First Drive: 2014 Acura RLX luxury cars first drives acura
First Drive: 2014 Acura RLX luxury cars first drives acura
2014 Acura RLX. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

At a time when most luxury car manufacturers can’t get on the all-wheel-drive bandwagon fast enough, Acura is swimming upstream with its all-new 2014 RLX flagship sedan. As a replacement for the SH-AWD RL, this larger and more luxurious offering is front-drive only.

Whatever Acura’s reasoning for this, they have at least bestowed this full-size sedan with a clever rear-wheel steering system that gives the Acura people something to talk about when the inevitable “Why-no-all-wheel-drive?” questions start.

Arriving in the fall of 2013 will be a pricier and more powerful AWD hybrid RLX.

But for now, if having all four wheels driven is not a high priority, the RLX makes for a compelling offering in the luxury tourer segment.

Powering the front wheels through a six-speed auto is a direct-injection SOHC 3.5L V6 making 310 hp and 272 lb-ft at 4,500 rpm. Like all naturally aspirated Honda engines, it is strong and smooth and shows an appetite for revs. This muscular V6 also generates a fair bit of torque steer if you’re liberal with the throttle.

Apart from the unique “Jewel-Eye” LED headlights and squid-beak grill, the 2014 RLX styling is largely forgettable. Yes, it looks like a big, fancy car, but the lines hardly inspire anything more than a “meh”.

However, if interior space what you want, the RLX is claiming best in class. Call this compensation for the outgoing RL, which had a very cozy cabin and tight back seat.

Against the RL, this 2014 RLX gains 10 mm in height and 45 mm in width. While overall length increases by only 5 mm, there is a 50-mm stretch in the wheelbase, which pays dividends for back seat passengers. The trunk is big (433 L) and features a huge opening.

Airport limo drivers rejoice.

Indeed, the cabin feels spacious and airy, featuring quality materials and fine build quality. The leather is creamy, the wood rich, and, as is expected in this class of car, Acura is offering a host of technologies and luxury features.

First Drive: 2014 Acura RLX luxury cars first drives acura First Drive: 2014 Acura RLX luxury cars first drives acura First Drive: 2014 Acura RLX luxury cars first drives acura First Drive: 2014 Acura RLX luxury cars first drives acura
2014 Acura RLX. Click image to enlarge

Acura is notorious for fashioning interiors with a riot of buttons. The RLX leaves that practice behind, utilizing the dual screen system found in the Honda Accord – the upper eight-inch LCD displays navigation, audio and phone functions while the one below acts as a touchscreen control panel.

Yes, it’s a solution for reducing clutter, but ultimately is compromised by the need to accurately poke your digit in the right spot. At least it has haptic feedback, which lets you know the message has been received.

Another top-of-class aspect of the RLX is shoulder room, thanks to its wide greenhouse.

By “class”, Acura is pointing to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Lexus GS.

Would I put it up against these rear-drive or AWD sedans that trade in equal parts luxury and performance? Not really. I’m thinking more Cadillac XTS, Buick Lacrosse, Lincoln MKS, Lexus ES350 and Volvo S80.

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