Get your P-AWS on some rear-wheel steering action.
Yes, I’m sure that when the word “Acura” is heard by most Canadian buyers, it’s the award-winning and consistently bestselling MDX SUV that jumps immediately to mind. Indeed, it’s arguably the brand’s flagship model to the uninitiated. Ask Acura, however, and they’ll tell you that the “flagship” moniker is actually shared by the MDX and the RLX sedan you see here.
- P-AWS rear-wheel steering tech is well-implemented
- Handles like a smaller car
- Strong V6 engine
- Those headlights
- Dull exterior styling
- Infotainment system looks nice but is difficult to use
- Might ride a little firm for some
- The MDX exists and starts at the same price, but with AWD and seating for seven
P-AWS is very cool to have and the RLX is blessed with one of the great V6 motors on the market today. However, it’s hard to drive one back-to-back with the MDX and not seriously consider the latter. But then, there is an AWD RLX Hybrid on the way…
Ins and outs of the 2014 Acura RLX
On the exterior styling front, there really isn’t all that much to right home about, save those crazy headlights. They aren’t just for show, either; instead of a string of LEDs mounted around the main bulb—as is the custom—the eight main bulbs found within each lens are responsible for your DRLs and headlights, the innermost bulbs, your brights. The colour emitted by each, meanwhile, reflects that of sunlight.
After those lights, however, there isn’t much going on, here, and it’s fairly clear that the conservative set was what Acura had in mind as it decided on the RLX’s styling. It’s strange, because the rest of the line-up is fairly progressive on the styling front, and was even called out for being too over-the-top at times. It’s as if the RLX has taken the roll of the conservative matriarch or patriarch to the more rambunctious, youth-oriented models in the line-up.
Inside, the dash and centre-stack is dominated by the dual-tiered and dual-display infotainment system. In the past, Acura models have relied on the centrally-mounted control wheel and a heaping portion of often hard-to-read buttons to handle all the system’s instructions. With the addition of the second display, however, the button count has been greatly reduced thanks to its touch-based set-up.
I only wish that the system as a whole was easier to use; voice-activated GPS, for example, is a slow and repetitive exercise that has to change. Also, why can’t I navigate to my preferred menu set directly from the touch screen? Why do I have to press buttons pertaining to the upper display first? The hardware’s there, and it’s good, but the software needs updating.
Driving and riding in the 2014 Acura RLX
Inside, you’ll find more space than in either the Lexus ES or GS Series (the RLX’s starting price sits between the two) with a set of comfortable and supportive seats to match. The steering wheel is a nice leather-wrapped and chunky affair, and there’s even a set of paddle shifters mounted to it, if you wish to manage the shifts of the six-speed automatic yourself.
Power comes from one of the great V6s available on the market today, a 3.5L i-VTEC number providing 310 horsepower and 272 lb.-ft. of torque, numbers that are roughly on-par with those of the Lexus GS 350 and higher than those made by the ES 350.
Our tester was the Elite trim package, meaning the fitting of all sorts of electronic driver aides such as active lane-keep assist (the steering automatically adjusts to keep you in-lane) and an active cruise control system that will bring your car to a halt if the traffic around you is doing the same.
To its dynamic credit, the RLX handles like a much smaller car thanks in no small part to the Precision All-Wheel Steer system. At slow speeds, the rear wheels steer opposite the fronts to reduce your turning radius. At higher speeds, they steer the same way as the fronts for quicker lane changes and when it comes time to slow things down, the rears turn in, creating a similar effect to a skier’s snowplow. The back-wheels-on-casters feeling is a bit eerie at first, but let it do its thing, and the tech shines.
Apart from P-AWS, the sport-tuned chassis provides an athletic ride (more so if you activate Sport mode), if one that could ride a little too firm for some, as is often Acura’s wont when it comes to their sedans. It’s quiet, though, and the steering is well-weighted without being too much of a chore.
Unfortunately for the pokey RLX, it’s always going to come down to the fact that we’re in Canada, where AWD and, to a lesser extent, SUVs are king and Acura has a very good one; it’s called the MDX, it comes standard with AWD and seven-passenger seating and it starts at exactly the same $49,990 that the RLX does, the latter available in FWD-only.
That’s not quite the end of the RLX story, however. An AWD Hybrid model is due to be released in the spring of next year, and if priced right, may very well be the answer for buyers searching for a true flagship from Acura.
2014 Acura RLX Elite — Specifications
- Price as tested: $62,190
- Body Type: 4-door, 5-passenger sedan
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
- Engine: 3.5-litre V6 SOHC 24 valves w/i-VTEC
- Horsepower: 310 @ 6,500 r.p.m.
- Torque (lb-ft): 272 @ 4,500 r.p.m.
- Transmission: 6-speed auto w/paddle shifters
- Curb weight: 1,817 kg (4,006 lb)
- Observed combined fuel economy: 9.6L/100 km (24.5 US mpg)