By on August 11, 2017

2018 Acura RLX

Acura is changing its flagship sedan for 2018 with a short list of important electronic upgrades and a much-needed makeover. Most evident is the absence of the chrome break the brand tried to make synonymous with its lineup for a decade. The RLX’s new hallmark is a diamond pentagon grille, already seen on the TLX and MDX.

It still looks like a bird of prey, but maybe one better suited for swooping down and plucking Acura’s tanking sales from the water like a fresh salmon — or perhaps a slightly smaller fish.

Mechanical improvements are limited to a new 10-speed automatic fitted onto the 310-horsepower front-wheel drive model. Acura claims the new transmission delivers a more refined driving experience, as well as improved acceleration and passing times. The RLX now comes in just two trims: the previously mentioned base model and the Sport Hybrid, which adds all-wheel drive and a trio of electric motors to increase the standard 3.5-liter V6 powertrain’s output to 377 horsepower.
2018 Acura RLX

The base model now comes with four-wheel steering, but neither model represents much of an upgrade in power from the previous year. Acura’s 310 horsepower 3.5-liter could rush the car to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds in 2017, and the addition of a new transmission is unlikely to stray it too far from that benchmark. The automaker claims the Sport Hybrid’s Super Handling all-wheel drive system has been “further optimized based on NSX learnings” but didn’t specify how the electronic torque-vectoring differs from the previous model year.

Still, handling should be more than competent with both models, and the RLX does offer some of the best entry level power in its segment — but that advantage disappears the second you start shelling out extra money on its competitors. However, if you’re looking to set impressive quarter mile times, you probably aren’t in the market for an Acura. The RLX is more about understated luxury and tech, which is where the company spent most of its money. 

2018 Acura RLX

AcuraWatch now comes standard, outfitting each RLX with a suite of safety features — including automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane assist. It also adds traffic jam assist to expand its adaptive cruise control function to low-speed driving scenarios. The new RLX keeps the dual-stack center console but appears to be lacking an updated infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which could prove a deal-breaker for some.

Standard equipment grows on the Sport Hybrid to include a premium Krell sound system, surround-view camera system, fog lamps, parking sensors, remote start, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats.

2018 Acura RLX

New front seats get contrasting piping and stitching, while the automaker promises cabin materials and touch points are nicer than before. There’s also a new “Espresso” interior color option, if you want something less bright than “Seacoast” (pictured) without losing its earthy charm. Of course, black and gray persist — neither of which will make the inside of the vehicle even remotely claustrophobic, as the RLX has always been quite roomy.

Expect greater choice in exterior color options. Previously, Acura provided the sedan with an array of off-whites, a fairly expansive list of gray, and “Pomegranate.” Three new colors join that list, including an exceptionally vibrant red. Most of the noticeable changes, of course, are visible on the outside of the vehicle. The new grille and hood makes the sedan appear far more aggressive, while the new wheel designs, LED taillights, dual exhaust finishers, and a black rear diffuser are decent finishing touches.

2018 Acura RLX

Whether this all adds up to improved sales remains to be seen, but the company seems to think revising the brand’s image problem is essential to boosting volume. “This redesign of the 2018 Acura RLX is transformational, creating road presence and styling that better reflect underlying performance capabilities of the vehicle,” said Acura vice president and general manager John Ikeda in a statement.

The RLX has seen significantly weaker sales every year since it came out in 2013 and only sold 1,585 units in 2016.

Going on sale in November, the 2018 Acura RLX’s pricing has yet to be announced. For comparison, a 2017 base RLX starts at $54,450, whereas the hybrid comes in at $59,950. Acura says it will make its debut at Monterey Automotive Week on August 15th.

2018 Acura RLX

[Images: Acura]

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45 Comments on “Acura Freshens RLX’s Face, Upgrades Tech for 2018...”


  • avatar
    gasser

    The horse is dead, stop beating it.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      The most shocking news about RL/RLX is that the car still exists. I am guessing that the RL brand remains so resilient in America because Honda makes most of its sales in some other parts of the world, at which point, bringing it into USA is mostly for an inexpensive sideshow and marketing.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Decisions, decisions…this or a Continental?

    (Takes psych meds.)

    Continental, for sure.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      If I was going to buy an Acura it would be a V6 TLX not an RLX.

      At least the “Accord Brougham” TLX seems like a reasonable value. A $60K RLX? Not so much.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Might be if there was some kind of ultra cheap lease deal on them…but there isn’t.

      • 0 avatar
        Jacob

        When it comes to value, the MDX is a better value than TLX because while having nearly the same handling characteristics on an interstate or a suburban road, MDX also has three-row seating or a huge cargo space which can be useful for making trips to say IKEA or Home Depot. But then again, when you compare the MDX value vs a well-equipped Honda Pilot, then Pilot beats the MDX. Moreover, when you drive Pilot you don’t look like the moron who has the extra 10 grand burning the pocket to put a better badge on the same Honda car. (The same applies to TLX vs Accord. TLX has nothing on Accord EX-L, except optional AWD)

  • avatar
    JimZ

    ugh, that grille looks like it’s sagging.

  • avatar

    Better looking than before, now that they’ve added some Lexus GS elements to the back.

    And speaking of better cars, a GS350 AWD comes in right at $50,000.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    The real headline should be that this car still exists, because I’d forgotten all about it. I think I’ve seen one in real life, a few years ago.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    I know what I see in the frontal view – an owl

  • avatar
    MeJ

    Beautiful interior (reminds me of a Volvo) and a nice profile…But…
    That front end is hideous. Horrible design.

  • avatar
    Sceptic

    This car is about $20K overpriced. They would sell many more for around $40K ugly looks and all.

  • avatar
    Fred

    Not just the RLX but many full size cars are falling out of favor. I’d be curious to hear from their manufacturer’s as to why they continue to invest in them.

    • 0 avatar
      phreshone

      They need an architecture to serve as a basis for their next non-off-road SUV????

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      I think the answer is that the car we know as Acura RLX is probably selling well enough in some other region of the world in order to keep the production line open. Moreover, Honda has really just three major vehicle platforms, Fit, Civic, and Accord. The rest are just variations upon these.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Acura is so incredibly removed from its LEGENDary past that it’s literally impossible to overstate how far they’ve fallen, and how deeply their INTEGRAty has been compromised.

    Even some of their less VIGORous products of the 90s were clearly superior to the crap they’re pushing out now.

    Soichiro Honda weeps in his grave.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I get the play on words, but seriously, when was Acura better than it is now? The Integra years? Everything else has always been anonymous also-ran.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        Acura’s problem isn’t that they’ve gotten worse over the years, it’s that Hondas have become plusher and gained so many features that “stepping up” to Acura doesn’t really get you much more.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          What Jim said, and this: the luxury game has stepped up over the years, and Acura is still selling thinly disguised Hondas.

          It works with CUVs because CUV buyers don’t give a s**t for some reason (which is why Acura is succeeding with those models), but it doesn’t work with sedans.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            It’s worse than Acuras now being thinly disguised Hondas.

            Acuras are now bloated, fattened, dulled Hondas, just because they need to be porkier, overladen with ridiculous and unnecessary gadgetry, too, because they have to be more expensive, also.

          • 0 avatar
            joeaverage

            What unnecessary tech does Acura have that the rest of the class doesn’t have too?

            As long as the class has all the toys, so will Acura.

            I like the look of this car but alas, I won’t spend that kind of dough on a car any time soon. Maybe buy it as a used car like we did our current Acura.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2014-acura-rlx-with-video/
        August 17th, 2013 at 6:51 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Legend, NSX, Integra. Even, to a lesser extent, the early TSX and TL.

        The MDX is still fairly standard setting, and that weird hatchback version was at least not ugly like the Bimmer sibling. but CUVs are kind of hard to get excited about, regardless of how well they are executed.

        The core problem is that, ever since those early years, mainstream cars, like the ones Honda builds, have been just as objectively good as luxury cars. Hence luxury cars have become inherently somewhat frivolous by definition. And Honda culture, From Soichiro onward, have always been about avoiding frivolousness for it’s own sake. So Acura really is in a bit of a squeeze: Between what it needs to be to succeed as a contemporary luxury brand, and what it can allowed to be, while remaining within the boundaries of what is acceptable to Honda.

    • 0 avatar
      dmoan

      Acura main problem is they have small number of products compared to Lexus, Benz, Audi or even Infinity and Honda is perfectly fine with that. Unless Honda decides to throw more focus and develop more products things are not going to change. Keep in mind Acura still manage to hold off Infinity in sales last couple months in-spite of not having Small SUV.

  • avatar

    Maybe it would sell better if they called it the Acura Legend again, like they used to.

  • avatar
    sckid213

    Remember when Saturn tacked on that ill-fitting front grill onto the Ion during the mid-cycle refresh in the early ’00s?

    That’s what these new grilles remind me of. The problem is that none of the models it’s been tacked onto (MDX, TLX, now RLX) were designed with this grille in mind. So they look tacked on, because they are. I think it’s SO bush league for automakers to just tack grilles on like this (another example: putting the Continental grille on the MKZ, hurting both of those models).

    So weird to see Acura making such “Old GM” moves.

  • avatar
    KevinC

    Who knew at the time that the “Legend” moniker would prove to be so prophetic?

    This 2018 refresh has a face that only a mother could love. That is one hideous-looking automobile. Japanese design is going through a tough phase right now – lots of homely players out there (Civic, Maxima immediately come to mind).

  • avatar
    jkross22

    I had some seat time in an RLX last year at the car show. It was nice but overly complicated. Great stereo. Lots of space. Just overpriced for what it is – an up market AWD Accord with some sportiness.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “I had some seat time in an RLX last year at the car show. It was nice but overly complicated. Great stereo. Lots of space. Just overpriced for what it is – an up market AWD Accord with some sportiness.”

      (go back 30 years)
      “I had some seat time in a Legend last year at the car show. It was nice but overly complicated. Great stereo. Lots of space. Just overpriced for what it is – an up market Accord with some sportiness.”

  • avatar
    ajla

    Things outselling the RLX in 2017:
    1. Maserati Quattroporte
    2. Toyota Mirai
    3. Volvo V90
    4. Audi A3 e-tron
    5. Chevy SS

    In fact the only things that don’t outsell the RLX that cost under $100K and were in production since January are the K900, Alfa 4C, and Honda Clarity.

  • avatar
    fendertweed

    One. Fugly. Face.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    That front end is unfortunate, however, blonde wood over tan leather is always nice. The taillights are a welcome refresh, but the back looks like a pre-refresh 9th gen. Accord now.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Amazing they found the justification to update the sheetmetal, when on average they sell about 125 of these RLX’s a month. Will a doubling to 250 a month presage the popping of champagne bottle corks at their devilish plan succeeding beyond all measure?

    But that’s Honda for you. They brought out beaky Acuras, were criticized, went red with not embarrassment but annoyance, and doubled-down on keeping the schnoz going for years. We’re right and we’re going to prove it to you! Stubborn.

    So when they restyled the TL by going TLX and producing an embarassing drive with the V6 9 speed ZF, they sort of went off the beak, but decided to compensate by inventing a silly pushbutton transmission selector to cheese people off with instead. Now the new Accord has it too. Great, and so the new RLX, a car demonstably unfit for sale at the price has a not very nice new grille and Honda insectoid LED headlights. There’s so much not to like for the price. Well done for being obdurate, Honda Inc.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Push button gear selectors.

      Touch screen controls.

      Auto start-stop.

      Eco-mode default transmission setting on start-up.

      Buttons instead of knobs.

      Impossible to change out head units (paired with crappy stock speakers) in order to try and force consumers into a $3,200 to $5,500 “package” filled with needless things in order to get a decent audio system.

      These are 6 of my least favorite things in new vehicle-dom.

      There are more that I can’t think of at the time being.

      There needs to be a comprehensive TTAC article about these bad trends.

    • 0 avatar
      dmoan

      The beak in last gen of Mdx and Rdx looked much better (especially when painted black) and made them stand out in crowded field. Now Mdx looks like Sorento, Qx60…

  • avatar
    33873

    LOL what a disaster I thought it was some new butchy looking CUV at first

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    One wonders what this would sell like if they gave it the Outback treatment–bulk it up, lift it up, and give it some cladding.

    Ten bucks worth of materials and they have an all-new premium SUV above the MDX.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      It costs only $10.00 to change a sedan to a CUV? Wow. I didn’t know a full redesign of everything behind the doors costs only ten bucks.

      Or would it be a Sport Utility Sedan? Not even Subaru made that concept work.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    That’s not a diffuser.


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