By on November 1, 2013


Late breaking news from Los Angeles – this month’s LA Auto Show will herald the debut of the RLX Sport Hybrid All-Wheel Drive, nearly a year after the front-drive V6 RLX debuted.

As Alex Dykes discovered, the standard car’s buying proposition is about as strong as the Lincoln MKZ’s, which is to say, nearly non-existent. In such a hyper-competitive market, the RLX hasn’t made much of an impression, and will likely suffer the same fate as its predecessor – lingering in obscurity, despite being a pretty good car.

It’s a shame too, since the RLX SH-AWD is a very interesting proposition. With two-electric motors in the rear wheels servicing as an AWD-system-cum-hybrid-powertrain, the RLX is able to crank out 377 horsepower and achieve 30 mpg combined, according to Acura’s figures. If what they’re saying is true, then this car really does deliver on the “V8 power, 4-cylinder fuel economy” promise that so many others have failed to live up to.

Knowing Acura, it won’t be bad to drive either, but it fails to make any kind of visual statement despite its performance and eco-friendly credentials. In that sense, it’s the antithesis of the Tesla Model S, and for a car this advanced and this expensive, that’s the surest recipe for failure.

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19 Comments on “A Day Late And A Dollar SH(AWD)ort...”

  • avatar

    They’d double sales by getting rid of the Avengers shield on the grill.

    Besides, Tony Stark already drives the new NSX, what more do they need?

  • avatar

    Pretty excited about this one (although I won’t be able to afford it new).

    Call me crazy, though, but I’d rather see those rear-wheel motors accompanied by a version of the Accord’s two-motor eCVT system (but with the V6) in the front, rather than the single-motor/dual-clutch system the RLX is slated to use. It seems like eCVT has really cracked the hybrid code. Smooth, torquey, and even simpler mechanically than Toyota’s system. By contrast, the single-motor systems are not very flexible.

  • avatar

    That is one doggone ugly car…

  • avatar

    What reason is there to buy this RLX over a TL? They look very similar in design and size. And why won’t Acura longitudinally mount their engines again like the good ol’ days and at least have better designs and less of that hideous overhang? Audi gets away with it, FWD based and all and no one says a word. Why? Because they look better. Boring, but better.

    • 0 avatar

      There is no reason “transverse FWD” has to have long front overhang. The transverse engine could just as well sit behind the front axle, but no one does that now except the Toyota/Scion iQ.

      • 0 avatar

        A4, A5, A6, A7 – longitudinally mounted with a true center differential and a 40 Front/60 rear split. I don’t know why people keep saying “Audi gets away with it.” The R8 has a 20F/80R split – might as well be RWD.

        • 0 avatar

          Much like Subarus (which also made, and still makes in other markets, FWD variants of its cars), the engine in an Audi is exceptionally far forward—before the front axle, in fact—which makes them inherently nose-heavy and gives them a lot of front overhang. This is so you can have front half-shafts coming perpendicular out of the longitudinal transaxle (the old Acura approach took power out from the back of the transmission and ran a driveshaft up to the front axle).

          Not a huge deal, they do an excellent job designing around this, but longitudinal engine or not, the platform is not basically the same as RWD. The platform is inherently FWD. Longitudinal FWD and designed in such a way to make adding symmetric AWD easy, but FWD nonetheless. It would be designed quite differently if Audi didn’t make FWD variants (compare an xDrive BMW or a 4Matic Mercedes-Benz). This is probably also why Audi uses V6s (since they’re shorter) instead of the more ideal straight-sixes (like BMW), even though they never use these engines in transverse cars (which is why most manufacturers switched to V6s; VWAG uses VR6s for this instead). You mentioned the R8, but it’s mid-engine and based on the Lamborghini Gallardo’s platform, so it isn’t really relevant here.

          Compare these two, noting the location of the strut towers relative to the engines (keep in mind that the Audi engine is a cylinder shorter and they still can’t fit the radiator in front because it’s too far forward):

          Audi “gets away with it” probably because they’ve been building cars like this for a very long time (including a particularly iconic car, the Audi Quattro), the platform was theirs to begin with (it didn’t come from a “lesser” marque like VW) and remains largely unique to them (with some exceptions like the Passat for a generation and the Phaeton), and they make some of the best-looking cars in the world.

          It seems you can also get away with using a more pedestrian platform (like MLP for the TT and A3, the Camry/Avalon platform for the Lexus ES, and soon the FWD Mini platform for the BMW 1) for entry-level cars, but it probably helps to have a flagship car like the A8 or Lexus LS—something clearly special—holding up the prestige of the brand at the high end. I think Acura’s problem is that the RLX isn’t clearly an exceptional car.

    • 0 avatar

      They are not the same size. The TL is a midsize sedan, nearly identical in size to the Accord or Fusion. The RLX is an estate car. I sat in the RLX at an auto show and the cabin was even more roomier than the Taurus (which is huge).

      Also the RLX makes 100 more HP than the TL.

  • avatar

    No sarcasm — this car will be an engineering tour de force.

    Problem is, Honda stupidly brought out the plain-Jane FWD version of the car first. It had absolutely nothing new or unique, and a price about $15,000 too high. Now the car’s reputation is DOA and nobody will even notice the extraordinary capabilities of this version.

    They should’ve introduced the RLX line with this car. But after the tsunami, and having already waited too long to replace the geriatric RL, they lost their patience. Oops.

  • avatar

    The big question: will this be available with the great Acura 6 speed MT? If so, sign me up for 377hp, 30 mpg combined, AWD and MT in a 4 door sedan. I don’t care what it looks like. I can’t see it from the driver’s seat.

  • avatar

    I’m sure it’ll be an impressive feat of engineering but given how overpriced the current FWD RLX is, I fear that the extra expense of the hybrid power train will put it into a “fanbois only” niche market.

  • avatar

    Probably not a bad car. Overpriced? Sure , Honda’s always been pretty darn proud of their stuff , even when it misses the mark. Acura has certainly missed the mark for well over a decade now , however Honda’s pride hasn’t suffered any. The absolutely horrendous front end has been toned down. Still it reminds everyone of how ill conceived this mandated corporate face for Acura has been. Maybe in another 5 years they will have completely rid themselves of that boondoggled look? Until then , the showrooms will continue to be a good place to catch an afternoon nap.

  • avatar

    I’ve been waiting for this car as I decide what to do about my 2012 TL. But for the $70K they’re likely to want for it, they’re not making a compelling argument against a V8-powered German midsize.

  • avatar

    It’s called PAWS now remember, not SH-AWD.

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