The RLX flies under the radar compared with ostentatious rivals and goes down the road with its supercar-derived hybrid powertrain. Acura’s low-volume luxury sedan has the basic tenants of its species—upscale features and spacious accommodations—but lacks the wow factor that we expect. Its obsolete infotainment system and generic cabin design are easy to overlook, but its solid build quality and notable fuel economy will satisfy buyers. Along with a standard V-6 engine, there’s a unique hybrid model that operates smoothly and accelerates rapidly. Still, the 2020 RLX is too unassuming to challenge its snazziest classmates.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
A 310-hp V-6 is standard and comes linked to a 10-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. The regular RLX also has rear-wheel steering that helps improve cornering. The Sport Hybrid model pairs a 3.5-liter V-6 with three electric motors that generate a combined 377 horsepower. In fact, the hybrid powertrain is derived from the one used in the Acura NSX supercar. The Sport Hybrid’s blistering acceleration and seamless operation made it enjoyable to navigate through city streets or blast down highway straights. Unfortunately, the RLX felt less athletic in turns because most of its mass sits up front. Although Acura’s all-wheel-drive system (called SH-AWD) is designed to aid handling, it isn’t as pleasing on twisty roads as alternatives such as the Genesis G80 and the Jaguar XF.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
- RLX: $55,895
- RLX Sport Hybrid: $62,895
There aren’t many reasons to choose the RLX over similarly priced luxury alternatives, but its powerful hybrid system is certainly one. Although the Sport Hybrid model costs an extra $7000, it makes the Acura one of the quickest and most fuel-efficient sedans in the segment. The upgrade also brings all the best content such as a 360-degree camera system, front and rear parking sensors, head-up display, heated and ventilated front seats, remote start, and more. Other than a handful of accessories, that rounds out the available options on the 2020 RLX Sport Hybrid.
Background and Development
Acura Legend was a very successful vehicle to launch Acura as a separate division, and combined with sales of the Integra this resulted in Acura outselling longtime luxury marques BMW and Mercedes-Benz as well as Toyota’s new luxury division Lexus. However, its successor RL were sold below the expectation typically due to relatively tight interior for its size, lack of V8 performance engine option & the better handling rear-wheel drive experience, and/or relatively expensive compared to the rivals.[original research?]
An October 2009 Car and Driver blog cited a dinner with Acura executives who acknowledged that the introduction of the new, larger, and in some guises, more powerful, fourth generation Acura TL made it difficult to market the then-current RL. In November 2009, an Autoweek article reported that new Honda CEO Takanobu Ito told Automotive News that Acura is going to change course. Speaking of the worldwide economy before the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers, Ito said through an interpreter, «Pre-Lehman, we did have the idea to produce more multicylinder engines… I see the future of Acura as a merger of BMW and Audi — something between high performance and high technology.» As a result of this midstream change, Acura will be in a «low-growth period of developing new products,» Ito said. «We were thinking that we could come up with glamorous, gorgeous products that would sell. Now, our premium products will be expressed in advanced environmental technologies, rather than glamorous things attached to the product,» he said.
2012 Acura RLX concept
On April 4, 2012, Acura unveiled the RLX Concept, a replacement for the RL sedan, at the 2012 New York International Auto Show. The production model, which changed little from the concept, was unveiled globally at the Los Angeles Auto Show later that year.