Rear-wheel drive doesn't get to have all the fun.

2014 Acura RLX

Not every luxury car needs to scream for attention.

By: Andrew Krok

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: October 3rd, 2013

These days, many of the well-renowned luxury automakers adorn their flagship sedans with bits and doo-dads that carry all the subtlety of Jesse Pinkman driving down the street, throwing fistfuls of money onto strangers' doorsteps. What ever happened to a relatively-expensive car that didn't feel the need to be flashy to the point of annoyance?

That title now falls onto the Japanese, Acura especially. Its RLX gives you everything you need without projecting your net worth through the headlights. That said, the Jewel Eye LED headlights do scream fancy, although no more than Audi's similar offering; if anything, these headlights should become the single, defining piece of tech that adorns every Acura throughout the lineup.

There's no unnecessary technology crammed underhood here. Hell, it still utilizes a front-wheel-drive design, despite most of its competition relegating power delivery to the ass end of the car. Of course, if you want to ensure that you only need to pay a modicum of attention to the road ahead, you can opt for the Advance package, which throws more acronyms at you than a teenager's text message - LKAS, ACC, and CMBS are just three of the RLX's nebulous nomenclatures.

Speaking of technological retention, the RLX tends to be a bit of an old-timer in the transmission department. Only recently did Acura decide to move from five forward gears to six, but even six feels a little lacking. It feels like the same unit from the RDX we tested, in that it's a little slow to keep up and the automatic downshifts on deceleration are fairly obvious - but no matter what, it beats the hell out of a CVT. Paddle-derived shifting with the "Sport" button on makes for some fun, but the higher shift points and touchier throttle will definitely send your mileage numbers plummeting.

All in all, it's a fun car to drive at any speed. Acura did a great job at beefing up the front suspension to deal with the additional forces at play from the drive wheels, and the all-wheel steering makes it feel like a smaller car. That said, despite the rear wheels' contribution to turning, the RLX's turning radius (40.5 feet) is larger than the Lexus's LS 460 (35.4 feet). Hmm.

  • Exterior

    It's an odd mix of restraint and innovation. The first thing you'll notice is the Jewel Eye LED headlight arrangement, which utilizes ten individually-lensed LED arrays to create a supremely-well-lit view of the road ahead. Thankfully, the everpresent "beak" in Acura's front fascia is the focus of the aforementioned restraint, and it's far less ostentatious than the previous generation for that reason. It looks big (but not too big), and it looks expensive (but not too expensive); it's in the luxury-car Goldilocks sweet spot.

  • Interior

    Screens. Screens everywhere. A big one up top for navigation and expanded audio information, a smaller one just below the big one for on-the-fly track changes and duties that require a touchscreen, and an even smaller one between the gauges for random bits of information, like fuel mileage readouts. Read the manual fully, otherwise you'll have trouble figuring out which duties are relegated to which screen. Storage abounds inside the RLX, with the double-hinged center armrest storage being one of the coolest features in the whole car.

  • On the Road

    Big cars always feel, well, big. They take effort to move with some degree of haste. This isn't the case with the RLX, as its Precision All-Wheel Steer system helps navigate the vehicle through tight corners and quick lane-change maneuvers. And despite being front-wheel drive, the RLX suffers from very little torque steer under acceleration, although the front tires do have a tendency to lose grip if you hammer it from a stop. The suspension is tuned to the sportier side of luxury, and that's very much apparent. Bumps are generally well-absorbed, but not so much that you can't feel the road you're on. It's very easy to meet (or even beat) the advertised 31 mpg highway rating, too.

  • Final Thoughts

    Simply put, the brand's flagship should stand as the singular focal point for all of Acura's (and, by extension, Honda's) best parts and technologies. That's exactly what you get with this car. Opting for the Advance Package (which we had) outfits your car with enough technology to practically drive the car for you, but it's still so much fun to drive that you wouldn't dream of letting the computer take the reins. Honda's lineup is almost entirely FWD, so it makes sense that the RLX would be, as well; AWD would only add complication, jacking up the cost and dropping fuel mileage. Once you add reliability and economy into the package, you can see exactly why it's built the way it is. If you value any or all of those things, and aren't one to show off your money in vehicular form, this is the way to roll.

  • Specs & Price

    Engine: 3.5-liter V-6

    Transmission: Six-speed automatic

    Power Output: 310 hp / 272 lb-ft

    Fuel Economy: 20 city / 31 highway

    Base Price: $48,450

    As Tested: $61,345 (incl. $895 destination)

    Optional Features: Navigation Package (navigation, real-time traffic), Technology Package (Navigation Package plus leather-trimmed interior, blind-spot warning), Krell Audio Package (Tech Package plus Krell 14-speaker audio system, power rear sunshade), Advance Package (Krell Package plus adaptive cruise control with lane departure assistance, heated and ventilated front seats, Collision Mitigation Brake System)

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