther on electric power alone both of which should bolster the consumption a little.

Is the RLX all that a hybrid can be? Not yet. Had Honda been more daring, it might have constructed its topflight sedan — a la Audi and Jaguar — of lighter-than-steel aluminum. The weight savings might then have allowed a bigger battery than the minuscule 1.3 kW-h lithium-ion affair, offering perhaps even more power and certainly longer EV operation. The battery also takes up a fair amount of space in the trunk, limiting cargo capacity.

That said, the integration of said battery, 3.5L gas engine and 3 electric motors is the most comprehensively choreographed ballet of electrons and hydrocarbons yet. That all this sophistication costs but $69,990 is message worth trumpeting. The RLX is deserving of more attention than it will get.

Handling, interior also impress in the RLX




Lost in all this talk of sophisticated high-techery, I hardly mentioned the RLX’s more salient points such as handling and interior comfort. As for the former, the Sport Hybrid handles more adeptly than its somnolent exterior styling would indicate. It’s no BMW, but neither is it a Lexus LS460. Combined with an engine that makes distinct vroom noises, there is a surprising sportiness to the top-line Acura.

The interior is everything you’d expect of an Acura. It’s refined, luxurious and loaded with tech. My only complaint would be this last. The AcuraLink system is unnecessarily complicated and relatively difficult to manipulate. Ordinary tasks like pairing of phones or managing the split screen simply take too much effort compared with other systems. And with 3 different screens — the traditional gauges, the radio/air conditioning interface and the AcuraLink screen, there’s just too much going on. The leather seats and the push-button transmission, on the other hand, are to die for.

A breakdown of the Acura RLX Super Hybrid’s Drive Modes




The RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD system is a model of complexity and ingenuity, its V6 gas engine, front electric motor and twin rear-mounted electric motors all working together in complete harmony. Depending on the situation, the Sport Hybrid can work in the following modes:

EV Launch: Under light-to-moderate loads, the rear motors alone provide driving power, relying strictly on the battery. In EV Launch mode, on a fully charged battery, the RLX may be able to travel as long as 10 kilometres.

Engine Drive: Under gentle acceleration after launch, the front wheels pick up the load using engine power only, while the front motor reverses polarity into a generator pumping electrons back into the 1.3-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery.

EV Cruising: When cruising at speeds lower than about 80 km/h, the rear motors can power the rear wheels using only battery power.

Power Acceleration: Under hard acceleration, at speeds up to 120 km/h, all 4 wheels are driven through a combination of the gas engine driving the front wheels and the rear electric motors powering the rear wheels. The front motor only provides assist under acceleration from a standing start and doesn’t contribute any motivation at highway speeds.​



Engine Cruising: When cruising at higher speeds, Acura has determined that the best fuel economy is achieved by having the gas engine alone power the front wheels. The front motor-generator, meanwhile, charges the battery whenever possible, using excess engine power.

Deceleration: When braking, both the front and rear motors reverse polarity and pump electricity back into battery pack. In this regeneration mode, the engine is disconnected to eliminate engine friction and maximize the recharging.

AWD: Under slippery conditions, all 4 wheels are driven using the gas engine to power the front wheels and the twin electric motors for the rear wheels.

Cornering under Deceleration: The inside rear electric motor reverses polarity, providing negative torque to the inside rear wheel. Positive (driving) torque continues to be applied to the outside rear wheel, offering faster turn-in. The reversing of the polarity of the inside rear motor also provides regenerative braking, recharging the battery

Cornering under Partial Throttle: Optimization of front-to-rear and right-to-left torque distribution for improved cornering performance.

Cornering under Acceleration: On corner entry, the same torque split is used as cornering under deceleration, i.e., negative (regenerative braking) torque on the inside rear wheel while more power is transmitted to the outside tire. At corner exit, however, this positive torque is sent to both rear wheels to provide maximum acceleration.​



The Specs

Type of vehicle Rear-wheel-drive, luxury 4-door sedan
Engine 3.5L DOHC V6
Power 377 hp; 341 lb.-ft. of torque
Transmission 7-speed dual clutch manumatic
Brakes 4-wheel disc with ABS
Tires 245/40R19
Price (base/as tested) $69,900/$69,900
Destination charge $1,995
Natural Resources Canada fuel economy (L/100 km) 8.0 city, 7.5 highway
Standard features Power door locks, windows and mirrors, tri-zone climate control air conditioning, Krell ultra-premium14-speaker audio system with CD/AM/FM/XM/MP3/WMA, Sirius satellite radio, Acura navigation system with voice recognition, AcuraLinks infotainment system, 11-volt power outlet, rear back-up camera, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, leather seats, 12-way power adjustable front seats, power moonroof, adaptive cruise control, auto headlights, dual front air bags, dual front side air bags, front and rear side curtain air bag, driver knee air bag, rear back up camera, tire pressure monitoring system, Blind Spot Information system, Lane Keeping Assist system, Stabilitrak vehicle control system, electronic brake force distribution

 

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Discussion Starter #6
TopSpeed


The Acura RLX was introduced in 2013 for the 2014 model year and served as a follow-up to the 2nd-generation RL, which at the end of its lifespan was in desperate need of replacement. Like the RL, the RLX has its sights set on the midsize luxury segment, which includes the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. It’s powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 producing 310 horsepower, but unlike most of its German rivals, it puts it power down through the front wheels — a potential turn-off for some buyers. Fortunately, Acura has addressed this shortcoming with the Sport Hybrid SH-AWD.

The RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD is Acura’s new flagship, and has the potential to be a game-changer when Acura needs it the most. Acura’s range has been a bit stagnant these past few years. Much of the sporting juju Acura earned with cars like the original NSX, Integra, and RSX has been largely forgotten thanks to years of building extraordinarily average sedans and SUVs that haven’t quite been able to take the fight to rivals from Germany and Japan.

This newfound swagger comes with its innovative new Super Handling all-wheel-drive hybrid drivetrain. Unlike other hybrids in its sector the RLX Sport Hybrid’s electric motors and batteries don’t just improve fuel economy, they also add healthy dose of power and actually improve performance rather than hinder it. More on this later, but for now, we can view the RLX Sport Hybrid as a luxury sedan that previews the next NSX’s drivetrain.


Exterior

Styling is instantly recognizable as an Acura, but the company has put itself in a position where it’s now difficult for even a trained eye to tell an ILX, from a TLX, from an RLX. Acura’s sedans aren’t by any means offensive to look at, but you do get the sense the company is playing it a bit safe. The RLX doesn’t really move the game on all that much from the RL, which had already overstayed its welcome by about 3 years. Acura’s cool “Jewel Eye” LED headlamps are easily the RLX’s 3 unique and eye-catching exterior feature.

Size-wise, the RLX falls comfortably into the midsize luxury class also occupied by the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes Mercedes -Benz E-Class, and Lexus Lexus GS. At 196.1 inches in length it’s about 3 inches longer than the BMW BMW 5 Series, but its wheelbase is nearly 5 inches shorter at 112.2. Its body utilizes both steel and aluminum body panels, which Acura says keeps weight to a minimum and aids handling, braking, acceleration and fuel economy.

Exterior Dimensions
Headroom (front/rear) 37.6 in (954 mm) / 36.9 in (937 mm)
Legroom (front/rear) 42.3 in (1074 mm) / 38.8 in (985 mm)
Shoulder Room (front/rear) 59.6 in (1514 mm) / 57.0 in (1449 mm)
Hiproom (front/rear) 55.9 in (1419 mm) /54.5 in (1385 mm)
EPA Passenger Volume 102.1 cu ft
Wheelbase 112.2 in (2850 mm)
Length 196.1 in (4982 mm)
Height 57.7 in (1466 mm)
Width 74.4 in (1890 mm)
Track (front/rear) 64.3 in (1632 mm) / 64.2 in (1630 mm)
Ground Clearance (unladen) 4.5 in (115 mm)​

Interior

The interior is relatively familiar Acura fare. Surfaces appear high-quality, but there’s not much in the way of interior customization. Weirdly, the Technology Package interior is available in both ebony and graystone leather, while the Advance Package is only available in ebony. Both are trimmed with dark mahogany-like accents, and controls appear ergonomic and well positioned.

The infotainment and sat-nav screens are stacked on top of 1 another and are both suitably large. Bluetooth, hands free phone, blind spot detection, phonebook, acoustic glass, and music app compatibility are also standard.


Drivetrain

Underneath the RLX Sport Hybrid’s staid styling lies its real party trick. The market is flooded with luxury hybrids, but none utilize their electric motors the way the RLX Sport Hybrid does. The drivetrain consists of a 310 horsepower, 3.5-liter, i-VTEC V6 and 3 electric motors: 1 up front mounted inside in the 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox and 2 at each of the rear wheels. There are no rear drive shafts or rear differential; all power to the rear wheels is generated exclusively by the 2 36-horsepower electric motors.

Here’s where things get interesting. Both rear motors distribute both positive torque for propulsion and negative torque under regenerative braking to harvest and store energy as electricity, and they’re able to do this completely independent of 1 another. This torque vectoring allows from some intriguing possibilities. In certain scenarios, the RLX Sport Hybrid is capable of applying 100 percent of its torque to the outside wheel while cornering, and negative torque to the inside rear wheel. It’s a revelation in terms of handling and does a great job of mitigating understeer. It also cleverly disguises the RLX Sport Hybrid’s substantial weight penalty over the non-hybrid RLX, though the hybrid does boast improved weight distribution.

Between the internal combustion engine and the 3 electric motors, the RLX Sport Hybrid produces a formidable 377 horsepower and 341 pound-feet of torque. The 0-to-60 sprint takes an impressive 5 seconds flat, all while returning 32 mpg on the highway and 28 in the city.

Drivetrain/Specifications
PHP:
Engine    RLX Sport Hybrid
Engine Type    Aluminum-alloy direct injection V-6
Displacement (liters)    3.5
Horsepower @ rpm (SAE net)    310 @ 6500
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm) (SAE net)    273 @ 4700
Valvetrain     24-valve, SOHC i-VTEC®
Variable Cylinder Management™ (VCM®)    •
Compression Ratio    11.5:1
Throttle Control     Drive-by-Wire throttle system
CARB Emissions Rating     LEV 3 SULEV 30
Tune-Up Interval     100k +/- miles no scheduled tune-ups
3-MOTOR SYSTEM    RLX Sport Hybrid
Motor Type    Permanent Magnet
Front Motor Horsepower (kW) @ rpm    47 (35) @ 3000
Front Motor Torque lb.-ft. (Nm) @ rpm)    109 (148) @ 500-2000
Dual Rear Motors Horsepower (kW) @ rpm    36 + 36 (27 + 27) @ 4000
Dual Rear Motors Torque lb.-ft. (Nm) @ rpm)     54 + 54 (73 + 73) @ 0-2000
System Combined Horsepower    377
System Combined Torque (lb-ft)    341
BATTERY    RLX Sport Hybrid
Battery Type    Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion)
Capacity     1.3 kWh
Voltage     260V

Prices

The RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD starts at $59,950 and comes in 2 trim levels. The base Technology Package comes standard with an electronic gear selector, a heads-up display, heated seats and a reactive-force accelerator pedal (which applies reactive force to help the driver apply power as efficiently as possible). Adding another $6,000 will get you the Advance Package, which adds collision detection, lane assist, adaptive cruise control, Krell premium audio system, heated rear seats and rear footwell lighting.
PHP:
Model    Price    Fuel Economy
RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD with Technology Package    $59,950    28/32/30
RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD with Advance Package    $65,950    28/32/30
Competition
BMW ActiveHybrid 5
The Acura out-muscles the similarly priced BMW ActiveHybrid 5 by some margin, but it can’t match the BMW i BMW i n terms of customization. The ActiveHybrid 5 offers more interior color options, as well as some nifty optional M Sport bodywork.

At 5.9 seconds, the ActiveHybrid 5 is nearly a second off the Acura’s 0-to-60 time, but what it lacks in straight-line performance, it makes up in fuel economy, getting 40 mpg on the highway to the Acura’s 32 mpg. It’s powered by BMW’s 3.0-liter straight 6, and is augmented by a pair of turbochargers and a single electric motor. In total, it produces 340 horsepower and is capable of driving up to 2.5 miles on electric power alone. The BMW also has an 8-speed transmission to the Acura’s 7, but at that point, who’s counting?

With an asking price of $61,845, it’s somewhere between the RLX Sport Hybrid’s 2 price points, but the BMW has the superior interior, which is hard to pass up.

Mercedes-Benz E400 Hybrid
At $56,700 the Mercedes-Benz E400 Hybrid is appreciably less expensive than both the Acura and the BMW, and, like the BMW, it’s infinitely more customizable both inside and out.

It’s powered by a normally aspirated, 3.5-liter V-6 and a single electric motor producing a combined 329 horsepower. At 30 mpg on the highway, it’s lagging a bit behind the Acura at 32 mpg, and way behind the BMW at 40 mpg. Unlike many hybrids, it actually gets worse mileage under city driving conditions — 24 mpg to the BMW’s 44 and the Acura’s 28 in the city.

Overall, I am a big fan of the styling of the current E-Class. The new 1-piece LED headlamps and horizontal taillights give it a thoroughly modern appearance, but it’s also instantly recognizable as a Mercedes.

Lexus GS 450h
Lexus offers 2 different versions of its GS hybrid starting at $60,430, the base GS 450h and the GS 450 Hybrid F Sport, but, other than some visual and suspension upgrades for the F Sport, there’s no discernible difference in performance or efficiency between the 2.

We really liked the GS 450h when we drove it last month, but, on paper at least, the RLX Sport Hybrid has it beat. With 34 mpg on the highway, the GS has a slight edge in terms of fuel economy, but is over half-a-second slower to 60 mph. But we like that it’s a relatively powerful (338 horsepower) rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan that’s fun to drive. Go for the optional sport suspension too. It’s rather good.

We weren’t fans of the cheap-looking interior wood trim, but the GS hybrid does come with plenty of well-appointed standard features. We also felt the drivetrain would have been better served with a traditional automatic or dual clutch transmission rather than Lexus’ CVT.


Conclusion

It will be interesting to see if the Sport Hybrid SH-AWD drivetrain gets applied to other platforms in Acura’s, or even Honda Honda ’s, range. We already know a similar system will power the forthcoming NSX, which will feature the same torque-vectoring tricks. It would also seem to make sense on Acura’s soft-roaders, the RDX and MDX.

The RLX Sport Hybrid applies this new technology well, but we’d like to see some sporty visual queues to help differentiate it from the base RLX. As it is, trying to pick out differences between the 2 is like playing a really, really hard version of 1 of those touch-screen spot the difference game. Given the changes under the skin and sporty pretenses, we’d like to see something a bit meaner looking.

Looks and options aside, parent company Honda changed engine technology forever with innovations like VTEC and CVCC. Let’s see if it can make history again with its trick new all-wheel-drive hybrid drivetrain. The RLX Sport Hybrid is just the first step.

LOVE IT
Trick drivetrain brings hybrid hypercar tech to the masses.
LED headlamps look properly futuristic.
Gobs more power that comparably priced hybrids.

LEAVE IT
Not the most interesting thing to look at.
Chunky, but able to hide its weight well.
Limited interior color and trim options.​

 

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Discussion Starter #7
AutoChannel


Don't confuse the Acura RLX with its RL predecessor. There is much more difference than the minimally-changed name would suggest. The RLX is larger than the RL, especially inside, and there especially in rear seat space, where the RL was lacking. Its V6 engine is smaller in displacement -- and makes more power on less fuel. And while it is Acura's flagship luxury sedan, it does not lack for performance and agility.

Or technology, another Acura trait. While the word "technology" is now often used to refer to electronic infotainment, safety, and gadgetry systems, and the RLX can be had with the current state of the art in all of those systems, here it also refers to the underlying engineering. Direct fuel injection and Variable Cylinder Management give its new 3.5-liter V6 310 horsepower and 272 lb-ft of torque when needed -- and deactivate cylinders for fuel savings when power is not necessary. "Precision All-Wheel Steering", hereafter known as P-AWS, transparently aids handling and stability. It changes toe-in under braking, adding stability. The rear wheels are moved in the same direction as the fronts during medium- to high-speed maneuvering, and opposite the fronts in low-speed corners. This improves response, reduces understeer, and ever so slightly reduces tire scrub for a small improvement in fuel economy as well. Agile Handling Assist can activate 1 rear brake to help quicken turn-in when cornering. Shades of the Japanese supercars of the 1980s, but much-improved thanks to modern electronics. Both systems are found in all front-wheel drive RLXes.

Want all-wheel drive in your RLX? That's almost a different car -- the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD. The V6 and a 47-hp electric motor drive the front wheels, while rear drive is taken care of by twin 36-hp electric motors, with torque vectoring under computer control. Combined system maximum horsepower is 377, the highest yet in an Acura. You want impressive technology? There it is, and consider that a test run for the next-generation NSX.

But my test car for the past week was a "regular" RLX, in premium Advance trim. The P-AWS system gave it surprising agility and controllability, important not only for driver enjoyment but also for active safety -- the accident you can avoid is 1 you don't have. It felt like it had a good AWD system, like Acura's own (non-hybrid) SH-AWD. As a midsize, mid-luxury sports sedan, the RLX's competition includes the best efforts of the German, American, and Japanese manufacturers, such as the Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CTS, and Lexus GS. The late RL was under-equipped for that fight. The RLX is more than competitive.

In Acura fashion, "trim levels" are option packages. All have the expected amenities including a rearview camera (here with multiple viewing angles), comprehensive information system display, power everything (windows, mirrors, front seats, steering wheel, and sunroof), a premium audio system with all current input modes including Bluetooth® streaming, and LEDs for interior and exterior lighting, including headlamps and taillamps and Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW) safety systems and more. "RLX With Navigation" adds a voice-recognition navigation system, the AcuraLink® telematics system, a GPS-linked tri-zone automatic climate-control system, and color, instead of monochrome, Multi-Information Display (MID). "With Technology Package" adds larger wheels, premium leather and ebony wood interior accents, a blind-spot information system (BSI), upgraded audio, acoustic glass for a quieter interior, and retractable side mirrors. The "Krell Package" further upgrades the audio and improves sunshades for rear passengers. "Advance Package" means premium level, with Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Collision Mitigating Braking System (CMBS), the Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), parking sensors, ventilation added to the front seats and heating to the outboard rear, and, yes, more. It's beyond fully-equipped…

APPEARANCE: Acura's grille design has undergone many a transformation over the years, but its basic 5-sided shape establishes continuity, if the details have sometimes been more than a little controversial. The current grille would be identifiably Acura even without the "A" logo in the thick top crossbar. Ditto for the overall shape, with graceful proportions, sharply-sculpted details, and signature wheel arches. Technology is announced by the multi-faceted Jewel-Eye™ LED headlights. They are very different from the more familiar halogen and HID lights. Chrome trim around the grille, headlights, and side windows gives the expected luxury touch. LEDs are used in the front door handles, and light when the fob-carrying driver gets within 5 feet or so, a thoughtful touch at night. LED taillights dominate the rear, and the exhausts are hidden.

COMFORT: It's not quite a stretch limo, but close. RL sales were lost because of a lack of rear-seat space. That will not be an issue here. The RLX is the most spacious Acura sedan yet, especially in the rear. In Advance trim, rear outboard positions have 2-level heat. Which won't impress front passengers, who get 3 levels of heat or cooling instead of the standard 2 of heat. Seat comfort is as expected in a luxury car, long trips a specialty. Milano leather graces the Navigation and higher models, and stitched leather is found on the doors, instrument panels, and steering wheel rims of all. It's a handsome, contemporary package, with good ergonomic design and useful storage -- the console box opens from the side, either side, for convenience of both front occupants. Instrumentation is bright and easily visible, and, in upper models, twin screens allow display of navigation and information simultaneously -- with further information directly in front of the driver, between the tach and speedometer. And yes, it's all programmable, with enough to keep a technophile happy for a while. There's plenty of trunk space, although, as is common in the luxury classes, the rear seat does not fold. There is a lockable ski pass-through.

SAFETY: Nearly all existing electronic safety systems are either standard or available in the RLX. Its "Advanced Compatibility Engineering" II unibody structure and full suite of airbags form a solid base for passive passenger protection, while antilock disc brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution and the maneuverability advantages of the P-AWS and Agile Handling Assist systems take care of active safety.

RIDE AND HANDLING: The RLX's double-wishbone front, multilink rear suspension is tuned in the European luxury manner for a good balance between comfort and cornering ability. Comfort prevails, but maneuverability is good as well. Understeer is reduced and turn-in sharpened by the P-AWS and Agile Handling Assist systems (and yes, controllability and maneuverability aren't merely enjoyable aspects of driving, they are important to safety). Steering effort is moderate, never too light or too heavy. The acoustic glass used in Technology models and above further helps cabin quiet.

PERFORMANCE: You don't have to run the RLX's 3.5-liter V6 up to redline to get anywhere. Statistics of 310 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 272 lb-ft of torque at 4500 hint that everything happens high in the rev range, but the i-VTEC valve control system ensures that there is plenty of low- and mid-range torque for everyday driving. Put the shifter in D and relax… or, especially when the road is interesting, use "S" sport mode with shifting of the 6-speed automatic re-mapped for quicker acceleration. Cylinder deactivation further improves highway economy, as power is needed for acceleration, but not necessarily for maintaining a steady pace. With a sub-6.0 second 0-60 time, the RLX is quick enough for its mission. Shift for yourself via the paddles behind the steering wheel, and you will become acquainted with a seriously strong top end. EPA mileage figures are 20 mpg city, 31 highway. In mostly secondary road and city driving, I got between 19 and 22 mpg. A highway drive, at realistic speeds, returned 27, with plenty of hills to deal with. The week's average was 21, but that could be easily improved by more highway driving. Or easily decreased by keeping the revs up… Yes, there is more than a bit of sport with all of the luxury comfort.

CONCLUSIONS: Acura's RLX combines luxury refinement and comfort with engineering, safety, and entertainment technology and impressive performance.
SPECIFICATIONS
2015 Acura RLX Advance
Base Price $ 60,450
Price As Tested $ 61,345
Engine Type aluminum alloy SOHC 24-valve V6 with direct fuel injection, Variable Cylinder Management, i-VTEC variable valve timing and lift control
Engine Size 3.5 liters / 212 cu. in.
Horsepower 310 @ 6500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 272 @ 4500 rpm
Transmission 6-speed multi-mode automatic
Wheelbase / Length 112.2 in. / 196.1 in.
Curb Weight 3997 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 12.9
Fuel Capacity 18.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement 91 octane premium unleaded gasoline
Tires 245/40R19 98W m+s Michelin Primacy mxm4
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD, BA, VSA standard
Suspension, front/rear independent double wishbone, independent multi-link
Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 20 / 31 / 21
0 to 60 mph 5.8 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Destination Charge $ 895​
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Herald Wheels


The 2015 Acura RLX is a veritable showcase of technology and it’s rolling proof of how the company has embraced and developed the next generation of personal vehicle motivation.

Honda is recognized globally for its engineering prowess. The RLX is the pinnacle of that effort to date (until the next generation NSX Super Car arrives later this year).

That limited-production sports car is expected to have a conventional engine driving 1 set of wheels and electric motors the other.


You don’t have to wait and spend more for fewer seats. At $70,000, the Sport Hybrid version of the 2015 RLX offers that same combination of engine and 3-motor power in a luxurious 4-door sedan, along with a treasure chest of other slick engineering.

I will get to the car itself in a bit, but 1st a glance at the engineering/technology.

The RLX has a 310-horsepower V6 engine driving the front wheels, a pair of 36-horsepower electric motors driving the rear wheels (one each) and a 46-horsepower electric motor hooked up to the engine up front.

The engineering accomplishment centers around what they do and how well they work together.

Pay attention to the Heads Up Display (HUD) in the windshield and you can see:


ELECTRIC LAUNCH

The electric motors drive the rear wheels to get the car underway silently under low throttle conditions. It can continue in this manner as long as the juice from the 1.3 kW-h lithium-ion battery holds out and you don’t push too hard — up to 10 kilometres.

ADD THE ENGINE

Even slight pressure on the accelerator will bring the engine to life and the front wheels into play for extra propulsion. At this point the electric motor up front starts to generate electricity to recharge the battery pack.


ELECTRIC ONLY

At speeds up to 80 km/h the car can be driven by the rear electric motors only under very light throttle.

GAS ONLY

At higher speeds the engine drives the front wheels, the front electric motor charges the battery pack and those at the rear get a rest.


FULL POWER

Goose the gas and the engine and both motors put a total of 377 horsepower to the ground.

REGEN

While decelerating or braking, all 3 electric motors go into regeneration mode, recharging the battery pack.


NOTHING NEW, YET

Technophiles may note that there is nothing new here and that plenty of hybrids act in the above manner — or some semblance of that. But from here on is where the clever engineering and countless weeks and months of development show.

AWD

If sensors detect low traction situations, the RLX converts to AWD. All 4 wheels are driven — the fronts by the engine, the rears by the motors.

CORNERING ASSIST

Accelerate through a corner and additional power is applied to the outside rear wheel to help push the car around the corner. At the same time the polarity of the motor at the inside rear wheel is reversed, causing regenerative braking, pulling the car into the turn while generating the added power for the outside wheel.


POWER OUT

As you accelerate out of the turn, both rear motors supply power for added thrust.

NORMAL

Under normal conditions, where you are not trying to accelerate to and through a corner, the control units apportion power front-to-rear and side-to-side appropriately for a seamless transition through the turn.

Most drivers will never sense the complexity or benefits of this combination of power inputs and distribution and that’s why I mention the HUD display which shows, graphically, what is going on at each wheel, including the reverse direction of power to the inside wheel in some cornering situations. What they will notice is a very smooth, powerful, refined and sophisticated luxury car.


The design is somewhat short of attention-getting, other than the wicked LED headlights. They not only make for brilliant lighting at night, while using very little power, but a pretty sharp look in the daylight.

Inside, you will find a full-feature luxury car loaded with amenities and technology. Quality, fit and finish, leather and wood are all top class. There is a configurable screen between the speedometer and tachometer, the aforementioned HUD and there are 2 information screens on the center stack. A row of console-mounted push buttons and pull levers operate the automatic transmission.

The RLX also has the latest version of AcuraLink which is a little more complicated than I’d like, requiring a lot of attention to do simple chores like changing stations. The only conventional knob to be found is actually a control for the AcuraLink system.


There is plenty of head, leg and shoulder room for 4 big adults. Trunk space is restricted by the big battery pack over the rear axle.

On the road, if you can tear your attention away from all the electronic trickery going on, you will notice an agile car. Much of the alacrity comes from the sophisticated Super Handling AWD system and the ability to push the outside and tug on the inside wheel in corners. But there is also some pretty clever suspension tuning that simultaneously provides a very supple ride, one worthy of a luxury car.

Most manufactures offering hybrids and/or turbocharged drivetrains claim they offer the fuel economy of a smaller engine with the power of a larger one. Rarely do these claims hold up in real world conditions. You get economy or power — but not both. The same is true here.


Under full throttle conditions the RLX is a very powerful and responsive automobile, feeling every bit like it has 377 horsepower. Driven with an extremely light throttle on flat roads with no acceleration it shows impressive fuel mileage. But my week-long, 750 km mix of city and mostly highway driving averaged 9.1 litres/100 km.

That borders on impressive for a big and heavy (4,400-lb) luxury car offering this level of refinement and amenities, but nothing too special in this sense. The numbers would be higher in warmer weather when the battery and electric power would come into play more often and remain in the equation longer.


While the Acura Legend was once the most popular Japanese luxury car, its replacement, the Acura RL, has fallen to near the bottom of the charts, selling at the rate of about 10 per month across the land while the class leader moves more than 300 during the same period.

Until the new NSX arrives to generate additional attention for the brand and showroom traffic, technically-oriented luxury car buyers may seek out and test drive the new RLX. If they do, the numbers should grow.

The specs

2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD

Price: $55,590 base; $55,590 as tested plus freight
Engine 3.5L DOHC V6
Power: 377 horsepower; 341 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Natural Resources Canada fuel economy (L/100 km): 8.0 city, 7.5 highway​


 

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Discussion Starter #9
AutoWeek


Acura’s quirky take on the hybrid luxury sedan​


EXECUTIVE EDITOR RORY CARROLL: You have to credit Acura for being independent. While some now celebrate dearly departed Saab’s steadfast adherence to quirkiness, Acura is playing the quirk-card pretty hard and for their trouble, receiving levels of interest and enthusiasm that would have made the pre-GM Saab reconsider everything. So, maybe quirk alone doesn’t do it.

But, going to rear-wheel drive and building cars that leave the Germans in a smoldering pile just off to the side of the Nurburgring doesn’t do it either. So what do any of us know about how to succeed at building luxury cars? Maybe you really do need to be a luxury brand that just happens to build cars.

Like a lot of Acuras, the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD is a car that doesn’t seem to be built with the aim of competing with a car from another manufacturer. There are other all-wheel-drive sedans on the market. There are other hybrid luxury sedans on the market. There are even a couple of other all-wheel-drive, hybrid luxury sedans on the market. But among them, the closest analogue to the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD is probably the Infiniti Q50 Hybrid with all-wheel drive, but that car is around $20K cheaper than this 1. It’s another Acura that seems like it came into being in a vacuum, totally unpolluted by considerations of what the other automakers are up to.

And if you judge it that way, meaning you don’t put it in “would you rather” scenarios with other cars, it’s solid.

The styling is pretty bland, compared to its competitors, but it’s not ugly. Others do a better job of masking the unpleasant brake feel of the regenerative brakes, but the Acura’s brakes don’t take much getting used to. The center stack infotainment thing isn’t as intuitive as some, but it’s mostly useful and it works just fine. It’s not a bad car to drive, the weird array of park, reverse, drive buttons are actually pretty intuitive -- the list of things that aren’t bad about this car goes on and on.

It is quirky, and different, but not so quirky and different that it becomes loveable. But it’s not bad. If you buy this car, you are not likely to be dissatisfied with it. It should be reliable, entertaining enough to drive, efficient and practical. There are a number of people to whom I’d recommend this car without reservation.

But in my time with it, it never really did anything to distinguish itself as better than a number of more obvious cars you can buy for nearly $70K. I’m left wondering if it’s a car for people who would only consider buying an Acura.


ONLINE FEATURES EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: Wow. It costs nearly $68,000 for this 2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD. That nearly blew my mind, until I started thinking about the layers and layers of interconnected systems in this car. 1st you have your V6 engine, then your 3 electric motors, and the 7-speed dual clutch gearbox, and the all-wheel drive system, not to mention all the software and hardware that controls. In that sense, maybe it is worth almost $70K.

But, unfortunately, we’re judging the RLX as a car, and not as a piece of technological advancement. For that, for me, I’d like to see a base price of about $50K. Skip the hybrid and the AWD part of the RLX, and you can do that…though I’d have a hard time suggesting that, either.

On the other hand, you do get 377 hp and 32 mpg on the highway; I’m not sure any manufacturer can match that. It feels smooth and powerful out on the highway, as long as you get the right gear. Sometimes it’ll just ignore a hard pedal stomp and continue along in the same gear, which is annoying. In normal driving, though, there is extremely smooth shifting from the 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox. The RLX also does a good job of kicking the engine back on after coasting. If you have your foot on the gas at a steady state, it’s barely noticeable, really.

The all-wheel drive system is good, too. I was in a parking lot with a few slippery inches of snow left and it just clawed its way out with no drama. Turning the traction control off did provide a little tail-out fun. This RLX doesn’t have PAWS (Precision All-Wheel Steer) like the nonhybrid version, but I thought it handled great in the crowded parking lot. Steering overall is very good.

You will notice the hybrid system in the brakes. You get a small bite at 1st, but have to press another inch or 2 to really slow down. Several times over the weekend I had to frantically shove my foot down further, worrying that I wasn’t going to stop in time. I’d guess as an owner you would probably get used to it.

The RLX is a good-looking car, if not a little plain. Poor Acura can’t win for losing. The shield/beak was way too much, now it’s too tame. But I’ll take the latter over the former. I think it looks smaller than it is. I thought it was sized maybe between the Honda Accord and the Honda Civic, but it has way more legroom in back than either of those. Good sized trunk, too. I like the jewel-eye headlights, but the taillights look like something else -- a Kia maybe?

The 2-screen radio is great, the push-button transmission and other controls are very easy to get used to. The heated seats take the chill away in just a few minutes.

So, this car is a few inches longer and wider than a BMW 5-series, but has a smaller wheelbase. The price of the non-hybrid RLX is about the same as the 528i. A few more grand could net you the 535i with 300 hp and 30 mpg on the freeway. And if you wanted to spend the whole $68K on something else, you could be moving into M territory.


SENIOR MOTORSPORTS EDITOR MAC MORRISON: The Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD, despite my time in it coming with a large amount of powder piling up on roads, was about what I somehow expected before I ever pushed the start button … and perhaps even better if Acura was gunning to create an efficient, conservatively styled, quiet luxury sedan.

There is no mechanical AWD system here in the conventional sense, but rather 2 motors that can vector torque to each rear wheel. So you get not only additional traction and thrust at full throttle, but variable yaw rates that liven up the car’s handling. Granted, this yawing fun was amplified in the snow, but I felt that there’s some fun to be had here despite the 2-ton curb weight.

But the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD wasn’t conceived for auto crosses or road courses, and other than the bland exterior styling -- I’m beginning to wonder if anyone really prefers the jewel-eye headlight look, never mind their exceptional light-casting performance (more important than styling, sure). Yet this is 1 of the quietest cars I recall driving, the ride is pleasant without feeling overly soft and/or wallowy, the controls and twin-screen setup are easy to operate. As just about everyone who has driven 1 of these cars has noted, the energy regenerating brakes are exceedingly touchy upon initial pedal application, though I adjusted my style to them reasonably well in a very small amount of time. In other words, it does everything I suspect Acura intended it to do, and does so rather well. The only other trait, other than the brake “issue,” I found disappointing if not irritating is that when releasing the car from park into pure electric mode (in my case, in reverse gear each time this occurred) via a center console switch, there is a loud, “plasticky” click from the system; it doesn’t fit the high-tech, smooth, luxury feel and isolation provided by most of the rest of the car. Subjectively, it’s simply a cheap “feeling” characteristic.

Quirky car overall? Perhaps, but I don’t find it enough so to imagine it as something I will recall for that reason 5 or 10 years down the line. It might well be remembered better for marking Honda’s next step in its hybrid technology and execution, with the similarly electric-motor equipped NSX now on a real, tangible horizon.


Options: Illuminated door sill trim ($350); body side molding ($259); splash guard set ($170); engine block heater ($80); cargo net ($40); 1st aid kit ($30)

 

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Discussion Starter #10
CarConnection


Considering results just released from the federal government, the 2016 Acura RLX is looking like 1 of the safest bets you could make on a full-size luxury sedan.

In federal New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) testing, conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, (NHTSA), the 2016 RLX earned perfect five-star scores in Frontal Crash and Side Crash tests, as well as all subcategories. It also earned a top 5-star result in the rollover test, which consists of static and dynamic components.

That’s not all. The RLX has also earned top ‘good’ results from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in every one of its dynamic crash-test categories—including the small overlap front test. And it has an ‘advanced’ rating in front crash prevention when equipped with the optional Collision Mitigation Brake System, as part of the Advance Package. That operates in conjunction with the RLX’s standard Forward Collision Warning system.


The new federal results apply to the 2015 Acura RLX and 2016 Acura RLX, in its front-wheel-drive form as well as the RLX Sport Hybrid.

For 2016, Acura has underscored the RLX’s flagship status by making the navigation system standard, while the Technology and Advance packages remain step-ups. This year the RLX also includes the AcuraWatch suite of active-safety features—now expanded to include Road Departure Mitigation and a Cross Traffic Monitor—and its suspension has been retuned for a reduction in harshness and better tracking. Remote Start is also now offered as part of the top Advance Package.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
PrivateClubs

I was @ a fancy conference building & saw this "Private Clubs" magazine - which appears to be geared towards luxury buyers. Anyhow, they had an article about hybrid luxury cars featuring the RLX. Could not find it on their website so there is a pic:

 

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Discussion Starter #12
AutoGuide


Acura hailed the RLX as its most sophisticated product to date when it arrived for the 2014 model year. Sadly, Nobody was listening.

In its 1st full year on the market, only 3,413 copies of the RLX sold and 2015 is off to a rough start. It’s too early to tell how the rest of the year will go, but RLX sales are down almost 54 percent in the 1st quarter of 2015 compared to last year.

Meanwhile the aging Infiniti Q70 (formerly the M) is outperforming the RLX despite its lack of an up-to-the-minute powertrain.


Powertrain Re-Cap

To recap, the RLX is available with either front- or all-wheel drive. The less expensive front-wheel drive models get all-wheel steering to improve cornering agility and braking, but the all-wheel drive model is Acura’s real piece de resistance.

It uses a 3.5-liter direct injection V6 mated to an electric motor and a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission that work in concert to power the front wheels. A pair of electric motors power the rear wheels independently. They can also individually brake to offer something akin to – but not the same as – rear-wheel steering for enhanced handling.

Infiniti sells the Q70 with either rear- or all-wheel drive layouts with provision for a V6 or V8 with a regular or extended wheelbase as well as a hybrid model. 6-cylinder models use multi-port injection while the V8 takes advantage of direct injection. Regardless of which engine type you choose, the Q70 comes with a 7-speed automatic.

Acura’s hybrid technology boosts the V6 powertrain to a total of 377 HP, which isn’t as robust as the V8 Q70 with 416, but it’s still quick from a dead stop. The 5.6-liter V8 will tug the Q70 off the line with purpose, but that power comes with a significant pump tax.


Gulps Per Gallon

In an identical loop, the Q70 – equipped with all-wheel drive, the V8 and the extended wheelbase – averaged an eye watering 13 MPG. The RLX Sport Hybrid got 22.4 MPG. It’s true that the Infiniti is more powerful, but the extra muscle isn’t worth suffering through such poor mileage to enjoy.


Ride Comfort

But the Infiniti Q70 has other advantages that might make it worthwhile even if it is a gas-guzzler. Compared to the RLX, it has a smooth ride better damped to disguise broken pavement. It also offers you a greater breadth of options than Acura can because there are a greater number of variants. For example, the all-wheel drive V8 extended wheelbase model offers an extra 3 inches of legroom and almost an extra inch of headroom in the 2nd row at a $1,700 premium over the regular wheelbase model. Even with all the extra space, it is still 9 pounds lighter than the RLX Sport Hybrid.

A bloated curb weight isn’t the only area Acura’s car takes a hit. It sacrifices trunk space and a folding rear seat to house most of its hybrid components. In the end, it only has 12 cubic feet of trunk space.


AWD: Tradition Beats Technology

The Infiniti’s traditional all-wheel drive system also transfers power as smoothly as you would expect from such a system. While cornering, the RLX Sport Hybrid’s rear electric motors create a sensation of resistance that isn’t inexcusably jarring, but it’s noticeable and unpleasant. It seems as if Acura’s new hybrid all-wheel drive system needs work before it can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with traditional mechanical systems.

But that’s really the only part of the powertrain that stands out in a negative way. Acceleration is smooth, quiet and relatively efficient for a sedan that weighs 4,354 lbs.

Steering is lighter in the Acura than the Infiniti, but not to a fault. The RLX cabin is neatly assembled with high quality materials that feel appropriately in context save the touch screen. Its menus are confusing at times and can be more difficult to navigate than what you will find in the Infiniti.

And that isn’t the only place where the Q70L’s interior has an edge because the front seats and armrests are also more ergonomic in the Infiniti.


PHP:
2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid vs Infiniti Q70L

Compare Specs
    
2015 Infiniti Q70L

2015 Infiniti Q70L
    vs     
2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid

2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
Vehicle     2015 Infiniti Q70L     Advantage     2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
Engine     5.6-liter V8     –     3.5-liter V6, 3 electric motors
Transmission     seven-speed automatic     RLX Sport Hybrid     seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Horsepower     416     Q70L     377
Torque     414 lb-ft     Q70L     341 lb-ft
Wheelbase     120.1 inches     –     112.2 inches
Length     202 inches     –     196.1 inches
Curb weight     4,345 lbs     Q70L     4,354 lbs
Front seat headroom     39.1 inches     Q70L     37.6 inches
Front seat legroom     44.4 inches     Q70L     42.3 inches
Rear seat headroom     37.7 inches     Q70L     36.9 inches
Rear seat legroom     41.8 inches     –     38.8 inches
Cargo capacity     14.9 cubic feet     Q70L     12 cubic feet
Starting price (US)     $67,995     RLX Sport Hybrid     $60,845
As-tested price (US)     $67,995     RLX Sport Hybrid     $66,845
Observed fuel economy (US)     13 MPG     RLX Sport Hybrid     22.4 MPG
Starting price (CDN)     $70,395     Q70L     $72,119
As-tested price (CDN)     $70,395     Q70L     $72,119
Observed fuel economy (CDN)     18 l/100 KM     RLX Sport Hybrid     10.5 l/100 KM

Value Proposition

Infiniti would have the fight sewn up without breaking a sweat if that were the whole story, but as usual there’s more.

We borrowed an RLX Sport Hybrid loaded with the “Advance Package” that includes adaptive cruise control, a lane keeping assistance system, heated front and rear seats, cooled front seats and a 14-speaker premium audio system to name a few. That package brings the price to $66,845 including delivery. The Infiniti Q70L comes with most of those upgrades except for the safety systems like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance provided you buy the V8. So equipped, it runs $67,955. The same safety technology is still available, but it calls for the $7,200 “Deluxe Technology Package” which slingshots the price to $75,155.

Suddenly, the RLX doesn’t seem so bad after all. Sure the ride is rougher, but in exchange you get fuel efficiency akin to a much smaller and less powerful vehicle. The Infiniti’s interior design is more grandiose, but you’ll wind up spending roughly $8,000 more on it to enjoy the same convenience features as you would in the RLX.


The Verdict:

Even if the RLX doesn’t have the same premium feeling as the Q70, we would recommend it based on fuel economy and value for the money. After all, that’s what buying a luxury sedan from Honda or Nissan is all about. Isn’t it?



2015 Infiniti Q70L AWD
LOVE IT
Smooth acceleration
Comfortable ride
Loads of interior room
V8 power
LEAVE IT
High price
Bad gas mileage


2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
LOVE IT
Good mileage
Relative bargain
Powerful enough
Fantastic transmission
LEAVE IT
Relatively rough ride
Quirky electric rear wheel power
Annoying touchscreen interface​


 

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Discussion Starter #13
carpages


You’re forgiven of the name “RLX” flies right over your head. We’ll look the other way if 1 were to drive right by you and you wouldn’t notice whatsoever. That’s because Acura’s RLX, perhaps 1 of the most underrated and painfully neglected cars out there, is styled to look like a toaster.

That’s not exactly fair; it looks much better than a toaster, but its shape isn’t going to keep you tossing and turning at night. That forgettable styling is but 1 of 3 major problems facing this car, the other 2 being a woefully small cargo area in the trunk (blame the hybrid hardware) and terribly wooden brake feel (more on that later.) Other than these faults, the Acura RLX Hybrid is a tremendously enjoyable car to drive.


PROS: Wonderfully innovative hybrid system, intelligent 4-wheel drive, 1 of the quietest cars we’ve ever driven.

CONS: Ho-hum styling, underwhelming trunk capacity, ungainly brake feel.

THE VERDICT: 1 of the best sorted hybrid luxury cars there is, but why couldn’t they have called it “Legend”?​


The electrified drivetrain that underpins the RLX is tasked with doling out the most horsepower and torque ever churned out by an Acura product to date- a total of 377 horsepower and 341 lbs/ft. of torque in combined engine/hybrid outputs are ready to be summoned by your right foot. Not surprisingly, this makes for deliciously linear acceleration- you can thank the electric motors seamless augmentation for that, and it’s an addicting sensation that feels much better than forced induction or even a V8. All this snort didn’t add up to an unexpected hit to the wallet at the gas pumps- we achieved 11.3L/100km in mixed driving, pretty darn good for a speedy (and weighty) luxury car. Seeing how well the technology works in the application, we’re already salivating to experience it underpinning Acura’s resurrected supercar, the NSX.

Helping all that oomph get to the tarmac is an extremely complicated 4-wheel drive system coupled to what must be the best example of a dual-clutch gearbox going. Its 7 speeds are selected either with nearly undetectable smoothness or with decisive firmness, depending on what settings (Econ/Normal/Sport) you’ve asked for. Only Porsche’s lauded PDK gearbox would be comparable as an industry benchmark.


Power can be sent to any axle, or any combination of the 2, in a number of different ways. As long as the onboard batteries have enough charge in them, you can pootle around in EV mode- the RLX’s rear motors do their best to keep the engine from firing as they move you about. Push the pedal a bit harder and when the silky V6 fires up, the motors will step up to fill in any gaps in the gas engine’s output. The result is a nice rush to the redline- pull the upshift paddle and the process begins anew. We didn’t get the chance to see how the system helped commuting in snow and ice, but even in the dry it feels reassuringly buttoned down. Fun Fact: the whole system is so smart that it can regenerate electricity when flung into a corner; as the outside wheel spins faster to help the car rotate around the corner, the inside wheel can regenerate power. How cool is that?

When the situation demands a little more restraint, the RLX quietly gathers itself and goes about the task of indulging its driver and passengers. The way the big Acura pours itself down the road is nothing short of remarkable- it has an exquisite ride that manages to never float or wallow, giving off the impression that someone has laid down plush carpeting beneath the tires. The steering has pleasing heft and builds effort nicely from lock to lock but never forgets its luxury car duties, so it lets you know what’s happening with the front wheels but filters out stuff that would otherwise be deemed uncouth. Only the brake pedal sends out any untoward vibes, and you’ll feel what we mean the first time you apply the brakes and your head rockets forward. You will need some time to get used to the way they feel, and to compensate for the weird feeling retuned through the pedal. This could be easily forgiven if wonky brake feel on regenerative brakes were a common thing, but even Toyota manages to coax some degree of normalcy from its binders, so why not on a high-end Acura? With such a technology laden drivetrain, you’d think this would come easily- especially to a company that knows a thing or 2 about engineering prowess.


Speaking of prowess, the audio system that comes standard in the RLX deserves mention simply because it is so incredibly good. We’ve been spoiled in the past by in-car high-end audio before, but the way the Krell unit fitted to the RLX faithfully reproduces your favorite music cleanly and precisely (even satellite radio, too) is astonishing. The fact that everything is so hushed to begin with means the stereo isn’t competing with road and wind noise or anything untoward that would taint the listening experience.

All these redeeming qualities make it hard to focus on the RLX’s flaws. Midsize luxury car buyers always seem to be faced with the same choices on their hands year after year, and frankly some of those choices aren’t worth what their brands are charging for them. The RLX represents a compelling alternative that dishes out vigorous performance, careful efficiency and confidently executed luxury at a price that should be higher, considering the level of kit. This rolling showcase of technology is certainly worth a look.


2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid

Price as tested: $69,990
Body Type: 4 door, 5-passenger sedan
Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
Engine: 3.5 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves with Front Electric Motor and Rear Twin Motor Unit
Horsepower: 310 @ 6,500 rpm (combined horsepower output: 377 hp)
Torque (lb-ft.): 272 @ 4,500 rpm (combined torque output: 341 lbs/ft.)
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Curb weight: 1,980 kg (4,365 lbs.)
Observed combined fuel economy: 11.4L/100 km (20 mpg)​

 

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Discussion Starter #14
Edmunds


Edmunds Expert Review of the 2016 Acura RLX Sedan

The 2016 Acura RLX is a pleasant enough luxury sedan, but it doesn't do enough overall to set itself apart from more competitive rivals.

Pros
Abundant standard features, many of them safety-related; excellent crash-test scores; spacious cabin.

Cons
Disconnected steering feel; so-so display screen graphics with distracting interface; front seats get uncomfortable on longer trips.​


What's New for 2016

The 2016 Acura RLX stays largely the same as the 2015 model, but it does see the addition of 19-inch wheels as standard equipment, chassis and suspension upgrades for improved ride quality, and expanded availability of the RLX's collection of driver assistance aids and collision mitigation features. There are also a few new safety features: road departure mitigation, rear cross-traffic alert and a 360-degree camera system. Lastly, the RLX's previous base trim level has been discontinued, while the Sport Hybrid variant will arrive later in the model year.


Introduction

Mostly unchanged for 2016, the Acura RLX will likely continue to drive below the radar of most midsize luxury sedan buyers. Honestly, its styling is pretty conservative and, after its debut just a couple years ago (as a replacement for the RL), it still doesn't have much name recognition behind it. But that's not to say the 2016 RLX is without merits.

The big draw here is that for the money, the RLX provides an impressive list of standard features. Even the base trim level (now the RLX with Navigation) comes with features that are normally optional for sedans in this class, such as a navigation system, LED headlights and keyless ignition and entry. And this year the RLX's suite of collision avoidance and driver's aids becomes standard with the Technology and Advance Package trim levels. The addition of these features as standard equipment is notable because the MSRP of the 2016 RLX, across all trim levels, has not increased from the previous year.

Carrying over from the 2015 model is the same, smooth 3.5-liter V6 engine that drives the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission. However, Acura has seen fit to modify the chassis and suspension tuning in an effort to improve ride quality, handling and reduce road noise and vibration levels. Since we weren't too pleased with the overly firm ride on the 2015 model, we're eager to examine the results of these changes in tuning. The RLX also gets a few new safety features this year, including a road departure intervention system and a 360-degree and top-down parking camera system.

Unfortunately, the RLX doesn't do a whole lot else to impress us beyond its feature content. Competitors like the Audi A6 and Lexus GS 350 are more luxurious on the inside while the Hyundai Genesis can outdo the RLX on price. And with the Advance Package pricing, the RLX finds itself in even deeper waters, as the 2 stalwarts of the midsize luxury sedan class, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series, are within reach at that level. Both offer more sophisticated ride and handling as well as an array of gasoline, diesel and all-wheel drive variations. Overall, we think the RLX is worth consideration if value is a priority, but otherwise, it's likely you'll be happier with 1 of the aforementioned rivals.


Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2016 Acura RLX comes in 3 main trim levels (mostly referred to by Acura as packages): Navigation, Technology Package and the Advance Package, but you'll have to special order the Navigation trim level through the dealer. The 2016 Sport Hybrid will arrive later in the year.

The RLX with Navigation (the lowest trim level) comes well-equipped with 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, tri-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leatherette upholstery, 8-way power adjustable front seats (with 4-way power lumbar), heated front seats, driver memory settings and a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. The list of standard electronics includes dual displays, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a 10-speaker ELS sound system with a CD player, HD and satellite radios, a USB/iPod interface, smartphone app integration (with Pandora and Aha Internet radio integration) and an auxiliary audio jack.

Choosing the Technology option package bundles automatic wipers, leather upholstery, adaptive cruise control and a 14-speaker ELS sound system. On top of that the Advance package adds a power rear sunshade, manual rear passenger window shades, remote start, auto-dimming outside mirrors, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a 360-degree parking camera system and a Krell Premium sound system, also with 14 speakers. Both the Technology and Advance Packages carry as standard, the very comprehensive suite of driver assistance aids known as AcuraWatch (detailed in the safety section below).


Powertrains and Performance

For 2016, the powertrain in the Acura RLX remains unchanged with a 3.5-liter V6 engine putting out 310 horsepower and 272 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive and a 6-speed automatic transmission are standard. The RLX Sport Hybrid will combine this powertrain with a 3-motor hybrid system, complete with electrically powered torque vectoring and Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system. Full information on the Sport Hybrid's powertrain is forthcoming.

In Edmunds testing, a 2015 RLX with the Advance package went from 0 to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, which is average for a midsize luxury sedan with a base engine. The EPA rates the RLX at 24 mpg combined (20 city/31 highway), which is also average for a 6-cylinder luxury sedan.


Safety

Standard safety systems for the RLX include forward collision warning, lane departure warning, a rearview camera and stability and traction control. Front side, side curtain and a driver knee airbag are also standard on all trim levels.

The Technology and Advance Packages also include forward collision mitigation with automatic braking, lane departure intervention, road departure intervention (similar to lane departure intervention, but it can help prevent the car from leaving a paved surface), blind sport monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. The Advance Package also comes with an additional parking camera system that can simulate a top-down, 360 degree view of the car to aid in tight maneuvering.

In Edmunds testing, the RLX managed a 60-0-mph braking distance of 120 feet, an average, if not slightly underwhelming number for this class.

In government crash tests, the RLX earned a top 5-star rating (out of a possible 5), with 5 stars for total frontal impact safety and 5 stars for total side-impact safety. The RLX similarly excelled in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests where it posted a top score of "Good" in all tests including both moderate- and small-overlap frontal-offset collisions plus side impacts, roof strength and seatbelt and head restraint design (for whiplash reduction).


Interior Design and Special Features

From the moment you step inside the cabin of the 2016 Acura RLX, you can't help but notice the spacious feel of the interior. But it's the rear passengers who will be most surprised by the accommodations, as the RLX offers nearly 3 inches more legroom than most other sedans in this class. Though it is perhaps the most adult-friendly rear seat in the category, taller passengers may want a little extra headroom and more toe room under the front seats. And those front seats, while perfectly comfortable for most trips, left us wishing for more support on longer journeys.

The interior does get points for both its array of the latest technology and its ease of use. The available navigation system is a good example of this intuitive operation, allowing you to enter destinations using the large control knob, the 7-inch touchscreen below the 8-inch map display or by voice commands. But there are a couple of negatives here, including graphics that aren't as crisp as those in other luxury models and several basic functions that aren't as instinctive as we'd like.

Out back, the RLX offers a trunk with 15.3 (15.1 with the Krell audio system) cubic-feet of luggage space. As the rear-seat back does not fold down, the center seat pass-through is the only way to carry longer objects.


Driving Impressions

The 2015 Acura RLX's V6 engine is quiet and smooth and pairs well with the 6-speed automatic. It's sufficiently powerful and should suit most buyers just fine, though rival sedans with turbocharged or supercharged 6-cylinders, or even a V8, feel noticeably quicker.

Previously, the RLX didn't ride with the same composure as other sedans in this class. The 19-inch wheels contributed to the harshness felt when driving over rough patches at low speeds, while the ride on the highway could be bouncy. We also found that the big Acura was steady when driving it around turns but not particularly athletic or communicative through its steering feel. With the upcoming round of chassis and suspension modifications for the 2016 model, we're interested to give it another spin and will update this review once we have.
 

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TheCarGuide


During World War II, Japan christened the Yamato, their largest battleship at the time. Displacing 72,200 tonnes, this vessel was the most-advanced of its kind with 181 guns and a top speed of 27 knots. But despite all that, it wasn't enough to help Japan win the war, and it sank in 1945, a few months before Japan surrendered.

The RLX Sport Hybrid is kind of in the same boat (pun intended): it is Acura's largest sedan, the showcase of Honda's technical ingenuity. Under its sleek lines sits most of what the manufacturer has learned about building cars this past century. Price and size-wise, it's a direct competitor to the very-best from Germany and the United States, and yet, not many of them find their way into customer's driveways; it seems that the RLX is not enough to turn the tides of war in Acura's favour.


A flagship fit for battle
Even the entry level RLX is a richly-appointed vehicle: starting at $49,990, it comes with a 310-horsepower V6 turning the front wheels, leather all throughout the cockpit, a power moonroof, the manufacturer's latest infotainment system, 18-inch wheels... But the model that Acura loaned me wasn't the base model: I had the Sport Hybrid variant, which adds a whole other layer of luxury: 19-inch wheels, a dual-clutch 7-speed transmission, a 14-speaker Krell premium sound system and a whole array of driving aids.

But the most interesting piece of technology is found in this RLX's drivetrain. In addition to the aforementioned V6, the sedan boasts 3 electric motors: 1 in the transmission (that can drive the front axle) and 1 in each of its rear wheels. This gives not only 377 combined horsepower to the RLX, but also the benefits of all-wheel drive (although this means that it doesn't enjoy Acura's All-Wheel Steer like other RLX models) and instant torque. At speeds under 85 km/h, the car can even drive on electric power alone; in fact, when the driver applies the throttle lightly when taking off from a stoplight, the car moves silently, powered only by electricity. Add to that enough sonar, radar and camera systems to allow the car to drive itself on the highway and you get pretty much every technology that Honda has available right now. This isn't hyperbole, either: at the touch of a button, the computers fully take over the driving, scanning the road ahead and keeping the car pointed in the middle of the lane, slowing down or even stopping if there is an obstacle in front of you. The experience is eerie and you need to trust that some engineer you never met did their job right, but it works amazingly well.

The rest of the car is also worthy of the flagship term: its fit and finish is flawless, there is rich leather everywhere you touch (and high-quality smooth rubber or thick carpet everywhere else), the insulated windows seal you off from road noises and the suspension absorbs jolts in silence. Styling however, is kind of a hit-or-miss: some people will appreciate its clean, conservative lines - the Jewel Eye headlights were a head-turner - while others will say that the RLX lacks character.

Driving the RLX is a very relaxing experience. There isn't a lot of road feel through the steering and the sedan exhibits a fair amount of body roll and understeer when pushed to the limit, but this isn't how the sedan is meant to be driven. When handled like the luxury barge that it is, the RLX is quiet and comfortable, capable of racking up the miles while its occupants are cradled in comfortable seats and utter silence.


A window to Honda's future
As far as I can tell, Acura didn't intend the RLX Sport Hybrid to be a volume-seller – at $69,990, it's closest competitor would be the Kia K900, the Hyundai Equus and the Lexus GS, none of which are exactly flying off the dealer's lots – but more as a technological tour de force, a display of what they can do (in fact, the Sport Hybrid's electric drivetrain could find its way into Acura's next flagship, the NSX supercar). While it may not win in a direct faceoff against other full-size luxury sedans, the RLX Sport Hybrid could certainly appeal to customers who are looking for anonymity, comfort, and technology in a modern and high-quality package.


Evaluation
Test model
2015 Acura RLX
Trim level
SH - AWD
Price range
$49,990 - $69,990
Price as tested
$69,990
Warranty (basic)
4 years / 80,000 km
Warranty (powertrain)
5 years / 100,000 km
Fuel economy (city/highway/observed)
8 / 7.5 / 8.8 l/100km
Options
N/A
Competitive models
Audi A6, Audi A7, BMW 5 Series, Cadillac CTS, Hyundai Genesis, Infiniti Q70, Jaguar XF, Lexus LS, Lincoln MKS, Mercedes-Benz E Class, Volvo S60
Strong points
Impressive fuel economy
Silent as a stone
Lots of torque from the electric motors
Great build quality
It can drive itself

Weak points
Subdued styling
Some latency in the accelerator pedal
Lots of new, unproven technologies
$70,000 price tag​


Editor's rating
Fuel Consumption
It's a luxury sedan with the fuel consumption of a compact car. What's not to like?
Comfort
Acura went all-out with the RLX. Some of the German sedans aren't as comfortable.
Performance
With the instant torque of the electric motors, the Sport Hybrid is decently quick off the line; after that, the V6 takes over and hauls the large sedan with authority.
Infotainment System
Honda's large control knob needs some time to get accustomed to.
Driving Experience
The RLX Sport Hybrid may be large and aimed towards comfort, but if you throw it into a corner, you'll see that it lives up to its Sport moniker.
Overall
The RLX Sport Hybrid won't flaunt your wealth around, but it's incredibly advanced and will give you the feeling of riding in your personal, high-tech cloud.

 

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Discussion Starter #16
AutoBlog


Guilty pleasures are part of life – don't even try to pretend like you don't have 1 (or 2, or 6). In the non-automotive space, this could come down to that secret playlist in your iPhone of songs you'll only listen to when you're alone; or think of that 1 TV show you really do love, but won't admit to your friends. I've got plenty, and so do you.

Going back to cars, here's a particularly juicy 1 for me: several years ago, I had a mad crush on the very last iteration of the Cadillac DTS. Oh yes, the front-wheel-drive, Northstar V8-powered sofa-on-wheels that was the last remaining shred of the elderly-swooning days of Cadillac's past. Every time I had the chance to drive 1, I was secretly giddy. Don't hate me, okay?

These days, the DTS is gone, but I've still got a mess of other cars that hold a special place in my heart. And in the spirit of camaraderie, I've asked my other Autoblog editors to tell me some of their guilty pleasure cars, as well – Seyth Miersma, as you can see above, has a few choice emotions to share about the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Read on to find out what cars make us secretly happy.


Acura RLX

Look, Acura should rightly be lambasted for its inability to build a car that's the equal to the Germans, Cadillac and Lexus, but that surely doesn't mean critics have carte blanche to rip on the poor RLX, a vehicle whose offenses exist only in the minds of people who claim they know what Acura "is supposed to be."

In terms of a pure, comfortable, accommodating luxury sedan, the big Acura is excellent. The ride is supple and smooth, while the same can be said of Honda's well-regarded 3.5-liter V6 (I've yet to drive the RLX Sport Hybrid, so I can't really comment on that). Comfy ride aside, the Precision All-Wheel Steer system, aside from having the adorable acronym "PAWS," delivers a surprising degree of agility for a roughly 4,000-pound, front-drive sedan.

But best of all is the cabin. Now I agree, the dual-screen center stack is horribly unintuitive, but the material quality and overall feel of the interior is just fine. And for audiophiles, the 14-speaker Krell stereo is arguably 1 of the best available in a car under $100,000. Yes, I'm including it with the excellent Burmester systems found in cars from Mercedes-Benz and Porsche and the stellar Lexicon unit found in the Hyundai Genesis and Equus.

There are better vehicles out there, but the RLX scores points for me by being a single-minded luxury sedan that's easy to drive and easy to live with. So leave it alone.

Brandon Turkus
Associate Editor​
 

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Discussion Starter #18
AutoNationDrive


Reasons to love the 2016 Acura RLX…

The 2016 Acura RLX is both roomy and comfortable. Slightly shorter than a Porsche Panamera, the RLX manages to offer rear passenger’s an additional 5.5-inches of rear legroom compared to the more expensive Porsche. With the quick and efficient gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain of the 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid, the RLX truly shines as a 21st century luxury sedan.

Pros: Comfortable ride, giant backseat, reasonably priced, incredibly efficient in gasoline-electric hybrid form

Cons: Not as much of a driver’s car as some competitors​

Competes with: Lexus GS, Cadillac XTS, Infiniti Q70, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series

Casually cruising at lofty highway speeds comes easy in the 2016 Acura RLX. Thanks to the big Acura sedan’s quiet cabin and comfortable ride, the RLX is as calm and collected at higher speeds as it is at 60 mph. Fortunately, we’re behind the wheel of a 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid, which, along with an innovative gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain, comes standard with a heads-up display unit that allows us to easily keep tabs on the speed we were travelling.


Exterior

Conservative but handsome, the 2016 Acura RLX incorporates hallmark Acura styling cues like Jewel Eye LED headlights and the company’s beaked grille. At 196.1-inches long, the 2016 Acura RLX is approximately 4-inches longer than the mid-size 2016 Lexus GS.

Like the Lexus, the 2016 Acura RLX is available with a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain. Choosing this model adds a slightly revised front clip with LED fog lights, smoked chrome on the front grille, hybrid badging and a unique 19-inch alloy wheel design (the standard RLX also comes with 19-inch alloy wheels of a different design).


Interior

Akin to other Acura vehicles, the 2016 Acura RLX’s center console is dominated by 2 screens. A smaller touchscreen unit that controls audio and climate settings, and a larger screen mounted high on the dash that gives the driver and passenger access to most everything else. The bigger screen is controlled by a large knob located just below the smaller touchscreen display. Like BMW’s iDrive or Audi’s MMI, smaller buttons surround the knob, allowing users to easily access common features or find the display’s home menu.

Every 2016 Acura RLX comes standard with heated leather seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, a keyless entry and push-button start system, steering wheel mounted controls, a power steering column, navigation and Bluetooth. 2 additional packages are available: the Technology Package and Advance Package.

The former package adds items like adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a collision mitigation braking system, lane keeping assist system and blind-spot information system, while the latter package includes such features as a Krell premium audio system, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, power rear sunshade and manual rear door sunshades, a surround view camera system, remote engine start, power folding side mirrors, and front and rear parking sensors.

Acura RLX Sport Hybrid’s add features like an electronic gear selector, head-up display unit and a reactive force accelerator pedal, which can increase pedal resistance as a means of encouraging more efficient driving. The 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid is only available with either the Technology or Advance Package.

Regardless of the 2016 Acura RLX model you choose, every RLX sports a comfortable rear seat with 38.8-inches of legroom. This bests the sportier 2016 Lexus GS’s rear legroom by 2-inches, but falls short of the Cadillac XTS’s rear legroom by 1.2-inches. Like the RLX, the XTS is a front-wheel drive-based mid-size luxury sedan that forgoes the sporting intentions of many similarly priced competitors and instead favors outright comfort.


Performance

With 310 horsepower produced from a potent 3.5-liter V6 engine, the 2016 Acura RLX offers enough power to satisfy most buyers. Putting its power to the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission, the RLX manages EPA-estimated fuel economy figures of 20 MPG city and 31 MPG highway.

Buyers looking for more power and/or the grip of all-wheel drive, will want to be sure to look at the 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid with Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system. Thanks to the addition of 3 electric motors – 1 in the car’s 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and 1 powering each rear wheel – the 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid possesses a total of 377 horsepower as a result of this unique powertrain. It also earns EPA-estimated fuel economy figures of 28 MPG city and 32 MPG highway.

While the Sport Hybrid’s gasoline-electric powertrain adds more than 300 pounds to the RLX’s curb weight, the electric motors’ instant torque, as well as the 7-speed transmission’s quick shifts, makes the 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid feel like a rocket when launching from a stop. Of course, ‘Sport’ mode must be engaged to truly feel the RLX Sport Hybrid’s power delivery. In the default setting, the RLX Sport Hybrid will hesitate to take off quickly, even with the accelerator pedal pinned to the floor.

Even in Sport Hybrid guise, the RLX’s handling remains tepid. Although Acura’s SH-AWD system does a good job of appropriating the flow of power, the big sedan’s soft suspension and modest all-season tires affect handling confidence. Fortunately, the 2016 RLX more than makes up for this by being downright comfortable. The supple suspension floats over road imperfections, while the tires transmit little-to-no road noise into the cabin.


Safety

Every 2016 Acura RLX is now available with Acura’s AcuraWatch suite of safety features. AcuraWatch includes: a forward collision warning system, a lane departure warning system, a road departure mitigation system, and a rearview camera system. Adaptive cruise control, a collision mitigation braking system, a lane keeping assist system and a blind-spot information system are available on RLX’s with the Technology and Advanced Packages. Meanwhile Advanced Package equipped RLX’s also add a surround-view camera system, and front and rear parking sensors.

In crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 2016 Acura RLX earned the NHTSA’s highest safety rating of ‘5 Stars’ in all categories. While the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has yet to test a 2016 Acura RLX, the IIHS did test the almost identical 2015 Acura RLX, which earned its highest rating of ‘Good’ in all categories and was awarded the IIHS’s ‘Top Safety Pick+’ award.


Price

Starting at $50,950 (MSRP), the 2016 Acura RLX includes such luxuries as leather interior trim, a power driver and front passenger seat, a navigation system, tri-zone automatic climate control, a moonroof, a keyless push-button start system and Acura’s 4-wheel steering system (P-AWS, or Precision All-Wheel Steer).

Moving up to the $54,450 (MSRP) 2016 Acura RLX with Technology Package adds items like adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a collision mitigation braking system, lane keeping assist system and blind-spot information system.

Opting for the $60,450 (MSRP) 2016 Acura RLX with Advance Package adds such features as a Krell premium audio system, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, power rear sunshade and manual rear door sunshades, a surround view camera system, remote engine start, power folding side mirrors, and front and rear parking sensors.

Choosing the all-wheel drive Acura RLX Sport Hybrid requires buyers drop $59,950 (MSRP) for the Technology Package-equipped model. Splurging for the top-of-the-line Advance Package brings the price up to $65,950 (MSRP).


Overall

Big and powerful, our Bellanova White Pearl 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid test vehicle was both comfortable and serene. In South Florida, where stop-and-go traffic and flat roads dominate, this proved terrific; however, consumers in areas with less traffic and/or more dynamic roads may yearn for a vehicle with more sporting intentions.

Regardless of your driving environment, the 2016 Acura RLX is a vehicle that deserves strong consideration, especially if comfort and efficiency are 2 of your highest priorities in your mid-size luxury sedan purchase.

 

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Discussion Starter #19
Fox News


Bad news, supercar fans: The long-awaited reboot of the Acura NSX has been pushed off for a few more months. The 550 horsepower hybrid was supposed to start hitting the streets right around now, but after some last-minute engineering updates, its launch has been rescheduled for next spring.

But there’s a bright side, because the delay just gives you more time to prepare yourself, and Acura may have just the thing to help.

The 2016 RLX Sport Hybrid sedan doesn’t appear to be much of a high-tech and high-performance machine, but it’s similar to the NSX in many ways. Its powertrain features a 3.5-liter V6 and 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, combined with an electric motor up front and a twin-electric-motor power unit between the rear wheels. It’s essentially the same layout as the one in the mid-engine NSX just with different components, and in reverse.

The RLX’s version is rated at a combined 377 hp and 30 mpg, an unbeatable hand among sedans without electric plugs. The $60,870 RLX’s most direct competitors are the Infiniti Q70 Hybrid and BMW Active Hybrid 5, but neither of those has an all-wheel-drive system. The RLX’s is its secret sauce.


Gently pull away from a stop and the rear electric motors do the pushing, relying only on battery power over short distances. Press a little harder on the accelerator and the engine starts and the front wheels kick in to help. As speeds rise, it transitions to a front-wheel-drive car driven primarily by the engine, tapping the electric motors whenever it needs a boost.

There’s a little delay when it does, unless you leave it in Sport mode, which keeps the engine on at all times and offers instant response from all forms of propulsion. When you hit the accelerator, the RLX pulls like a rail gun, the electric motors filling any power gaps as the V6 works its way through the gears.

It makes that creamy Acura V6 sound as it does, with hardly a whine from the electric motors, which really get to work when you turn the steering wheel. Do that, and more power is fed to the outside rear wheel while the inside one adds resistance to help pivot the car around a curve. Other non-electrified cars, including many Acuras, use differentials and brakes to achieve the same effect, but only the RLX comes with a cash-back bonus. That’s because as that inside wheel slows, it turns into a generator that recaptures a little bit of the energy being spent to drive the outside wheel.


Clear your mind of all that, and you’ll find the RLX to be an unexpectedly quick, nimble and smooth dance partner, despite its size. This is a big car everywhere but the trunk, which loses a few cubic feet to the hybrid battery pack and will be challenged on airport pickups.

The interior is typical Acura chic, with excellent leathers, carpets and soft plastics throughout, but is a little short of pizazz at its price point. That price, by the way, is just $5,500 more than the non-hybrid RLX, which has just 310 hp and front-wheel-drive. That premium is definitely justified by the boost in performance and a 25 percent fuel economy gain.

Both models suffer from Acura/Honda’s flat-seat-bottom syndrome, which my knees won’t let slide. There isn’t much side support for very spirited driving, either, but the car automatically tightens the seatbelts when it senses you’re getting aggressive. Nevertheless, the RLX Sport Hybrid is pretty good at taking it easy, too.


Dawdling along, it’s as quiet as a fully electric car inside, and the ride is very comfortable, thanks to shock absorbers that get progressively stiffer as they compress. This lets them make small bumps disappear while maintaining body control over humps and through curves. The only chinks in its plush armor are the stiff-sidewall low-rolling-resistance tires that don’t play well with the sharp edges potholes present.

You can be on the lookout for them while the RLX handles most of the driving for you. An appropriately techy $6,000 Advance package, the only option, brings a suite of driver aids that’ll avoid rear-end collisions, actively steer the car between the lines and play follow the leader with the vehicle in front of you in low-speed traffic jams, plus an “ultra-premium” 14-speaker Krell audio system to amuse your bored self.


Unfortunately, you can’t do anything about the RLX’s looks, which are crisp and clean but as anonymous as a hacker collective. This point was driven home when the car wash guy asked me if it was “the new Honda.” Not the Accord, or Civic, or any particular model, just “the new Honda.” This is no doubt a big part of the reason Acura only sold 1,413 RLXs – 147 of them hybrids – through July. Personally, I think they would've had more luck with an MDX Sport Hybrid crossover, which would probably be pretty great.

Then again, perhaps staying under the radar isn’t such a bad thing. You’ll want to keep your license clean for when that NSX finally gets here, right?
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Digital Trends


Driving enthusiasts have grown accustomed to sneering at hybrids and the people who hypermile them, often camped in the left lane at 50 mph, but that was never the car’s fault. It’s also true that some of the early hybrids could hardly get out of their own way,

But in the last couple of years, we’ve seen hybrids really coming into their own as performance machines, yet still delivering substantial fuel economy benefits.

Like the BMW i8, Volvo XC90 T8, and the LaFerrari, The all-new 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid proves that the designers at Acura have been following the same path as the Europeans – Throw away the old rules about how many motors a car can have, and where they have to be located. The surprising result is a completely different animal from the basic RLX sedan.


The modern approach to performance

In the modern world of wheel speed sensors and compact electric traction motors, it’s easier to move electrons around than to transfer kinetic energy with a driveshaft. The Sport Hybrid is powered by new technology handed down from the upcoming Acura NSX supercar.

Here’s the setup: the RLX Sport Hybrid uses three electric motors in conjunction with its gas-powered V6 engine. The front end of the car is a conventional hybrid design; there’s an electric motor placed in the driveline with the gas engine and the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. That combination drives the front wheels.

The interesting part happens at the rear of the car, where there are 2 electric motors on either side of a special differential. Like the BMW and the Volvo designs, there’s nothing connecting the 2 drivetrains except wiring. The car can move on gas or electric power, using front, rear, or all-wheel-drive as needed.


The gasoline engine is Acura’s standard 3.5L i-VTEC direct injection V6, rated at 310 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. The front-mounted electric motor adds 47 hp and 109 lb-ft of torque. Each rear electric motor is rated at 36 hp and 54 lb-ft of torque. Combined, the whole system delivers a respectable 377 horsepower and 341 pound-feet of torque.

In addition to the extra horsepower and torque, you also get fuel economy. The hybrid nets you 28 mpg in the city, 32 on the highway, and 30 mpg combined for real-world driving. In addition,the RLX offers start/stop on the gas engine and Acura’s Variable Cylinder Management, which will cut fuel to three of the V6 cylinders if max power is not needed.

Out on the road, what you care about is that the RLX Sport Hybrid is a big, fast car with plenty of power. Acura has not posted an official 0-60 time, but it’s in the 5-second range. For practical purposes, you never lack for power under your foot in this car.


Hot wheels

Any automaker can give you a powerful car, and how the RLX Sport Hybrid sets itself apart is with the latest generation of Acura’s SH-AWD system. Since each wheel has an electric motor within, the RLX not only uses them to drive the rear wheels but also to help the car turn with authority.

Acura’s SH-AWD system has always used torque vectoring to send power to the wheel that needs it the most, but the Sport Hybrid uses those twin electric motors to apply a little drag to the inside rear wheel in a corner and a little more power to the outside rear wheel. That makes the RLX take a good stance and turn briskly into any corner.

As if that wasn’t enough, the SH-AWD system takes the electricity generated by dragging the inside rear wheel and uses the juice immediately to provide more power to the outside wheel, so you don’t even have to use battery power to get the handling benefits. Unlike previous gasoline-powered torque-vectoring applications of the SH-AWD system, this works whether you are accelerating into the corner, holding steady throttle, or coasting down. That’s good news if you happen to come into a corner a little too fast, or if bad weather or the road surface has reduced your available traction.

Speaking of traction, you get all the usual goodies that help keep the RLX pointed where you want to go no matter what happens. Vehicle Stability Assist and Acura’s Agile Handling Assist use the brakes as well as the various motors to keep you out of understeer or oversteer, and generally to help you feel confident as you drive.


The luxury of extra room

The high technology of the engine and driveline are the core of the value proposition of the RLX Sport Hybrid, but let’s not forget that this is a luxury car. Acura’s large sedan would be nowhere without the creature comforts and human interface tech people expect in a state-of-the-art vehicle.

Audio and information displays are top of the line, with hands-free text and e-mail response service.

Inside, the RLX is comfortable and roomy in both the front and the rear. Nice Milano leather upholstery and quality touch surfaces are there to remind you that you’re riding in Acura’s finest. The RLX provides rear leg room equivalent to the Jaguar XJ and BMW 7-series, and a tad more than the Lexus LS or the Audi A8.

Climate control is truly customized in the RLX. in fact, it’s linked to the key fob, so the car will prep itself differently for different drivers. The climate control even checks the navigation system and calculates where the sun is, to further keep you in perfect comfort. The seats have more adjustments than a chiropractor’s office, and both front seats are heated. The front seats add cooling and the outside rear seats get heat if you opt for the Advance package.

A split screen sits in the center stack, and a third display is set between the old-style analog speedometer and tach. The lower display covers audio and climate functions – and you do get real knobs to use, which is important. The upper display is for navigation, with turn directions mirrored in the gauge cluster display and in the heads-up display.

Cars with a heads-up display usually project little more than a digital speedometer readout onto the windshield in front of you. In the RLX, however, drivers can use the steering wheel controls to cycle through a variety of displays, including a tachometer, navigation directions, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping information, and the power distribution monitor. This last 1 is the display you’ll want to play with for the 1st week you own the car. It shows you which wheels are driving and when they’re using regeneration to slow the car.

Audio and information displays are top of the line, with hands-free text and e-mail response service, and voice control for everything. If you want it, the RLX has it, including the AcuraLink app that integrates your phone to the car. Notably, you get the bird’s eye surround-view parking camera view as well as a conventional backup camera.


Handling the real world

The RLX Sport Hybrid drives very nicely. You’ll never know how the engine and electric motors are dividing up their work unless you have the display working – it’s that smooth. You’ve got plenty of power under your foot and the car corners like a much smaller and lighter machine than it really is.

For past Acura owners, everything that you ever loved about driving an Acura is improved in this car – except road noise. Even with all the attention paid to noise reduction, it’s still higher than it should be in a car purportedly as luxurious the RLX. In a week of driving, that’s the only fault we could find.

What you need to know is that the 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid competes with the best of performance luxury sedans from any manufacturer, and should be on any luxury buyer’s short list.


The bottom line

The 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid starts at $60,870 including fees. Or you can spend $66,870 and get the car with the Advance Package, which includes a bunch of comfort and convenience features including heated rear seats and ventilation on the front seats, a set of sunshades, and the Krell ultra-premium audio system. On the safety side, the Advance package includes adaptive cruise control with low-speed following function, lane keeping assistance, and parking sensors all around.

Highs

Top of the line hybrid technology
Luxurious Interior
Great driving dynamics

Lows

Road noise higher than expected​


 
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