The Acura RL, may it retire in peace, was a great long-distance tourer for front-seat passengers. The rear seats were tight, and interior storage was slight. The new RLX fixes most of that, though we're still left unimpressed by rear-seat headroom.
About the same size overall, the RLX is fractionally longer than the RL but has a wheelbase 2.0 inches longer, and sits 1.8 inches wider. It instantly registers, not so much from the RLX's stance, though that's certainly chunkier and broader.
It makes an impact more when you open the door--that's when the RLX keys up, emits a little jingle (yes, a jingle) and shimmers its displays in a slightly fancy display of emotion we've never seen from Acura. The interior looks large, and it's not all visual tricks, though the clever stylists have boxed out the door panels and boxed in the central tunnel to create rectangular passenger spaces that read more like architecture than car design.
In front, the seats fit like broad-backed executive desk chairs. They adjust 12 ways and have heating, and optionally, ventilation. Acura says shoulder room is among the best in the category, though their chosen competition is more German than American, something we differ with. The center console is wide, but so are the passenger spaces, and headroom is fine for tall adults, even without having to lean back in those well-done chairs.
The back seat? It looks enormous, and the rear door cuts are usefully large, making it easy to slide into the three-passenger space. The cushions are wide and long under the leg for great support--but even with a slouch, I still rubbed my head on the ceiling, something that happens regularly in Passats, Accords, and Fusions, but never in the MKS or XTS. There's somewhat less shoulder room than expected, too. The rear seats can be optioned up to heating; our ancestors would probably be disgusted at how far from the hunter-gatherer tribe we've fallen, but who doesn't like a warm cheek or two?
Acura's fitted the RLX with plenty of small-item storage. The center console's the foremost space to hide valuable objects, since its lid opens from either side, or slides with a lovely damping toward the rear. The trunk has a slight 15.3 cubic feet of space, or less if you get the top audio systems; it's a flat floor, but it's a couple of gym bags smaller than the trunk on the MKS.
We were impressed duly by the uptick in materials used in the RLX. Our late-run prototypes didn't show much evidence of being test cars, and the presence of engine note is a welcome change for Acura--not noise to be filtered out, we think. The tire noise? That's something the RLX's hollow-core wheels were meant to address, but don't always nix completely.