By on August 16, 2013

2014 Acura RLX Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Breaking into the Luxury market isn’t easy. Toyota has arguably had the most success with Lexus, the only full-line luxury marque sold in America that isn’t German. Infiniti gave up on trying to go head-to-head with the S-Class and 7-Series when they ditched the Q, and Cadillac has yet to have a complete and coherent strategy. Meanwhile Acura started off strong with the Legend, created a competent E/5 competitor with the all-wheel-drive RL, and then things started to fall apart. Can the RLX bring the brand back?

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Why do I bring up Germans in a review of a front-wheel-drive luxury sedan? Because some folks [not everyone mind you] at Acura and plenty of fan boys would like to think the brand runs with the big dogs. In truth Acura has always been a “near-luxury” brand because they lack a full-size competitor to play in the S-Class/7-Series/A8 pool.

Competition

In order to look at the RLX through the right lens, we need to nail down the competition. Acura would like you to believe the front-wheel-drive RLX should be pitted against the rear-wheel-drive BMW 528/535, Mercedes E350 and Lexus GS350. I think this comparison has a few problems. First, the RLX isn’t as dynamic as a RWD sedan. Second, Acura’s brand position is a problem. What say our readers? Should the brand matter in comparisons? Should this all be priced based? In my mind the RLX’s drivetrain and the brand’s near-luxury image put the Acura in direct competition with the Cadillac XTS, Lincoln MKS and Volvo S80. What about the FWD/AWD A6? Perhaps, but Audi’s brand is a solid BMW/Mercedes competitor these days.

2014 Acura RLX Exterior-009

Exterior

Acura’s flagship has always worn elegant and restrained sheetmetal and that continues with the RLX. Up front we get a more muted and better integrated version of Acura’s signature “beak” flanked by multi-beam LED headlamps. The LED high and low beams are standard on every RLX and strike a unique pose as identifiable as BMW’s “angel eyes.”

The RLX’s rump is probably the best looking in Acura’s current product portfolio. I’ve never cared for the jumble of shapes on the TL’s back side, thankfully none of them are along for the ride. In an interesting twist, Acura put the RLX’s quad exhaust tips behind the bumper where you can’t see them instead of integrating them into the bumper cover as in the smaller TL. Looking at the RLX from the side it’s obvious this car has grown. The rear doors give the Acura a more luxurious look than the old RL which had a decidedly Accord-like silhouette. A long front overhang advertises the transverse engine layout in the RLX, but that’s not really a problem with our pre-defined competition since the two Americans and the Swede are all FWD platforms as well.

In my opinion, the RLX’s exterior ranks second behind the 2014 Volvo S80′s clean lines. Yes the Volvo is getting old, but frequent refreshed have helped it age well. I like Caddy’s art-and-science design theme on every Caddy except the XTS where I find the proportions to be awkward. However Awkward trumps the ginormous and bizarre schnoz on the Lincoln MKS.

2014 Acura RLX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

The RLX’s interior is one place where I can not only compare the Acura to the Germans, it’s an area where Acura excels. You won’t find a full-on stitched leather dash like the Volvo S80 or the Mercedes E350 with the “designo” package, but you can “option up” a band of stitched leather running across the cabin. Anyway you order your RLX, perfect seams and a tasteful amount of metallic trim are standard. You’ll also find perfect seams and fit and finish quality that would make Lexus blush. What you won’t find is real tree. The choice of fake wood on upper trim levels perplexes me when all the RLX competitors slather the cabin in acres of burl. (Base RLX models get faux-metal trim.) When it comes to interior styling and quality, I rank the RLX above the E350, 528i, S80, MKS, XTS, GS350, and yes, even the A6.

Front seat comfort ranks second in this quartet behind Volvo’s large and supportive thrones. Enlarging the pool only drops the Acura to third place above the BMW 5-series’ standard seats but behind the optional million-way sport buckets. Oddly however, those seats aren’t covered in leather in base RLX models. Want real moo? That’ll be $6,000 more than the RLX’s base $48,450. This may be in line with Lexus’ recent move in the GS, but the RLX’s closest competition comes with real leather standard.

Rear passengers have notably more room than the outgoing RL with legroom and headroom in line with everyone else. While Lincoln and Cadillac cut corners in the back, Acura delivers rich plastics and an attention to detail that places it first in thus class and certainly on par with BMW’s 5.

2014 Acura RLX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment
If one screen is good, two must be better, right? My short answer is: sometimes. The standard two-screen system first debuted in the new Accord and is tweaked for luxury duty donning the AcuraLink name. The concept as explained to me is: the lower touchscreen handles the audio, freeing the upper screen for navigation and other tasks. My beef with the system is: you still need to use the upper screen to navigate your media device as the lower screen simply selects sources and changes tracks somewhat defeating the purpose of splitting the screens. Because of this split personality, and the fact that you have to use the touchscreen, and the knob/dial controller, and the button-bank to navigate the system, AcuraLink comes across as “not fully baked.”

Since my first experience with AcuraLink, the system has grown on me, and in the RLX the dual screens are very well integrated into the dashboard rather than looking like an afterthought as in the Honda. AcuraLink is without question snappier than MyLincoln Touch or Cadillac’s buggy CUE system. I find Volvo’s Sensus interface more intuitive, but you need binoculars to use the microscopic LCD.

Two screens might be standard on the $48,450 base model, but navigation is not. Want maps? That bumps the price to $50,950. For $54,450 Acura will bump the speaker count from 10 to 14, watts from 404 to 588, add sound deadening side glass, rain sense wipers, and folding side mirrors. If you want the Krell audio and all the electronic goodies like radar cruise, lane keep assist, parking sensors, dimming side mirrors, ventilated front seats and heated rear seats that bumps the price of the RLX to an eye watering $60,450. Ouch.

2014 Acura RLX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Acura’s only engine for 2014 is a direct-injected 310HP 3.5L V6 that cranks out 272lb-ft of torque. In typical Acura fashion peak power comes at 6,500 RPM, torque comes to a boil at a lofty 4,500 RPM and the six-pot is smooth as butter at every RPM. 310 ponies used to be something to brag about, unfortunately this is 2014 and the RLX’s mill only leads when you compare it to base engines in the competition. The problem is everyone but Acura offers a more powerful engine option. If you think nobody options up, let’s look at the numbers. Lincoln says over 30% of MKS shoppers opt for their twin-turbo V6 which puts down 19% more power and 30% more torque. My local Volvo dealer says the take rate on the twin-scroll turbo S80 with AWD (300 horsepower and 325lb-ft, 20% more twist) is nearly 80% and I’m not in the snow belt. It remains to be seen how many of the fire-breathing twin-turbo 410 horse V6s Cadillac ships in the XTS, but judging by the competition I expect them to shift a few. The Germans? Their twin-turbo V8s are in a different performance ballpark but the 443 horsepower 550i starts just $3,500 more than the top-end RLX.

Power isn’t the only area where the RLX is at a competitive disadvantage, Acura also dropped their Super Handling AWD system from their flagship. Acura’s torque vectoring AWD, capable of continually varying the FWD/RWD bias, set the old RL apart (and ahead) from the pack. Yes, there will be a hybrid AWD RLX soon we are told, but with a maximum of around 60 horsepower at the rear wheels the 370HP RLX hybrid is likely to retain a strong FWD bias. (The system will not have a mechanical connection between the engine and rear wheels. Instead there will be a ~40HP motor/generator between the engine and transaxle and an approximately 28HP motor at each rear wheel.) The less sophisticated AWD systems found in the MKS, XTS and S80 are suddenly the choice for driving enthusiasts.

2014 Acura RLX Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

The lack of AWD has a huge impact in the way the RLX drives compared to its predecessor. The old RL was a hoot and a half on winding mountain roads. In comparison, the RLX is three-quarters of a hoot. The old RL was capable of sending the majority of the engine’s power to the outside rear wheel making it corner with precision and confidence. When pushed to its limits, the front-heavy RL understeered predictably. The RLX on the other hand is probably one of the most capable front drivers on the market, easily more capable than the FWD Lincoln, Cadillac or Volvo but slots behind AWD versions of the same.

Acura’s “Precision All Wheel Steer” system (dubbed P-AWS) is the reason for the RLX’s crisp handling. P-AWS differs from other systems on the market in that it can rotate the rear wheels independently of one another allowing the car to toe both wheels in when braking. That might sound odd, but doing so keeps the RLX’s rear end from feeling “squirely” under hard braking, something usually associated with nose-heavy sedans. P-AWS is tuned to “mimic” oversteer as much as possible in corners leading to a peculiar combination of slight torque steer, [very] mild oversteer and a hint of wheel hop all at the same time. This is a confluence of personalities you will find only in the RLX. Helping out is an always-active stability control system. Unlike the stability control on most cars which only intervene when things go pear-shaped, this system is always playing with the brakes trying to “improve” the handling characteristics of the RLX. Paired with electric power steering these systems make the RLX the best handling, but the most artificial large FWD sedan I have ever driven.

2014 Acura RLX Exterior-010

Our RLX was equipped with Acura’s “Lane Keep Assist” system which uses the electric power steering system to help keep you in your lane. Unlike all the other systems on the market, on a freeway the LKA system is almost always providing some level of steering assistance. Acura likens the aid to a ball riding in a “U” shaped trough, the closer you get to the lane lines, the more the system assists. I don’t know if I have formed an opinion on the system yet, but it did work as advertised and can be turned off completely.

If you’ve been keeping score, I found the RLX to be the second most attractive on the outside, have the best interior, second most comfortable seats, best infotainment system, best handling numbers, a middling engine and questionable behind-the-wheel-feel. One might assume this puts the RLX towards the top of the quartet, and perhaps a viable alternative to the Germans. One would be wrong. The RLX is unquestionably a good car, but it’s $3,200 more than a similarly configured FWD XTS, $8,275 more than the  FWD Volvo S80 and $9,990 more than the FWD MKS. Things get worse when you load up the Lincoln and Volvo with the more powerful S80 T6 AWD still $5,000 cheaper and the 365HP MKS Ecoboost AWD $3,000 less expensive. Only Cadillac’s 410HP XTS VSport is more expensive ranging from $62,000-$72,000. The news is just as grim when pitted against the luxury competition with the RLX being $1,300 more than the Lexus GS350, $1,200 less than the Infiniti M37, and only a $3,000 discount compared to the E350 and BMW 535i. The result is the RLX has no “value” proposition to counter the middling engine numbers, FWD bias, road feel and most importantly: the brand image. Sadly I fear the RLX is about $10,000 away from being a great car and $15,000 away from being a game changer. Until Acura realigns their flagship’s capabilities (or shrinks the price tag) the RLX is destined to be the car everyone likes but nobody buys.

 

Acura provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.38 Seconds

0-60: 5.72 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.28 Seconds @ 99 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 23 MPG over 781 miles

 

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143 Comments on “Review: 2014 Acura RLX (With Video)...”


  • avatar

    “In my mind the RLX’s drivetrain and the brand’s near-luxury image put the Acura in direct competition with the Cadillac XTS, Lincoln MKS and Volvo S80″

    You took the words right out of my mouth!
    This car is absolutely no match for the German competition.
    It just barely competes with the top-of-the-line American competition. I feel that the Cadillac XTS has the best interior on the entire American market with the Model S possibly 2nd.
    I could not get comfortable in the Acura while the XTS was roughly as comfortable as my old W222 up front.

    Then there’s the infotainment center which completely disappointed me. The Germans won’t give you a touch screen so apparently Accura decided to give you a touchscreen and a screen just to look at. If you really need to bifurcate – you’re doing it wrong.

    Then we get to power. I was never impressed with my girlfriend’s TL. If you’re not willing to put a V-8 engine in a luxobarge this size – then it’s time to talk about making it an electric vehicle. None of these sh!tcans will ever see a track, and up against my SRT (or an MKS Ecoboost) it would absolutely get murdered.

    Why not just make a dead silent ride and instant torque using an electric plug-in motor with gas backup? Then these cars can become strokejobs for richers who can claim that they’re “being green”.

    $60,000 loaded?

    I have little regard for the Acura brand name so I might as well go with Hyundai’s EQUUS and actually have a V8!

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “Why not just make a dead silent ride and instant torque using an electric plug-in motor with gas backup? Then these cars can become strokejobs for richers who can claim that they’re “being green”.”

      Exactly.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      “If you’re not willing to put a V-8 engine in a luxobarge this size – then it’s time to talk about making it an electric vehicle.”

      That may be so, but none of the other front-drive barges have V8 engines either, save for the S80. Honda doesn’t make a V8 engine, anyway. And I believe the Volvo V8 is actually Yamaha-built-and-designed.

      • 0 avatar
        Toshi

        Volvo’s V8 S80 was discontinued a year or three back, iirc.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Correct, and it WAS a Yamaha job. Now they have the T6, which has worse MPG and only slightly more power than the V8.

          Which leads me to one of my primary complaints about the S80 – way too thirsty for it’s size. It should get superior mpg to my 12 year old GS, which is the same size and has a V8.

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    I want to like this car. I want to dream and believe in this car.

    But I cannot.

    Wither Acura.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Yeah, butt…the butt looks like a 2014 LaCrosse. Add to that no engine per se and who would buy but new leasees.

      • 0 avatar
        Richard Chen

        Looking at RLX and comparable leases, the A6 and 5 series are available for slightly less with their 4 cylinder AWD turbos, but are a bit more with 6-cylinder variants. GS 350 AWD lease is similarly priced but shorter.

  • avatar
    readallover

    Generic styling, could be any one of a dozen manufacturers.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    50k to 60k for this boring, ugly as sin, fwd, absolutely-indistinguishable-from-any-sedan-that-costs-half-as-much, non-luxurious POS?

    Pass.

    Just do seppuku, Acura. It’s the honorable, noble death. It’s what you NEED to do.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I’d pass this up for that S8 from Ronin ;)

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        I honestly would take ANY Audi over this lump of shit. This car actually looks worse than an Avalon.

        At least Audi gives you honesty in architecture, an attractive and cohesive design, and driving dynamics credibility.

        It’s getting redundant to say it, but it’s just an honest assessment; the Chrysler 300 kicks this Acura’s ass in terms of styling and presence (and I would bet it rides better, also).

        And I truly wouldn’t be surprised if the new Impala rides better than this Acura, either.

        • 0 avatar
          needsdecaf

          Sorry, but to call this car a lump of shit is just disingenuous and shows your bias. Non-luxurious? It’s quite luxurious, as equal to my F10 535.

          Your point about Audi also misses the mark. Honesty in architecture? Acura has it. Attractive and cohesive design? Acura has it too. Have you seen the new A6? It’s just as anonymous if not more than this Acura.

          The ride in the Acura is fine. Very un-sporty, but fine.

          Alex’s article is good, but his pricing discussions are a bit misleading. $60k buys you a top of the line RDX. He notes that for $3k more you can get into a 550….but a stripper 550 it will be. Hell, $60k doesn’t even buy you THAT much equipment in a 535, let alone a 550. Certainly not the same level as a loaded RDX.

          I agree, it offers little compelling argument to buy, but it’s not a lump of shit as you say. No, this car is fine. It’s just overpriced. Priced similarly to a Volvo S80 it would be on the money.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            I agree with you that calling this vehicle a “lump of shit” is a stretch.

            A “lump of fail wheel drive [given its purpose] blahhh” would have been fair, though.

            But mea culpa, nonetheless.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Good eye, make that two please.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      “Just do seppuku, Acura. It’s the honorable, noble death. It’s what you NEED to do.”
      And it will permit Honda to crawl out from under Acura’s marketing shadow to thrive as a full range car maker. (Acura owner since 1992)

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Those were the good Acuras, & it’s NOT a “nostalgia thing,” either.

        In fact, Acura was the shizznit up until about 2004ish, probably peaking in ’95 to 2000, IMO.

        Back then, Acura had a clean, efficient design, and was a brand with a tightly focused mission & perception: Honest, well crafted, reliable near luxury vehicles that looked great, drove well, were stress free, and represented a viable alternative to even German, rwd sedans that were far more expensive.

        Best of all, Acura of then, was LEGENDary for VIGORously sticking to an under the radar approach to quality and subtle luxury and performance that was actually original, and they created a niche of being more reliable, less ostentatious, but precise vehicles. Lexus was soft and squishy, and Acura was firm, solid yet still comfortable.

        The late 90s Legend was a textbook example of understated, tasteful quality & luxury. I loved that car, inside and out.

        Acura of today is a confused, rudderless mess, by contrast. It’s sad.

        • 0 avatar
          JD23

          I agree, except for the late 90s Legend comment. By the late 90s, the Legend had already been transformed to the bland, slow-selling RL. The late 80s and early 90s was the Legend’s era of glory.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          I’d agree Acura was the shiznit until 1999 or 2000. The V6 TL with 5-speed autos that grenaded on demand was te beginning of the end. The Integra was a car in name only by then also, it was the CUV offering in the early 2000′s or the manual version of the TL that was “it.”

          Right now, all they got is the two CUVs – the rest – meh, and the ILX is an abomination for the money. When a tarted up Cruze with a Buick logo is kicking your ass – you got big problems.

        • 0 avatar
          waltercat

          +1, Deadweight. You’re exactly right.

          For the past nearly-15 years, my DD has been a ’99 TL (with the old-fashioned, long-lived 4-speed automatic). I think it’s as good a highway cruiser as I’ve ever owned, it drives like a nice FWD car (which I happen to like, YMMV), and – best of all – it’s proven to be the most reliable car I’ve ever owned, only requiring scheduled maintenance for the past quarter-million miles. I’d own another in a New York minute – but not the fugly, overpriced TL or the cramped TSX. I’ve looked at the RLX and I like everything about it… except for the bizarre price.

          Acura, what the hell are you thinking? Buying my TL in the fall of ’98, I could overlook anything I felt was disappointing, because – at $28K loaded – it was a bargain. I liked it immediately for that reason and came to love it as I lived with it for all these years.

          At $50-60K – I’m sorry, but the RLX is dead on arrival. Acura, please – come back from The Evil Side before it’s too late.

          • 0 avatar
            parabellum2000

            I had a 2000 TL, and if it wasn’t on its third transmission by 109,000 miles I would still have it.

            Like you said, it just ate up the highway miles, I routinely broke 30mpg, handled very well, it was quieter than any other can I’ve owned, and felt far more powerful than it’s rated horsepower.

            I think Acura has just lots its soul as a brand.

            I’d rather buy a new accord for half the price than the RL. Hell I’d be content with another 2000 TL and reliable transmission.

  • avatar
    billfrombuckhead

    Maserati Ghibli comes in around $65k and has rear wheel drive with a ZF 8 speed automatic just like a Rolls Royce or Chrysler 300.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Get ready for the Impala LTZ review next week that declares the Chevy as the better car.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    This car is fine on its own merits, but the styling is ho-hum, and it doesn’t excel in any one category. The MKS is a better value. The XTS is more interesting. The S80 is more comfortable. Nothing about this car makes me want to buy it, and that’s a shame, because Acura had a real chance to stand out here.

    Meanwhile the RDX and ILX models are similarly compromised as compared to their competition (since when was a Buick more exciting than an Acura?) and the TSX is ill-suited to the American market. The ZDX is on its way out. That NSX is on its way, but you can’t expect that they’ll sell too many, since it’s an exotic and all. It looks like once again the MDX and whatever abomination that next wears the TL badge will be the breadwinners for the Acura brand.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Yes, it is difficult to make a defense for Acura these days, I know you tried, with the entry ILX being outsold by Buick Verano about 2-to-1.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Oh and Verano spanks ILX in resale value at the auction too… ’13 ILXs < 5K, which MSRP around 30K, drop to the Civic EX-L range once they hit the block, around 23-25. Veranos last I checked (in April) held 20-21 for the same thing which MSRPs in the 23s for base.

    • 0 avatar

      The MKS’ face is REALLY ugly. I mean, like oy, g’schmoy, bozhomoi!

      But you’re right, the styling is fairly hohum, but what modern car isn’t? (The Mercs. The Fusion. The Tesla (which looks like a Fusion from the front). The new Mazda6. The BMWs have their own language, although only the 3 series and the Z have really nice styling. Speaking of which, Alex: angel eyes????! Those are cat eyes!

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Given my displeasure with Lincoln’s new offerings, some may assume I’m being facetious when I say it, but I truly find both the MKS and MKZ to be better looking than this Acura.

        I realize that I’m highly critical of many new vehicles sold today, and that this is born of my belief that there’s far less differentiation between segment competitors than in years past, but at least I’m an equal opportunity critic, giving no passes to any automaker (I’ve eviscerated BMW, Cadillac, Lexus and others in the past few months in equal manner as I have Acura and Lincoln).

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        My issue, in particular, with this Acura is that it looks like Lexus circa 2007 to me…

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      Kyree: What in particular makes you say “the TSX is ill-suited to the American market”?

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        It’s underpowered and overpriced for its segment. At some point in the next 10 years Honda is going to HAVE to take an all-in gamble with turbocharging. Sure the RDX experiment didn’t go so well, but you don’t stop there. Personally I’d take a V6 over a turbo any day but the market is moving that direction.

        Of course, the ILX replacing it is even MORE underpowered and MORE overpriced for what you’re getting. 30 grand for a 150HP “Luxury” car?? Pass that crack pipe! I need a hit of that sh1t

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “The system will not have a mechanical connection between the engine and rear wheels. Instead there will be a ~40HP motor/generator between the engine and transaxle and an approximately 28HP motor at each rear wheel.”

    That is complete rubbish. Four motors = 4x maintenance of one motor. “Sorry sir your car is handling terribly because or left rear motor went out.”

    They should absolutely not have taken away the SH-AWD, as it was one of the few reasons to buy the prior giant Accord in the first place. I really liked the 01-04 RL, but it was just too dated by the time it evolved there (especially the interior) and the 05-11 was too Accord-y for it’s own good. I wanted to like that one too, since I loved the interior and the AWD standard. But it doesn’t look special, and was ruined with the beak update and rear lights mix-up which occurred in 2010.

    Also, the back is imitation-7-Series to a T. There is too much bright work around those reflector bits at the bottom.

    And with “RLX being $1,300 more than the Lexus GS350″ means there’s no reason to buy it. It’s not as good, and has a worse badge. Real AWD is not available, real wood is not available, and you’ll lose MORE of your money than any competitor, even the ancient S80 – which is saying quite a lot.

    Uh it also says P-AWS on the back, like you’re a member of some local animal shelter association. Really? And dog leg trunk hinges at this price, competing with German metal?

    As I see it, pros: Trunk looks pretty big, has a pass-through. If you drive by fast enough, someone may think you were in a 7-Series.

  • avatar
    ckgs

    I’ve always viewed Acura as the brand that delivers more value than the competition for the same price point, and delivers a modern edge, strong reliability and resale. I think the first gen TSX did all this, and with dealer markdowns, the TL-SHAWD.

    But the ILX and now RLX miss the mark on price by way too much. My very pedestrian 2008 ES has sound deadening side glass, rain sense wipers, and folding side mirrors, parking sensors, dimming side mirrors, ventilated front seats. Come on Acura, it’s 2013, these are pricy options on an “advanced” $50k plus luxury car?

    I’m still holding out hope for the TLX.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Most people weren’t very impressed wiith the predecessor ’05 RL either. Let me admit my bias as someone who was, so much so that I bought a used ’06. Here’s what I like about that car, and how I feel it compares with this one.

      Contrary to Alex’s comments, Acura aimed a lot higher with the RL than “an ES competitor.” They aimed squarely at the GS, E-class, Audi 6 and BMW 5. And when it came out, C/D and David E. Davis Jr. at Automobile among others felt they hit the mark squarely. Yes, the back seat was too small, and the exterior looked too Accord-like for the class. But nearly everything except navigation (this car came out eight years ago, remember) was standard: Bluetooth, XM, traffic navi on navigation models, arguably the best stereo of its time with surround and DVD audio, terrific-quality leather, beautiful real wood, steerable xenon lights and a snootful more.

      The owner also had the satisfaction of knowing the car was built with lavish care using unduly expensive materials and techniques: carbon fiber driveshaft, aluminum for several body panels and suspension members, magnesium seat frames, and a paint job that was wet-sanded by hand so it didn’t have a speck of orange peel. The doors felt like bank vaults and closed with one finger. It was a triumph of subtlety and good taste insida and out.

      More important, the car had real chops on the road. SH-AWD was standard too, and it was so good the Germans knocked it off, renamed it “torque vectoring,” and left everyone thinking they invented it. It allowed Acura to do a softly sprung car that still didn’t understeer. Add the $1,000 dealer-installed spring/shock A Spec upgrade, and the thing was imperturbable in any situation and any weather, giving a terrific feeling of safety at speed.

      This mess goes for the same money and has more wheelbase for a big back seat. Meanwhile it loses absolutely everything listed above. Oh, it’ll still be a better used car value than Chevys and Daewoo Buicks, but there’s absolutely nothing compelling about it anymore. And in case there was, there’s still that hideous beak as a final spritz of buyer repellent.

      Nice job, Acura.

      P.S.: I, too hold out some hope for the TLX, solely because of the excellence of the new V6 Accord it’s based on.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        My apologies for misquoting Alex. He did say the RL was a viable “E/5 competitor,” not an “ES competitor” as I misread it.

        Yeah, I’m blind. But only in the eyes. Honest.

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    I guess I’ll keep my 2002 Accord EX-VL a little longer.

    At least it’s paid for.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    Slightly off topic, is there a special significance to the California license plate “3421″ as the photographed car has? I swore I’ve seen Motorweek review cars with the same plate number, and I find it hard to believe there’s only one issued.

    • 0 avatar
      stevelyon

      There’s a Long Beach -based company called LA Prep that handles all of Acura’s auto show and press cars. I’m sure they handle cars for other SoCal manufacturers as well. That plate probably belongs to LA Prep and gets put on a number of cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe Honda can re-assign it at will, since it’s a dealer plate.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      All of Honda’s manufacturer plates have the same number. Who know how many they have, it could be hundreds as there is no limit. The number identifies the manufacturer and has no relation to the car it is attached to.

  • avatar
    nguyenvuminh

    Although Acura and Lexus got this whole notion of luxury-car-not-from-German started in the early 90s,let’s face it, Acura never got even close to being considered a competitor to the 3 German makes and Lexus. I’m not critical of Acura because I’m sure their cars are quite good but like many out there, I see Acura in the same boat as Volvo, Cadillac, Infinity, ie near-luxury.

    • 0 avatar
      ceipower

      The sad thing to me is that Acura started out with the motto “prescision crafted performance” they cars may not have been direct competitors for BMW , but they and the dealers had a style, confidence, and direction. All that was building towards a FWD, BMW-like vehicle with sterling quality. Calling your car a Legend: right out of the gate was a balls-out move. They lost, gave away , or threw away all that and now build vehicles that no one wants to buy. It started when they dropped names for the models and went with Letters. Honda screwed themselves and they are too proud I guess to admit their mistakes. Mr. Honda ran a different company then this , a more humble company , a company that knew how to correct mistakes quickly , and learn from each mistake. Not so the current Honda , not even close. They should in all fairness , dropped the Honda name and call themselves something else.

    • 0 avatar
      billfrombuckhead

      With the ATS and new CTS introductions,I think Cadillac has significantly upped it’s game and has earned the right to be a “luxury car” while Acura is the very definition of near luxury. I would also say that another class of near luxury cars being the Chrysler 300 and Hyundai Genesis are more desirable for car enthusiasts.

  • avatar
    stevelyon

    What amazes me is how well the Hyundai Genesis compares to the RLX.

    Genesis “R-Spec”:
    5.0L V8, 429HP
    Rear wheel drive
    8 speed transmission

    With plenty of bells and/or whistles in an arguably better looking car, for $47,000 MSRP.

  • avatar
    360joules

    It may very well be. But the gist of this review is that this car underwhelms for the money. The RL used to be the car that VW Phaeton buyers wanted: reliable luxury and high technology in a vanilla wrapper so that your clients didn’t see red when they received your bill. Now it’s more expensive for less capability.

  • avatar
    Prado

    Take away the badges and the beak and I bet most people would mistake this for an Accord. The side profile especially looks 99% Accord. This would make a fine step up from the Accord at 35k, but at 50K they are crazy. If Acura want to charge this kind of money, they are going to have to do a lot more to distinguish their cars from Honda.

  • avatar
    kmoney

    I think the frontwheel drive is one of the big things to go. I don’t know what type of platform sharing this thing is on, or what type of development costs it would incur (no doubt huge), but redeveloping into RWD or at least longitudinal based AWD would be the first big step. I like Acuras, and Japanese luxury cars in general, but the hangup for why I don’t condider one of these (we own a Lexus and Infiniti right now) is that they are too close to a Honda to justify the price difference. A big part of this is the FWD powertrain and to a lesser extent the Honda V6 shared accross basically their entire car lineup save for the civic.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Exactly.

      This car is a train wreck, and it starts with the FWD layout. FWD is fine, but not when you are priced to compete with RWD luxury cars. Not only that, but Acura has to engineer around that platform limitation with crap like P-AWS and stability control that is always messing with the brakes. Why not start with RWD in the first place?

      I think the engine performance (at least on paper) is fine, though too peaky for this class of car. While most think it’s great to rev sports cars like the S2000, I think we can all agree that buyers in this segment prefer more relaxed power. OK, maybe Acura wants to appeal to buyers who want more sport (and somehow don’t care about the FWD and all the dynamic workarounds). Then why are they turning around and hiding quad exhaust tips?

      I don’t see any advantage in the gadgets or other equipment offered by Acura either. You can get almost all of this crap in mainstream C-segment cars for less than $30k now. The interior might be well assembled, but can you order the same range of color and materials as the Germans, or is it black only?

      Alex says the rear doors give the car a more luxurious look than its predecessor. What detail about the rear doors is that? The hoffmeister kink? So the only detail bringing the car upmarket is borrowed from the German competition that Acura wants to run with?

      Alex says the RLX is unquestionable a good car, but then points out it is overpriced by $10-15k. You can’t be that overpriced and still be a good car. It’s a blatant ripoff. Nevermind Volvo and Cadillac, Buicks strike me as much better deals. Regal turbo/GS? Doesn’t that have a max msrp $13k less than a base RLX?

      • 0 avatar
        JD23

        Honda was developing a V8 and RWD platform for the RL and other Acuras until the financial crisis hit in 2008, causing them to overreact and cancel both projects. They assumed that the market for true luxury cars was dead and the ILX and now RLX are the fruit of their decision.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    Wow Alex, you completely lost me with this review. The RLX has the nicest interior in the class? Really? Have you been in the 2014 E-class or a well optioned 5 series? Both feel like $60K cars on the inside. The A6 feels like a $50K car, and the RLX feels like a $40K car. The optional leather dash might say S-class, but the rest of it says glorified TL. Plastic wood for this kind of money is simply inexcusable, and the double screen system is totally nonsensical, like half the room wanted a touch screen and the other half wanted to continue with their old iDrive knockoff setup, so they just said screw it and did both.

    By the way, apparently two screens weren’t enough space to include a clock. So instead they shoehorned one in next to the top screen, straight from Marty McFly’s Delorean circa 1985. Even Lexus has finally figured out that hey, maybe ’80s digital clocks don’t look so great in 2013, but not Acura. Ye olde clock it is!

    Also, some history is in order. The old RL was not a “hoot” to drive anywhere, AWD or no. It rolled like the Titanic around corners, and the throttle and transmission communicated with each other via the US Post Office. Not Priority Mail either, that would be too much of a rush. Please wait at the bar while your downshift is being prepared sir, it will only be a few minutes.

    The fact that Acura thinks they can get $60K for this dog proves they have learned absolutely nothing. The RL has been a miserable failure from the original ’96 3.5RL on, and it will continue to be business as usual. The 2005 RL was such a colossal bomb that dealers put $10K cash on the hood pretty much immediately, and they still couldn’t move any off the lots. Anyone who thinks their $60K investment will be protected thanks to Acura resale value will be in for a rude awakening come four years later when the car is worth less than $25K. I guarantee that. You only have to look at the last RL to see how helpful legendary Acura resale was, and that thing was actually more class competitive! Acura can say they want their car compared with Bentley and Rolls Royce, that’s about as effective as saying the competition is BMW and Mercedes. No it ain’t. Plastic wood and FWD buys you a first class ticket to Volvo town.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I guess I’ll call Alex out.

      When is the last time anyone can recall Alex doing a highly critical review of ANY vehicle?

      It’s as if every vehicle you review is armrests “competitive,” Alex, and that you’re that easy professor who grades on a very lenient curve, that everyone who needs to get their GPA up is eager to take.

      As far as important details go, this is at least an alleged near luxury car, posing as more, by your own statements, so why no mention of wind, road or other noise? What about NVH in general? What about ride quality, on an absolute and relative basis?

      Aren’t these things important, especially in this class of vehicle?

      This is am ambiguous review, and light on critical details in my humble opinion.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy

        I would disagree – the message of this review was loud and clear: This car is way too expensive, the suspension is sub-par and the driving experience somewhat strange.

        • 0 avatar
          jpolicke

          I’m with carguy here; the negative impression comes across loud and clear. We know the car leans too much, the handling is precise yet still feels odd, the suspension is sophisticated yet still hard. The car is nicely assembled with quality materials. You and I can call this an overpriced failure or worse with no repercussions, but a professional journalist has to make it more subtle if he expects to get future product to review. I think Alex did a masterful job of damning it with faint praise.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            My comments regarding Alex’s review were not personal in nature nor were they ad hominem; I have zero interest in creating unnecessary drama.

            However, assuming that I’m being sincere, and assuming that I am raising at least some meritorious points, is there a pleasant way to express that which I am trying to?

            Alex doesn’t mention anything regarding the quality of the ride (he does speak to handling to an extent, which isn’t as critical as rode quality in this class of vehicle, IMO), he doesn’t refer to road noise, wind noise, or NVH attributes.

            He speaks to the feel of the steering, though, and despite finding nothing redeeming about it, and in criticizing the omission of the former AWD system, and in criticizing the excessive brake system intervention, still manages to conclude somehow that this is a better handling vehicle than its predecessor?

            The rest of the majority of the review is ambiguous, to a large extent.

            The review doesn’t read like a proper critique but rather a review with an imperative not to offend the manufacturer.

          • 0 avatar
            Alex L. Dykes

            DeadWeight, I’m not afraid of offending Acura, believe me. The fact is I liked the RLX right up to the point where I saw the price tag. I didn’t say the RLX handles better than the RL, quite the contrary, I did however say it is perhaps the best handling FWD sedan in this segment which I stand by. I also said however that every AWD competitor is better.

            The RLX’s value proposition is the problem for me. As I said, it it was $10,000-$15,000 cheaper it would be a winner but as it is it’s a nice car that’s way too expensive.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        I find myself having to ask about NVH in nearly every review, and not just Alex’s. Sometimes I wonder if people that care about that are a really small minority.

        Jack, the performance driving instructor of all people, seems to be the reviewer that mentions it most consistently.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          @burgersandbeer, I always wonder about NVH too. One nice thing about some of the print mags that use decibel meters is it isn’t that hard to use it as a reference. I can always go back and look at the magazines old reviews of cars I already own and get an idea of how loud it is inside of the vehicle being tested.

          • 0 avatar
            Alex L. Dykes

            PrincipalDan & burgersandbeer, NVH gets somewhat subjective which is why I usually avoid talking about it unless there is a big difference one way or another vs the competition. For instance I typically call out Buick for having incredibly quiet cabins. Still, this is an area where we have had some requests such as yours so I have recently invested in an appropriate sound meter and I’ll work on incorporating some numbers into future reviews.

    • 0 avatar
      Prado

      The double screens make perfect sense. The Accord has them.

    • 0 avatar
      MLS

      Except that real trees and actual style grow in Volvo town. For my money, the S80′s interior is better than that in the RLX. When I look at the Acura’s dash, all I see Hyundai Sonata.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I have to agree Acura hasn’t had a clue in this dept since the 90s, RL has been a boring humdrum car with horrific resale at least since MY00 if not sooner. I know this because two years ago one was offered to me for $1500/120K otc. So I started doing a little research and despite the RL’s good looks it uses an odd drivetrain with known transmission issues (longitudinal FWD), gets subpar milage (around 17/25), and is lacking in power for its size/weight class (MY00 210 bhp /224 ft-tq). So even well-kept, used, and cheap 11 years later I couldn’t compel myself to pull the trigger, its just a car that doesn’t do anything very well aside from looks. I’ve seen about 3 of the 05+ RLs in the wild, which is at least half of the previous gen RLs I’ve seen in the past four years. I doubt this will change much for RLX as RL was simply a rebadge of the Honda Legend for the US, it was never a true “flagship” or ultra premium offering, just a JDM spec sedan.

      “Plastic wood and FWD buys you a first class ticket to Volvo town.”

      I like this, but Volvo and Acura have another thing in common: they are both brands which cease to have any relevance and are both heading for the big crusher in the sky.

      I’ve personally never owned any “Japanese luxury” in all of my automotive purchases (but have driven them) and in 2013 if I was in a position to buy as such Lexus would be the only one I’d entertain (and even Lexus models are re-badged or heavily borrowed from Toyota).

  • avatar
    Tostik

    Only BMW can get away with bad styling like this. But they, after all, have the BMW badge, which tells you ‘we’re still the king of driving dynamics’.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      if I wanted an ugly car with a great engine I’d skip the bmw and go with the honda every time. No matter how banal the exterior I’ve never driven a honda that wasn’t fun.

  • avatar
    redav

    Regarding the steering assist – Ford has a system that ‘assists’ steering by counteracting road crown or wind loads. Considering the number of complaints I’ve heard about difficulty getting it to track straight, I think Ford would be better off dropping the tech.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I don’t think lacking an S/7 competitor keeps Acura out of the luxury ranks, rather Acuras being nothing more than fancy Hondas keeps Acura out of the luxury ranks. And the price on this thing is RIDICULOUS. The discounts had best be EPIC.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    1st Acura Brand Manager: “Hey you know that SH-AWD that makes the RL unique in its segment?”

    2nd Acura Brand Manager: “Oh you mean the same system that was very well received by reviewers in a class of vehicle where AWD is considered to be a luxury feature?”

    1st ABM: “Yeah that one. I had an idea, lets eliminate it for the redesign.”

    2nd ABM: “Brilliant! So what do you want to do for lunch?”

    • 0 avatar

      If you watched the video, you would’ve known that removing SH-AWD improves fuel economy. Or did you think that near-luxury marques were immune from CAFE?

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Honda doesn’t sell enough Fit/Civic/ILX/4cyl Accords to make up for it? What were RL sales last year?

        4 cyl Hondas are thick on the ground here but Acura “flagships”, I’ve seen more Legends on the streets than any iteration of RL.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        He’s got you there Pete. Japan Inc could well afford to spin up some V8 screamer or AWD gas guzzling models from a CAFE standpoint, they aren’t in Detriot’s position where 1/3rd of the sales are V8 trucks.

        • 0 avatar
          doctor olds

          @28-Cars-Later – Honda was concerned enough about CAFE credits that they certified the Accord CrossTour as an SUV so it would be considered a truck for CAFE.

          Car and Truck CAFE requirements are different, and monitored separately. In addition, a manufacturer’s import fleet has to be averaged separately from their domestic fleet for each.

          Import cars, domestic cars, import trucks and domestic trucks- thus create four completely separate groups to be tracked for CAFE.

          The Japanese built a pile of CAFE credits for import vehicles over the years, since they originally imported everything and then only smaller vehicles. Knowing this, I was surprised to learn about the Cross Tour playing Certification games. But their Ridgeline couldn’t even beat the much bigger, more capable and more powerful Avalanche in fuel economy rating, which might provide a hint.

          Separate tracking of imports vs domestics was supposed to protect UAW jobs by forcing the domestics to make small vehicles rather than just importing them.
          On top of essentially banning the big cars our customers used to love, CAFE also forced the US makers to build small cars regardless of losses so that they could build the larger ones with some profit(really medium size compared to the old days). A snapshot in time: GM’s Small Car Group in the late ’90′s was building 1.6Million cars at an average loss of $1,600 – $2.6B/year!

    • 0 avatar
      JD23

      Acura made the boneheaded move of releasing the pedestrian FWD version before the supposedly world-beating SH-AWD hybrid. By the time the hybrid is released, the market will have already formed a conclusion about the RLX, and it certainly isn’t a positive one.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Thaaat’s right. You don’t debut with the lower trim level. Or in fact, one where your complete planned line-up of a model isn’t available yet.

        Reviewers and mags drive it when it’s just come out, not a year later when you bring your trim level along. Ugh.

  • avatar
    carguy

    I always liked the Honda philosophy or more with less but seems to be a case of less for more money. While it may have nice interior materials there are a host of competitors which deliver full size near-luxury in this segment (with Edmunds TMV):

    Toyota Avalon Limited + tech package $39K
    Chevy Impala LTZ fully loaded $37K
    Hyundai Genesis 3.8 loaded $40K
    Lexus ES350 + Ultra Lux + Nav $42K
    Buick LaCrosse Premium 2+ Ultra Lux $42K

    All provide plenty of technology, a great ride and no weird feeling when you go around corners.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      I see these as the real competitors to the RLX. While the RLX may be a bit nicer than some of the above, comparing it against real luxury cars is a bit of over reach on Acura’s part.

      It would no doubt compare favourably to the Lexus ES and Buick LaCrosse at near the same price, but at nearly 50% more there are other, better, choices – both in terms of capability and badge prestige.

  • avatar
    pb35

    No wood = no deal. Why can’t Acura get this one detail right? It matters to luxury car shoppers as I am not the only one that feels this way.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      When I put in new floors I chose an engineered material that had a real oak veneer. Pergo was rejected immediately as I wasn’t interested in seeing a photograph of wood splattered all over my house. I don’t consider the image of wood a requirement in a car. Sometimes a glossy black plastic or brushed aluminum surface is perfectly acceptible. It’s honest. But if you give me a surface that looks like wood it damn well ought to be wood, otherwise you’re just one more in a long tradition of cheesy fakes going back to pre-malaise Detroit, no matter how realistic it appears.

      • 0 avatar
        jbltg

        All automotive wood trim these days, no matter who the manufacturer, looks like plastic to me.

        I don’t know how they manage to do that!

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          Agreed. I’ve had passengers mistake real wood for fake, so what’s the point of using the real stuff?

          I’m curious how Alex knows it’s fake. Did Acura admit this? Snap a trim piece? I don’t mean to be a wise ass; I really don’t have a surefire way to distinguish real wood from a well done fake. Unless it is as bad as what you can find in an early 2000s Corolla, fake wood is generally good enough.

          • 0 avatar
            Alex L. Dykes

            Acura is up-front about the faux-tree. The only Acura with real wood is the new MDX and only with a particular option package that is exclusive to Canada. No US bound Acura has real-tree.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            The most important thing about real wood is that when someone is in your car and they tap the trim, and say “oh I bet that’s not real wood!” you can honestly say, “Yeah, it is.”

            Shuts them up real quick. And is fun.

      • 0 avatar
        pb35

        Agreed. Wood is certainly not a requirement for me. Both of my cars have some form of metal on the dash/console (dented, on the Volvo). But, if it is supposed to be wood, it had better be.

        I’m not interested in fake plastic trees.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Acura may be a lot of things, but a successful brand in America it is not.

  • avatar
    ceipower

    For me this Acura comes across as just another sad , half hearted attempt for an upmarket car. Goofy styling , less than class leading stats , seems like a car no one asked for, yet the mule headed exec’s at Honda simply refuse to admit to a now long string of sales failures. I think it’s very possible to build a case that says Honda wants Acura to fail. The arrogance of the Honda management is astonishing! When I first saw the all new NSX with that stupid “beak” grafted to the front , it seemed obvious , Honda has no real feel for the market , and hasn’t for the past 15 years.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Why is it that you can buy a nicely featured GPS for under $250, but to get navigation in this $48,450 “luxury car” that already contains not one but TWO LCD screens, is a $2500 option? They are adding at most an antenna, a GPS receiver, and some code. And for all we know all of the above is already built in the basic components and disabled. At this price level this is inexcusable.

    • 0 avatar
      Scott_314

      Agreed. I would negotiate a price, then demand $2,500 off to cover the navigation, otherwise walk.

      Actually for $50K I wouldn’t be there. Good luck Acura.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Exactly, but Honda do this too with the EX-L with Nav being around $2K more than the EX-L and the Accord has two screens too so it shouldn`t be that expensive. Other manufacturers get it down to below $1K.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    My impression of Acura has gone from “Nice Honda” to “Nice CUV, do they still make a car?” to “If it wasn’t for the occasional review I wouldn’t know they still exist, do they still make that weird ZDX?”

    I see there’s no reason to change these impressions

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    Nice ’07 Odyssey wheels. Also, nice rear end – the Cruze should be flattered.

    To echo the majority, this car isn’t even qualified as an also-ran. Its a never-got-up-for-the-race.

  • avatar
    George B

    How does management of a car company develop a car that’s not competitive with the previous model of it’s peer manufacturers? Did they hire management from old-GM? At least the RLX styling isn’t as ugly as the TL, but the price and choice of options are insane.

    I’d start the RLX emergency refresh by making them all come standard with leather seats, navigation, and one decent looking interior trim package, real wood or metal. Cost to Honda is small compared to increase in value to the consumer and the number of RLXs sold doesn’t justify the cost of different build options. There’s no excuse not to do more work on the infotainment software as the result of the work can be applied to other Acura and Honda models. Acura probably should have shipped this car with the larger 3.7L V6, but not sure if the competitive advantage of the displacement increase is worth the regulatory retesting cost spread over a small number of units sold.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    As a side note, you get standard leather in such high-tier luxury vehicles as a…TOWN. AND. COUNTRY. WTF, Acura?

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    Interesting how Alex brought up Volvo. I think that’s about right, Volvo and Saab used to be in a separate category from BMW/Mercedes… downmarket, but also drawing a different crowd. As Baruth once said, the problem with car culture today is that everything either sucks or it rocks… so everything gets compared to BMW. That’s the branding problem with Acura, no matter how much they work at ‘smart luxury’, they keep on doing the wink-wink-nudge-nudge “but we’re really just as good as BMW. Same goes from the perception end, the internet won’t stop comparing them to BMW even if they do go downmarket.

    Speaking of ‘middling’ engine numbers…

    0-60: 5.72 Seconds
    Average Observed Fuel Economy: 23 MPG over 781 miles

    … those aren’t bad numbers. Tough to see what more you could *practically* want in a car of this sort,

    Aside: To me, the original beak-less RL with SH-AWD is the best looking of the large Acuras. At a time when car-nerds drool over “aggressive”, that car was elegant, simple, clean lines. Acura’s version of the first Phaeton.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    The real question is why they decided to invest countless millions into a car that has averaged below 70 units sold per month for the past 2 model years?

    Didn’t they kill off the CL for “slow sales”? Why is this thing allowed to live?

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      Honda has always been quite a stubborn company in many ways. Killing off the RLX now or re-designing it the way people have been asking for (e.g. better exterior design, V8, RWD) would simply amount to admitting a decade long failure of the RL team, and it seems to me that Honda really hates acknowledging that it’s been wrong all along. It’s kind of like Apple’s stubborn refusal to get rid of the one button mouse. Everyone hated it, yet Apple stubbornly continued using it until now (on portables).

      There are plenty of other examples of this stubbornness. For example, you can order a Honda Accord with a stick only as long as you have it in one of two colors, black or modern steel metallic. You can have Accord Coupe EX with a stick, but only in black color. You can have TSX wagon, but only with 5 speed AT, when 6 speed must be the norm on this car now. They killed off Integra, RSX, Prelude, and S2000 even though they were some of the most loved cars ever made by Honda, and Civic SI is merely a shade of its former self now.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        Bite your tongue. I LOVE my one-button mouse.

        I can’t stand having to remember which button to push. It’s a built-in legacy deficiency of Windows, like having to remember what the C drive is.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The CL should still be around, and nobody will alter my opinion on that subject!

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    It costs about twice as much as an accord but you get 20% more car. You don’t even get cool gee whiz features like AWD.

    Personally I’d buy a 300 and save a ton of money. The Fiat interior is really nice too – and the Pentastar engine is right there with this car. But I realize most Honda buyers wouldn’t touch a Chrysler..

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      It costs about twice as much as an accord but you get 20% more car. You don’t even get cool gee whiz features like AWD.

      I think you are getting to the crux of why many here feel that Acura should die. Insert a “premium/platinum/ultimate/Cartier/brougham trim level at the top of the Honda trim lines and give people everything you give them currently in an Acura and charge 20-30% more instead of 50%. Instant profit. The irony is the Honda “broughams” would likely keep a much greater % of their resale value than the Acura.

  • avatar
    markholli

    The RL that this car replaces sold in such low numbers in its final year that it was about as rare as an Italian supercar. Even more so in Canada, where I think only 1200 examples sold in a year.

    Acura had a chance to really step back and re-evaluate what sort of car they wanted to offer in this segment. And you know what? They blew it. They phoned it in. Sad.

    This car is DOA.

    As a side note: take Alex’s side profile pic and put your thumbs over the headlights and taillights. What do you see? Just a boring old Accord.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      You just reminded me of this fact, which is incredible when one truly reflects upon it.

      At one time I considered purchasing a used 2005 or 2006 RL.

      Yes, it may have been inconspicuous, but the fit and finish of everything from the paint to the door pulls to the panel gaps was at least the equal of anything German (and better than most German sedans, IMO), and there was an understated elegance in the exterior and interior design.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      I think I have seen Acura RL about two or three times within the last decade, despite having spent some time living on the west coast, where Acura is quite popular. I think that’s a great testament to how badly these things sell. But then again, maybe it has to do with the anonymous design of the car.

      • 0 avatar
        mies

        The RL is as rare as hen’s teeth everywhere. I saw maybe 4 of the previous generataion RL’s on the roads during it’s run. I see the 2014 model pretty frequently, but that’s only because I drive past a house on my way to work that has one parked in its driveway. I still haven’t seen one being driven.

        The 2014 looks better than the previous generation, but it’s no slam dunk. The appearance of any Acura is enough to keep me from seriously considering one. I’d rather buy a top trim level LaCrosse or Impala. I like Honda stuff, but I won’t pay a premium for an ugly car.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I haven’t driven it, but from what I’ve read about this car, its essential problem is that it’s basically a big Honda Accord that is priced like a mid-tier BMW. And folks can get a bit prickly when you ask them to pay 5-series prices for a Honda Accord.

    Honda needs to learn to develop a separate DNA for its luxury brand, otherwise it runs the risk of looking like overpriced badge engineering. And that risk hasn’t paid off.

    Saving the AWD setup for the hybrid model was also a mistake. The initial press reviews provided brief test drives of the forthcoming hybrid prototype, which only succeeded in making the FWD car seem even more inadequate. Honda was shooting for class-leading fuel economy with the RLX lineup, but that’s not a priority for this class.

    On the whole, it seems that Acura designed with China in mind, more so than the US. The emphasis is on rear passenger room and comfort, which is what the Chinese demand. North America doesn’t appear to be a prime target market for this design.

  • avatar
    Macca

    I can’t really add anything new to the conversation 80-some comments in, other than pile on. So that’s what I’ll do.

    As someone who could find themselves shopping in this segment in the near future the Acura wouldn’t even get a test drive. Lexus gets a bad Internet rap for being boring but this pile doesn’t even register on the boring scale.

    Acura still doesn’t get that their pronounced schnoz is a design failure. The LED headlights are ridiculously tacky and ugly. This thing screams vanilla, generic sedan. The interior just looks like another Accord – I’ve never sat in an Acura that seemed remotely luxurious, and this doesn’t look any different – that center stack is hideous.

    There’s absolutely no reason to even consider the RLX – even against far more affordable ‘competition’.

  • avatar
    wmba

    An excerpt from Consumer Reports:

    ” But Honda positions this car to compete against the Audi A6, Lexus GS, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and the like… You’ve got to be kidding me.

    And it’s not as if Honda has forgotten how to make good cars. Take, for example, the excellent Accord V6. That midsized sedan is quick, quiet, roomy, and capable and costs about $30,000. I don’t think the RLX is even as good as its mundane stable-mate, but it costs nearly twice as much.

    With the RLX, Honda is either showing contempt for discerning luxury-car buyers, trying to rip off those who don’t know any better, or simply aiming at the wrong target.

    Seriously Honda, you phoned this one in and you know it.”

    http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2013/04/first-drive-bland-acura-rlx-is-under-equipped-and-outclassed/index.htm

    Unfortunately, the Dykes review here is considerably less cutting edge.

  • avatar
    PriusV16

    Looks like a left-over design concept for a BMW 5-series from the Bangle era.

    It´s good to see a japanese car maker try to come up with something truly characteristic and striking.

    Too bad it´s just another 5-series copy.

    BTW, if you ever wondered about the genesis of the “Bangle butt” (which can also be spotted on this Acura), Bangle himself explains it here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLO8gNLGtOA

    There´s some other videos of Bangle holding speeches and lectures on YT, and when you view them, you´ll have to admit that this guy really CARES about what he´s doing – whether you like his designs or not.

    And IMHO, he´s also right with his general theory that the auto industry keeps cranking out last century´s designs while it should really look forward and come up with new visions of the automobile and mobility in general in a phase of fundamental technological change (electric mobility, self-driving cars, new materials etc.).

  • avatar
    JD23

    Alex, I believe you are incorrect about the standard RLX not featuring a leather interior. The Technology package upgrades to a higher-grade perforated Milano leather, but the standard model does include lower-grade leather, not vinyl, as you imply.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Nope, JD23, Edmunds confirms you have to move up TWO trim levels to get real leather of any sort.

      • 0 avatar
        JD23

        I just checked Edmunds and you are correct. Some of the other reviews I had read stated that leather was standard and the Technology Package upgrades to premium leather. My only question now is whether the Acura product planners were smoking crack when configuring the RLX trim levels. It takes an MSRP of $54k for leather to be offered – the $48k of the base is not enough?

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    The only thing that I like about this are is the name, ReLaX, its probably the one way to really tolerate the fact you’re spending north of $60 on Hondas weapon against the Lincoln MKS, which is just a glorified Ford 500.

    In fact its luxury cars like these and BMWs new direction that make me think “The Panthers were ahead of their time”, fat, heavy, comfy, and not much to drive.

    Acuras last hope to revive its sporty image is the NSX they’ve been hyping up for the last few years, I say good luck to them on that one, and LOOSE THE BEAK!

  • avatar

    Guys, the SH AWD is what you need. I’ve played with the TL and MDX. The system is great. The torque vectoring makes a huge MDX drive well in corners.

    It should be part of this car-this IS the top one, right ?

    Acura shouldn’t have pulled it from the current RDX either.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Acura seems to have placed a priority on having leading fuel economy for its class. That means having a slightly smaller motor than before, plus no AWD except for the hybrid model.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Sadly, SH-AWD hasn’t really resonated with the public. The RL sold horribly with it, and the new V6 RDX is selling much better without it since people care much more about the engine than the driveline.

      As with the entirety of the RL, Acura had the product but not a clue how to market it. Now the Germans are doing a brisk business with their “torque vectoring” knockoff, and you see what Acura did with the RL.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    Alex, I think you’ve been way, way too kind on it. Particularly the interior – it SCREAMS a Japanese car with doo-das. Look at those rear seats – they have no form. There is no style, gimmicky buttons over function. There is not a single pattern or style to all those buttons. Not a single straight line. And look below the skin – check out how tinny the rear rotors are! Typical Honda – just barely enough brakes to stop the car once.

  • avatar
    cpthaddock

    It’s a sad, sad, sad, sad thing to witness Honda today. After decades of having at least one Honda product in our garage, 2012 saw that end. For 2013 we added a new Honda, but it’s a lawn mower.

    What is most disconcerting (after their horrid styling on many models) is the Acura -> Honda trickle down effect that has been apparent in withholding features from Honda products to differentiate Acura. The net result is mediocrity.

    As long as Honda stays profitable I find it unlikely that there will be much change, but to see them pissing away their legacy and momentum is a crying shame.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    Acura’s problem with this car is getting past the fact that it’s a TL with about 2 inches more rear leg room.

    Also, whatever few dollars you save by using fake wood in your cars is exponentially overwhelmed with the stigma of a “flagship” luxury car with plastic wood.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      That’s right. Flagship means best-of-best for our brand, we can’t do any better right now. So one must assume they have no access to real wood like they use for the Canadian market MDX or the prior RL.

  • avatar
    18726543

    If the only way to defeat the lane departure system (when active) is to signal, then praise be to jebus if it gets even ONE more person paying attention to their f’in turn signals!! (And one is probably a good goal since they’ll probably only sell that many a month)

  • avatar
    ceipower

    Honda actually thinks adding an additional letter to the RL will solve all it’s shortcomings? They need to put down the General Motors playbook before it’s too late.

  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    The RLX is not Honda’s answer to the lux market in the US. This model, as well as the previous Legend models, were produced for the Japanese market. The market in Japan is completely different than ours. Hence the very strong sales of the RLX there. Honda doesn’t find the need to produce a V8 for it’s targeted consumer in Japan. Regardless, the attention to detail Honda engineers put into this model would be consider

  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    considered “extreme” by the Americans or even the Germans. Honda obviously knows what the Americans want. Simply look at the stats. Americans love their Hondas…


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