By Nauman Farooq
Honda’s luxury arm, Acura, does fairly well in Canada, with models like the MDX and TLX being its strongest selling products, but its flagship sedan, the RLX Sport Hybrid, hasn’t taken the market by storm. So, rather than kill off the slow seller, Acura has decided to revamp it for the 2018 model year, in hopes to make their flagship sedan more appealing.
The RLX Sport Hybrid has been around since 2015, but now it has received a few updates -mostly in the styling department, new grille, new tail lights- to get the buying public’s attention!
What hasn’t changed is its powertrain, which, as you can judge by its name, is a hybrid, and is powered by a combination of a gasoline engine – which in this case is a 3.5L V6 – with three electric motors (one in the front, two at the rear).
This unique setup not only allows the RLX to become all-wheel drive, but the two electric motors in the rear also act in a clever way to improve the cars handling. So when you’re going around a corner, the system will use regenerative braking to slow down the inside wheel, while sending more power to the outside wheel, so the car can turn in more sharply. It is a neat system, and really allows this large sedan to handle like a nimble little hot hatch!
Thanks to its four engines – one gas, three electric – the RLX Sport Hybrid is also quite fast. You get a combined total of 377 hp and 341 lb-ft of torque. The task of transferring this power to the driven wheels is a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT), which works quite smoothly, and although it might not be the quickest DCT unit on the planet, it does the job well enough for the kind of vehicle this is.
I expected the RLX Sport Hybrid to just be a smooth, luxury sedan; but its pace – especially in Sport mode – truly surprised me. This car gathers speed like its just been tazered, which I guess is kinda true given its electric motors. Apart from its sprinting ability (0 to 100 km/h in 5.1 seconds), the RLX Sport Hyrbid also sounds good when pushed.
This came as a real surprise, because I just didn’t expect it to be thrilling to drive with nice vocal cords. All the while, being very fuel efficient, because in my week, I averaged 9.6 L/100km – not bad for a full-size sedan!
So, from a performance and driving point of view, the RLX Sport Hybrid is really quite good, and the rest of the car is equally impressive.
I like the way the car looks, nothing too flashy, but still looks elegant and expensive. The same goes for the interior, it is simple, but spend some time in it and it’ll reveal all it has to offer.
There is lots of space, front and back for adults – although the trunk capacity is a bit compromised in the hybrid model, because the battery pack is located between the trunk and the rear seats. The RLX Sport Hybrid also offers plenty of gadgets, like an around-view camera system with multiple views available on command, active cruise control, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, and a whole lot more for the driver.
This is one of the most luxurious and well appointed cars I have ever been in, and I’ve been in quite a few Bentley’s and Rolls-Royce’s.
But, it’s not perfect, in fact, I have two issues with it. First, I wish Acura offered a power closing trunk for the RLX. While there is nothing wrong with using your own muscles to close the trunk, in the luxury game, everything is expected to move about electrically, and hence the RLX Sport Hybrid should have had it also.
My second gripe is with the infotainment system Acura uses, it is very old, very slow, and is very far behind what the competition offers. On the plus side, its Krell sound system is fantastic, and the heads-up display is clear to see, and easy to adjust.
The 2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid is yours from $65,490. With all the bells and whistles, it’ll set you back $69,990. That is good pricing, especially when you see that it offers more space than all the German cars in this price range.
I really like this car, and I hope more and more people will put it on their shopping list, because it deserves to be far more successful than it has been in the last few years.