Performance » 7
Shopping for a new Acura RLX? MSRP: $48,450 - $60,450
GET A FREE PRICE QUOTE
Around The Web
Engine sounds pleasantly husky when you nail the gas, but never the coarse voice common in DI engines.USA Today »
the big sedan gets around the mountain roads with very little understeer and a bit of cushy body roll, although the inevitable electric power steering is average in feel and feedback, which is to say, there's not enough of either.Automobile »
Driving the RLX harder than seven-tenths rapidly exceeds its comfort zone. And ours.Edmunds »
Despite the flat and stable ride, though, we found wheel impacts to be a bit too harsh for a car that boasts fancy new ZF Sachs dampers.Car and Driver »
The ride is on the sporty side of comfortable, with generally high levels of compliance and control.Motor Trend »
PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
Engine sounds pleasantly husky when you nail the gas, but never the coarse voice common in DI engines.
the big sedan gets around the mountain roads with very little understeer and a bit of cushy body roll, although the inevitable electric power steering is average in feel and feedback, which is to say, there's not enough of either.
Driving the RLX harder than seven-tenths rapidly exceeds its comfort zone. And ours.
Despite the flat and stable ride, though, we found wheel impacts to be a bit too harsh for a car that boasts fancy new ZF Sachs dampers.
Car and Driver
The ride is on the sporty side of comfortable, with generally high levels of compliance and control.
The Acura RLX finds itself in a performance arena that used to have the gentle ambiance of the Westminster Dog Show, but now feels more like Thunderdome. When the former RL was new, 300 horsepower was supercar territory; now, that's the base output for some of the RLX's hottest competition, and the 400-hp mark is an easy hurdle for some of its pricey mid-size luxury competitors.
Even among the milder editions of those other aspiring sedans, the Acura RLX's 310-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 isn't a spec-page leader, nor is its 272 pound-feet of torque. It's up 10 hp and 1 lb-ft over the RL's 3.7-liter V-6, but it pales next to the Lincoln MKS EcoBoost's 365 horsepower, or the Hyundai Genesis R-Spec's 429 hp. It does deliver most of its torque over most of the powerband--and in a bit of a preview of next year's NSX sportscar, the flat delivery of torque comes with a shade of exhaust ripple and intake grunt that aren't filtered away by active noise cancellation.
It's an aural component that puts some waveform into the engine's straightforward delivery. There's not much urgency in the way it pulls uniformly away from a stop, or in its relaxed uptake. It's a contrast to the Lexus GS, which has some peaks whipped into its performance, though it doesn't necessarily feel any quicker than the Acura RLX--both sit squarely in the 6-second 0-60 mph range.
The RLX's automatic transmission nets shift paddles and a sport shift mode this year, but no more gears. It's a six-speed automatic with very smooth upshifts, less invisible downshifts. The top-rated sedans in the segment are changing over to eight-speed automatics, as is the Chrysler 300. The ZF eight-speed that's nearly universal sets a high bar, and the RLX could use more tightly spaced gears to accelerate more quickly off the line.
As for the gas mileage benefits of more gears, the RLX doesn't need much help. It's estimated at 20/31 mpg, or 24 mpg combined, near the Chrysler's numbers with two fewer gears.
Handling puts the RLX in a breed of luxury sedans that doesn't have a dog among them, but doesn't have a champion, either. Along with the XTS, MKS, and Volvo S80, it's in a niche divided from the traditional luxury marques by heritage as much as orientation. At BMW, Mercedes, and Jaguar, rear-wheel drive is the norm, and all-wheel drive is an option for marketing's sake. Audi is the grey area.
Acura's on the other side of the fence. The RLX and the RL before it have always been front-drivers, and the dynamic difference between Acura and those brands has only shrunk a little bit. The RLX has a conventional suspension tuned for comfort first, with a bit of lively feel dialed in via electric power steering and a trick pair of actuators at the rear wheels. The RLX's steering has a light touch on center that's very noticeable at parking speeds, entirely intentional, before it transitions to a more consistent heft. The transition's less obvious at speed, where the ability to steer its rear tires becomes the RLX's most significant new hardware bullet point.
The RLX's rear steering--Precision All-Wheel Steer, or P-AWS--is technologically extravagant, for what the RLX wants to be. P-AWS puts an actuator on each rear wheel and keeps tabs on vehicle speeds and steering motions, so it can feed in minute amounts of rear-steer to give the RLX more stable road feel. In lane changes, all four wheels move in the same direction. On a curving road, P-AWS can steer the rear wheels up to two degrees in the opposite direction of the front wheels, to cut a sharper line. It's an effect that can be helpful in daily driving, mitigating some of the width that's been baked into the RLX's platform (maybe for interior room, maybe also to accommodate some of the hardware on the way in the RLX hybrid and NSX).
Under extreme conditions, like on the stretch of Sonoma Raceway where Acura let us press the system, P-AWS can make you rethink the way you approach corners and react to them, by virtue of the way it transitions through its rear-steer spectrum. Drive it quickly in an uphill straight line, then dive down and deeply left, and the quick oversteer set up by P-AWS is unlike any other system before it. It's a glint of edge in a car that doesn't necessarily need for one, or pretend to one.
The powertrain and steering work in concert with a conventional suspension design to give the RLX a comfortable, composed ride. It's sprung and damped well enough to absorb stretches of broken pavement with little fuss, and it leans into corners casually and undramatically. For that kind of driving duty, you'll never miss an adjustable suspension system or adaptive shocks like the ones commonly found on competitors, but absent here. Those systems can be tailored to a wider range of performance limits, and the RLX doesn't intend to ultra-high performance. There's no M or AMG edition in the works. It's a mono-spec machine that knows its limits, and makes the best of them.
Light on its feet and light on power, the RLX is set to serene--with a slightly exotic rear-wheel-steering system injecting some handling drama.