In the bountiful crop of luxury sedans, the Acura RLX cuts a unique path. It has an advanced powertrain and a high level of passenger comfort, and a subtle shape that doesn’t shout its credentials.
Little has changed for the 2019 model year, in the wake of a 2018 refresh. New styling included a massive diamond-shaped grille, along with new LED headlights and taillights.
For 2019, Acura has kept the RLX lineup simple. It sells the RLX with a choice between two powertrains, each incorporating an Advance Package.
Like other Acura models, the RLX comes in two distinct flavors: conventional and hybrid. In the former, a 3.5-liter gasoline V-6 engine develops 310 horsepower and 272 pound-feet of torque, driving the front wheels via a 10-speed automatic transmission.
Acura’s Sport Hybrid pairs that V-6 engine to three electric motors and a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Offered only with all-wheel drive, the Sport Hybrid boasts a potent 377 total horsepower (combined). Rear-wheel steering is included, promising a tad more confidence when cornering.
Excellent crash-test scores enhance the RLX’s family appeal. So does the abundance of active-safety technology.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2019 RLX a clean sweep: five stars overall, as well as for both frontal and side impacts. Even rollover prevention (a calculated figure) earned five stars.
In 2018, the RLX earned a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, with “Good” scores in every crash test except the small-overlap test for the passenger side. Frontal crash prevention was deemed “Superior,” while headlights and child-seat anchors scored as “Acceptable.”
Each 2019 RLX gets a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, and lane-departure warnings. Traffic jam assist also helps accelerate and slow the vehicle at up to 40 mph. Sport Hybrid models include a surround-view camera system and front and rear parking sensors.
Prices do not include $995 destination charge.
The 2019 RLX w/Technology Package ($54,900) has the 3.5-liter V-6 with front-wheel drive, and includes leather seat upholstery, heated front seats, keyless start, tri-zone automatic climate control, 14-speaker audio, 19-inch wheels, paddle shifters, and navigation. Safety features include adaptive cruise control, forward collision warnings, automatic emergency braking, active lane control, traffic-jam assist, and a rearview camera.
The RLX Sport Hybrid w/Advance Package ($61,900) gets Acura’s gasoline/electric powertrain with all-wheel drive, and 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Included are a surround-view camera system, a head-up display, ventilated front seats, and a Krell 14-speaker audio system.
The RLX has a subdued shape that doesn’t showboat like the some other mid-size luxury sedans. It’s quietly composed with a glassy cabin, subtle curves in its fenders, and since last year, a more pronounced grille and LED lights front and back. Each RLX rides on handsome alloy wheels.
As in the past, the RLX boasts excellent fit and finish, though the cabin design is now several years old.
Heated, softly-cushioned front seats provide satisfying support, accompanied by plenty of available storage areas. The front seats also are cooled in the hybrid model. Rear passengers have acceptable head and leg room.
Acura provides an excellent audio system, but the dual-screen infotainment setup takes some time to learn. One screen mostly provides information and visual features; the other focuses on functionality. Neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto are offered.
At 14.9 cubic feet, trunk volume trails comparable front-wheel-drive sedans. In the hybrid model, space dips to 12 cubic feet.
More than other Acura models, the RLX sedan is geared toward comfort, not performance. Superb ride quality is its calling card, along with smooth, adeptly controlled handling.
Powertrains also are impressive. Acura’s solid V-6 engine delivers decent acceleration, whether the configuration is conventional or a gasoline/electric hybrid.
Bursting with recent technology, the potent Sport Hybrid powertrain deserves attention. Working with three electric motors and a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, the Sport Hybrid’s powertrain yields combined output of 377 horsepower and 341 pound-feet of torque. It’s brisk, but not exactly an NSX, though the hybrid system is related to the one found in that supercar.
With electric motors at each rear wheel, the Sport Hybrid’s all-wheel-drive setup produces excellent traction, as well as greater energy for rapid start-offs.
Ride quality is a highlight in the RLX. With its suspension expertly damped, the sedan promises a supple ride – and delivers it, quietly.
Steering feels light but precise. Rear-wheel steering boosts cornering ability, though the RLX prefers cruising to winding canyon roads.
Fuel economy stands above the pack with the hybrid powertrain. Gas-engine sedans rank around average for their class, despite the 10-speed automatic.
The conventional RLX is EPA-rated at 20/29 mpg City/Highway, or 23 mpg Combined. With the hybrid powertrain, estimates rise to 28/29/28 mpg. Premium fuel is required for both.
While the gas-engine RLX is on the ordinary side, the Sport Hybrid ranks with the best gasoline/electric models in terms of technology. Either way, the RLX focuses more on supple ride comfort than thrilling moments on twisty roads. Each RLX is well-equipped, but to obtain the full selection of available features, buyers must drive home a Sport Hybrid.