At the very pinnacle of Acura’s model range sits the RLX Sport Hybrid. Putting the NSX supercar aside, it’s the most expensive Acura you can buy. The advanced technology alone puts this sedan ahead of the pack in many ways and it might well establish Acura as a more solid competitor in the luxury car field and one that can go head-to-head with the best of the imports in its class.
Acura has always had a flagship sedan, right back to the Legend of the mid 1980s. The Legend was one of the very first luxury sedans to be produced in Japan, so Acura has a good deal of experience at this end of the market. The RLX Sport Hybrid carries on the tradition started by the Legend and packs in an astonishing amount of technology, some of it unique in the hybrid field.
Acura’s largest sedan, the RLX is a spacious automobile and incorporates front and rear styling inspired by the company’s current design direction. Especially prominent is its trademark diamond pentagon grille that appears in some form or another on other products in the Acura lineup. The front end view is very expressive and apart from the aforementioned grille, which is thankfully more restrained than that on some luxury rivals, the headlights are a major recognition feature. Each has five separate LED elements beneath a sleek transparent housing. The LED rear lighting is similarly attractive and the overall look of the car is eye-catching and at the same time, tastefully restrained.
This car looks good for sure, but it really excels in the technology department. Power is provided by a 3.5-litre aluminum alloy V-6 backed up by no less than three electric motors to produce 377-horsepower and substantial amounts of torque. The RLX has all-wheel drive and a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters for use when a degree of manual control is desired. The RLX is exceptionally well insulated from outside and tire noise and offers a very silky and refined ride for the occupants. Even so, it’s fast and sporty with excellent handling and good feedback of road conditions for the driver. The combination of luxury ride and sporty handling is not easy to achieve, but Acura has done it with this RLX.
Like rivals in this class, the RLX has a long list of electronic safety and convenience features, some of them not always found at this price level. Adaptive cruise control is a feature, along with anti-lock brakes plus associated brake assist and force distribution. This helps tremendously when it comes to keeping the car under control under hard braking in wet or slippery conditions. There’s a blind spot information system and cross traffic monitoring. The lane departure warning system is a great feature on a long drive when tiredness affects even the best drivers among us. Naturally, there’s a full suite of air bags if things do go wrong, but this is a safe car and it’s not easy to get out of shape with it.
The interior is one of those “good as it gets” examples of how to design cabins and controls. Acura has always had a special way with interior design and ambiance and has often excelled even the most venerated of luxury auto builders. Buyers can choose premium or ultra-premium audio systems and there are controls for the unit on the steering wheel. The hands free phone system also uses steering wheel controls. There are two RLX models, Tech and Elite and both have a 12-way power adjustable driver and front passenger seat with 4-way power lumbar support.
The 2018 RLX Sport Hybrid is a magnificent luxury sedan and deserves attention from anyone shopping in this class. It is costly, but it’s hard to believe this much luxury and technology could be offered for any less. From some rivals, a car with the RLX’s specification could cost tens of thousands of dollars more.
SPECS AT A GLANCE…
BODY STYLE: Four-door, five-seat sedan
ENGINE: 3.5-litre V-6 plus three electric motors
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed with manual shifters
PERFORMANCE: Zero to 100 km/h in approx. 5.2-secs
FUEL ECONOMY: 7.7-litres/100 km (NRCan average)
PRICE: $65,490 MSRP (Tech model)