Leading the Way
Steve Schaefer, Tue, 18 Mar 2014 04:18:41 PDT
The 2014 Acura RLX is Honda's premium brand's new flagship. It is the largest Acura sedan ever made, the better to compete with all those other cars fighting for your luxury car dollar. It succeeds the RL, which has sold somewhat slowly.
This new sedan has a slightly smaller 3.5-liter V6 instead of the RL's 3.7-liter, but horsepower is up by 10 to an impressive 310. Torque bumps up by 1 to 272. And more than 90 percent of the engine's peak torque is available between 2,000 and 6,600 rpm, so there's never a slow or hesitant moment behind the wheel. A six-speed electronically-controlled automatic is the only transmission offered.
The new car addresses the RL's problem of being slightly smaller than the competition, and therefore falling off many shopping lists. A two-inch-longer wheelbase provides cavernous rear legroom, and an extra 1.7 inches of width gives those happy rear passengers a little more private space.
For a subtle look, the sharp-edged beak of recent Acuras is banished. In the rounded nose you'll see the Jewel-Eye headlamps, which look a lot like large, flattened anniversary bands. The sparkling row of lamps illuminates the roadway with a crisp brightness. At the back, the taillights use periphery LED illumination, which produces a much more defined light than a traditional incandescent bulb.
Inside, you'll find all the soft and subtle touches that promote relaxation. There's leather on the dash, something rarely found besides in a Rolls-Royce. The design is sweeping and energetic, with black surfaces and brushed-look trim. The leather continues on the seats, armrests, and shift knob. On the steering wheel, the adjustments for volume and digital information are little wheels - easy to roll with your thumb.
There's a friendly four-note tone when you start the car and then, silence. Acura's first direct-injection engine sends the car along the freeway like a magic carpet. It's rated at 20 City, 31 Highway, and 24 Combined by the EPA, which also bestows a 5 for Smog and a 6 for Greenhouse gas.
Acura has always promoted its wares as being filled with high-tech, and this remains true. On the trunk is the acronym P-AWS, which stands for Precision All-Wheel Steer. This system monitors and calculates the correct amount of independent rear-wheel steering (toe angle) necessary in all driving conditions.
Another happy acronym is the Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), which has a camera that scans the road ahead and actively helps you stays in the middle of the lane.
Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) lets you set a desired speed and a distance interval behind the vehicle ahead. This makes it safer to use cruise control in light traffic as well as on the open highway. This system comes with a new Low-Speed Follow capability, so it still works even when traffic slows below the speed you set. It will even stop your car if the vehicle ahead stops while it's in range of the system. The next step? Self-driving cars.
There are five models - all sedans - and all made in Japan. The "base" RLX is loaded already. The second level is RLX with navigation, providing a seven-inch color display and AcuraLink, which connects your car to a world of communication and entertainment. Level three is the one I tested - RLX with Technology. My Crystal Black Pearl tester added nine items, including upgraded interior leather, great-looking 19-inch alloy wheels, and self-folding outside mirrors. It also gave me the accident-preventing Blind Spot Warning System.
The last two levels, RLX with Krell Audio and RLX with Advance, pour on the electronics. Krell, a big name in electronics that I've never heard of, puts 14 speakers in its namesake model along with manual and electric sunshades. The Advance, at the top, ventilates the already heated seats and gives you the Collision Mitigating Braking System (CMBS). CMBS helps prevent your hitting another car, working with Forward Collision Warning, which flashes lights if it thinks you're in danger of having an accident.
It's all very technological, but the driving experience is laid back and effortless. You do get to enjoy the car when you take it on curving roads, and there's some road feel mixed in. It's nothing like the land yachts of yore, and I'm grateful for it.
Prices start at $48,450 for the RLX and move up to $60,450 for the Advance. Add in $895 for delivery. My tester came to $55,345.
If you're a fan of Honda products and want the nicest, biggest sedan they make, you'll gladly forgo Lexus, Infiniti, and various German and American sedans for this new model. Still hewing to the balanced, restrained look of generations of Honda Accords and the original Acura Legend, it's bigger and better, and will not disappoint.