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Aaron Gold

Acura's new RLX: Hope springs eternal

By January 23, 2013

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2014 Acura RLXAs you read this, I'll be heading up to northern California to test drive the all-new 2014 Acura RLX. Acura reviews have been a bit of a sore spot these past couple of years -- while I was quite fond of the TSX Sport Wagon and I think the new RDX is spot on, the TL continues to miss the mark and the new†ILX is, in my opinion, perfectly dreadful (and overpriced). The problem isn't so much the cars themselves as the fact that Acura seems to have lost any sense of direction.

But what of the old RL? I thought it was a pretty decent car -- an old-school Acura in the sense that it's basically a glorified Honda, but I've always been okay with that. A lot of people derided the RL for its lack of a V8, but that didn't bother me either -- I liked the comfort and the value.

So now we have the 2014 RLX, which is the RL's replacement. No, there still isn't a V8, nor is there even a turbocharger; power comes from a 310 horsepower V6, although the RLX's sub-two-ton curb weight should make up for the modest power output. Acura is claiming more back-seat space than its rivals thanks to an enlarged wheelbase, plus a lot of high-handed handling hardware: Four-wheel steering, SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive -- gawd, do I love that name), and a new dynamic braking system called Agile Handling Assist (they do have a way with monikers). And while several Honda models have gone to McPherson strut suspensions, the RLX is hanging on to its double-wishbone setup. Our press drive is going to include a bit of track time, so I assume Acura is really looking to drive home the handling issue.

So on paper, it sounds decent -- but then again, so does the TL, which performs wonderfully but doesn't feel all that luxurious. I'm anxious to see if Acura will hit the mark. Our driving impressions are to be embargoed until mid-February, so I won't be able to tell you right off the bat -- but I'm curious to hear what you want out of the new RLX. If it handles as well as Acura promises, will that be enough? Is a no-nonsense interior okay, or does the RLX need to be brimming with leather and wood? Click the "comments" button and tell me what you think. -- Aaron Gold

Photo © Acura

January 23, 2013 at 6:20 am
(1) beelzebub says:

Cars in this class need to be brimming with leather & wood – or at least something equivalent like metal accents. There was nothing wrong with the last RL when it debuted in 2005 w/ 300hp but when the competition caught up & passed it by, Acura did absolutely no updating. Hopefully they will keep this one fresh & the SH-SH-AWD (yes, that is the name) version coming later this year should help. Acura needs to find out the secret to the MDX being so popular in the mid-level luxury segment & apply it to the RLX.

January 23, 2013 at 10:28 am
(2) Eric says:

Well, if the pic that accompanies this article is of the real car, Acura seems to have their nose styling under control for the moment. The car itself seems to have decent lines.

As for the interior, it needs to say luxury. Either a wood and leather theme like beelzebub described, or at least decent surfaces with multi-colored leather themes, and perhaps either aluminum or carbon-fiber accents.

Of course, the next major area is performance and handling. If the V6 gets decent fuel economy while developing decent power, and the car drives and handles well, this could be a very nice car provided it doesn’t cost $70K

January 23, 2013 at 12:20 pm
(3) Matt B. says:

The question is: why would you buy this over a Hyundai Genesis 3.8? Genesis looks better, has more power and costs 10k less.

January 23, 2013 at 3:02 pm
(4) gojira says:

bc it’s an Acura & not a Hyundai. Badge matters a lot in the price range – and yes, I realize that BMW/MB people say the same about Acura. That’s just how it goes.

January 23, 2013 at 6:20 pm
(5) Daniel says:

Former Acura owner … Legend and Vigor.

Hate the new styling and the naming conventions. Probably not coming back.

January 23, 2013 at 6:40 pm
(6) Ross says:

Acura who?

Acura to me is pretty much in the same position as Lincoln. They are not sufficiently better than their “base” brand counterparts, and they have no real halo cars. There is absolutely nothing unique enough or intriguing enough about an Acura to make me look twice.

January 23, 2013 at 8:58 pm
(7) George in Ohio says:

I second Matt B.’s comment. Took my Sonata in for service 2 weeks ago, and they gave me a Genesis for a 1 day loaner (there’s a long story behind that which I won’t bore you with). What a superb automobile! I drove a TL about 3 years ago, and the Genesis is eons in front of that car. Acura has a real challenge on their hands to match it both in drive ability and creature comforts.I understand the matter of badge pride /stigma, and people have a right to choose their vehicle for all sorts of reasons. But anyone who shuns a Genesis strictly because of the crooked H emblem is sure missing out on a whale of a sweet ride.

January 24, 2013 at 8:39 am
(8) Steve in GA says:

I think Ross has it right. Honda needs to decide what it wants Acura to be. That is, should Acura just be a Honda with a nicer interior, or should it be something more?

I am not a Toyota fan, but it is pretty evident that Toyota has done a masterful job with Lexus. From the outset, Toyota obviously determined to build a Mercedes-type luxury car, but with Japanese quality and attention to detail. And, they made that concept work, as the stellar sales of Lexus clearly show.

Nissan tried something different with the Infinity brand, trying to make it more performance oriented and BMW-ish than Lexus. They have done a pretty good job with this, but have not been as successful as Toyota has been with Lexus.

But Honda seems to be groping for a concept for Acura, and they havenít been able to come up with or to stick with any one theme for the brand. As Ross said, Hondaís brand management of Acura is all too similar to Fordís poor job of handling the Lincoln brand.

Both Honda and Ford need to decide where they want their more expensive brands to go, and then set those brand images in concrete.

January 24, 2013 at 9:24 am
(9) clm8 says:

I have a 2008 RL, which I think is a wonderful car, if it is purchased used (like I did). New, there are much better deals for the same amount of money. Based on the preliminary information I’ve seen from Acura, this one will be the same.

January 24, 2013 at 11:34 pm
(10) Hawaiian Don says:

There is a disappearing cachť for the Acura marque. Lexus and Infinity are not only luxurious, but great cars. Acura is perceived as nothing more than a dressed up Honda with wierd fascias.

January 25, 2013 at 5:32 pm
(11) Larsen,Utah says:

I owned a 2005 RL bought new and now have a 2010 RL. These two cars are the finest sedans I have ever owned period. For the most part I found most of the above opinions just plain ignorant. I would bet most were written by folks who have never owned an Acura let alone an RL. I can’t wait for the new AWD RLX latter this year. I have a empty garage bay waiting. If you should buy an Acura as an Acura owner told me take a good look at the dealer service dept. as it’s probably the last time you will see it and he was correct. I by the way own a new (991) 911 Carrera S Porsche and think I do know a little about cars. At least enough to own one before I start telling other people about them.

January 26, 2013 at 9:29 am
(12) David says:

The secrecy surrounding this rollout makes me wonder how good the car really is. For instance, they didn’t hide the recent Accord. Acura should align itself with the demographic trend which is baby boomers and what they want. Technology that is functional, transparent, and improves the driving experience. Measured sportiness blended with luxury. Big time fuel efficiency. Great reliability. A drivers car that can be enjoyed and owned for many years. Feel like Acura has been building techno cars that they want and care more about that than what I want as the consumer. They need passion in design. Look at the new Mazda 6 lines. They should poach their designers!

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