2014 Acura RLX

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Key Specs
Our Take
Road Test
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Safety & Recalls
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Key Specs

of the 2014 Acura RLX. Base trim shown.

  • Body Type:
  • Combined MPG:
    24 Combined MPG
  • Engine:
    310-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 (premium)
  • Drivetrain:
    Front-wheel Drive
  • Transmission:
    6-speed automatic w/OD and auto-manual
  • View more specs

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Distinctive headlights
  • Roomy interior
  • Interior quality
  • No touch-sensitive controls
  • Front/rear parking sensors
  • Many optional safety features

The Bad

  • Not as large as some flagship sedans
  • High floor in backseat
  • Backseat doesn't fold

Notable Features of the 2014 Acura RLX

  • New model replaces RL
  • Four-door sedan
  • Spans mid-/full-size class
  • Standard four-wheel steering
  • V-6 with front-wheel drive
  • All-wheel-drive hybrid (late availability)

2014 Acura RLX Road Test

Joe Wiesenfelder

Sometimes automakers do things that make you scratch your head — a strange name, an odd vehicle, the discontinuation of a model that seemed successful. And in the world of automotive head-scratching, no brand has sold more dandruff shampoo than Acura.

The 2014 Acura RLX is a nice enough luxury sedan, but its place in the market — and even in Acura's own lineup — is another in a long line of head-scratchers.

Over the past dozen or so years, Acura has abandoned such robust model names as Legend, Integra and Vigor for alphabeticals like MDX and RSX [scratch]. It went in a bizarre styling direction that temporarily turned one of the market's nicest looking cars, the TL, into a punch line [scratch scratch]. And who could forget the ZDX [scratch scratch scratch]? Well, most people could, because you can't remember something you've never seen. Only 775 were sold in 2012, and it will be discontinued after 2013 [scalp relief].

The RLX can be viewed as a large midsize sedan or a small full-size one. As such, it's not much different from the RL — last sold as a 2012 model — which it succeeds. Compare the RLX, the RL and the current Acura TL midsize sedan side-by-side here.

The RLX is closer in size to a Buick LaCrosse or Volvo S80 than to such flagship luxury cars as the BMW 7 Series, Jaguar XJ, Lexus LS and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Acura says it compares to midsize luxury sedans like the BMW 5 Series and Lexus GS, to which it's more closely priced. (See thes...

Sometimes automakers do things that make you scratch your head — a strange name, an odd vehicle, the discontinuation of a model that seemed successful. And in the world of automotive head-scratching, no brand has sold more dandruff shampoo than Acura.

The 2014 Acura RLX is a nice enough luxury sedan, but its place in the market — and even in Acura's own lineup — is another in a long line of head-scratchers.

Over the past dozen or so years, Acura has abandoned such robust model names as Legend, Integra and Vigor for alphabeticals like MDX and RSX [scratch]. It went in a bizarre styling direction that temporarily turned one of the market's nicest looking cars, the TL, into a punch line [scratch scratch]. And who could forget the ZDX [scratch scratch scratch]? Well, most people could, because you can't remember something you've never seen. Only 775 were sold in 2012, and it will be discontinued after 2013 [scalp relief].

The RLX can be viewed as a large midsize sedan or a small full-size one. As such, it's not much different from the RL — last sold as a 2012 model — which it succeeds. Compare the RLX, the RL and the current Acura TL midsize sedan side-by-side here.

The RLX is closer in size to a Buick LaCrosse or Volvo S80 than to such flagship luxury cars as the BMW 7 Series, Jaguar XJ, Lexus LS and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Acura says it compares to midsize luxury sedans like the BMW 5 Series and Lexus GS, to which it's more closely priced. (See these models compared here.)

Typical of Acuras, the RLX technically comes in one trim level but with a choice of option packages that essentially serve as trim levels, as most of them include a host of unrelated features. The Navigation Package is an exception, as it includes only navigation. There are also Technology, Krell and Advance packages. Krell is the name of a little-known, high-end audio manufacturer that designed the higher of two optional premium stereos. (The more affordable Technology Package includes an ELS premium audio system that's an upgrade over the base RLX stereo, which is also branded ELS.)

We tested the top RLX with Advance Package for our first drive, which also includes the Krell system.

Heart Transplant
Even though the 
Acura RLX's V-6 engine is smaller than that of the RL — 3.5 liters rather than 3.7 liters — it has greater output: 310 horsepower and 272 lb-ft of torque, which is 10 hp and 1 lb-ft higher. The improvement comes courtesy of Acura's first application of direct fuel injection.

The result is great: The RLX accelerates confidently from a stop and has respectable reserve power for passing. The engine revs freely and sounds refined. The six-speed automatic transmission also behaves well. A simple Sport mode, activated via a button directly behind the gear selector, sharpens the accelerator's responsiveness and holds the transmission in lower gears.

Lower curb weight and the new engine improve fuel economy — a mighty leap from 17/24/20 mpg city/highway/combined in the RL to 20/31/24 mpg in the Acura RLX. This puts the mpg highway for the RLX just ahead of the comparably powered  rear-wheel-drive BMW 535 (20/30/24 mpg), Lexus GS 350 (19/28/23 mpg) and Mercedes-Benz E350 (20/30/23 mpg), and well past the Audi A6 3.0T (18/27/22 mpg) — all equipped with automatic transmissions.

All-Wheel Steering
Where the RL had standard all-wheel drive, the 
Acura RLX begins its life only with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive will come later in the model year, when a hybrid system adds electric power to the rear wheels.

Replacing SH-AWD (Super Handling All Wheel Drive) in the RL/RLX lexicon is P-AWS (Precision All Wheel Steer), which can turn the rear wheels a few degrees left or right. They go in the same direction as the front wheels at high speeds, for stable lane changes, or the opposite direction at lower speeds, ostensibly to shrink the car's turning circle. A new twist not seen in earlier four-wheel steering attempts, P-AWS can turn either rear wheel independently and toe them inward during braking, which Acura says improves stability.

My first point of skepticism comes from the Acura RLX's turning diameter, which is a none-too-tight 40.5 feet. Midsize luxury models with tighter turning circles than the RLX include, but aren't limited to: the A6, 5 Series, E-Class, S80, Hyundai Genesis and Lexus ES and GS.

I checked out the full-size sedans, too, and those with smaller turning diameters include, but aren't limited to: the Buick LaCrosse, BMW 7 Series, Cadillac XTS, Jaguar XJ, Lexus LS and Mercedes S-Class. Obsessed, I finally found two models with the same or greater turning diameter: the Audi A8 and the extended version of the XJ, the XJL.

None of these other cars have all-wheel steering. So the RLX's turning circle might be tighter than it would have been without P-AWS, but it's not comparatively superior. So far, P-AWS gives me scalp itch.

P-AWS on the Road
P-AWS does seem to make a difference in the RLX's handling, though. When barreling through a sweeping turn, the car feels more balanced than I'd expect with a front/rear weight distribution of 61/39 percent — typical for front-drive cars. Considering that the rear wheels move only 2 degrees in either direction, the dynamics are surprising: The rear end truly seems to swing around and minimize understeer in a manner you'd expect from a balanced rear-drive car being driven deftly.

What the RLX doesn't do, sadly, is inspire you to drive it in a spirited fashion. It has the feel of a dynamically capable touring car, but not a sport sedan. There's nothing wrong with that, but it calls into question, again, the value of P-AWS.

The ride quality splits the difference between comfort and sportiness. What it doesn't offer is an adaptive suspension, as some competitors do, and the resulting option of choosing one characteristic or the other on the fly.

Friendly Confines
The 
Acura RLX's interior is well-appointed, with high-quality finishes and leather. Acura really needs to discover color, though, as many competitors have. The closest the RLX comes to interior color is taupe. The other options are black and gray.

One of the RLX's selling points is legroom: It has about an inch more in the front seat than the A6, 535 and E-Class, and it equals the GS 350. Somehow it manages to offer good backseat legroom too: anywhere from about an inch and a half to 3 inches more than the other models mentioned.

It feels roomy, for sure, and the center floor hump isn't as high as is found in rear-drive competitors. Considering the rear wheels will be electrically powered in a future RLX version, this characteristic is unlikely to worsen.

Two Screens, No Waiting
The 
Acura RLX is blissfully free of the kind of touch-sensitive panels that are replacing normal mechanical buttons in many new cars. Most luxury manufacturers take one of two approaches to control a car's many functions while avoiding button overload: an easily reached touch-screen or a high-mounted display teamed with a lower controller knob. The RLX provides a new solution: a high-mounted display that's close to one's line of sight, plus a separate touch-screen below it that's close enough to reach. Some of the high screen's functions are controlled by the touch-screen, but most are by a multifunction knob below them both.

In theory, I consider this the best of both worlds — mainly because I find rotating a knob is a terrible way to enter navigation destination addresses and such. I'd only make two changes to improve it: First, the touch-screen should control more of the high screen. As it is now, you have to navigate through the upper screen's menus using the knob, then switch to the touch-screen to type in, say, a city name. When you're partway through typing, the list of cities that comes up appears back on the high screen, and you have to select using the knob again. All the related steps could and should remain on the touch-screen, leaving the high screen to display the map and navigation prompts.

Second, I'd put the knob right where the driver's hand rests on the center console. The current location is forward and elevated. The best execution of the screen-and-knob approach puts the display close to your sight line and the controller close to your hand.

Safety
A new model, the 
Acura RLX hasn't yet been crash-tested.

Preventive safety features include a standard backup camera and numerous high-tech options, including adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, lane departure warning and forward collision warning systems. Active safety options include a Lane Keeping Assist system and Collision Mitigation Brake system. These two expand on the camera- and radar-based lane departure and forward collision warning by intervening autonomously. LKAS can steer the car to keep it in its lane on straight and gradually curving roads. CMBS can activate the brakes if a collision is imminent.

Fortunately, I didn't experience CMBS, apart from a demonstration years ago when Acura was the first to produce this feature, but I did play with LKAS: If you take your hands off the wheel, the system does steer on streets with well-defined lane markers — but it does so only for about 10 seconds until it flashes a "Steering Required" warning on the instrument panel.

So the idea is what? It steers for you but it isn't sustained, and does so only when you're not steering yourself? Does that not promote even lazier driving? In short, I don't get it.

See all the RLX's safety features here, and view how well child-safety seats fit in the car in our Car Seat Check.

RLX in the Market
The 
Acura RLX is something of an enigma. Don't get me wrong: It's definitely a nice luxury touring car that does the job, and my philosophy is, "You like? You buy." I often appreciate models that are sized between typical vehicle classes. No one says a top luxury sedan has to be as large as the S-Class or 7 Series. What perplexes most, though, is how close the RLX is in size to the TL. This is from the company that essentially has two compact sedans as well, the TSX and new ILX, with abutting prices.

To be fair, Lexus also has two midsize models, the ES and GS, but one is front-wheel drive and the other rear-wheel, respectively, and they have different personalities. The TL and RLX have similar personalities — neither of them very strong — and P-AWS isn't effective enough to distinguish the Acura RLX in the market, much less the Acura lineup. Lots of head scratching going on …

Send Joe an email  

 


2014 RLX Video

If defying description — and sometimes logic — is appealing, The 2014 Acura RLX riddle might make sense. Watch the video and decide.

Latest 2014 RLX Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.3)
Performance
(4.3)
Interior Design
(4.3)
Comfort
(4.4)
Reliability
(3.7)
Value For The Money
(3.8)

What Drivers Are Saying

(4.0)

Rear steering actuators!! Very dangerous!!

by Music man Mike from Columbus Ohio on August 9, 2018

Rear steering actuators have gone bad!! Very expensive repair!! Thank goodness the dealership guaranteed it for 90 days and 3000 miles!! It is a $5500.00 repair!!!! Read full review

(1.0)

Stay Away...MAJOR ISSUES with RLX !! !!!!

by Scott from Pennsylvania on May 23, 2018

I bought mine Pre Owned with 65k miles and now have 80k on it. The rear wheel steering PAWS needs replaced and is $6000 to fix. Acura knows the rear wheel acuators go bad and each side is $2500 plus ... Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2014 Acura RLX currently has 4 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2014 Acura RLX Base

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Hip/thigh
good
Lower leg/foot
good
Overall evaluation
good
Retraints and dummy kinematics
good
Structure and safety cage
good

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
acceptable
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
good
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranties

Backed by Acura
New Car Program Benefits
  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    48 months / 50,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    72 months / 70,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    48 months / 50,000 miles

Certified Pre-Owned Program Benefits
  • Maximum Age/Mileage

    Less than 6 years/less than 80,000 miles

  • Basic Warranty Terms

    12 months/12,000 miles

  • Powertrain warranty

    7 years/100,000 miles

  • Dealer Certification Required

    182-point inspection

  • Roadside Assistance

    Yes

  • View All Program Details

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All Model Years for the Acura RLX

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The RLX received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*

Third-row access

N/A

Infant seat

A

Booster

(second row)

A

Booster

(third row)

N/A

Latch or Latch system

A

Forward-facing convertible

(third row)

N/A

Forward-facing convertible

(second row)

A

Rear-facing convertible

B
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker