By on January 10, 2014

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“There aren’t many bad cars on the market,” is the trope trotted out by auto reviewers when justifying their enthusiastic response to whatever is trotted out in front of them at the Lowes Santa Monica on Wave 2 of the latest press launch. The post-recession era is one where the quality of the average car has never been higher, at the expense of idiosyncratic flaws that give cars character. Sure, there are always the whipping boys of the market, namely cars people actually buy like unibody crossovers and some that people don’t, like big, front-drive sedans.

Big, front-drive sedans are a segment in decline. In the mainstream market, crossovers, SUVs and even crew cab pickups have displaced the full-size car from its traditional role as a family vehicle. Roughly half of them go to fleets, and the segment is chock full of nameplates like “Taurus”, “Avalon”, “Maxima”, which have as much sex appeal as Kirstie Alley flaunting her post-Weight Watches body on Oprah. As far as I’m concerned, they send power to the wrong wheels and their dynamics have more in common with a sea-faring vessel.

They’re also quiet, comfortable, ride smooth over most surfaces and have lots of room in the back. These are very desirable traits for a lot of buyers, as evidenced by booming sales of, you guessed it, unibody crossovers, SUVs and crew cab pickups. Most car reviewers, who would gladly place themselves in the enthusiast camp, don’t care all that much about these traits. Performance is what matters, whether that means an uncomfortable ride, heavy steering, a complicated gearbox and a thirsty engine are all desirable, even at the expense of driveability in situations that don’t involve sub-8 minute laps of the ‘Ring.

This has been a chief complaint about Cadillac. Rather than trying to build the best Cadillac they can, The Standard of the World really wants to be The Ultimate Driving Machine. And one could argue that to varying degrees, Audi, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz are as well, with the A6 3.0T S-Line, the GS F-Sport and the newest E350, which isn’t completely numb to drive.

And then there’s Acura. When everyone is going for rear-drive, German-inspired, letter-series lukewarm D-segment sports sedans with lots of “high gloss piano trim” (read: black plastic with a shiny finish) they launch the RLX a front-drive, Accord-based sedan that looks utterly anonymous and has absolutely zero sporting pretensions.

When the RLX was introduced, the internet product planning brigade (Associates Degree required, must have an internet connection and 2-3 years selling mobile phone accessories at Best Buy) was livid. “No serious luxury brand sells a front-drive V6 powered car,” they sputtered, half choking on a Five Guys burger. “Acura needs a V8 and rear-drive to be taken seriously.”

I’m not about to get into a discussion of what Acura’s future direction should be, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. And that makes me qualified enough to tell you that the RLX is a pretty good car. Is it a rival for the crop of rear-drive 5-Series wannabes? No, but the four-wheel steering system (dubbed with the comically stupid moniker P-AWS, from the people that brought you Super Handling All-Wheel Drive) really does work as advertised, helping the car rotate when pushed into a corner hard. I only did that once, since I wanted to drive the car as your typical RLX buyer would, and in that context, it excelled.

The venerable Acura 3.7L V6 feels quick enough, and instrumented tests show that it’s about as quick as a Camry V6, or quick enough to dust a Fiesta ST to 60 mph. More important than that is what you don’t notice. The RLX is supremely quiet, while the chassis neutralizes whatever imperfections exist in the road. The steering isn’t totally numb, but you don’t have to put much effort into using it. The front drive layout means that there’s no driveshaft or large transmission tunnel cutting through the back seat area, so there’s lots of room for rear passengers. The Krell audio system is one of the best I’ve experienced in any car, and I hope it filters down to other Acuras.

For a lot of people, that’s what real luxury is about. Driving from one destination to another, in a silent, climate controlled conveyance, the only noise emanating from the stereo if they so choose. Not long ago, I would have shied away from that notion in near revulsion. I’m the kind of guy who wouldn’t buy a new car unless it had a manual transmission, and I consider it a treat whenever I can drive something with a real cable throttle, let alone rear-wheel drive. My father’s E39 530i will always be my benchmark for sports sedans.

Back then, the 5-Series was distinct from the other offerings, with a purity unmatched by anything that didn’t have a roundel on the hood. Now, you’d be hard pressed to tell the BMW apart from the Audi from the Lexus if you could do a hypothetical blind taste test. The RLX on the other hand, is more like a Japanese take on American luxury. In a strange sort of way, that’s a rather unique proposition.

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153 Comments on “In Defense Of: The Acura RLX...”


  • avatar
    mjz

    LMAO when I saw the P-AWS badge on a new RLX at the local Acura dealer. The RLX is a technological tour de force, the problem is that it looks like a fancy Accord. A fancy $50,000 PLUS Accord.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    I’ve never had a problem with big, FWD sedans. I grew up on them and love them, much to dismay of many. However, why buy this over a fully-loaded Accord? The typical rationale would be “the styling.” That is absent from the RLX’s case. Its – again – a terrible styling fail from Acura. And completely inexcusable for a flagship.

    Again, I just don’t see why this car is ‘worth’ $10k more than a comparable LaCrosse or $15k more than an Accord V6 Touring, audio system and seventy-five headlamps notwithstanding.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      It also has to fight the TL at least until the TLX replaces it. A TL with SH-AWD would be an enticing prospect, cheaper, and you wouldn’t give up a whole lot of room.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Just playing devil’s advocate: The RLX is a fraternal twin of the JDM Honda Legend, not of the US Honda Accord; it’s bigger than the Accord. That’s worth some price difference. To your point though, how much I’m not sure.

      And is there a difference in the dealership experience? With my local Toyota dealer and my local Lexus dealer, for example, the experience couldn’t be more different. The vast superiority of the latter does justify a price bump of some degree.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      Twenty years ago Acura sold tens of thousands of cars annually and all of them were front wheel drive; most buyers don’t care about what wheels drive the car.

      What changed? Styling, pricing, and reliability. Acuras were distinctive and very good looking cars compared to their competition. They were also a good value relative to other makes, and had Honda reliability which was phenomenal compared to traditional German luxury sedans.

      Fast forward to 2014 and none of those attributes apply. Acuras (particularly the RL) certainly don’t look distinctive (in fact they look arguably worse) and are not a better value than their competition. They may be more reliable but since so many people at that price point lease reliability is not a good selling proposition.

      Bring back a true Acura Legend and all will be well with the brand.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        You’ve summed it up well, although ironically the Legend never really left it just changed names and badges in North America.

        Here’s what seemed to happen, Acura launched in 1986 and in 1987 “sold 109,000 cars with the flagship Legend sedan accounting for 55,000 sales and the rest were of the smaller Integra.” Elsewhere in Japan “On October 12, 1989, the Honda Inspire was introduced. The platform was shared with the Honda Vigor, a JDM Honda Accord derived five-cylinder luxury sedan available only at Honda Verno dealerships.” So in Japan the Inspire was being sold as slight variation on Vigor, the JDM Accord. Later Vigor is brought here as a Acura briefly from 1992-94 and is discontinued in the US market. This model is replaced by TL, itself the JDM Honda Inspire based on the JDM Vigor from 96-98. Then some time in 1998, the TL becomes a restyled USM Accord and has continued to be from that point on.

        So really the problem becomes the TL is in no way a true Japanese car being designed and built at St. Marysville and the RL/X is since it is a JDM Legend designed and built in Japan. Literally two parts of Honda are building almost the exact same type of car and are inadvertently competing. Honda trys to alleviate this by putting better materials in RL and pricing it higher, but this only leads to pathetic sales as Americans are either unaware or would prefer to drive warmed over Accords for more money. My suggestion is this:

        -Rename the RL to Legend, make this your primary sedan as in years past and bring its pricing down close to TL range.

        -Drop the US Accord based TL and replace it with another JDM spec sedan/coupe and force fancy Accord buyers into Legend.

        or

        -Drop the RL/Legend altogether, continue to rebadge US spec Hondas as you do with everything else in your fake brand, and laugh all the way to the bank.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acura

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acura_tl

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Inspire

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Legend

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        toad

        I agree with you on the fwd history and on what’s changed since then. I would add a few reasons they can’t get away with it anymore though.
        1. Acura and Lincoln stand pretty much alone on the premium badge engineering front, with every offering a twin.
        2. Honda used to make a significantly different FWD vehicle than it’s US domestic competitors. Every control surface and detail offered a welcome contrast to conquest customers. Weight, layout and mechanical details differed as well.
        3. Honda wasn’t as ubiquitous. Now everyone has been in all stripes of Accord and Civic, no exceptions.
        4. The cars are bigger. Acura may have been historically FWD, but it was in the context of a smaller Honda which provided a relatively agile, lightweight starting point to build sporty cars from. At mid and full size and with modern power levels the limitations of the transverse architecture start to become apparent to more and more drivers.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Acuras have always borne a strong resemblance to Hondas. That was fine when Honda was still a niche brand in the US, but it’s a problem now that Hondas have become so commonplace.

        If anything, more has been done in recent years to create some styling differences between the brands. Unfortunately, that effort took the form of the Acura beak, which is more unpleasant than it is luxurious, and doesn’t do anything to alter the other styling cues.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          I don’t believe Consumer Reports to be infallible, but I do trust their opinions & data more consistently and treat them as more reliably than any other source regarding automotive topics.

          With respect to the RLX, CR named it as one of the worst 2014 vehicles, not just as measured against vehicles at a similar price point, but they deemed it inferior in almost every way to many vehicles costing 20k less (including the Chevrolet Impala).

          They specifically stated that it has particularly non-luxurious ride quality, that the P-AWS AWD system seemingly does nothing to improve handling, and that its NVH levels are middling.

          The vehicle is boring and ordinary in every sense of the word, overpriced and symbolic of Acura’s precipitous decline.

          • 0 avatar
            tonycd

            I, too, was surprised by the comment that the ride smothered road imperfections. Yes, CR did specifically rip the RLX for a jostling ride.

            Basically I agree about this car. I will make this aside, though: The unfavorable comparison of this car to the new Impala reminds me of the comments a few years ago that the then-new LaCrosse would shame and obsolete the Lexus ES.

            Look at the aforementioned Consumer Reports now and check out the reliability history of the LaCrosse. Let’s just say ES owners probably aren’t tripping over each other to get into used LaCrossi.

            The new Impala is good value for money because it’s basically a LaCrosse/XTS under the skin. But, sorry as I am to say it, that also implies you’ll be happier five years from now if you choose the new car that was built with fanatical care in Saitama, Japan.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      This ia a perception problem, if you see it as nothing more than a restyled version of another model, Flybrian. And I think this is a problem since my mom thinks any Acura is a fancy Honda.

      Though not always warranted, I’m sure if you drove the two you would see the difference from a product perspective. I am confident of this though have never driven the cars.

      I do have some perspective on this, I drive an old ES lexus. One might think it is a fancy Camry and well, it is, but from a product perspective I can almost get over how much extra one might have paid for this over the Camry in 2001. Not just a nicer stereo there is a bunch of equipment differences that make it nicer (too much to list), you get higher quality interior materials that are real i.e. real wood, plusher carpet, super tough leather. There is a large brace behind the seats to tie the structure together the Camry does not have, not to mention covered in a sound blocking pad, this car is loaded with sound control it is much quieter than a Camry. Slightly more advanced engine, different transmission, in my case HID option and variable/adjustable suspension. All these things combine to make a better driving experience. I chuckle when someone pops on the Lexus boards “where can I find a ES300 optitron gauge panel it looks nicer” well you can have all that and more, just sell your V6 Camry and buy an ES300 it has all those little touches and costs about the same used.

      So to say same size, same engine type etc. If that is all you see, probably wouldn’t be impressed by a nicer model on the same platform. But taken as a whole, if the tech in this thing actually does deliver better handling, in a bigger car, with great ride, quiet running, etc. it may hit the sweet spots for the target buyers. I am guessing this thing has a better drive and more equipment than a Lacrosse?

  • avatar

    To me, the Acura RLX is the modern equivalent of the Mitsubishi Diamante. It’s a good car, packed with technology, but there are a number of cars that are as good or better, which can be had for less money. As a front wheel drive, near-luxury car, it gets lost in the shuffle.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    There is no point on pontificating this model, its a just rebadge of the JDM Honda Legend. If its source model were dropped in Japan the RLX wouldn’t exist and would probably be replaced by nothing.

    “The Acura RLX was unveiled at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show and is scheduled to go on sale in 2014 in Japan as the Honda Legend.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Legend#Fifth_generation_.282014.29

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      Is this a rebadge of the Honda Legend, or is the Legend a rebadge of the RLX? The fact that the RLX was released about a year before the Legend will be suggests that Honda is targeting the North American market with this car, not the Japanese. Just like how they sold the US Accord as the Inspire in Japan.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        That’s a good point but if you read up on the history of the Honda Legend, it seems the Honda Legend came first and was the source for the original Acura Legend and later RL. Maybe this has changed I can’t be sure. Incidentally the Honda Inspire was discontinued in Japan in 2012, we can only speculate as to why.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Legend

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Inspire

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          The Inspire was the North-American Accord rebadged and luxed-up for the JDM market.

          The Inspire was discontinued in the JDM market, and the Accord became a global platform, for 2013, maybe with the exception of a Hybrid model in Japan. (Honda may have even discontinued the ** CIVIC ** in Japan — too lazy to look it up.)

          The former JDM Accord (as well as UK/Euro market) was our Acura TSX.

  • avatar
    vtnoah

    I’ll extend the praise to the previous generation RL. It’s stealthy due to the anonymous styling, it has decent power, SH-AWD, and a great interior. Since nobody bought any, you can pick a used one up with low mileage for much less than you would expect. It’s high on my list to replace my truck once it bites the dust.

    • 0 avatar
      WhiskerDaVinci

      I’m a big fan of proper luxury cars. BMW shouldn’t be the standard of the luxury car, they’ve often been too hard and sporty to be a luxury car, because of the sporty handling requirements. Most luxury car buyers who insist on sporty, never actually drive in a sporty manner. They sit in heavy traffic on the 405 in LA, and move at a snails pace. I’ve had customers ask why their car is so hard and uncomfortable, and I never really know how to phrase it without sounding like a jerk. Usually just “the market wanted sporty over comfort, I dunno why, that’s just what they want”.

      I genuinely don’t understand the current hatred towards a luxury car that is comfortable and pleasant first, and only sometimes has sporty characteristics. Luxury isn’t hard seats, hard suspension, and wheels so big that there’s no give in the tire. It’s comfort, softer suspension, soft and supportive seats and somewhat smaller wheels so the tires have give. Sport and luxury are very different requirements, and only mix so well.

      • 0 avatar

        Agreed

      • 0 avatar
        bryanska

        YES.

        When I sat in the XTS I immediately “got it”.

        I have had cars all over the luxury/sporty spectrum. From a 1980 Eldorado and 2002 STS on one hand, to a Fiero, Miata and Honda Fit on the other. In the middle were an Alero and Avenger.

        I’m currently driving the Fit on a longer highway commute. I sorely miss my Cadillacs, which felt WONDERFUL on longer drives. Luxury, as said by Coco Chanel, is the absence of vulgarity. Nothing is as un-vulgar as arriving at work and forgetting that you drove there.

      • 0 avatar
        Blackcloud_9

        It is because people who care about image (who often consider themselves enthusiasts) don’t want to seen (or heard talking favorably about) what they still consider “luxo-barges”.
        I feel the same way about the Cadillac XTS as Derek has stated about the RL/X. It handles “good enough”, accelerates “good enough” and gives a smooth comfortable ride. But since it “only” has V-6 and the power goes to the “wrong” wheels it is dismissed as an afterthought.
        Note: I know the XTS is available with AWD and a twin-turbo V-6 but that is only a small slice of the XTS pie.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          My only problem with the XTS is that it is hideous. Seems well suited to its intended purpose otherwise, but the proportions are just all wrong. It also is very expensive for what it is. Just like the RLS. Which at least isn’t ugly.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    “As far as I’m concerned, they send power to the wrong wheels and their dynamics have more in common with a sea-faring vessel.”
    What is it with all you experts!!?
    So…can you name a few more reasons the front wheel drive system works other than the lack of lump in the rear floor?
    Come on…I know TTAC did a nice feature on just this. I think Jack Baruth did it. This SHOULD have put an end to this silly position held by all you repeaters…once and for always.
    You know what…reading car reviews reminds me of looking through my daily news sites every morning. I can go from CNN, USAToday, Reuters…all of them…and they seem to all have the very same damn author. How do they come almost word for word close?
    I will tell you how…they all shared cocktails at the evening Hot People Only invite Washington dinner. After giggling together…they rush off to do their stories.
    Ditto all you reviewers. If I read one more time about how the MKS/Taurus has a narrow cockpit or look like a whale…I will scream! Once labeled…you are stuck. The label just gets passed back from the front of the classroom to the lowest writer sitting in the back.
    Do I really need to list all the reasons FWD has become the main drive in cars today?

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      but I do appreciate your at least giving this FWD large cars praise. It is a nice car.

      • 0 avatar
        IHateCars

        The thing is, FWD does suck in a big powerful sedan. I had an ’08 Acura TL Type S 6MT…..I LOVED that car EXCEPT for the FWD. Torque steer was horrendous despite the LSD. Anytime I hammered the throttle coming out of a corner the car wanted to steer itself into the ditch. Such a shame because otherwise everything else about it was perfect for me.

        IMO, FWD is great for minivans and econoboxes, not for performance cars.

        As far as the RLX, I’m not offended by it (except for those gawd awful headlights), just bored to tears by it. I’m think the RL of two generations ago was far more appealing.

        With that said, I’m looking forward to seeing what the TLX looks like, I’m optimistic despite my better judgement. The TL, after it’s last nose job wasn’t that bad looking and it did perform but seeing as how Honda is killing off the 6MT for it, I think it will be a slightly smaller version of the RLX.

        • 0 avatar
          love2drive

          The AWD in the TL addresses this – admittedly it wasn’t an option in ’08.

        • 0 avatar
          bryanska

          You’re proposing that big powerful sedans shouldn’t be FWD. However, I’ll counter that being big and powerful doesn’t automatically mean that the car shouldn’t react funny if you hammer it out of a corner. Maybe being big and powerful means moving deliberately and without drama. If I’m driving Paul Sorvino I don’t want him to turn on a dime. I want lots of power for merging, passing, and crusing all day at 90MPH without breathing hard. RWD is not required in that case.

          • 0 avatar
            TrailerTrash

            see…exactly!
            cruising. with smooothness and power when demanded.

            Why do these so called experts demand that Large includes high speed cornering, side spinning out of turns…come on.
            When I am cruising and step on the gas…THAT is when I want the power surge.
            A little gut off the line is cool and expected…but not the drag racing.
            This is once again asking vehicles to be everything. Trucks need to be fast and luxurious and chick drawing. They are figging trucks!

            Look…when I travel…I need room. Room for both people and stuff. And people can scoff as much as they want. But there is no car available that offered(s) what the MKS did for the price. No Euro barge…no car from Japan…none of them.
            They all left something from the table (AWD, Cooles front seats, adaptive headlights…whatever)…unless you were willing to once again join the above 60-70 grand club. And even then most left off something.

        • 0 avatar
          TrailerTrash

          The MKS I have is the 2010 ecoboost that only came with AWD. Not that I love the Ford AWD system…it does allow for better cornering. I think their entire AWD system sucks, however, both in durability and working. Seems way to hesitant or late reacting.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The narrow cockpit is a legit concern, and I like the MKS. I know Ford engineers that don’t like it and lament that it was a design decision. I would say the last grille looked more whale like, especially on the MKT.

      I do understand your point though, once a car gets labeled for X, thats what many focus on. A good example is the Lexus RC. Sure I don’t like the grille, but the fact that it is a RWD V8 sport coupe with 450+ HP is more significant.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        The grill is positively awesome on the early MKS…and yes…the entire MKT design needs to be destroyed, wiped from the history books…along with who OK’d the design. THAT car is for funerals only!

        Don’t know what designers you spoke to…but their worst decision was allowing the boss to add the Taurus to the MKS line. The MKS was out first and then ford forced the same car as the Taurus. They should have kept the 500 or made the Taurus much different. And tell them their trunk opening was stupid as their cup holder…where two glasses can’t be side by side. What was that?
        And as for narrow…I am a fat guy (and short) but I never noticed my being cramped.

        • 0 avatar
          SC5door

          “The MKS was out first and then ford forced the same car as the Taurus.”

          Wrong.

          D258, D219 and D333 (Five Hundred/Taurus, Freestyle/Taurus X and Montego/Sable) were running out of Chicago first.

          The MKS didn’t come until 2009, with the 2011 Taurus design already finishing up in the studio.

          • 0 avatar
            TrailerTrash

            very wrong. And you clearly know yourself. The MKS was introduced late 08 as an 09. The Taurus…in the same suit, was not until 11. So what is it you are misunderstanding?
            I know. See..I purchased an 09 MKS…before my 10. And you just need to know the OLD Taurus as the Fivehundred was still around. The MKS in this newest form/design was out at least a year before Mr M spoke in front of the media and said Ford will come out with the Taurus it should have long ago.
            Just check up on your information.

  • avatar
    nine11c2

    ummm … are we sure this is based on the Accord? I believe this is the first I’m reading this. From what I’ve read different front suspension, different subframe materials..etc. Are you sure of your source?

    The real problem is (and I like Acura, I own a TSX) – if you wouldn’t buy this over an Accord..there is still to be a sedan between this and the Accord the TLX I believe..so why would you buy THAT!?!?

    • 0 avatar

      The underlying platform is still the Accord, but that platform is modular enough that they can swap pieces to account for various vehicle lengths, suspension setups, and drivetrain options.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      nine11c2,

      TSX is the one Acura that’s been consistently a great product, and that lives up to the premium expectations of the public. When Acura discontinues the TSX, I will have no reason to visit their dealerships. The RLX is just the latest Acura flagship model from a company that’s been tone deaf for 20+ years to the luxury car market, don’t know why they can’t rid themselves of the V6 only, front drive only(plus AWD) mentality.

      I spent 17 years with Acura retail, but am still dumbfounded that they haven’t changed with regards to their top sedan model specs. Yes, I do drive BMW’s now, not for the Roundel on the hood but for the ingredients between that and the Roundel on the trunk lid. Used to be the Avalon was Toyota’s answer to a 1990’s Buick, but Acura apparently wants in on that niche for at least one model.

      As for comparing the performance of a Fiesta ST (and I’ll insert Focus ST as well)with the RLX, that’s a red herring. No one shopping for those Fords will be cross shopping either the RLX or ILX.

      Derek, if the RLX is such a fine and competitive ride, buy one. Acura is going to need all the help they can muster for this model

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Derek meant the headline to read – “In Defense Of: Alex Dykes’ Reviews”

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        “TSX is the one Acura that’s been consistently a great product, and that lives up to the premium expectations of the public.”

        Which public is that? TSX sales have been flat since it was still called the Integra. Even the Cimarron ILX outsold it this year.

        • 0 avatar
          nine11c2

          TSX has no relation to the Integra. Integra was built on Civic, TSX is European Accord…but nice try…

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          The TSX has been a very good product, that no one buys. Acura moved 17000 total TSXs this year. The wagon did less than 2000. At least the wagon outsold the Suzuki Kizashi and Mitsubishi Galant, barely.

          • 0 avatar
            Atum

            It is. But considering it has a tighter backseat than the ILX, less technology than the ILX, and a higher price than the ILX, it makes sense why they don’t sell well anymore.

            It’s like Nissan, with the Maxima and the Altima. The three reasons I listed above for the TSX selling poorly is why the Maxima sells poorly.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The Maxima is bigger than the Altima and has more technology, I guess. They are about the same. It is more expensive because it competes with full size cars, not midsizers.

  • avatar

    We just added an RLX Tech to our long-term fleet and I spent about 250+ miles with it over the course of the last week. While the styling may be anonymous and a bit boring, it is also simple and understated. It does not scream “Hey! Look at me!” like some of the competitors, but does manage to be plainly handsome. The interior feels top notch and after getting some proper seat time, it feels plenty special enough to drive, even if its not a RWD V8. Plus, the back seat is downright cavernous and makes for a great place to spend a long trip if you can get someone else to drive.

    This is part of Acura’s challenge is that it’s cars typically drive great, regardless of the platform they are built on, but buyers are not even coming by dealerships to take the drive, without which they cannot even begin to experience how good the car actually is. It is a pity since as a daily driver, the RLX is pretty impressive.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      eastwest

      “as a daily driver, the RLX is pretty impressive.”

      I think the main criticism isn’t that the RLX can’t daily drive well, it’s that the Honda Accord is already impressive as a daily driver and it has a cavernous back seat also. Come to think lf it all of the current mainstream mid and full sizers (and there are RWD options here as well) are impressively capable of functioning as a daily driver, and many of them also have cavernous back seats. I think a Merc executive recently admitted in an interview that it’s harder and harder to differentiate between premium and entry in the market place…that seems to be the stumbling block with this car, not it’s on paper capabilities or suitability for task at hand.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The typical car reviewer complains about the car’s “wrong wheel” drive and the lack of Teutonic cred, and doesn’t get much beyond that.

        Those reviewers who aren’t predisposed to loathe power coming from the front wheels are more likely to be sympathetic to the car itself. But there is that other little stumbling block: the high price point.

  • avatar
    PeugeotHound

    Spot On. I have a ’97 911 and an ’82 Alfa GTV6 in my garage but I drive an ’08 RL with SH-AWD on a daily basis. Today, I’m taking three business colleagues out to lunch and the RL will be the perfect vehicle for that purpose. With SH-AWD, admittedly a goofy name, Honda managed to engineer a sharp handling sedan without a hard suspension or resorting to low-profile tires. Thanks for having the courage to go against conventional Internet wisdom and recognizing this wallflower of a vehicle that has appealing qualities beneath the surface.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The problem for Honda is that few Americans are willing to pay $50,000-60,000 for what is perceived to be a fancy Accord.

    Acura cars lack the je ne sais quoi required to command the higher price points or the respectability that German passenger cars have. It fares better with crossovers, though, and someone at Acura should be relieved that the market is moving away from sedans and toward non-wagon wagons.

    In any case, the attention devoted to making a roomy back seat would suggest that the primary market for the RLX is China, not here. The US is getting leftovers, not a meal made for us.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      The Accord is already made for us. I think The RLX is a good car, but the price makes it a hard sell against an A6, 5 series or E class. Note that Lexus doesn’t have a comparable car. The GS is RWD and sporting, even beyond the Germans perhaps, but isn’t that roomy. The ES gives you 95% of what the RLX does, but at a much lower price point. The LS is on another level. Even with all that, the biggest problem Acura has with the RLX is the TL, which is 90% of the size, and is as big as almost any modern family needs. So why would you ever choose the RLX over it? Hell, even the MDX is competing with it.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The next TLX is supposed to be smaller; that decision was partly motivated by the desire to create some separation for the RLX.

        I doubt that will help, though, because the price point is still just too high. As you note, it just isn’t perceived as being on par with the Germans.

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        The TL is exactly the car to dethrone the RLX, and even that car is getting/already is too big for a credible FWD layout at premium prices.

        It’s not like the lack of a center drivetrain frees up enough room for three captain’s chairs in the back. If that were to happen I’d holler for every Rolls Royce to switch to transverse front, and Mercedes would have to think long and hard about the RWD S-class. But it simply isn’t the case.

        A car isn’t 15-20k more special if I can duplicate the important parts with a decent upholstery guy and a keen eye for color matching.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      “The US is getting leftovers, not a meal made for us.”

      That seems to be true for many vehicles now. World cars, Euro cars, and cars for the Chinese. Unless its a compact to large CUV/SUV, midsized sedan, or full size pickup, we get the cars for other markets that still can sell here.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        What’s interesting about that in this case is that Acura is essentially an American brand, with its unique models being largely designed for American tastes (think TL and MDX.) Yet its flagship car, the vehicle that should define the brand, is not really intended for us at all.

        The earlier Legends were absolutely made with the US in mind, and they were quite successful. Even though the RL is technically the successor to the Legend, the real spiritual successor to the Legend has been the TL. I’m curious to see what the TLX is like when it debuts in Detroit.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          That’s what is going to happen, or is happening with Cadillac and Lincoln. Their upcoming flagships will be designed with Chinese tastes in mind, and they are the surviving (kind of) American luxury car brands.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            This may not be a bad thing. Assuming the current crop of product was intended for North American consumption, I can’t see how products aimed at Chinese could be any worse.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Well, with Lincoln, many of their products seem to be aimed at people who buy nice Fords or Mercurys. Then they had the Tiatnium and Limited Ford trims that offered almost everything the Lincoln did at a lower price. Many times on the same showroom floor. Ford makes a better Lincoln in Europe, with a Ford badge. The Vignale line shows that Lincoln could basically be the top end Ford trim, instead of a whole brand.

            I welcome our Chinese overlords if it gets me a better Lincoln. The MKC is a start for those who like CUVs.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            “I welcome our Chinese overlords…”

            Right up until the moment your job is lost and/or outsourced due to the Chinese NEED to build & export passenger vehicles (which given China’s demographics, will make Japan, Inc. Circa-1993 seem positively tame by comparison).

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            dey took r jobs!

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            DW-

            I wasn’t serious about welcoming out Chinese overlords. I am worried about what the future holds. Its only a matter of time until Lansing isn’t making the ATS because its being shipped from Shanghai.

            I am extremely consciencous about where stuff I purchase comes from. Its difficult to tell, but I do my best. As Tresmonos brought up the other day, God help us if the American auto industry looks like the American textile industry in twenty five years.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            dek tuk er jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerbs!

        • 0 avatar
          geeber

          I’m also curious to see the new TLX. It’s almost a make-or-break vehicle for Acura’s passenger-car side of the business.

      • 0 avatar
        fincar1

        As long as the requirements to sell in the US market are different from those to sell in world markets, that will continue to be the case.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        This has been the case for a long time. Think of all the thinly-veiled JDM cars we got here in the early 90s – and nobody complained “hey don’t want no JDM leftovers!” Well now, the Chinese market is the place to be, and the old people in Japan aren’t buying as many cars anymore. So now we get CDM cars. The difference is, we wanted the JDM given to the US by the JDM. We don’t want the CDM given to the US by the US and JDM.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      2013 US sales:

      RLX = 5053
      A6 = 22428
      Genesis = 32330
      5-series = 56863
      Avalon = 70990

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      50-60K starts getting into E class territory. A tri-star VS a gussied up Honda? Pfft.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      “Acura cars lack the je ne sais quoi required to command the higher price points or the respectability that German passenger cars have.”

      Agree. Without “it”, it’s difficult to justify the high price of the RLX. Interestingly, I see Mercedes, with the CLA class FWD entry level sedans are invading Acura territory at around $30-$40k. I’m guessing it will be easier for Mercedes to market downward, than it is for Acura to market upward.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    The traditional definition of luxury includes a degree of exclusivity. The RLX has exclusivity, ironically because so few people buy them.

    Today automakers offer similar features on cars in every segment making it harder for premium brands to differentiate themselves. For buyers who can forgo exclusivity a luxury brand badge just adds to the price, not the value. A deluxe new Honda Accord, which is several thousand dollars less, will put almost as big a smile on your face.

    Lackluster customer care discourages repeat buyers. Though I like my RL I won’t buy another Acura.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    Everyone has a different requirement in a new car. When I read reviews and comments I try to understand what their agenda is. In the end it doesn’t really matter as it’s the test drive that is the ultimate decesion maker. Until then it’s just information or bs.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    I would totally own one of these used, for a very good price. New? Spending my hard earned dollars? Well, Acura’s website shows a starting price of $48,450 for the RLX in base trim. For $35,200 I can get a V6 Genesis with RWD, more power, and a better warranty. The Genesis has no more or no less luxury cachet than the Acura. For $47,400 I can get an R-spec Genesis with a honking V8, STILL undercutting the Acura. Heck, if you like big front drivers (and I do), the Cadillac XTS starts at $44,600 with virtually the same power and I think it looks better inside and out, with a more luxurious interior than the Acura.

    Heck, the top trim level RLX (with the same engine), is $60,450. For $62,095 you could have an XTS V-sport with over 400 hp and AWD. Acura has a tough row to hoe.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    “High gloss piano trim.” So you should pay Acura $60K instead for plenty of “wood tone trim” aka PLASTIC? Come on Derek, let’s be serious here. NO ONE else in this segment uses plastic with wood look stickers on it. NOBODY.

    If you want “leatherette” there are plenty of choices, and the Japanese have recently gotten in on that game as well. If you want plastic wood for $60K though, Acura is your only option. What’s more, if you want real cow on your seats, everybody offers an option to let you do that, some even have a couple of leather choices. Want real tree in your Acura? Too freakin bad for you.

    I just don’t get why a barely competent car should be showered with praise for being barely competent. Sure its FWD with 60+% of the weight over the nose, but it has this awesome PAWS system to make it feel less bad! The steering isn’t that terrible, just mostly terrible!

    For the SAME money, the A6 gets you one of the best AWD systems in the business, one of the best engines in the business, one of the best transmissions in the business, one of the best NAV systems in the business, and much better, if still somewhat anonymous “it’s an Audi” styling.

    The RLX has a Mercedes price and a Volvo badge. The only people who should be buying them are those that come in when they are 3 years old and get them for 50% off. This thing is as competitive on the new car market as the Saab 9-5.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      thank you +1

      The A6 immediately came to mind when I read this as well.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      That’s right. You’re into well-equipped A6 money. And let’s not forget the quality and beauty of Audi interiors.

      And for ten grand less, you can have an M37x (e.g. Q70). For $63K, you can have an M56x, with infinite horsepowers. Both cars have real wood.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      It is ridiculous for that price to have fake wood. Actually this whole car does seem to have a ridiculous price.

      Apparently as I have read on the Internets some Acuras are getting real wood in Canada but fakey stuff in US models.

  • avatar
    tedward

    The problem with a large fwd sedan from a premium brand is that it’s very difficult to justify a premium price tag for it. It is literally a case of “you should have bought the loaded Honda.” Not that it needs repeating, but Lincoln is lockstep with Acura in this regard, and I literally cannot get in a modern car of either brand without just shaking my head at the lack of value they represent. If you get in lots of cars you will notice that these two produce vehicles that are basically the same as their budget counterparts, and it’s not just internet noise, it’s a perception you will get from the driver’s seat if you care to shop around. I’d recommend avoiding Honda dealerships if you buy this Acura.

    I would also say that engine layout and location are things that you can feel from the driver’s seat, especially if the vehicle is 30 feet long, weighs two tons and is stuffed with a large V-6. So for those shoppers who care about how their car feels it will be obvious they are getting a Honda driving experience on that basis alone (even if they can’t ID the cause.) the PAWS system is wasted here because no matter what Acura does they’ve already lost the customers who care about driving.

    Premium GM in the 90’s, the Lexus ES, any modern Lincoln, older FWD Audis, premium full size trucks…they all represent the same thing. Poor value for the consumer and the fattest margins (or lowest R&D cost) possible for the manufacturer.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      It doesn’t seem to matter as much in the luxury CUV world. Acura does alright in the luxury CUV space, and Lincoln will have two CUVs (MKC, MKT) that feel premium compared to their Ford counterparts, once the MKC is available. If Lincoln can make the MKX different enough from the Edge (and better), it will go a long way for them when it comes to suviving.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      For the sake of argument, let’s call the 70s Lincoln’s glory years. Mark Whatever? Gussied up T-bird. Town Car? Gussied up Crown Vic. Lincoln was able to get Blue Oval buyers to pay more for what was considered premium over a “plebeian” Ford. The game has changed, premium has to be more than the highest trim model. Will Lincoln solve this problem in time? Who knows? Acura has not solved this problem; gussied up Accords/SUVs.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        But they can’t now because of the Limited, Sport, and Titanium models, as well as the other premium vehicles in the marketplace. Honestly, I think Lincoln should just be the highest Ford level if they aren’t going to put out serious product. Make it exactly like the Vignale Foci and Mondeos in Europe. The most unique vehicle Lincoln currently has is the MKT, which has a longer wheelbase than the Explorer or Flex. That tells me they have no clue. Everything else is exactly the same as its Ford cousin with a new hat.

        I purchased a Lincoln, and I feel that it is a step above the Ford counterpart. However, it was also cheaper than the Ford used.

  • avatar
    prndlol

    The RL that preceded it from ’05 to ’08 was a handsome if understated design. Then they buggered it up for 2009 with THE BEAK.

  • avatar
    noxioux

    50 shades of vanilla.

    Honda’s and Acura’s lineup is completely devoid of personality. Not that they’re not good cars, just boring as hell.

    The differences between the Nissan/Infinity Toyota/Lexus lineups are pretty clear and understandable, but for a long time I’ve been asking myself, “Acura? Why bother?”

  • avatar

    I like the RLX. If I had the money and had to buy an Acura, I would definitely pick the RLX over a TL, which IMO is most god awful car ever designed. Fugly and hideous from all angles, a shame considering the older TL was a handsome sedan. I like the ILX and TSX too. My only problem with the RLX and the new MDX are the headlamps. Reminds me of “lamprey fingers” and I wish I could unsee them. Google at your own risk!

  • avatar
    mhickman73

    Much of the complaint has to to with the similarities of the Accord and RLX. Drive them back to back, the RLX is a superior vehicle in every way. Your average Joe would have no idea these cars are related at all. I’m not saying I’d buy an RLX, but I don’t think the big Accord argument is all that valid. The Lexus ES (not to mention the RX) has sold well for years despite being an enhanced Camry.

    Acura’s crime is no the RLX, it is the ILX.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The problem is that the RLX looks like a super-sized Accord, so most people aren’t even going to bother test driving one. People buying cars in this segment do not want one that looks like the one their neighbor, cousin or co-worker managed to buy for $20,000 less.

      • 0 avatar
        Nedmundo

        Even though I’m a Honda/Acura fan and drive a 2010 TSX, I have to agree with this. I sat in a new RLX at an auto show last year, and was much more impressed with the interior than I expected. Unlike the TL, it provides true luxury IMO. Unfortunately, it just looks too much like a large Accord to draw prospective buyers into the dealerships, and the trick hybrid/AWD variant won’t help with this issue.

        Nevertheless, I completely understand why some would buy this over an Audi, BMW, or Merc — reliability. The Germans still do not compare to Honda and Acura in this respect, and for a daily driver/family car it’s enormously important. As an enthusiast, however, I’d only go with something like the RLX if I had a sports car on the side. If it were my only car, I’d want a more hard-core sport sedan, like a GS350 F-Sport. With Honda’s performance heritage, I’m mystified as to why they haven’t taken Acura further in that direction.

  • avatar
    ceipower

    After reading this article ,I’m still not interested in anything Acura. A P-AWS system that is only noticeable at aggressive speeds , on a car that is not made to be driven aggressively? HuH?
    The odd thing is , ACURA is the sole sponsor for Jerry Seinfelds CiCGC and the ads placed on CiCGC are actually clever , inventive, and funny. Best Advise anyone could give ACURA is Hire Mr. Seinfeld to design the Acura vehicles, return to names for models , not alphabet soup, and bring back the tag line precision crafted automobiles. For some reason (no auto journalist cares to explore?) Honda has ruined ACURA with bone headed mistakes that it see no reason to explain or change.

    • 0 avatar
      Aquineas

      Yanno I agree with you about the alphabet soup. The Acura Legend was an awesome vehicle that, in coupe form at least, had a lot of personality. If Acura came out with a stylish car, even if it was based on the Accord and called it a Legend, it would sell like Girl Scout cookies.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        I think Acura and the other me-too’s like Infiniti, Cadillac and Lincoln are mindlessly imitating the Germans’ alphabet soup, just because they figure it makes them look like German luxury makers.

        The fatal difference is, the German 3 get away with it because they have history and clear identities behind the parent brand. The me-toos don’t (except for Cadillac, which has a history and is running away from it.) And since the letter-number soup contributes nothing, it needs a strong parent brand to carry it.

        Acura is the poster child for why this doesn’t work. The very reason they went to the alphabet soup in the first place is because their research showed the Legend and Integra names DID have strong identities and appeal to buyers, stronger in fact than Acura.

        Incredibly, Acura executives reacted by killing their own strongest brands, in blind faith that consumers would automatically embrace the weaker parent brand in their absence. Think of that: It’s as if Procter & Gamble killed the name “Tide” in order to force consumers to accept the name “Procter & Gamble Detergent.”

        Newsflash: You can’t force consumers to remember, or like, anything. But Acura tried.

        Now, far from admitting their error more than a decade later, they’ve doubled down on it — trying to literally cover over their mistake with “power plenum” beaks that they think provide the missing brand identity. They’ve provided an identity, all right: people now know Acuras as otherwise indistinguishable cars that are ugly.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          That’s an interesting tidbit about the marketing names being stronger than the brand, thanks for sharing.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            It’s funny how the JDM vehicles have maintained their names, Gloria, Cedric, Leopard, Century, etc – while they ship them over and slap a Q/E/X/M/R ## or ##h on the back.

            Ain’t nothing wrong with LEGEND. In big gold letters across the back.

            Hell, put LEGEND across the hood as well, leave off the Acura emblem.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Either a marketing fail or a US consumer fail.

          • 0 avatar
            Power6

            Lengend and Integra are so strong I think even now as long discontinued names they could be brought back and be bigger than Acura itself.

        • 0 avatar
          nine11c2

          I was going to bring up same. Acura killed off Legend and Integra and even Vigor for TSX, TL, RL. I heard a sales man once trying to hold on to the cache of the names telling my friend, looking to buy that TL stood for True Legend, RL for Royal Legend.

          I think I wrote to a few car magazines at the time saying WTF? Every rap star drives a Legend with dubs and you’re going to call it an TL? I own and Acura and still I’m not sure which suv is which (RL?). Now Infiniti seems to be doing the same thing btw.

          HEY. BOYS AND GIRLS IN ACURA (and Infiniti) MARKETING. Its about the CARS. We don’t give a rats ass what you call them as long as it isn’t stupid like “Pink” or named after something awful (no more “Pacers” please).

          The RL has two problems. Styling on the outside that doesn’t differentiate (I don’t like the generic Acura Grill and the rest of the car more appeals, as did previous generations to the Buick set than the BMW set). It doesn’t say “class” like it should.

          The interior has similar problems. Its luxurious but plain. It need pizzaz. It only comes in black – are you kidding? No saddle? No baseball mitt color? I just peeked into a rental Cruze RS with two tone leather interior. It may have its rough edges but its got some GAME!!

          Stop going on about the V6..and the FWD. 90% of the population doesn’t drive well enough to tell the difference (enthusiats on this page excepted) and at 90% FWD does fine. It gives you better room and it does better in the snow (gotta leave the RWD beamer home when in snows in the NE). The Lexus ES and the Avalon do well with similar formulas (and the Avalon is certainly a Toyota Buick). You can’t show a sales chart that shows those two selling well – and then say FWD V6 sedans don’t sell..

          • 0 avatar
            tonycd

            One small correction: Some RLX trim levels come only with a black interior, but some also offer tan or grey depending on the exterior color. Still pretty sorry, though. As is selling a $50,000 car with fake wood and plastic seats.

        • 0 avatar
          WheelMcCoy

          “The very reason they went to the alphabet soup in the first place is because their research showed the Legend and Integra names DID have strong identities and appeal to buyers, stronger in fact than Acura.”

          Another thanks for this insight. Wow! You’d never see Chevrolet junk the Corvette / Stingray brand. Or Ford change the Mustang name.

  • avatar
    Aquineas

    I am a former 04 Acura TL owner, and it mostly treated me right over the 160K miles I put on it. Personally my objection to the RLX is styling. It’s just not a very good-looking car imho. It does score points for being built in Saitama, Japan, which hopefully would mean it wouldn’t come riddled with the cacophony of squeaks and rattles my 04 TL did.

  • avatar
    s2kpilot

    We just bought an RLX w Tech at the end of December. Really a nice car. Just not anywhere near sticker (55K).

    We cross shopped a loaded Kia Cadenza against the RLX and I hate to say it but the Kia is 95% there for a lot less money. Just liked the width and ride of the RLX better.

    But the real competition in this segment is coming from Korea. The Cadenza, option for option actually stacks up pretty well against the RLX Advance which stickers over 60.

    But the Acura dealers really are moving far far off of the sticker on the RLX. Very easy to beat even the best TrueCar prices, at least here in the North East. And at the actual out the door price the RLX makes sense.

    • 0 avatar

      Ours was heavily discounted as well. In fact, we actually were able to get into the RLX for less than it cost for us to get into the new 2014 MDX (also a new addition to our long-term fleet). At the moment, if you do not care about the Internet dick-measuring contest and the commentary by the peanut gallery about it being non-competitive, then it is possible to get into a very nice car for a very reasonable price.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        I just looked at AAA Carolina for the price I could get through them and was surprised at the discounts $7K off base and $10K off the Advance package. Very un-Honda like, obviously the market has spoken. I await those who usually criticize other companies for large discounts to pipe up on Acura over 16+% discounts on a very newly introduced car.

  • avatar

    I may be a contrarian here, but a rebadged Accord would not be so bad, except that this is not. I would rather have an RLX with Accord’s “eCVT” thingie. Now that’s exciting technology, and the gas mileage is a-m-a-z-i-n-g. Instead, Honda piles odd complexity into this as if it were a WV Phaeton. They even have cars with rear steering.

  • avatar
    akatsuki

    The RLX is a terrible car. Tone-deaf to the market, offers nothing really compelling. If it was priced against an Avalon, it would be a segment-buster.

    I’d rather have a used LS any day of the week if I want to be wafted in comfort.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    The big discounts do not surprise me in the slightest. The last RL bombed so hard that dealers were putting $10K cash on the hood pretty much immediately, and they STILL couldn’t move them.

    Just beware, that top notch Honda resale value won’t be there for you at the other end. Expect to get $25K for your “$60K” RLX three years down the line.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      The pie in the sky pricing is Honda’s fault and probably has something do to with currency conversion. The market sees right through it, your “60K” RL is really at best a 40K retail car, so 25K is right in line with what I’d expect if it were priced correctly.

  • avatar

    Lots of good points and I agree. Except maybe This is the “wrong” car to defend. By most accounts it.’s a bore to drive, it’s design is tepid. I guess the market has spoken. Cars should have.a modicum of sport mixed in with the luxury. Guess that’s where the Germans fail me, too hard and the interior design is cold and not really luxurious. But that may well be the future, if the car is just so só, most well buy a cuv, suv, pu. I think people associate those with comfort now.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Is Acura sold in Brazil at all? I wouldn’t think so.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s why I wrote “most” and not “I”. I can’t comment on the acura drive, but I do have eyes ;).

        Maybe Honda is watching (and laughing) at Toyota’s efforts with Lexus. People with the kind of coin to pay up for this kind of car want prestige. Apparently, we don’t associate Japanese luxury with real luxury. To be honest, I’ve seen more grey import Infinitis tchan Lexuses. Never seen an Acura here. Seen Lincoln, Cadillac. Never seen Acura. Volvos, Alfas, BMWs, Mercedes are all common here. So, Brazilians associate luxury with Euro and even América, but Japan, not so much.

        Plus they.’d have a problem with the name. Acura means “the cure”!

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    As many have said the largest problem this car has is the fancier AWD Buick LaCrosse with a 305 HP V6 for 10-12k less down the road at the Buick dealer or the fully loaded V6 Accord for 15k less. The styling and interior no longer stand out in many of today’s so called luxury sedans. Everybody is doing the same thing. Plain slab sides, similar green houses. LED’s all over the place. Dull monotone charcoal or gray interiors with that stupid asinine fake piano wood or as stated shiny black plastic that will last a whole month without looking scratched or finger printed before it wears off completely. It’s really sad that this is what the full size car has come down to in many cases. What’s also even more surprising is that the FWD V6 powered 2014 Impala for a little over 30K impresses me more and has a more interesting and less dull interior and exterior and drives better too!

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    What the car needs is soul. What Acura in general needs is soul. Offer it with that buttery smooth 6-speed manual. Even if it’s just build-to-order only, 10% deposit required, throw it out there. You only sell a couple hundred of these cars a month anyway. Even if you only sell 10 6-speeds a year, you are still THE company selling a full-sized AWD 6MT luxury car. Send that car out to press reviews.

    Suddenly the RLX becomes “bold” and “spirited” and all the journalists wet their pants over it. It has nothing to do with how many you sell, but everything to do with the positive impact of its existence.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    The RLX is supremely quiet…

    Really? I’m so used to reviewers bitching about the amount of road noise in Honda Motors product I reread that 3 times just to be sure.

    Super Handling AWD sounds like something was lost in the translation from Japanese.

    P-AWS however would make the Tohatchi Elementary COUGARS squeal with delight if their principal ever showed up in car that had P-AWS on it.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      I’ve often wondered if everyone at Acura has an oddball sense of humor. A 4-wheel steering system named P-AWS? How did they possibly let that one go through.

    • 0 avatar

      You should take one for an extended test drive if you can. The efforts made to quiet the cabin have really worked. The downside is that all the little noises that used to not matter, such as the A/C fan motor, suddenly are a lot more noticeable. It is still a superbly quiet car and on par, in my opinion, with just about any other luxury car this side of the Tesla Model S.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      The RLX Sport Hybrid is coming. So it could be called SH-SH-AWD… suggesting a very very quiet car.

  • avatar
    fvfvsix

    Maybe I’m alone in this, but I actually like the understated styling of the RLX. While I haven’t driven one, I have spent some time sitting in one on a dealership floor (waiting for my TSX to get serviced). I don’t hate it. If I were so inclined to buy a full-size, draped in luxury (minus the plastic wood), daily driving commuter that I could count on for at least 150K miles, then my field would narrow to an RLX or a Lexus GS (Infiniti still has a small ways to go in interior comfort, IMHO). Then, you start looking at pricing (vs the GS), and the RLX really makes sense.

    I dunno. Life has taught me that if you want a sports car, you should buy one. Conversely, if you want a nice comfy, luxurious place to be while you’re shuttling from work to home, etc., then you should focus on that and buy accordingly. Purity of purpose.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I would actually assert that the Maxima is a pretty gorgeous car. However, the back seat is cramped—partially because of those aggressive rear-seat bolsters that more or less turn it into a four-seater—and gas mileage is horrible. It also has what I would consider to be a harsh ride. It costs too much and masters little. Ultimately, if you want something truly comfortable, efficient and full of features, you can get the new Altima (V6 if you want plenty of power on tap), and if you want something truly sporty, you can get a G37. Also, the Cadenza looks nice enough to get away with being a FWD full-sized car, because many people will look at it and say “BMW or Audi for less money”. The rest of those cars, however, are considered Novocaine on wheels. And that notion, as you’ve basically said, is made even worse when a buyer enters the $50-$65K range and has the option to buy a rear-driver, but *still* spends that kind of cash on a heavy front-driver like the MKS, XTS, RLX or S80…

    • 0 avatar
      Alexdi

      I think the Maxima is pretty nice too, but I’m biased by owning the thing. That line was surprising. Agree completely about the rear seats and gas mileage and the relative value compared to the Altima. The ride is actually Altima-like (so not terribly lux), but the handling is more responsive. It’s definitely not Novocaine. I wonder if Derek has actually driven one.

      • 0 avatar

        I think someone on staff did, there was an article at TTAC about Maxima. It wasn’t very complimentary.

        • 0 avatar
          Alexdi

          There are only three I’m aware of. Baruth wrote one (complimentary overall) and I wrote the other two. I mentioned some QC issues and the unusual value of the Altima, but none of them said a bad word about the Maxima’s styling or handling. That Derek compared it to a Taurus and an Avalon in driving dynamics suggests he’s never been in one. (I’ve tried all three.)

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        I rented one for a week on mountain highways, because I wanted the room and the power.

        It has room, at least up front. It has effortless power. Generally it’s a big sedan in all ways, good and bad — good ride, good feature content, decently quiet although the engine note is unrefined, bad city MPG (not awful on the highway), capable around big sweepers but not fun to toss around because of the numb controls and the dreaded CVT. The only thing missing from the formula is a roomy back seat.

        If I trusted Nissan quality more, it might be a good car to steal used. They get heavily discounted new, which means Nissan is stuffing the channel with them. That always guarantees high depreciation.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Heh, heh. Flame bait story about a brand slowly sinking into the primordial ooze due to severe lack of interest. Oh well., couldn’t care less.

    But, but. Hey Derek, very well written. Swear you get better with each article these days. That’s my take.

    Now perhaps you can lend yourself out to the struggling TTAC Staff, who apart from Ronnie Schrieber appear to be unfamiliar with written English.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    RLX would have been fine if it were more stylish. A FWD Japanese A7, if you will.

  • avatar
    tubacity

    I thought Derek was over the Honda fanboy stage. Or the, “my grandma likes it” stage.
    Yawn… Just no need to defend the irrelevant.
    RLX is irrelevant in view of the many many other superior alternatives mentioned above.

    Next, a defense of the ZDX.

    • 0 avatar
      Atum

      That was probably Acura’s most pointless model to be honest, even more so than that re-badged Trooper I forgot the name of. Pricey, cramped, and thirsty. Not a good idea for market success.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        That would be the Acura SLX. At the same time, they were doing the Rodeo as the Passport.

        IMO neither were a good idea, but I do like the idea of a fancy loaded Trooper. From what I hear and read, they’re a bit unreliable though. Ones in Ohio tend to have rust issues as well as the always-bad transmission.

        • 0 avatar
          snakebit

          In defense of Acura at the time( and goodness knows lately they need it now)the SLX brought them SUV customers while waiting for MDX to arrive. Yes, the automatic transmission was not up to the job, at it was IIRC the Strasbourg HydraMatic 180, which saw duty earlier in the four cylinder Chevrolet Chevette. Give Acura a C for trying, and something lower for the execution, they needed something to fill the immediate gap in their model lineup.

  • avatar
    nine11c2

    I just drove a Maxima. sn’t so luxurious, doesn’It drive so good, not in the right price point. Many better cars in the price range (40+ out the door) like more than a couple of Lexus. Its in Mercedes C and BMW 3 territory. Rather have the LexusIS, and I’m sure many people would ahve the ES.

    Maxima’s sold when you could get a Maxima instead of a Camry and it was niceer, sportier. Now the Altima is the competitor to the Camry and the Maxima is too expensive to have a Nissan nameplace. But we are off topic..

  • avatar
    The Heisenberg Cartel

    Styling was their number 1 killer. The old Legend was conservative-yet-kind-of-gangster. The last two RLs have just been boring. This is where they would have done well to take the German method of whoring out their designs. Make everything look like the last gen TL or the original TSX til they can figure out something better.

    Plus the Legend never had to deal with the Genesis and the Chrysler 300. Or good full size GM sedans.

  • avatar
    nine11c2

    Can I ask a question. The RLX is a FWD sedan which is available with AWD. We are evaluating it against the German competition saying its not as dynamic because it is FWD. HOWEVER, every Audi up to the A6, which is similar in size, are FWD AVAILABLE with Quattro. Now, while I believe to buy and Audi without Quattro is a similar sin to buying an Automatic Porsche, we can’t evaluate it 1) against German competition 1/3 of which is FWD and consider the German competition all RWD (as well as other competition such as the Lexus ES as well) and 2) consider Audi’s available in FWD and Quattro as not FWD but considering Acura’s available as FWD and SH-AWD as FWD. It aint fair…

    If you’re gonna lump FWD into not worth the price and bad – then throw Lexus and Audi in there too…

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    Audi has a longitudinal mounted engine and 40:60 torque split – with the 60 being in the rear. It drives different then a large FWD car.

    Truthfully the Acura RLX is both ugly and nose heavy and FWD. That’s an awful combination. Even consumer reports doesn’t like it.

    Once you start throwing down the serious money you want something that’s quick, luxurious and looks good. Why give up any of those characteristics? Most people do not..

    Its not empty prestige that sells Audi’s. They are nice inside and out – and seemingly quite reliable in the first 4 years that the rich folks who buy them are going to own them. And they drive really nice – the Germans do an excellent job tuning their cars for high speed cruising. It’s the right balance between sporty and harsh and wallowing..

    • 0 avatar
      nine11c2

      CelticPete, you’re making my point. A standard Audi it FWD. You are acting like they are all Quattro..

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        The number of cars Audi sells without Quattro is pretty small. In my neck of the woods special order only. But I did drive a base A6 in TX recently. It still drives like a German car, nothing at all like a Maxima or an Avalon. Suspension tuning matters more than which wheels drive. Ultimately, even the lowliest German car is tuned to feel good at warp speed on the Autobahn. Japanese (and American) cars feel best sitting in traffic.

        • 0 avatar
          nine11c2

          So you’re saying, as I’ve said more than once, at most normal speeds a FWD car (and good ones, like the TSX and Lexus ES) can be tuned quite well?

          How many Audi sells is irrelevant. They are still a FWD car with Quattro available, up to a car as big as the A6.

  • avatar
    tedward

    nine11c2
    The distinction is longitudinal vs. transverse engine and transmission layout. Audi is running the drivetrain layout with the better weight distribution (except in their VW sourced cars, like the TT, A3 and Q3.) I have to agree with you though, a fwd Audi strikes me as remarkably poor value as well, engine layout be damned. I would immediately go to a loaded mainstream alternative.

    The ES et al… crowd can and do drive fine at low speeds, but have nothing to offer off the highway. They are basically the mid size family segment further neutered by additional sound deadening and other dead weight. If you absolutely positively only will every need the car for driving in traffic slowly I suppose that is fine. It doesn’t make for an impressive car though.

  • avatar
    nine11c2

    tedward

    For the most part I agree.

    I understand the difference in layout – but what does the difference in layout really give you? I drive FWD car as my every day ride, a TSX. I had a Fusion before and and AWD before that. In a car that size, they ahve cured much of the oversteer issues, it handles very well. The only difference is being able to put hte power down in a turn, control the car with the throttle and torque steer, all issues that the makes little difference which way your FWD is laid out.

    I think they ride fine on the highway – to me the difference between FWD and RWD or AWD is from 85% to 100% on a winding road or track..

  • avatar
    tedward

    Yeah I don’t think transverse vs. longitudinal is necessarily that big a deal either. It’s just that no one makes a transverse rear drive and there are precious few who bother to make transverse AWD rear biased. I, personally, wouldn’t have a existential problem with a transverse RWD car, not that anyone would make one. That’s kind of why I try to include FWD Audi’s in my criticisms.

    I DD a transverse FWD car as well (and even expect quite a bit of fun from it), I just don’t think anyone can do an exceptional transverse FWD car at the sizes the premium brands play in nowadays. I love the TSX personally, especially because Acura hasn’t priced and sized it up to current 3-series/A4 proportions.


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