Replacing the flagship RL sedan this year, the RLX comes with a new suspension and a new all-wheel-steering system that electronically adjusts toe-in and toe-out at the rear tires for improved tracking in curves and corners.
Designed by the man who helped craft the NSX sports car’s suspension and formerly worked on Honda’s Formula 1 race team, the standard Precision All-Wheel Steer system makes the RLX feel as though it’s directly dialed in with the driver.
Combined city/highway fuel economy is more than 24 mpg and beats Infiniti, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and BMW competitors.
The RLX’s direct-injection V-6 comes standard with Variable Cylinder Management, which automatically deactivates some engine cylinders when they’re not needed, saving gasoline.
Though it has the same length as the midsize RL, the RLX has surprisingly generous rear-seat legroom, 38.8 inches, which surpasses that in the Infiniti M and Mercedes E-Class sedans.
In addition, the RLX offers new safety features, including a system that gently steers the car back into its lane if it detects wandering over the center line. It works only if there is lane marking that is detectable by the system.
Adaptive cruise control with Slow Speed Follow can bring the car to a stop in certain circumstances if the RLX is headed for the rear end of a stopped vehicle ahead.
Like its RL predecessor, the RLX has front-wheel drive, rather than the rear-wheel drive that some sporty luxury sedan purists prefer.
The starting price is up only $250 from its predecessor: $49,345, including destination charge. All models come with a 310-horsepower V-6 and a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The RLX is the first top Acura sedan to include jeweled-look, light-emitting diode headlights. Other standard equipment includes leather-trimmed seats and stitched leather instrument panel cover, moonroof, push-button start, keyless entry, three-zone climate control, Acura/ELS premium audio system with 10 speakers, Bluetooth connectivity, two sizable display screens in the dashboard and a rearview camera.
Buyers can move up through four trim levels to add navigation, lane keeping, a new Krell audio system with 14 speakers, sunshades and ventilated seats.
The federal fuel economy ratings are 20 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.
The sedan still has some of the heavy Acura “helmet shield” design on its nose, but the flowing lines on the sides and strong rear end give the car a luxury appearance.
The interior of the top-of-the-line RLX with Advance package was top-notch in fit and finish, with small gaps between trim pieces and everything lined up perfectly.
This Acura included additional acoustic glass that helped keep the interior so quiet, front-seat passengers conversed in light tones.
The all-wheel steering wasn’t noticeable until the driver went around a curve at good speed and discovered how stably – maybe magically – the 16-foot-long car tracked through. The system provides more stable handling on slippery surfaces, too.
The 3.5-liter V-6 is single-overhead-cam and produces only 310 horsepower and 272 foot-pounds of torque at 4,500 rpm. That is less than what many competitors deliver, but the body is 160 pounds lighter than its predecessor RL, and the tester felt plenty powerful.
Unleaded premium is the recommended fuel, so a fill-up of the 18.5-gallon tank these days could be costly.
Then again, with an average of 24.3 mpg during the test drive on mostly country roads and some highway travel, the RLX’s range on a single tank was a good 450 miles.
There are no 2013 RLs because the RLX is arriving now in showrooms as an early 2014 model.
Later this calendar year, Acura will introduce a gasoline-electric “sport” hybrid version that promises to generate more than 370 horsepower.