By on December 13, 2013

2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Exterior

It wasn’t that long ago I had an Acura RLX for a week. If you recall that review, I came away liking the car but found little joy in the price tag. Despite wearing a fantastic stitched leather interior, there was just no way I could justify the $10,000 premium over the AWD turbocharged competition from Lincoln, Volvo and others. Can a new dual clutch transmission and three electric motors turn the RLX from being a good car with the wrong price tag to a value proposition?

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Because of the RLX’s FWD drivetrain, I was forced to view the RLX with an eye towards the Volvo S80, Lincoln MKS and the Lexus ES. With the Sport Hybrid model, Acura has done two things to take the RLX out of that pool and dive into another: AWD and a hybrid system. On paper a 377 horsepower hybrid system should put the RLX head to head with the Lexus GS 350, Infiniti M35h, and BMW AciveHybrid 5.

On the outside, the RLX cuts an elegant and restrained pose. Although the cars Acura allowed us to drive at a regional event were pre-produciton, fit and finish was excellent. Lincoln has certainly made strides in recent years, but there is a difference in build quality between the MKS and the RLX that didn’t go unnoticed. Acura attempts to further distinguish the RLX from the other near-luxury brands by going aluminum intensive with the hood, quarter panels and all four doors courtesy of Alcoa. I find the RLX unquestionably attractive but the overall form fails to beat the Cadillac CTS or BMW 5-Series in my book. I place the RLX’s exterior form a tie with the Infiniti M and a hair behind the Lexus GS, especially if the GS is wearing that funky F-Sport nose.

2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Interior

Interior

While German interiors continue to be somewhat spartan and cold, the RLX feels open and inviting. Stitched dash and door panels elevate the cabin well above what you will find in a Lexus ES Hybrid or Lincoln MKS. The same is true for the rear of the cabin. Constructed out of the same high quality materials as the front, this is a definite departure from the hard plastics found in the ES and MKS. Most of my day was spent in an RLX with a grey and ivory motif that played to my personal tastes. On the down side, Acura continues to woo luxury shoppers with obviously fake looking faux-wood. This decision is doubly perplexing, as the new MDX is available in Canada with real wood trim, but not in America. Why don’t they offer it in America on either car?

Front seat comfort is among the best in the luxury set, beating the Mercedes E350, Lexus GS 450h and Infiniti M35h that I drove that day, but falling short of the million-way BMW M-Sport seats. Because the RLX rides on a transverse engine platform, there is an inherent space efficiency and the direct beneficiary is the rear cabin where you’ll find 2-3 inches more rear leg room than any of the other hybrids. I had hoped the Sport Hybrid design would allow a low “hump” since there isn’t a driveshaft going rearward, but unfortunately Acura decided to use this space for hybrid drivetrain components. It’s probably just as well, since the middle seat is considerably higher than the outboard rear seats making it impossible for a six-foot passenger to ride in the middle. Thanks to lithium-ion batteries(rather than the nickel-based packs Toyota and Lexus use), the RLX maintains a decently sized trunk capable of swallowing four golf bags.

For reasons unknown, Acura decided to use the Sport Hybrid to re-invent the shifter control. I know that everyone else is doing this, but Acura’s 4-button arrangement strikes me as one of the most unusual. Instead of a flat button bank ala-Lincoln, Acura uses a bank that is designed to have some meaning. Park is a button, Drive is a differently shaped button, Neutral is yet another shape of button and Reverse is a button on its side that you push toward the rear of the vehicle. While that sounds logical, it was far from elegant when we had to make several four-point turns in San Francisco. Anyone else prefer a regular old console shifter?

2014 RLX Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Acura

Infotainment, Gadgets and Pricing

Like the regular RLX, the Sport Hybrid combines a 7-inch haptic feedback touchscreen with an 8-inch display only screen set higher in the dash. The engineers say the concept is as follows: the lower touchscreen handles the audio, freeing the upper screen for navigation and other tasks. My opinion of the system has improved since I first encountered it on the MDX but I still think the casserole needs more time in the oven. You can change tracks and albums using the touchscreen but changing playlists or genres requires you to use the rotary/joystick lower in the dash to control the 8-inch screen. In my mind this sort of kills the dual-screen sales proposition. On the positive side the system is very responsive and the graphics are all high-resolution and attractive. iDrive is still my favorite in the mid-size luxury segment, but AcuraLink ties with MMI in second.

Base Sport Hybrid models get a speaker bump from the gas-only RLX’s 10-speaker sound system to the mid-range Acura ELS system. As you would assume, the Sport Hybrid model is well equipped versus the gasoline model and all models come with navigation, tri-zone GPS-linked climate control and keyless go. Keeping things simple there is only one option, the “Advance package” (no, Advance is not a typo), which adds Krell speakers, ventilated front seats, sunshades and seat warmers for the rear passengers, front parking sensors, power folding mirrors, radar cruise control, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, a pre-collision warning system and electric front seat belt tensioners.

2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Acura

Drivetrain

Now for what makes the RLX a Sport Hybrid. First up, we a direct-injection 3.5L V6 producing 310 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of twist that now sports start/stop technology. This engine is mated to a brand-new 7-speed transaxle developed specifically for the RLX. The new transaxle is a hybrid of sorts (and I’m not talking about the motors yet) blending a 2-speed planetary gearset with a 6-speed dual-clutch robotic manual transmission. The two technologies allow the entire unit to be as compact as possible. First gear is obtained by setting the dual clutch gearbox to 5th gear and the planetary gearset to low while “second” through “seventh” use DCT gears 1-6 in order with the planetary set to high. I found this solution particularly interesting because it would, in theory, allow Acura to obtain more than 7 ratios from the same unit with some software programming. 12-speed anyone? After the transmission is the first (and largest) motor/generator, rated for 47 horsepower/109 lb-ft. Thanks to the dual-clutch transmission, the engine can be decoupled from the drivetrain, making this different from Honda’s IMA system where the engine is always spinning.

Linked by a high-voltage electrical system is a rear mounted two-motor drive unit. The single inboard housing incorporates twin 36 horsepower /54 lb-ft motors and a clutch pack. The clutch pack is used to connect the motors together when the system needs to deliver equal power to each rear wheel. Combined with the lithium-ion battery pack in the trunk (the same one used in the Accord Hybrid), you get 377 total horsepower and 377 lb-ft of combined torque. Until you reach approximately 75 MPH at which point you have around 310 horsepower because the rear motors gradually disengage and completely disconnect over 80 MPH. The whole shebang is good for 28/32/30 MPG (City/Highway/Combined).

2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Exterior-006

Drive

Why bother with two motors in the rear? Torque vectoring. The dual rear motor arrangement separates Acrua’s system from the e-AWD systems in the Lexus RX 400h and Highlander Hybrid, or the mechanical systems in the Infiniti Q50 Hybrid or Lexus LS 600hL. Although it produces about the same amount of power as Toyota’s rear hybrid motor and likely weighs more, splitting things in two allows it to vector torque all the time, power on or off. Say what? Yep, you read that correctly, this is the first production system that torque vectors when your foot isn’t on the gas. Think of it like a canoe. If you’re moving forward and you plant an oar in the water, the canoe will rotate around that axis. Instead of oars, the RLX uses motors.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now – this isn’t a replacement in my mind for Acura’s mechanical SH-AWD system. The mechanical AWD system uses an overdrive module to make the rear wheels almost a full percent faster than the front wheels causing the vehicle to behave like a RWD biased vehicle. In that setup, the front wheels are being “pushed” by the rears and the result is steering feel that is very much like a RWD sedan when under power. When the power was off in the old RL, the car would plow into the bushes like a front-heavy Audi. The RLX Sport Hybrid is completely different.

2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Exterior-007

Under full acceleration, the rear motors in the RLX contribute 72 ponies while the engine serves up 310 to the front wheels. The numerical imbalance between that total and the 377 “system horsepower” is consumed in the power curve of the motors and engine and the use of the front motor to draw a little power off to send to the rear. This means that while the old RL could effectively shuttle the majority of the power to the rear wheels, the RLX hybrid is at best an 80/20 split (front/rear). As a result, flooring the RLX from a stop elicits one-wheel peel, a vague hint of wheel hop and a smidge of torque steer. Once the road starts to bend, the hybrid system starts to shine. By not only accelerating the outside rear wheel in a corner but essentially braking the inside one (and using the energy to power the outside wheel), the RLX cuts a near perfect line in the corners. Point the RLX somewhere, and the car responds crisply and instantly. And without much feel.

The downside to the rear wheels contributing so much to the RLX’s direction changes is that the steering is next to lifeless. The analogy that kept coming to mind was a video game. The RLX changes direction more readily and easily than a front heavy sedan should, yet there is little feedback about the process. When the power is off, things stay the same, with the RLX dutifully following the line you have charted in a way the FWD RLX or the old RL never could.

Acura was confident enough in the RLX to provide a GS 450h for us to play with and the difference was enlightening. The GS is less engaging from a drivetrain perspective thanks to the “eCVT” planetary hybrid system, something the RLX’s dual-clutch box excels at, but the well-balanced GS platform is by far the driver’s car on the road. The Lexus feels less artificial, more nimble, and more connected to the driver. The RLX is not far behind in terms of raw numbers, and is faster off the line, but the RLX feels less connected and more artificial in the process. It is also important to note that the RLX is the only AWD hybrid in this class since the Infiniti Q50 hybrid is Acura TL sized and the Lexus LS 600hL is considerably larger and more expensive. That feature alone makes the RLX attractive to anyone living in areas where winter traction is a consideration.

2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Exterior-002

The 2014 RLX Sport Hybrid is an amazing bundle of technology. Combining a dual clutch transmission, a torque vectoring AWD system and three hybrid motors, the RLX is the gadget lover’s dream car. As a technology geek, the system is an intriguing solution to two problems plaguing near luxury brands like Acura, Volvo and Lincoln: How do we make our FWD platforms compete with RWD competitors, and how do we put a green foot forward. In doing so the RLX Hybrid may have also solved the value proposition I complained about with the FWD model. According to Acura”s thinly veiled charts, we can expect the RLX to be priced the same as the Lexus GS 450h which is $5,000 more than the M35h and about $1,000 less than BMW’s ActiveHybrid 5.

Factoring in the AWD system’s $2,000-$2,500 value and standard features on the RLX and the value proposition gets better. At the high end, the “Advance” package is likely to represent a $10,000 discount vs a similarly configured Lexus or BMW. The RLX Sport Hybrid has caused me to look at the RLX in a different light. Instead of thinking the FWD RLX should be $10,000 cheaper, I now think it is irrelevant. The Sport Hybrid has what it takes to compete with the Lexus and Infiniti hybrids head on and the value proposition to tempt potential BMW shoppers, but that turns the front-drive base model into a potential image liability. I’ll reserve my final judgment until we can get our hands on one for more than a few hours, but until then, it appears Acura has crafted a compelling hybrid system that should be on any snow-belt shopper’s list and may provide enough value to sway RWD luxury hybrid shoppers. Stay tuned for more pricing information in the Spring.

 

Acura provided the vehicle at a regional launch event and one night’s stay at a hotel.

 

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106 Comments on “First Drive Review: 2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrd (With Video)...”


  • avatar
    NormSV650

    So ikt is not worthy of acceleration measurements or fjuel economy data? When I got to drive I was thinking GT-R fun from stop but b oring otherwise…bujt one front wheel peeling and axle hop? Pffft!

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      There is a 0-60 time in the review, however because this was at a manufacturer event we did not have the opportunity to put it through the regular series of tests. Check back when they give it to us I for a week in 2014.

      • 0 avatar
        alexndr333

        Alex,
        I appreciate your efforts to understand the merits of this car – from the perspective of an engineer as well as from that of the driver. But the engineer’s viewpoint won out in your review. And that’s a fundamental problem for Acura: Engineers love it, but regular drivers don’t care and enthusiasts smell a rat. Like most recent Acuras, this car is trying too hard with too many gizmos to mimic a solid rear-drive chassis. So it becomes interesting only from a technological point of view. For everyone else, there are too many better looking, better driving and better-priced cars.

  • avatar

    So now you can add the Acura RLX to a short list of overweight, overpriced, faux “luxury” barges that come with underpowered V6’s that need an overpriced turbo option to seem even slightly appealing.

    MKS
    XTS
    RLX

    I pray to end up next to cars like this at stoplights -with drivers who just upgraded from Camries and think they can take me. Lord knows enough Maximas and TL’s have felt my iron block.

    Never did the Genesis R-spec look so good.

    • 0 avatar
      AlternateReality

      Wow. You’re just that desperate for any form of self-validation you can scrape together, huh?

    • 0 avatar
      Avatar77

      Are you 17? Who races a Maxima or RLX from a stoplight? Bet you feel like a big, big man when you beat that midsize car.

      • 0 avatar
        AlternateReality

        Between this and the never-ending “I OWN BENZES AND BADASS CHRYSLERS!!!!!!!” and “WATCH MY VIDEOS!!! PLEASE!!!!!!” hand waving, I’m starting to wonder if we shouldn’t be a little bit concerned for BTS.

        Do you need to talk about something, friend? What are the voices telling you?

        • 0 avatar

          Alternatereality:

          #1. -that symbol of yours: WHAT DOES IT MEAN? I HAVE NO IDEA.

          #2. Youtube’s business model is pretty simple.

          If you come up with a better way to allow me to consistently make $575 a month with CELLPHONE VIDEOS – let me know. Easiest $ ever.

          • 0 avatar
            AlternateReality

            LOL…

            #1 – Yeah, I imagine someone like you wouldn’t recognize it, which is one of the reasons I prefer it. There are those of us desperate to prove something, and those of us who have already proven it and prefer something a little more understated, and a lot less nouveau riche.

            #2 – Meh, I actually won’t quibble at this. $575 isn’t terribly impressive, but as income off what is obviously a hobby that you enjoy doing it’s decent enough.

        • 0 avatar
          Tosh

          Internet gold: “Lord knows enough Maximas and TL’s have felt my iron block.”

      • 0 avatar

        It’s not just about beating them. It’s about proving a point.

        Think of it as a T-Rex murdering Velociraptors in the fields.

        • 0 avatar
          Preludacris

          What point exactly? The size of your dick?

          Is it a race if your competitor doesn’t know he’s in a race? Did you win if he’s only aware of your existence due to a mild annoyance caused by your exhaust noise?

          • 0 avatar

            “What point exactly? The size of your dick?”

            Being 6’6″ has its benefits.

            Man evolved to be a predator and civilization co-opted by liberals has done its best to eradicate those evolutionary developments. I won’t go quietly into the good night.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          The existence of T-Rex and Velociraptors was seperated by a few million years. It is also still unknown if the T-Rex was an apex predator or an opportunistic carnivore that often scavenged.

        • 0 avatar
          darkwing

          Taking this to its logical conclusion, then, do you show “proper” deference when you pull up next to a “superior” male? “Superior” here being someone who spent more than $60K on a car not from a bottom-rung domestic manufacturer.

          Something tells me this is far more about narcissism than it is about Darwinism.

        • 0 avatar
          wsn

          “Think of it as a T-Rex murdering Velociraptors in the fields.”

          That’s one of the most st*pid statements I heard in a while.

          A large carnivore doesn’t murder much much smaller carnivores. Does a tiger murder bobcats? No. He would spend too much energy and still can’t catch it.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Troll on…LOL

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      You do realize that some people just don’t care about straight-line speed, right? It’s not that they couldn’t afford a car as fast as yours, or that they didn’t realize yours has more power, it’s that most people don’t consider winning stop-light races as something that matters. If it makes you feel better about yourself, have at it, but trust me, the other people in traffic around you aren’t nearly as impressed by you as you are.

      I’ve had rides that did 0-60 in under 4 seconds. It was fun, kind of pointless, and made me behave in ways that were risky to my lisence and personal well-being. I replaced them with something that takes nearly twice as long to get to highway speed. My penis size hasn’t changed, and I still enjoy my drive.

      Do and say whatever you like, but realize that most of us think of you as a bit of a joke – on average, normal members of society operate at a slightly higher intellectual level than Youtube commenters.

      • 0 avatar

        Alternatereality – is that symbol the one from STAR TREK?

        Juniperbug – you are right. Some people don’t care about straight line acceleration, BUT I HAVEN’T SEEN ANY OF THEM LATELY BECAUSE THEY ARE SO FAR BEHIND ME.

        • 0 avatar
          NormSV650

          Sorry some of you are stuck with 150 horsepower 4-cylinders with no torque. Sometimes you need to out run the knucklehead that is in your way or jump into the next lane while waiting at a stoplight. Even eastern PA’s stop sign at the bottom of an onramp can be rolling the dice when merging as you are at the mercy of the cars coming up from behind to slow for you.

          When you have traction from at least two wheels and the steering wheel is not being ripped from your hands it makes it drama free. At this price point I expect nothing less. Even loosing two assisitng motors at 80 mph would be a big let down as that is the flow on some highways.

          Is this the baisi for the new NSX?

          • 0 avatar
            NormSV650

            Forgot to mention Honda is fighting for number one in something along with Toyota:

            http://m.autoblog.com/2013/12/13/2014-acura-mdx-recall-awd-driveshaft/?post=1&icid=autoblog_river_article

          • 0 avatar
            AlternateReality

            LOL… you both are too cute. I’m pleasantly surprised by the pull that lowly 150-hp four-banger manages in my gilded Civic – and very impressed by the smoothness and fuel economy.

            Given the class of people I associate with, believe me – it’s much better to be seen in a Honda product than a lowly Fiasler. The fact they are superior automobiles in the ways that matter to discriminating types is merely an added bonus.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            So we got chest-thumping, dinosaur references, and bragging about racing Maximas from BTS. Then we got some incredible elitism and racism(?) from AlternateReality.

            Congrats on turning this thread into a dumpster fire and on representing the worst stereotypes of SRT and Acura owners. You two were made for each other.

          • 0 avatar
            AlternateReality

            Point taken, ajla. That was uncalled for, and I removed the ‘racist’ (actually socioeconomic) statement.

            You’re welcome to call me an elitist, though. Part of this country’s problem is that it’s become a badge of honor to be merely common, and to be impressed by baser leanings.

          • 0 avatar

            In the battle to be the alphamale…one man will be left standing.

          • 0 avatar
            Reino

            I drive a 150 horsepower 4-cylinder with no torque, and I’m always five car lengths ahead of everyone else from a light. Its not a race, its just driving to me. It always amazes me the large percentage of drivers who are unable to connect their eyes seeing that light to turn green to their right foot. 90% of people who buy V6 Camrys are never utilizing that extra 130 horsepower.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I used to have a Peugeot 504D Wagon with all of 57hp connected to a 3spd slush-o-matic. I never had a bit of trouble keeping up with traffic, or merging, or even passing on 2-lane roads when appropriate. Even the old pre-Big Dig Tobin Bridge to Storrow drive suicide dash for the other New Englanders among us. It’s called knowing how to drive…

            Most Americans couldn’t find full throttle with a GPS, and thus need 300hp so they can merge using 1/2 of it. If they ever actually achieved full throttle they would crap a twinkie.

          • 0 avatar
            SC5door

            “Given the class of people I associate with, believe me – it’s much better to be seen in a Honda product than a lowly Fiasler.”

            And that’s the problem with this country, people have this idea that once they step into a “Luxury” brand (Which I do NOT consider Acura or Chrysler for that matter a “Luxury” brand), that they’re now better than everyone else.

            It’s really funny when those cars that you have to be “seen” in are parked in the same grocery store parking lot, or parked next to you at the same bank as you. They must be shi*ting bricks when they come out and see what they’re parked next to especially when I pull up in a “lowly” `13 Optima or my new Grand Cherokee (gasp! Yea that Jeep is a Chrysler product!!). They must come out and call the police if there’s a 80’s Caprice wagon sitting next to it.

            So if you’re going to look down your nose at me, it better be from a Rolls Royce, not an overpriced Ford, Honda, or Dodge.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            ^ All this!

            I need power to get around the one or two MORONS in front of me who are entering a 65-75mph traffic stream at 40mph, before I end up with that oncoming semi’s cab in my trunk!

            For the hell of me, I cannot figure out where the concept of “acceleration lane” was lost in the past seven or eight years!

          • 0 avatar
            CarnotCycle

            “Given the class of people I associate with, believe me – it’s much better to be seen in a Honda product than a lowly Fiasler.”

            Odd. I find Fiasler F12 Berlinettas ‘classier’ than tarted-up Hondas. Faster, too. Maybe I’m just a hick.

          • 0 avatar
            wsn

            “In the battle to be the alphamale…one man will be left standing.”

            Another very st*pid statement.

            If there could only be one man left standing, his offspring would have to commit incest to reproduce.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Honda/Acura doesn’t seem to have a very clear understanding of this market segment. They keep approaching it with the logic that if they produce a product that is as good materially as the competition then they will be competitive. People buy luxury cars like they buy other luxury products such as handbags, watches and jewelry: it has more to do with the brand than the product so unless Acura invests in their brand there will be very few buyers for this car.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      That won’t stop Alex from continuing to be “that” teacher who only gives out B-‘s or better.

      Someone who was trying to defend his “I shall not speak ill of any vehicle” review model last time I raised this point actually helped me to establish that the last time he like….you know – truly criticized a vehicle, on balance – was back in 2010 (and that vehicle was an AMG Mercedes).

      Nearly 4 years of USA Today-esque “critiques” of vehicles, but with fewer criticisms.

      That’s the stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        davefromcalgary

        @ DW,

        Just playing devils advocate here, so bear with me. Alex’s reviews may not be overly critical but they do provide a very thorough rundown of the given vehicle, which I find pretty useful regardless.

        I think he is still providing a useful service. A lot can be drawn from his thoroughness.

        Just my .02

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        OK, so you want Alex to pan the car? Why?

        Let’s face it – this class is made up of cars that ALL look good, move like Marshall Faulk, get screwed together with conspicuous quality, and feature more cool gizmos than the bridge of the starship Enterprise. The neighbors will be impressed no matter which one of them sits in your driveway.

        Conspicuous, deal-killing faults don’t tend to be part of the deal in cars like this.

        Kind of hard to be harsh to ANY of these cars, don’t you think?

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          I want to like Acuras, but the downside of all that cool tech is this: they end up feeling like simulations of a great car, and never really “connect” with the driver. That’s their niche, but it’s not my cup of tea.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy

        @ DW: There maybe nothing wrong with the car but it is the brand that is damaged. Alex tends not to focus on brand issues but takes a very methodical approach to reviewing the product. That’s fine by me as there are plenty of other sources for brand related discussions.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Acura’s problem is that they lost the plot when the dropped the Integra. From then on, with the exception of the RSX, has been a glorified Honda. Therefore, Honda can’t pull out all the stops on the actual Hondas! Hmmm..a more expensive Honda that requires more expensive gas. Value proposition?

          The level of kit found on an ASEAN Accord is damn-near Lexus-level! BUT here in N/A, my top-level Touring doesn’t even get paddle shifters! Yet they’re there overseas, along with collision-mitigation braking and actual lane-keep assist (instead of just the LaneWatch camera)!

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        De gustibius non disputandum est, and all that stuff. I have no interest in any reviewer’s overall “grade” given to a vehicle. His/her priorities might be different than mine, so he/she would weight things differently that I would. What I am interested is an element-by-element analysis/evaluation of the car. For example, if the ride is stiff but the handling is great, one reviewer might praise that overall; and another would not like the trade off an condemn it.
        What Alex’s element-by-element reviews do is allow the reader to form his own judgment about the car, based on Alex’s reporting. He’s really become quite disciplined about this, as compared to other reviewers who sometimes “fall in love” with one outstanding aspect of a car and fail to mention the negatives. A great, recent example is the Focus ST. When it came out, all of the slicks were full of positive comments about what a hoot it was to drive, etc. Only later, when the Next Big Thing showed up (the next-gen GTI, for example), did we learn about untamed torque steer, the odd behavior of Ford’s EPAS’s attempts to compensate for it, and so on.

        In this review, for example, Alex doesn’t fall in love with all of the technical aspects of this car (which is, in that sense, a tour-de-force) while accurately reporting on their benefits. He notes that in the “fun to drive” category, there are others that were more fun.

        And, has was pretty negative about the FWD version of this car, which does seem to be the answer to a question no one asked: “How’d you like a really nice Accord at 2x the price?”

        And, Alex does not fall in love with his own writing the way you have seen — and sometimes still see — in some other reviews on this and other sites. I found the site’s founder’s reviews had a lot of that.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        @Deadweight:

        I was the one that provided the link to the AMG review. I think you are greatly misrepresenting the situation.

        Back then you wrote: “Props to anyone who can find a car Alex reviewed that he didn’t at least like. Big up yourself if you can find one he actually DISliked.”

        I simply replied with the link to the C63 review. I made NO attempt to defend Alex’s review model. In fact my entire comment was just the link- with no other words. I thought you were “challenging” the commenters to find what you were looking for, like for fun. Now you act like I was white-knighting for Dykes.

        http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/review-2014-lexus-is250-with-video/#comment-2362073

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        But ultimately, how many bad cars are there these days? Almost none is the answer. Even the most execrable cars on sale in the US (Avenger, non-sporting Mitsubishis, Impala Limited, etc) are reliable transportation by any rational standard. *I* have absolutely no interest in this Acura what-so-ever, but I would never call it a bad car, it’s not, it’s a very good car that is just not to my particular taste. What can you really dump on with this car? Lack of steering feel? He calls that out. It is unlikely to steal a single sale from BMW, but so what?

      • 0 avatar
        carrya1911

        You mean fewer criticisms like the ones that got him banned by Ford?

  • avatar

    I don’t get why this car is still being made. It caters to the techo-savvy that really want the ultimate, high-end Honda Accord. I’m sure the 236 people in that group who’ll buy this car will be very happy, but it’s not a sale success and it’s not a halo car.

    It is the Real Genius poster child for why Acura has lost it’s way.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      In these days of niches within niches, how many sales are needed to be a success? If Honda is happy with the numbers on the car, that is all that matters.

      Acuras have always been gussied up Accords and Civics from day one, for the simple reason that Acura only existed in the United States for the majority of its existence – why do you expect that to change?

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        And sometimes they were just an Accord from another market, not even a gussied up one. (e.g. the Legend)

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I always thought of the ‘Teg RS and GS as Civic-sized cars with Accord-level fit-and-finish.

        I love my Accord, but would gladly drive a Civic-sized Honda–provided I could get it with Accord levels of fit, finish, and equipment (ACC, etc. They do have that stuff on ASEAN-market Civics.) Bore that K out to 2.5L, and that should provide, what, 220hp; all they need to do is make sure it makes twist down-low. Coupled to a six-speed slusher or DCT, the thing ought to hit 40mpg highway all day long on regular pump gas!

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I’m in that tech-loving demographic and I’d love to play with the tech in this car on a snowy road.

      I don’t normally see the value in luxury cars, since my idea of luxury is a car that starts every morning and has cruise control and air conditioning…. But unlike BMW and Mercedes, you do get something cool with this Acura that you can’t get in a cheaper car. I get why someone would buy this car at this price.

      That person isn’t me – I’m busy enough that, if I really want to own one, I can wait for it to hit the used market. But, if I see one on the road, I’ll understand why someone else bought it.

      P.S. Tesla also sells an expensive car with something that’s 3x better than what you can get in a Leaf. But when you start comparing a 3 series to a Corolla, the comparison just makes Corolla look like a great deal to me. Mass market cars are really well built, and parts and expertise are readily available. That’s an expensive and painful thing to give up, since associating myself with brands isn’t something I value on a personal level.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    Excellent, detailed review Alex. I think your videos and write-ups keep getting better and better.

    I don’t think there is any way I’d ever seriously consider such a pricey vehicle, but it’s nice to see what technology might trickle down to the more reasonable levels of sedans in a few years. I still think that Acura’s long front overhangs put them at a disadvantage with the Germans in regards to styling, though.

    Can I make a request of Kevin McLeod? The end title music is getting a little dated and sounds a bit too ominous to my ear. How about composing a small piece of music that might be a little more bouncy and uplifting? The current title music sounds like a segment from the Cruising World video game from the early 2000s. Respectfully submitted, of course…

  • avatar
    Dan

    “Yep, you read that correctly, this is the first production system that torque vectors when your foot isn’t on the gas. Think of it like a canoe. If you’re moving forward and you plant an oar in the water, the canoe will rotate around that axis. Instead of oars, the RLX uses motors.”

    That doesn’t make any sense. Planting an oar in the water is analogous to braking one wheel. How do you vector power when no power is applied?

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      You selectively use electrodynamic braking on one wheel or another, and dump the power generated back into the battery.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        You can only do dynamic braking on a brushed DC motor, so this is pure regen braking. If the battery is at 100% allowed SOC you can divert the power it generates to the motor on the other side to balance the torque vectoring duties to both rear wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      This was supposed to be a reply to DC Bruce but didn’t show up that way: You put the motor you want to cause a braking effect into regen braking mode. By when the power is not on I believe that he means your foot is not on the throttle, I don’t think that there is any way that you can turn the hybrid system off in normal use. Sure you can disconnect the battery pack for the hybrid but you can’t do that from the driver’s seat.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Alex – what was the list price here?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I want to like Acuras, but the downside of all that cool tech is this: they end up feeling like simulations of a great car, and never really “connect” with the driver. That’s their niche, but it’s not my cup of tea. Sounds like this model isn’t breaking that mold.

    Put differently: when a Lexus feels more connected to the road than the car you’re driving, then that tells you all you need to know.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Some nice engineering from Honda! Between this and the new Accord it looks like Honda has an actual engineering dept again.

    The one thing I find interesting is their choice of how they obtain the 7 gear ratios. It seems to me it would be easier, and cheaper to make a 4 speed automated manual portion and reduce the gear ratio spread in the planetary section so they could use it for more than 6th low to 1st high and end up with an 8sp. That would give them a simpler automated manual portion and bragging rights to more gears.

    Otherwise it is a great concept. By using an automated manual portion they should be able to achieve some impressive hwy mpg ratings.

  • avatar
    z9

    Regenerative braking, when it isn’t triggered by actually pushing the brake pedal as in a Prius, adds a lot of fun to the driving experience. It is a smoother version of engine braking when downshifting in a manual transmission car. It is cool to see it being used for dynamic control. An analogy would be if you had a car with two drivers each with a stick shift controlling the engine braking of one side of the car. Except in this case the drivers are robots and take their direction from the steering wheel. OK, obviously this isn’t going anywhere. I am not an automotive engineer. But I want to try driving this car.

  • avatar

    Whatever happened to Accord’s eCVT? That was truly intriguing technology, but Honda prefers these odd combo transmissions for some reason. What’s going on?

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Maybe they are just looking to extend their reputation for transmissions that fail repeatedly and expensively? I can only imagine the myriad ways this thing could go BANG. The sad thing is that like my buddy with the Accord of three roasted transmissions, the owners will still think it is a great car.

  • avatar
    readallover

    The most generic looking car for sale in North America.
    On the other hand, every person I know that has bought an Acura loves it.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Well, everyone knows Honda has engineering and manufacturing prowess, so it’s no mystery why people who own Acuras love them.

      Now if they could just work on styling and removing the driving simulator feel…

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    But does Acura even compete in the same class as BMW and Audi anymore?

    Did they ever?

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      No turbos, no V8…biggest faux pau brand of all time. At least the Lexus offfers a V8 in the LS460.

    • 0 avatar
      kdfhd

      yes

      But first allow me to go back a decade or two…

      During the last gen TL’s reign (i.e. pre-beak), Acura sold extremely well, beating Audi/Cadillac/Infiniti by a considerable margin. They even looked to challenge BMW/Lexus at certain months. Look at their sales at this point. Look at the sales figures breakdown, and the relative strength of Acura compared to Audi and Cadillac.

      Acura has proven with the MDX that if they understand a market and can deliver a cohesively engineered and designed vehicle, they can compete with the best and be rewarded with the sales numbers even with “normal” engines and few packaging options. But they haven’t done that with luxury sedans.

    • 0 avatar
      ceipower

      NO they don’t compete , but they should,
      and there’s the rub.

    • 0 avatar

      TSX and 3xxi were cross-shopped in 2009, I can assure you of that. The reason is that although an RWD enthusiast would not be caught dead in an Acura, the bulk of purchasers of both BMWs and Acuras are not enthusiasts. They actually care about navigation and other infotainment for one thing.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        And the 3-series outsold the TSX by what margin, exactly? Oh yes, a WIDE margin, despite being rather more expensive.

        For me, Acura seems to *almost* get there, sometimes. I have a mild preference for RWD but the Saabs and VWs in my past show that lack of it is not a show stopper. I would have given the Acura station wagon a look if it weren’t for the gutless engine and lack of manual transmission. At least they offer a wagon!

  • avatar
    E46M3_333

    You’d never mistake my wife’s MDX for a Honda Pilot. While the technology is impressive (heaven help you if it breaks out of warranty) this car just looks like a tarted-up Accord. If a BMW is priced 10% higher, that’s what folks spending ~$50K are going to buy.

    If you go to a nice restaurant and you have a taste for pork chops, do you get the chicken because it’s 10% cheaper? Probably not.
    .
    .

    • 0 avatar
      ceipower

      The bone heads who market Acura , those who decide what it is and what it stands for should have been replaced years ago, but that hasn’t happened. Acura misses the mark no matter where you care to place it. Nice interior materials and fit and finish are something , but they do not cancel out all of Acura’s negatives. Somebody within Honda is doing a horrible job and apparently Honda is very happy with that fact as it keeps going onward with the same products that appeal to far to few buyers. Acura must be a money loser. When the first Gen 2 NSX photos were shown and there was that beak on the front , I could not believe it. Pure stupidity.

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    Rental car exterior color? Check.
    Ugly hybrid wheels and badging? Check.
    Guaranteed to sell at a discounted price? Check!

  • avatar
    ceipower

    All that , and it’s a homely looking car with a alphabet soup name that only Acura dealers understand. All technical knowhow aside , why won’t Honda throw out a body style that is a proven failure? (THE BEAK) While I’m at it…., The new Lexus “Grill/snout” is nothing to brag about either! Shouldn’t a premium brand have some look of purpose/elegance? BMW seems to nail it best. Today’s Acura’s look as goofy some of the past Subaru’s IMO

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      Today’s marketeers have determined through case studies and focus group surveys that a recognizable brand identity (family resemblance) is crucial to ‘brand management.’ Except when you combine that with Japanese stubbornness and lack of restraint, you get these slimy, creepy, multi-jawed sea monsters.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Cannot imagine anyone, anywhere being able to fix one of these in 10-years when all those clutches and computers start to not get along. Instead of mobile-homes with El-Caminos on blocks in front, it’s going to be McMansions with these on blocks.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      People are able to fix the current Mercedes/Chrysler umpteen speed transmissions and this is actually much simpler. Up front is is no more complicated than a power glide and then it is backed by a manual trans which is also uncomplicated. The only “complicated” part is the electric shifter and the dual clutch and those are becoming common.

      Now the cost to fix it is another issue however but that is going to be the case for many of these umpteen speed transmissions. The reason that many Sprinters go to the scrap yard is the cost of replacing that Mercedes transmission. In the case of this one in practice it should actually be simpler and cheaper since it will likely just be the need to replace the dual clutches, or the clutches/servos for the planetary, or the servos to shift the manual section.

      There was a time when people were saying that no one would ever be able to fix fuel injected vehicles, ABS, the Prius and so many other technologies when they were new.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        “The reason that many Sprinters go to the scrap yard is the cost of replacing that Mercedes transmission”

        Isn’t the Sprinter’s transmission just a lower-capacity version of the W5A580 also used by Chrysler? Is Mercedes just gouging on replacement prices or is it really that expensive?

        besides, I wonder if another reason Sprinters get scrapped is because they seem to be pre-rusted for your driving convenience.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    What a weird niche of a car. What a horrendously ugly pair of headlights. What a bizarre way to use $60K. And its purple.

    This will appeal to a few people, but I can think of a fleet of vehicles I’d rather have for that kind of asking price. Pretty sure I can think of a fleet of $30K vehicles I’d rather have. I’m OK owning appliance cars, so I don’t demand that a car be extremely stylish, quick, or razor sharp. But this thing does absolutely nothing for me.

  • avatar
    84Cressida

    I would never buy this over a Lexus GS, but would certainly buy it over an E-Class and 5-series, and I’d sooner wipe my ass with my money than waste it on any Chrysler 300.

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    Nice review.
    The technology is enticing but the appearance of this automobile is appalling.

  • avatar
    aunt_slappy

    Thank you, very informative review. I have owned Acuras and have been very happy with them. I wish them success with this model, but I find the styling to be unappealing, the best that can be said is that the beak is much less prominent. The best looking Acura in my opinion was the 3rd gen TL of 2008.

  • avatar
    johnny_5.0

    Another nice review Alex. Quick question, did you get a chance to run these up past 80mph? I know most buyers in this category in North America aren’t bombing these things around at triple digit speeds often, but I imagine this thing falls on its face pretty hard once the rear motors cut off. At that point it’s basically a 4300lb TL. There’s no way in hell I’d drop over $60K on a performance oriented luxo sedan that’s painfully gimped at toll road speeds. I love the fact that we are starting to see hybrid technologies used for performance in addition to economy, especially at sub-supercar prices, but in this particular case that 80mph cutoff is a pretty serious flaw for some.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      The drop off is smooth and gradual so it wasn’t very noticeable until I looked at the 1/4 mile time which I hat to say but I accidentally deleted from the vbox before I had a chance to write it down. Due to my limited time with it I can’t say what it is like at higher speeds but I doubt that many folks will ever notice.

  • avatar
    vvk

    I wonder if Honda will ever realize that they are doing it all wrong with front wheel drive in this market segment?

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “we can expect the RLX to be priced the same as the Lexus GS 450h which is $5,000 more than the M35h and about $1,000 less than BMW’s ActiveHybrid 5.”

    And there’s the problem. It’s not as appealing as anything it’s priced against! I can’t get into the styling either, it just mimics a BMW from the side and rear, and the front has too many blingy lights.

    The MDX is guilty of this as well, but they’re more spread out looking on that model, and a bit less offensive. The chrome rings around the rear reflectors seem silly to me as well.

    And this car sounds like a later-on SERVICE NIGHTMARE with all those engines.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      For an alternate view, Autoblog found the Lexus to be the worst tested and the Acura to be equal to or better than the Audi A6 quattro in performance if not road feel:

      http://www.autoblog.com/2013/12/18/2014-acura-rlx-sport-hybrid-review-first-drive-video/


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