The 2017 Acura RLX fills a gap in the automaker's lineup left by the departure of the RL luxury sedan in 2012. The RLX is powered by a 3.5L direct-injected V6 that makes 310 horsepower and 272 lb-feet of torque, which is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with Sequential SportShift paddle shifters. With a curb weight of 4,000 pounds, the RLX isn't light, but the powertrain works well enough to propel the car to 60 mph in less than seven seconds.
The RLX Sport Hybrid makes an extra 66 horsepower over the conventional RLX thanks to a 3-motor system and lithium ion battery combination.
The RLX features uni-body construction and rides on independent double wishbone suspension with lower control arms up front and an independent multi-link with coil springs and a stabilizer bar in the rear. Acura's Agile Handling Assist System provides active braking of individual wheels to assist in cornering, while the crown jewel of the RLX's dynamic handling is Precision All-Wheel Steer (P-AWS). The system enables the rear wheels to adjust toe angles independently of each other, while working in conjunction with Agile Handling Assist and Vehicle Stability Assist. Four-wheel disc brakes provide stopping power, while 19-inch alloy wheels hold road-hugging high-performance all-season tires. Up front, "Jewel Eye" LED headlights provide what Acura claims to be a whiter, brighter beam than either HID or halogen lamps.
Standard equipment in the RLX with Technology Package includes leather seating, front 8-way power seats, navigation, and a premium 14-speaker audio system and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity. AcuraWatch is also included, which features a multi-view rear camera, Forward Collision Warning system, Lane Departure Warning, Road Departure Mitigation, Blind Spot Monitoring and more.
The RLX with Advance Package adds 450-watt 14-speaker Krell sound system, surround-view camera, remote start, power sunshades, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated outboard rear seats.
As the 2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid slews around tight turns on Malibu canyon roads in Southern California, I look for any hint that the sedan's active torque vectoring improves the handling. I don't feel any surprising rotation when I twist the wheel around, or the back end moving around more quickly than I might expect.
But after quite a bit of adrenaline-pumping fun, I realize that the RLX Sport Hybrid handles the corners with much more composure than it should. No understeer, just an easy and predictable path through the turns even with the tires squealing, testament to Acura engineers' fine-tuning of the RLX Sport Hybrid's all-wheel-drive system.
Of course, few buyers of a big sedan like this one will tackle the turns at speed. Equally good news for that more typical driver is that, after seven hours on the freeway, I felt very little fatigue. The RLX Sport Hybrid lulled me with its comfortable seats and suspension, and its quiet cabin.
The Good With an innovative torque-vectoring, gasoline-electric hybrid power train, the 2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid gets plenty of power and impressive handling, while achieving excellent fuel economy. It drives quietly and comfortably, with lane-keeping assist that centers it on the road.
The Bad The navigation system, with its slow inputs and clunky interface, is an exercise in frustration, and the lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto doesn't help. Adaptive cruise control feels too sensitive in heavy traffic.
The Bottom Line Acura packs the 2018 RLX Sport Hybrid with impressive features and a cutting-edge power train, making it a very good value, and it would be a truly excellent sedan if it had better cabin electronics.
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