Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: February 20, 2018
The Acura RLX hasn’t exactly been selling like hot cakes ever since it replaced the outgoing RL model. To be honest, I’m not too sure if Acura is trying to turn their flagship model into a sport sedan with this “Sport Hybrid” moniker. If so, I think it objectively fails to inspire any sort of driving emotion. But if I was to evaluate the RLX strictly as a luxury sedan with some extra bit of garnish to render it tasteful instead of outright bland and bleak, it succeeds. The RLX won’t raise your pulse or blood pressure with “sporty” performance, but it will surely keep it down. Since when is that a bad thing?
For 2018, the RLX has been given a slight redesign in the aesthetics department. The most notable change is the new beaky pentagon grill that falls in line with the smaller TLX. In fact, the whole RLX just looks like a swelled up TLX in dire need of an Epi-Pen. I see a lot of Lexus GS inspiration in the rear design as well. Questionable in taste but appearances are always going to be subjective. That huge beak has a lot of road presence though, and makes it incredibly easy to spot from a mile away. New LED lights also adorn the front, along with a more aggressively creased hood, taillights, and exhaust tips. The rear lights look especially neat, with flowing lines that remind me of the BMW E60 5 Series. Three premium paint options join the mix - shades of red, white, and black - with new seats and a brown leather option.
Only two trims are available for the RLX in Canada, both with the Sport Hybrid all-wheel drive technology: Tech ($65,490) and Elite ($69,990). Notable features standard with Tech include a head-up display, 19-inch wheels, Blind Spot Monitoring, heated steering wheel, remote engine start, and new for 2018, Traffic Jam Assist, a feature that keeps the RLX a set distance from the vehicle in front and keeping the car in the center of its lane in traffic. Opting for the Elite nets you a premium Krell sound system, power rear and manual side sunshades, 360-degree camera system, ventilated front seats, and auto-dimming side mirrors.
Acura marketers loves to talk about the relationship and stark similarities between the RLX and the NSX supercar. This is true in a way. They both use the same concept and setup of a V6 engine combined with three electric motors. In the RLX, the front electric motor is paired with the 7-speed dual clutch transmission and produces 109 lb-ft by itself from a low 500 rpm. This motor also acts to smooth out shifts and acts as a generator. The two motors out back provide instant torque to each or both of the rear wheels, essentially becoming a torque vectoring system to aid in cornering. Furthermore, the 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 only powers the front wheels, meaning there is no mechanical connection between engine and front axle.
This technology is nothing new to the Acura world though - we’ve seen this tech used in the outgoing RLX and in the new MDX Sport Hybrid as well. In the RLX, peak output is 377 hp and 341 lb-ft, an impressive figure for a vehicle without any turbochargers - electricity can be a phenomenal substitute. Straight line acceleration is alarmingly quick with all hands on board, and the transition between gas and electric is practically unnoticeable. Like other hybrids, the RLX can operate on electricity alone at slow creeping speeds or when cruising with only slight throttle input. Yes, this essentially and temporarily makes it a rear-wheel drive sedan. There’s a head-up display that will display the usage of the current powertrain as well.
Now back to my initial comment on the “Sport” in Sport Hybrid being a bit of a misnomer, and not a fitting name to go alongside the RLX. The biggest issue is the Holy Batman Body Roll. Tuck it into a corner and the only thing keeping you from hitting the window are the side bolsters. Even with the active torque vectoring, the RLX struggles during spirited bouts. The steering is relatively numb, slow, and void of any front tire feedback, discouraging any aggressive driving either. Flooring the throttle from a stop or even when rolling will hilariously overwhelm the traction too - the traction control light blinks incessantly. The tires and chassis can hardly keep up with the instantaneous power from the electric motors.
The 7-speed dual clutch gearbox is undoubtedly quick but not very fluid in low-speed maneuvers or when changing gears from park to reverse and drive. The RLX oddly trades comfort for speed in this department, an odd Faustian choice. Rather, it forces you to take things slow and enjoy its seamlessly buttery powertrain. I think Smooth Hybrid would be a better moniker. The brakes are surprisingly good though and don’t feel spongy or springy, a downside of many other hybrid powertrains. This brake pedal is linear and easy to modulate.
Stop and go traffic is where this hybrid makes the most sense. With careful modulation of the throttle and light acceleration, I averaged 8.5 L/100km around town, taking advantage of the low-speed electric-only drive and braking regeneration. That puts it up against the comparative BMW 530e, Volvo S90 T8, and Cadillac CT6 Plug-in.
Slip into the RLX’s soft seats and you will feel like you are in your living room surrounded by a leather jungle. It is insanely comfortable in there, even more so than the Cadillac CT6 minus the massaging seats. Soft touch everything! The cabin is cocooned from the outside world with excellent insulation - only tire noise seeps in. It is by far one of the quietest interiors around, and I’d say it rivals the Buick LaCrosse, and that’s certainly saying something. The back seats are more than spacious for any sized adult as well.
Other features I enjoyed was the heated steering wheel that warmed up very quickly, the touchscreen display that worked even with gloves, and remote start, a crazily convenient feature that is hard to go without during the winter months. A camera button is also available on the left signal stalk, meaning you don’t even have to lift your hand off the wheel to have a closer look at your surroundings. Not sure how close you are to the curb? Or want a 360-degree view around you when exiting a parking spot? Camera views are just a click away.
On the downside, the RLX still utilizes that aggravating dual screen infotainment setup. While clever in theory with two screens that can simultaneously display different information, it comes off as frustrating with a slew of confusing tactile buttons, knobs and switches. We are just waiting for the next refresh for Acura to replace it with the one used in the Honda Clarity, a sleek screen that is integrated into the dashboard, not the one in the Accord where it protrudes out with little volume knobs that make it look like a sentient being.
In my eyes, the Acura RLX is simply a bigger, wider, more comfortable, and more powerful Honda Accord. Its larger size does not exactly pay out in spades in the handling department, but its straight line performance is unquestionable. I am not sure how many Acura owners will actually care to understand the NSX-inspired “Sport Hybrid” jargon, but it is a clever marketing tool to give the RLX some extra sporting appeal with supercar heritage. It will be a niche vehicle for sure, considering the tough segment it is competing in - Genesis G80, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series, and Cadillac CT6 - but for the few wanting a masterfully crafted luxury sedan with unparalleled road manners and a trick powertrain, the RLX delivers the whole package - sport not included.
型号 Model: 2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Elite
顏色 Paint Type: Lunar Silver Metallic
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): 5,023 / 1,890 / 1,466
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,993
引擎 Powertrain: 3.5-litre V6, with front electric motor and rear twin motor unit (hybrid)
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, AWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 8.4 / 8.2 / 8.4
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 8.5
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Michelin X-Ice; 245/40R19