Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Long Term Test: 2014 Acura RLX wrap up

It was a long time coming, but after three years, our 2014 Acura RLX has finally been retired. Over the course of the three years we had the RLX, it served us well as a daily commuter, grocery getter, and occasional road trip car. With our folks retired now, keeping around a large luxury sedan, just like keeping around a large SUV, seemed pointless. Most of the RLX's former duties have been taken over by our 2016 Honda Accord Touring, which serves these duties just as well as, if not better than, the RLX. Over the course of the three years though, we've come to learn a lot about Acura's full-sized luxury sedan. Here are some of the things we liked and disliked about our 2014 Acura RLX Tech.

What We Liked

Honda has always been known, first and foremost, as an engine builder. Heaps of praise have always been piled upon Honda's many different automotive engines, and the V6 that comes equipped in the RLX is no different. Honda opted to equip the Acura RLX with the J35Y4 Earth Dreams V6. At 310 horsepower and 272 lb./ft. of torque, the RLX's engine was definitely no slouch, and much like most of Honda's V6 power plants, operated incredibly smoothly. Despite the RLX's hefty two ton weight, the J35Y4 gave the RLX more than enough grunt to propel it to 60 MPH in the mid to high five-second range. Not too shabby for a nose heavy, front wheel drive "luxo barge." As with Honda's other J-series V6 engines, it also made a very, very nice sound. Not that you were able to really hear it in the RLX unless you floored the throttle. This leads me to the next thing we liked about the RLX.

The interior of the RLX was definitely something special. No, I'm not talking about the design or even the quality of the materials used. What I'm talking about was how quiet the interior of the RLX was. Acura's engineers fit the RLX with double pane acoustic glass to drown out noise from the outside, and equipped the wheels with special sound dampening channels to help soak up and keep road noise to a minimum. The result was an extremely quiet cabin that could compete with the likes of Lexus or Mercedes Benz, even at highway speeds.

Another thing that the RLX deserved more praise for was its handling. Despite being a nose heavy, front drive sedan, Acura equipped the RLX with all-wheel steering, dubbed Precision All Wheel Steer (P-AWS). This system helped the front heavy sedan rotate much more quickly and precisely than expected. In sport mode, with the tightened suspension, more direct steering and sharper throttle response, the RLX could even be considered fun to drive through twisty canyon roads.

What We Didn't Like


One thing that has plagued Acura for years now has been its design. While the RLX is definitely not an ugly car, it has been criticized as being a bit on the boring side. Admittedly, Acura's designs to often tend to gravitate towards the conservative side of design. Of course, the RLX has been on the market for nearly four years now, which means it is due for a mid-cycle refresh. Then again, I don't think anyone has heard anything from Honda R&D regarding the RLX's mid-cycle refresh, so who knows what's going to happen.

We once again return to the interior, where this time, I have to criticize the materials used in the car. While the materials used are not exactly bad, they certainly don't scream "$55k luxury sedan!" The leather used in the car is quite good, but some of the plastic bits and bobs do feel pretty cheap. Don't even get me started on that fake wood trim. It's definitely disheartening when the interior of Acura's flagship sedan looks and feels about as good as the $30k sedan (a.k.a. the Honda Accord) is based off of. Yes, the interior of our Honda Accord Touring is almost as good as the interior of the Acura RLX. If only Acura would stop cutting corners on material quality, people might feel like the extra money is worth it.

The last thing that would sometimes drive us mad about the RLX was its often complicated two screen infotainment system. While the system may have seemed innovative at first, prolonged use may have led to some minor bouts of rage. OK, maybe it wasn't that dramatic, but the system was far from being as innovative as Acura would have you believe. The first main issue with it was how slow the bottom touchscreen would often respond to inputs. It should only take about 30 seconds to input an address into a navigation system, but with the response delay in the RLX's system, it could take up to a minute or more. Let's also not forget about how much Acura wanted drivers to rely on the system. Virtually every function, with the exception of HVAC and seat warmers, were buried somewhere within the system's numerous menus. I will say that this is one part of the car I will definitely not miss.

Conclusion

After about 16,000 miles driven on the RLX, I can safely say that we did enjoy most of the car. It was spacious, comfortable, offered enough luxury and performance for our tastes, and didn't scream "look at me." Sure, the infotainment system needed a lot of work and Acura really needs to do more to differentiate its vehicles from its parent company's vehicles, but overall, the RLX was a very decent car. Would I recommend the Acura RLX to anyone? Maybe. If you truly like what the RLX has to offer but want more grunt, there's the all-wheel drive, hybrid version which bumps horsepower and torque to 377 and 341 respectively. As for the front drive, tech package equipped version we had? I think this may be a car that can really only be recommended to the Honda faithful as only a long time Honda/Acura owner may be able to truly appreciate what this car has to offer. Everyone else might find a better value in the offerings of Korean rivals Kia and Genesis.