2014 Acura RLX: Up Close

As is usually the case with Acura, the actual 2014 RLX sedan here in L.A. doesn't stray far from the RLX concept we reported on from the 2012 New York Auto Show. It's a handsome enough car that's distinguished mainly by its headlights: two stacked rows of four separate LEDs on either side. Sixteen in total.

More 2012 L.A. Auto Show Coverage

I questioned what that would mean for the car's styling when the lights are off, but Acura said they're always on when the car is running. In daylight they serve as daytime running lights. The separate lights inboard of the LEDs are the high-beams. Between them is the Acura-signature shield grille, which thankfully isn't outrageously large. It doesn't look bad, even on the black cars here at the show. Black always exaggerated the shiny - and always controversial -- shields on earlier Acuras.

The RLX, replacing the RL, remains a tweener. Though Acura says its interior volume classifies it as a full-size car, its exterior dimensions are midsize, as are the suggested comparison models: the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Lexus GS 350. Unlike those competitors, Acura doesn't offer a larger car, and the RLX isn't dramatically larger than the TL sedan.

The interior is roomy by midsize standards, and Acura boasts "up to" 3 inches more legroom than the aforementioned models (detailed specs aren't available yet). That may be so, but I found the backseat close to the floor, which raised my knees too far. The center floor hump is also much higher than I'd expect from a car whose upcoming all-wheel-drive model will use electric rear drive rather than the typical longitudinal driveshaft.

I felt the front seats were a bit low as well, but not as bad as the backseat. The interior is beautifully appointed, with stitched leather, lots of soft-touch surfaces and metal trim, along with some faux-wood trim. In terms of quality, the RLX interior gives up nothing to any other car in this class, or even some in higher classes.

I was most pleased to see the car's control systems in the form of two displays: an 8-inch navigation screen up high and a 7-inch touch-screen below it. The top one is mainly navigation -- up close to one's line of sight -- and is controlled primarily by a multifunction knob below the smaller screen. The touch-screen also interacts a bit with the higher display, Acura says, but it mainly incorporates audio, ventilation and other features. The most basic of these functions, however, are controlled by real physical buttons, as they should be.

If I could, I'd hoist the RLX and its product planners on my shoulders and parade them around the auto show for all other companies to see. Why? Because all the controls, apart from the touch-screen, are real, physical, mechanical buttons -- not the maddening touch-sensitive, "capacitive" buttons to which the industry is foolishly flocking.

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