2016 Acura RLX

Starting MSRP: $50,950 - $65,950

Estimated MPG: 20 city / 31 hwy

2016 Acura RLX Review

The subdued exterior of the 2016 Acura RLX quietly betrays the luxury sedan’s cavernous interior and road-gripping sports-sedan performance. Whether you opt for the V6-powered front-wheel drive model or the all-wheel drive hybrid variant, Acura’s flagship sedan provides a quiet, comfortable ride for five adults even while you’re carving up winding roads at high speeds.

By Chris Brewer
Last Updated 05/03/2016

Introduced in 2014, the RLX serves as Acura’s flagship sedan. It offers a dramatically large interior with spacious rear seating. The result is a comfortable, full-size sedan experience for the driver and up to four adult passengers.

Acura keeps things simple when configuring the RLX, essentially offering one trim level with two option packages. Two powertrains are offered, including a conventional gas-powered V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission or a hybrid model that combines the V6 with a trio of electric motors (two of these motors power the rear wheels). A seven-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT) is standard in RLX hybrid models.

The base RLX with Technology Package features just about everything that a discerning owner would want in a luxury sedan, but those desiring more can opt to take the RLX to the next level by choosing the RLX with Advance Package. This $6,000 upgrade includes exterior and interior enhancements and a premium audio system.

Exterior

Exterior
8

While attractive, the exterior of Acura’s RLX is decidedly reserved, especially in a segment known for bold visual statements. Although the front bumper detail, with its signature grill and ornate 20-lens “Jewel Eye” LED headlights, offers individuality with tiny hints of stoic aggression, the design team at Acura has created a sedan for those who want to spoil themselves a bit, but don’t feel the need to broadcast it to the world.

The smooth flowing lines of the 2016 RLX emphasize the simplistic beauty of the sedan.

The proportionally long hood blends smoothly into the windshield and carries through the roofline, exiting the rear of the vehicle with a trunk lid that sits noticeably higher than the hood line. The design offers forward motion to the vehicle, like an Olympic sprinter leaning forward in anticipation of the starter’s pistol.

The nicely equipped luxury sedan features 19-inch alloy wheels that frame the performance-oriented brake calipers and rotors. A generously sized tilting moonroof adds to the luxury, bringing a little sunshine into the cabin in the process. The rear bumper detail is a subtle reminder of the Acura branding. However, much like the rest of the vehicle, the gentle nature of the taillights blending into the body panels makes a strong cohesive statement. Still, when the parts of the RLX are considered alone there is little to remind buyers it is a strong performance contender to the more raucously styled European or Japanese contenders.

Interior

Interior
9

With a clean design that carefully blends luxury with utility; the RLX’s spacious cabin offers comfortable seating for five adults. The base model’s heated, leatherette-trimmed front seats are supportive and sporty, but avoid getting carried away, favoring long-term comfort over bolstering that’s too firm in the name of performance.

Technology and Advance package models are treated to a soft and attractive perforated Milano leather-trimmed interior. With the Advance package, the front seats are ventilated and rear outboard seats are heated.

Acura’s choice of high-quality materials and the interior’s overall implementation are excellent. The abundant soft-touch surfaces and subtly contrasting trim pieces combine to provide a luxurious environment for all five seating positions. The center console’s woodgrain finish is rich and the high-gloss finish resembles fine furniture.

I spent a week with the top-trim RLX Sport Hybrid with Advance package, which replaces the standard leather-wrapped gear shift knob with a sophisticated push-button gear-selector. The disappearance of the gear shift lever adds yet another level of tasteful simplicity to Acura’s no-nonsense luxury.

The Advance package also includes the aforementioned ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel and a very impressive power rear sunshade and manual rear door sunshades. The sunshades can be controlled by rear-seat occupants and give the midsize RLX a hint of luxury, providing additional comfort and privacy to rear-seat passengers.

Rear cargo space is where the RLX stumbles, particularly in the hybrid model. While not completely out of line with the competition, the base RLX’s trunk is limited to 14.9 cubic feet of cargo space, 14.7 cubic feet if you opt for Advance package. Considering Honda’s compact Civic sedan offers 15.1 cubic feet of trunk space doesn’t make things any better.

The real problem arises when you decide to take advantage of the RLX Sport Hybrid’s incredible fuel economy on a family road trip. You may need to invest in a mpg-killing roof rack carrier, because the 11.6 cubic feet of cargo space is more in line with what a subcompact sedan offers than a large luxury car.

Performance

Performance
9

The non-hybrid RLX is powered by Acura’s brilliant 3.5-liter V6 engine. I have long been impressed with Acura’s ubiquitous power plant. Whether it’s in the RDX SUV or the smaller TLX sedan, the power is excellent and the delivery is silky-smooth. You can hear the quality under full-throttle acceleration; the V6 simply sounds well made. The base RLX uses the engine to produce 310 horsepower and 272 pound-feet of torque, sending the power to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 20/31 mpg city/highway.

My top-trim RLX Sport Hybrid features the same tried and true V6 complemented by a trio of electric motors. The elaborate powertrain adds up to a substantial 377 horsepower and 341 pound-feet of torque. The dual electric motors power the rear wheels, turning the RLX into an all-wheel drive vehicle. The additional power results in exhilarating acceleration. The all-wheel drive system launches the RLX quite well, pushing occupants back in their seats and enthusiastically passing the seat of your pants test. In other words, the RLX feels fast.

Handling is exemplary in both models. The gas-powered RLX has Acura’s proprietary Precision All-Wheel Steer (P-AWS) system, which pivots the rear wheels to assist in steering and braking maneuvers. Meanwhile, the all-wheel drive hybrid model loves sharp corners and enjoys being pushed through a chicane. Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system also ensures precise steering, even in less than optimal driving conditions. The truth is, the RLX is comfortable being pushed harder than you really need to push it. The hybrid RLX may have “sport” in the name, but the best use of any hybrid is conservative city driving, and the RLX truly excels here with an impressive 28 miles per gallon. Highway fuel economy is also noteworthy at 32 mpg highway.

I rarely recommend hybrid variants of any model car to the enthusiast crowd, but the RLX is an example where the gas-electric combination delivers optimal performance, earning the nod. The added ponies really bring the already spunky RLX to life. The all-wheel drive system assists in off-the-line launches and makes cornering all the better. The hybrid also features a performance-oriented, quick-shifting seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. Factor in the additional 6 mpg around town and it gets really hard to find a downside other than the hybrid’s additional cost.

Technology

Technology
9

The base RLX is loaded with technology features that allow it to compete with the best in its class. A 10-speaker Acura audio system features HD Radio, SiriusXM radio and USB and Bluetooth connectivity. Integration with smartphone apps like Aha and Pandora Internet Radio is also included.

All models include Acura’s navigation system with a 3-D view that includes AcuraLink connectivity and real-time traffic alerts. All models are equipped with a color multi-information display in the gauge cluster that can provide features like turn-by-turn navigation instructions.

The Technology package upgrades the audio system with four additional speakers and includes a comprehensive suite of active safety features.

My review vehicle included the Advance package, which comes with one of the best sounding audio systems I’ve tested. The 14-speaker Krell system delivers crystal-clear audio, especially when playing high-quality audio files. When coupled with the incredibly quiet hybrid powertrain, the RLX is a sound studio on wheels. The Advance package also includes a surround-view camera system that gives the driver an eagle-eye view of the RLX, which is particularly handy in crowded parking lots. Rounding out the Advance package’s features is a nifty key fob with remote start, which provides vehicle feedback, lets you start the RLX from up to 100 feet away and monitors vehicle operation with a simple series of tiny LED lights.

All hybrid vehicles come with a standard head-up display, which projects configurable information on the windshield and allows the driver to keep his or her eyes on the road.

Safety

Safety
10

The 2016 Acura RLX earned a five-star overall safety score from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The RLX received top five-star ratings in front and side crash tests, as well as tests for rollover resistance. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the RLX its Top Safety Pick+ award, citing this model’s Superior rating for front crash prevention and top scores of Good in all crash tests.

The RLX’s stability and traction control systems work with four-wheel anti-lock brakes, electronic brake distribution and brake assist. 

In the event of a collision, the RLX is built with a next-generation advanced capability body structure which limits impact to the passenger cabin. An air bag system includes front air bags, front side air bags, side curtain air bags and a driver’s knee air bag.

All RLX models include a rearview camera, forward collision warning and lane departure warning. Models with the Technology or Advance packages come with adaptive cruise control with low speed follow, collision mitigation braking, lane keeping assist and blind spot monitoring. New features like road departure mitigation and a cross-traffic monitor are also included.

Cost-Effectiveness

Cost-Effectiveness
8

The base price for the 2016 Acura RLX with navigation starts at $50,950, which is slightly more than the price of the base Lexus GS 350 and BMW 5 Series, but less than the cost of entry for a Mercedes-Benz E-Class or Jaguar XF. While the Acura RLX may not have the sports-sedan provenance of those key competitors, its excellent standard feature set and subdued styling make the RLX an attractive alternative.

Those looking for less expensive comparable vehicles in the segment will want to investigate the Audi A6 and Cadillac CTS

An outside pick that is steadily gaining traction (and a personal favorite) is the Hyundai Genesis sedan, which will save you more than $10,000 if you’re comparing base models. Recommending the Hyundai brand in a conversation that includes BMW and Mercedes-Benz would have been laughable a decade ago, but the Genesis is proof of the manufacturer’s advances over the years.

My top-tier 2016 RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD with Advance Package retails for $66,870, including a $920 destination and handling charge. While not the bargain of the segment, the fuel-sipping RLX offers a lot of luxury and performance for the price. Of course you will need to make sure that the hybrid’s tiny trunk is adequate for your needs. Limited cargo space is the Achilles heel of this vehicle.

While I rarely recommend top trim models, the brilliant Krell audio system alone seems to justify the additional cost of the Advance package. If you find the improvement in sound quality doesn’t justify the higher price tag, the $61,870 RLX Sport Hybrid with Technology package is the way to go.

Overall

Overall
9

Very few vehicles that I review are met with the universal affection that the RLX received from my family. The ride is comfortable and the power is excellent. The hybrid achieves the best fuel economy when you drive conservatively. While my lead foot took a toll at the pump, gas mileage was better than I would expect from a luxury sedan that offers the RLX’s interior space and comfort. Even with the hybrid’s excellent performance I would hesitate to call the RLX a true sports sedan. Instead, think of it as a large and sporty luxury model that offers plenty of convenience, comfort and Acura’s reputation for reliability.