Review: 2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid

Written by: Calvin Chan

Photography by: Calvin Chan


It's a shame that most of you have probably never heard of this car, let alone seen one on the road. It's no secret that the RLX has suffered from poor sales over the years. But give it a chance and you'll come to realize that the RLX is an incredibly deceptive sedan, one that combines ingenuity and complexity with a modern splash of subtlety and luxury.


The precise trim of our tester is the 2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD. What do all these acronyms mean? RLX is Acura's flagship sedan, and SH-AWD stands for Super-Handling All Wheel-Drive. The middle name is where it gets interesting, Sport Hybrid. Rather than the "simple" hybrid setup of a gasoline engine in the front and a battery in the rear, the RLX Sport Hybrid receives Acura's ubiquitous 3.5-liter V6 and not one, but three electric motors. So how does all this mumbo jumbo wizardry connect and play on the tarmac? It's cooler than you think.



Now, Acura claims that the RLX Sport Hybrid delivers the performance of a V8 engine but with the fuel economy of a four cylinder, a claim that many automakers seem to be making these days (see our recent Volvo S60 Drive-E review). Let's take a closer look at that first part, performance. Here is how the RLX's hybrid setup works. The athletic 3.5-liter V6 gets routed to the front wheels via a 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. A 47-horsepower electric motor is mounted directly onto the V6 that helps start the engine and add torque on hard acceleration. And two 36-horsepower electric motors are mounted onto the rear axle to complete its compounded choreography.


Now there are many dance routines to this setup. You can run on gasoline and have only the front wheels get the power (effectively FWD). You can run solely on the rear electric motors, giving you a RWD configuration if you feather the throttle carefully and keep the speed under 60 km/h (don't expect to drift). Or you can let both the gasoline and electric motors act on their assigned wheels for a full all-wheel drive experience.


The part that will get most tech-nerds excited is the RLX's unique torque vectoring system, one that it shares with the upcoming NSX supercar. What this fancy term means is that the two rear electric motors can distribute different amounts of power to each rear wheel for better cornering. So if you're making a hard right turn, the motors will actually slow down the inside rear wheel and simultaneously speed up the outside wheel, allowing for a quicker rotation. The beautiful feature is that while traditional AWD torque vectoring systems utilize brakes to slow down the wheels, the RLX uses its electric motors to produce negative torque to counteract the wheel's rotation and concurrently use that energy to recharge the batteries.




Confused yet? While most RLX Sport Hybrid owners won't even bother to understand or comprehend most of this state-of-the-art sorcery, Acura's head-up display (HUD) offers them a course in Power Distribution 101: a real-time diagram of the RLX is displayed on the HUD showing how much power each wheel is getting, which wheels are being slowed down, and if the engine power has been cut off. So under hard cornering, you'll actually see the inner wheel slow down and the outer wheel get more power - torque vectoring at its finest, and it's nice to see how all this tech is physically rather than theoretically executed.


In the RLX Sport Hybrid, the transition between gasoline and electricity is almost imperceptible and allows it to be quick, blisteringly quick. Despite its added weight, 163 kg over the RLX Elite to be exact, it jolts forward almost like an electric vehicle or a Tesla. And unlike traditional gasoline-only cars, the two rear electric motors produce 100% of its torque the moment they're engaged. You won't feel the weight difference compared to the non-hybrid RLX, but compared to other full-size luxury sedans it does feel a little porky and large around the corners at nearly 2000 kg. The 7-speed dual-clutch transmission is agile and smooth, and even though it never obeys my gear shifts - it persistently refuses to downshift to 1st or upshift to 7th - it does feel less jerky than the 9-speed single-clutch transmission on the TLX we tested last month.



Fuel economy with the RLX Sport Hybrid is respectable, but our observed average was well above the manufacturer's official numbers: 8.0 L/100km city, 7.5 L/100km highway, 7.7 L/100km combined. Over the course of the week with a mix of both city and highway driving, we achieved 11.8 L/100km, which wasn't bad. There were a few factors that may have spiked that number up however. The first was temperature. It's freezing right now in Toronto and temperatures soared up to a high of -5 degrees Celsius and down to a low of -25. And to a hybrid vehicle, cold weather is its worst enemy. The batteries hold less juice, the electrons move slower, and hence less power and the likelihood of the RLX using gas rather than the electricity. Another factor was our driving habits. If you have a heavy right foot like we do, you wouldn't be able to take advantage of driving the RLX using only electric power.


There is a certain way to drive the RLX Sport Hybrid efficiently. The trick is to quickly accelerate to around 10 km/h over your desired speed, lift off the throttle to let the gasoline engine turn off, coast along until you hit your desired speed and lightly feather the throttle so only the rear electric motors turn on and not the gasoline. When you approach a red light, slowly brake and the batteries will recharge. It's a micro management trick that works best in the city with stop and go lights, and it gets your L/100km figure down like a charm.



To the untrained eye, the front of the RLX could easily be mistaken for the Acura TLX, while the rear could be that of a BMW 7-series. It also takes a little while to adjust to the overgrown front grill and the buggy double-stacked LED front taillamps. But if you can look past it's somnolent styling and have a seat inside the RLX, you'll see why it truly deserves a chance on the market. The materials used are soft and durable with convincing wood and a sweet beige leather, the interior is cavernous with almost too much legroom, and the curvy panels make the cabin look bigger than it really is. Acura has also upgraded the RLX with better insulated glass windows and even noise-cancelling wheels - I haven't been in a car this quiet before. Honda-derived buttons are cleverly stashed away amidst the leather and the novel, yet quite exciting looking push-gear selector takes the center stage (every passenger gazes for a minute before asking how it really works). Paddle shifters come standard and so does the head-up display, one that can show a digital tachometer, speedometer, audio controls and power distribution throughout its four wheels.


The Acura RLX Sport Hybrid is, without a doubt, a sleeper car of hidden technological wonders. It's a magnificent fuel-efficient hybrid whose rear electric motor setup and all-wheel drive system trump nearly every automaker out there. It shares technology with the NSX for heaven's sake, and that alone is worth a closer look. The exterior styling is the unfortunate end of the straw, and I reckon that's one of the main contributors to the plummeting sales. But in my opinion, if you can lift up that illusive mask and forget the looks, you might just find the perfect mix of luxury and technology.



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型号 Model: 2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD

顏色 Paint Type: Bellanova White Pearl
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $69,990

試車售價 Price as Tested: $69,990
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,850
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,982 / 1,890 / 1,465

車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,980
引擎 Gasoline Engine: 3.5-litre, 24-valve, Direct Injection SOHC, i-VTEC V6

Hybrid Motors:  3-motor hybrid powertrain: front electric motor and rear twin motor unit
最大馬力 Horsepower: 377 hp (combined)
最高扭力 Torque: 341 lb-ft (combined)
波箱 Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, Sport Hybrid SH-AWD
前懸 Suspension-Front: Double-wishbone, lower double-joint
後懸 Suspension-Rear: Multi-link
煞制-前 Brakes-Front: Vented disc
煞制-後 Brakes-Rear: Solid disc

油耗 Fuel Consumption (City/Highway/Combined)- L/100 km: 8.0 / 7.5 / 7.7
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Bridgestone Blizzak LM-60 - 245/40R19





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