By on May 18, 2020

2018 Acura RLX

Yes, it’s true. The news that marred your sunny and/or drenching weekend cannot be ignored: the slow-selling, highly complex Acura RLX flagship will not stage a return for 2021.

If it did, would anyone have noticed?

That’s doubtful, given the model’s shrinking sales volumes.

In a statement reported by Car and Driver late Friday, Acura said, “Today, we informed Acura dealers of our plan to discontinue sales of the RLX sedan in North America at the conclusion of the 2020 model year, as we make significant investments in the core models that represent Acura’s future.”

Acura’s sedan future now lies in the compact ILX and midsize TLX, the latter of which gains a new generation for 2021. Honda’s premium division previewed the car with its Type S concept vehicle last year, heralding the return of the Type S designation to the brand.

2018 Acura RLX

But back to the RLX, which split from its predecessor, the RL for the 2014 model year. Front-drive in base models and boasting all-wheel steering, the RLX offered a 3.5-liter V6 and 10-speed automatic. Any benefit to handling realized by its steering system failed to catch the attention of consumers, who stayed away in droves. The same can be said for the uplevel RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD, which combined the same 310-horse V6 with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and a triple-motor all-wheel drive hybrid powertrain.

This complex affair doled out one electric motor up front, with two more independently powering the rear wheels. Shades of NSX, only in a forgettable, largish midsize sedan. Acura used a fleet of these to shuttle us to an MDX first drive event a few years back — an event that included a toe-dip in the supposedly DNA-sharing NSX.

While Acura’s powertrain tech should have set it apart from some rivals, it didn’t. The brand sold just 205 of these sedans in the first four months of 2020; even factoring in the pandemic, that’s a tiny amount. Last year saw Acura unload just 1,019 of them. In its first full year of production, some 3,413 RLXs made it out of showrooms.

[Images: Acura]

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50 Comments on “Acura RLX: Add Another Grave to the Sedan Cemetery...”


  • avatar

    Where to begin with RLX…

    Too heavy
    Too expensive
    Too dated
    It’s ugly
    The fake wood is terrible
    The interior is ugly
    The regen braking is terrible
    It’s floppy like an old Buick
    It doesn’t feel as powerful as it is

    And the MDX is much more fun to drive in a spirited way.

    Good riddance, this offering lost the plot with the RL beak redesign in 2010 or whatever.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Dang, tell us how you really feel here, Corey.

      Personally, I didn’t think this car was NEARLY that bad – it’s quick, and it’s quite a a bargain used.

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      I’m going to argue that they lost the plot long before “Peak Beak.” I think they lost the plot then they trashed the “Legend” name and slapped “RL” on a very, very plain looking 1996 redesign. Overnight it went from a driver’s car (with stick shift) with name and badge recognition to just another boring upright sedan. Even though it has lingered for a long time, I don’t think it ever fully recovered.

      Think of Mike Tyson. Pre-Buster Douglas, top of the world, champ, endorsements, best in his class. One can argue that of the Legend. Post-Buster Douglas, steady decline, fewer shining moments, and eventually the end. Kind of sums up the long, sad fate of what was the best Japanese sedan.

      • 0 avatar

        On second thought, I recall I’ve written about this before. Considered an alternate history where Honda didn’t half-ass Acura, and went with rear-drive platforms to compete with Lexus.

        But you’re right the 3.5RL was a letdown compared to Legend. I do like the refresh version with the big headlamps that ran through 04, even though it has big Accord looks. Great with gold badges.

        • 0 avatar
          theflyersfan

          And I wrote the above as someone who loves Honda and Acura products. I’ve had an Integra and a couple of RSX Type-S(es) and I want to see that spark come back NOW! That’s why I like the CTR so much – it has that middle finger attitude that something like the Integra Type-R had.

          They could be onto something if they keep refining the TLX into something a little more serious and I think they REALLY need something built off of the CTR’s engine and chassis, and possibly something a little more affordable in the sports car market than the all but invisible NSX. They just can’t build a brand image by selling nicer Honda crossovers and expect buyers to come flocking to them unless the deal is good. We’re seeing the situation other carmakers are in with that business model.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          That plan (RWD+V8) went out of the window when the Great Recession hit (same for Lincoln).

          But if you haven’t noticed, it’s not like Infiniti, much less Lexus have been selling too many of their RWD sedans these days (w/ those nos. going down w/ the demise of the Q70 and GS).

          Whether RWD or FWD, the Japanese have been half-a**ing it when it comes to their lux sedans.

      • 0 avatar
        redapple

        Flyer Fan

        Bingo; Killing off the LEGEND name.
        My time at General Motors these kind of guys got promoted.
        and
        Were too stupid to know the rest of us were sick in the gut.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Both RLs are underrated, in my opinion. I can’t say the same about the RLX, although the Sport Hybrid powertrain is fascinating.

        The first one couldn’t stack up to the second-gen Legend in terms of beauty, and didn’t handle as nicely. But it was a close descendant of the Legend and was actually the better car in most other ways. It fixed the few reliability issues with the second-gen Legend and was an absolute tank, one of the most durable and reliable cars Honda ever made. It had a more comfortable interior with a lot more back-seat room, immaculate build quality, and then-current feature content. It was the car to buy if you were going to drive 300,000 miles.

        The second one was an Accord derivative like the TL and switched to the transverse layout, but it was an underrated handler because of SH-AWD. It also had much better build quality than the TL that sat next to it in the showroom. It was fantastically comfortable for the front-seat occupants. Its downfall was not enough back seat room and overly conservative styling. Honestly, if I needed to drive a lot on a budget, I might look for a 2011-2012 RL today. (The last two years got a much-improved 6-speed automatic, replacing the 5-speed that was there for most of the model run.)

        • 0 avatar

          It’s too bad they didn’t do anything to the interior when they fixed up the RL for its last couple of years. Because it is so dated in there that I wouldn’t even consider one.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Do you mean the first-gen car? I think the second-gen car’s interior looks reasonable (if not cutting-edge) even today, and was fine in 2011.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      At about 84 sold per month in 2019 I’m sure Barret Jackson auction is going to have a big draw…not!

    • 0 avatar
      John R

      “And the MDX is much more fun to drive in a spirited way”

      Smh. How does that happen? Or rather, how does one LET that happen?

      • 0 avatar

        I think it’s down to a lack of focus on the product (because they didn’t care about it) combined with an overly aged platform.

        They care a lot about the MDX, and know what and who it’s for.

  • avatar
    Rocket

    While it’s true that buyers are trending away from sedans, the failure of the RLX lies with Acura’s designers and engineers, not with the market. A LEGEND it is not.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I have a feeling that if 1992 Legend was brought back, there would be more sales than with this one

      • 0 avatar
        Garrett

        We had a 1986 Acura Legend when I was a kid.

        This was back when people didn’t know what Acura was or how to pronounce it.

        It was a fantastic car, and I would totally buy one today.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      About 3,000 TSX Wagons were sold each year in the ~3 years it was in production. While the RLX had a longer lifespan, one could argue a wagon beat out a sedan in sales. A wagon! In the U.S.!

      • 0 avatar

        Another flawed product, that wagon.

        A heavier body style with no V6, and no enthusiast-approved manual on offer.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Baffling. Should have at least had a stick, even if they kept the weaksauce four. V6 with autotragic would have been fine. Same with BMW not offering the I6 Turbo in the e9x and f3x wagons. It’s like they wanted them to fail.

          Wagon people are almost universally enthusiasts, and they will PAY to get their chosen form factor if they can get it the way they want it.

  • avatar
    ThePitz

    Just amazing that this heap is made in the same factory that produced the Prelude.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    I’ll take a used one.

    It is a Super-Honda after all…

  • avatar
    slavuta

    To me, the whole Acura can go away. What is good about them anyway? Another American company that brings nothing special. $50K 4cyl RDX? Who is buying Acura? Why?
    Just had conversation with my relative-in-law yesterday. He had 2 of RDXs. We both agreed, leather – the worst possible. Panel gaps a-la 1990 Chevy. And he only bought it because it sounds fancy, vs Mazda or Toyota, but is not as expensive as BMW. So wife feels special at lower cost.

    • 0 avatar
      Moparmann

      Ah-ha! Image, SO important to some! :-)

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        If you don’t have product, all you have is image. And Acura was really the original “image brand” – it ONLY existed in the US for decades, everywhere else the cars were just Hondas. Even today, Acura exists in only handful of countries. Pointless.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Really, Acura still has an “image”?

      You mean like Infiniti?

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      Acura is a band for people who are fundamentally fine with driving a Honda, but perhaps have at least extra 10K burning a hole in their pocket willing to spend it on a nicer Honda.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        I’d be at the dealership tomorrow for an ILX type R that was simply the Civic Type R in the ILX body (I know they are different cars underneath but this hasn’t always been the case) just to have a Civic Type R that didn’t look like, well, a Civic Type R. Honestly if they offered a manual in it I’d give it a hard look as it sits.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      As an example, they indeed confirmed that the 3.0T V6 in the new TLX is indeed unique to Acura.

      Could they not take that engine, de-turbo it, and stuff it in the next Accord? Call it a Type-R! I’ll buy one! Add on to the front-end, just like with the original Accord V6 in 1995, if they must!

      Acura’s been neglected for too long — they lost the plot when they removed the SLA suspension from the Integra, and cheapened it into the RSX! (Aforementioned double-wishbones will be back in the new TLX — whaddaya know!! The outgoing RLX had ‘bones in front.)

      Fold the good stuff (SUVs, new TLX) into Honda let a few of the bespoke bits filter down into the plebeian models, and let the better stuff in the interiors go into the whole brand! Slam-dunk!

  • avatar

    Acura Return to Greatness Plan

    1) Continue offering MDX
    2) Built one NSX. Literally one. Show it off, etc. This car can be a fiberglass pusher; no one buys one anyway.
    3) Condense rest of lineup into one car – the Acura Courtesy. Its a Civic 5-door with leather, NAV, Bluetooth, CarPlay/AndroidAuto, R/Cam, and wheel covers. Assemble enough to support MDX owners who require a loaner for maintenance. These cars are owned by Honda of America and registered to dealers. Make front clip adaptable to larger/small beaks or emblems or whatever. No other changes necessary. Not available for retail sale.

    This is an honest plan.

  • avatar
    ant

    I remember reading about these. It was the electric motors to move the seatbelt anchor points that turned me off. Just trying so hard to be “luxury” that they had lost the plot.

    I decided right then and there that this car was not thoughtfully designed, stopped reading about it, and have ignored it ever since.

    I don’t know what is going on over at Honda, but I’m all done buying anything new. All the new cars that I’ve bought over the years(5) have been from Honda (one ’12 TSX). They’ve lost me with all their boneheaded moves.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I checked out Hondas all the time but never bought one (after 1990 Civic), because every time, I saw a fake greatness people kept talking about. And as example, when everybody were overloading MSRP on those new Odysseys, I purchased a Villager with 8K miles for 2/3 of new. Given, it well-depreciated in 8 years, but it also had $500 in repairs; compare to all sorts of expensive troubles that gen of Odyssey had. I still see Hondas as glorified [email protected]@p today.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    So Honda can we get a 2.0T, manual trans, AWD torque-vectoring, Accord?

    What are you laughing at?

    • 0 avatar
      saturnotaku

      Honda knows better than to listen to automotive website comment sections.

      • 0 avatar

        People don’t buy AWD manual trans things. Volkswagen offered it for years, in wagon format, and for ~$25k and nobody bought in.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Yea. A wagon with a squeeze. It was tight. It was kind of stuck it between. Too long to be fun to drive but too small for a useful wagon. Kind of like Mazda5.

          • 0 avatar

            That tells me you haven’t driven one. It is fun to drive, and feels plenty zippy even with 1) automatic and 2) the smallest 1.4T.

            Also the Mazda 5 is not comparable as it’s a van.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            No, I have not driven it. I only sat in it.
            Mazda5 has comparable situation. You can either drive people or language. But not both. Too small for van, too big for wagon. So, no fun to drive. In fact, a big van with v6 is quicker, and even more stable on the road

        • 0 avatar
          Garrett

          That’s strange, because I could have sworn my WRX had both a manual trans and AWD.

          If we didn’t have Alfa Romeo in the US, and a quality local Alfa dealer, I would be behind the wheel of a 6 speed Golf R right now.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            @Garrett – a modern Legacy GT with the current 2.4 turbo and manual would be heavenly.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Weigh the front badge. Weigh the rear badge. Divide. If the quotient strays too far from 1, you’re going to have a sales problem.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    The Acura RLX answered a question nobody asked or cared about.

  • avatar
    gasser

    I’ve said it before, there is no room in the market for “near luxury“. With the up market moves of the standard brands, and the down market moves of the luxury car producers, the near luxury category has been squeezed out. Accura chose to expand the near luxury to compete with established big dollar priced producers. It failed.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Sure there is if it is PRICED correctly.

      See the Lexus ES – despite being based on FWD full-size bones (Avalon), it is priced like lux compact ($15k less than the RLX).

      Lexus follows a similar formula w/ the RX = a CUV based on a midsize platform at a compact price.

      The RLX, otoh, was not only priced in the lux midsize segment, it was priced $5k higher than the rest of its FWD, full-size competition (XTS, Continental and S90).

  • avatar
    Varezhka

    Expensive and not particularly luxurious inside, outdated, looks and drive like a large FWD barge that it is.
    At the very least the car needed a clear differentiation from the TLX that justified paying the 20K premium (and TLX is not exactly setting the showroom on fire either).

  • avatar
    brn

    I’d comment on the particular vehicle, but the Acura naming convention is nonsensical and I wouldn’t know which car I was talking about.

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