LA QUINTA, Calif. -- We log time in the plush driver's seat of a 2014 RLX -- Acura's re-imagined flagship sedan -- driving across the jagged Laguna Mountains of southern California and through low sandy deserts skirting the Salton Sea before reaching the golfing oasis of La Quinta near Palm Springs.
What this road test reveals is a large and luxurious touring sedan with a new powertrain aboard plus PAWS (precision all-wheel steer), a 4-wheel electric steering system which enables the vehicle to romp up mountain grades and dance around wiggly curves as easily as it powers down a multi-lane interstate highway like the I-8 or maneuvers deftly through traffic in an urban sprawl like Palm Springs.
The ride quality feels firm but definitely smooth, thanks to a rigid unit-body structure which supports a suspension system with independent components including a double-wishbone design in front that precisely controls wheel motion and a rear multi-link layout that settles the rear and delivers an exceptionally smooth ride.
And there's plenty of power at play with RLX, thanks to Acura's forceful new 6-cylinder engine.
The aluminum V6 displaces 3.5 liters with SOHC (single overhead camshaft), direct injection, a drive-by-wire throttle and i-VTEC (intelligent variable value timing and lift electronic control) valvetrain technology which continually adjusts phasing of the intake camshaft with changes in valve lift, timing and duration.
RLX's plant produces 310 hp at 6500 rpm and 272 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm.
Further, the 6-pack employs Acura's variable cylinder management (VCM) device to conserve on fuel by modifying the number of engine cylinders at work -- it can switch from six to four or down to three cylinders, depending on the power demand at any particular moment.
Federal EPA fuel consumption numbers on the RLX engine look good -- up to 31 miles per gallon for highway travel.
Sole transaxle is an electronically controlled automatic 6-speed outfitted with Acura's sequential SportShift override for manual shifts via hand paddles mounted on the steering wheel.
This shifter has a unique "grade logic" shift point governor that selects top gear settings after measuring variables like throttle position, road speed and the rates of acceleration and deceleration.
A big disc brake applies at every wheel, with ABS (anti-lock brake system) plus EBD (electronic brake distribution) and BA (brake assist) units, a TCS (traction control system) and VSA (vehicle stability assist) mechanism to correct lateral car skidding.
The RLX and RLX Navigation editions roll on Michelin Pilot MXM4 245/45R18 all-season rubber mounted on 18-inch noise-reducing alloy wheels, while top models (RLX Technical Package, RLX Krell Audio Package, RLX Advance Package) bump up to Michelin Primacy MXM4 245/40R19 all-season tires with 19-inch noise-reducing alloys.
New RLX totes a carload of advanced electronic technologies designed to assist the driver, including standard Multi-Angle Rearview Camera, Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning, plus optional devices like Lane Keeping Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow, Blind Spot Information and Collision Mitigation Braking.
Further, RLX stocks the next-generation AcuraLink connectivity system which encompasses information, media, convenience and security services through embedded 2-way communications and web-enabled devices.
AcuraLink integrates Pandora and Sirius XM with Aha, a cloud-based interface by Harman that provides loads of customizable media and connectivity choices.
And AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic brings new street traffic information, along with airbag deployment notification, stolen vehicle tracking, remote door locking and unlocking, security alarm notification and 24-hour concierge services for restaurant reservations.
Take a walk-around tour of the new RLX and you'll see a streamlined body posing in hunkered stance that makes it seem ready to romp. There's a low hood line to enhance forward visibility for the driver, with Jewel Eye LED lamps on front corners of a pointed prow crowned by Acura's pentagonal grille in silver paint.
The driver-oriented cockpit features a leather-wrapped steering wheel, the instrument cluster with LED backlit gauges for an easy read and a monochrome Multi-Information Display which provides access to a variety of electronic functions.
Base trim RLX stocks a sunroof, 3-zone automatic climate controls, power tilting-telescoping steering wheel, 8-way power for front seats, leatherette (vinyl) seat upholstery, heating/memory functions for front seats, a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity and a 10-speaker ELS audio package with CD player, USB/iPod interface, HD radio and satellite radio.
RLX Krell Audio adds a 14-speaker Krell sound system, while the RLX Advance Package brings ventilated front seats and heated rear seats, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow, Collision Mitigation Braking plus front/rear parking sensors.
Acura establishes MSRP figures for the 2014 RLX series beginning at $48,450. RLX Navigation goes for $50,950, the RLX Technical Package tallies to $54,450, RLX Krell Audio Package lists for $56,950 but RLX Advance Package caps the series at $60,450.