SAN FRANCISCO, October 28, 2016 – Even though Lexus seems to dominate the Japanese luxury audo segment when it comes to branding, there’s still a large contingent of people who love Acura. It’s these “Honda Graduates” as I call them that have a sense of brand loyalty, however, want a vehicle a bit more stated and subsequently step-up into Honda’s luxury brand.
On the outset, the RLX Sport Hybrid seems to have most everything going for it, on paper. It offers a good amount of power under the hood, nice amenities inside and an overall ride to performance balance that’s on-point. However, it’s the car’s rather bland-looking exterior that could be better. It’s hard to figure out what the design team had in mind with this current body-design. There’s nothing remarkable or that well-stated about it. Frankly, it looks to be a slightly glorified Honda product. Whereas, Infiniti and Lexus have gone out of their way to make sure their premium products “look the part”.
Having said all of that, let’s dive into this car and see what’s going on here. On-tap for power is the potent, normally aspirated, 3.5 liter V6 that has an output of 310 horsepower with 273 lb-ft of torque. While that’s not too shabby, it gets augmented by the electric drive motor to a combined output of 377 horsepower and 341 lb-ft of torque. That’s what really helps set this car apart from a non-hybrid, the extra power. Of course, with that also comes a bit more vehicle weight, however, the boost in power augmentation is worth the slightly extra bloat.
Acura pairs its 7-speed, dual-clutch transmission with this car along with the SH-AWD (all-wheel-drive) system. We’ve praised the SH-AWD on the Acura MDX, a few years ago, and it’s still impressive to drive. It’s an advance drive system that continuously monitors wheel activity and will appropriately adjust power between front and rear wheels as well as left to right. It’s fabulous in the snow and inclement weather so it’s highly recommended you get if, if you live in a climate that warrants it.
The interior has as chill vibe to it. It’s quiet, well appointed, and has an overall nice ambiance to it. Acura’s use of leather and “wooden” surface materials are meshed quite well, however, it doesn’t scream out “luxury” like interiors do from the likes of Audi.
Acura uses two screens to divide up the duties of the infotainment center, navigation, climate controls and other applications. The setup looks great, however, can take a bit of getting used to for some drivers. The screens are bright and clear — they use a center-dash control knob and some touch-action for the bottom screen to navigate around.
Sound quality from the Krell system is very good, however, it could use a tremendous amount more bass response. While it delivers clear sound, there’s no punch per se on the bottom end of the audio spectrum. It’s a shame, coming from a audio brand as legendary as Krell – one would think their engineers would have presented a better-sounding offering to Acura.
Leg room for all occupants is more than ample for comfortable seating of four adults, however, the rear middle seat – as typical in most all vehicles – isn’t the roomiest.
What ultimately matters, the most, to most buyers of premium sedans is the way it performs, overall. And to that end, the V6 with the Hybrid Electric assist, performs very admirably. The amount of off-the-line performance of this car is excellent. It grips to high heaven, thanks to the all-wheel-drive system with very mild understeer.
Around the corners, the suspension does a decent job of keeping the car from leaning too much, however, we’d like to see a manually adjustable suspension in future models. The “Sport+” mode adjusts the shift patterns of the transmission and helps to add a bit more resistance to the steering wheel feel. These help go a long way of adding to a very sporty feel to the car, overall.
In the end here, Acura has a car which has looks that defy its performance and creature comforts. If they could go back to the drawing board a bit with new design language, could have a car that better “looks the part” for its price tag.