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Acura pushes the tech in new RLX model (pictures)

Acura makes a big tech play with its new RLX, but an overly complicated cabin interface is one big flaw.

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Wayne Cunningham
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1 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
As Acura's new flagship sedan, the 2014 RLX replaces the RL model. Acura uses the RLX to bring out significant new technologies in both performance and cabin electronics. The RLX is available in a base model, or with a succession of packages called Navigation, Technology, Krell Audio, and Advance. The model shown here is an example of the Advance trim.
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2 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
One remarkable standard feature on the RLX is these LED headlights, called Jewel Eye by Acura. The array throws a bright, well-defined pattern, and should last much longer than a typical HID lamp.
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3 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
The engine uses a new direct-injection fuel delivery system, providing greater efficiency than the old port-injection engine. Not only does the engine deliver 310 horsepower, but it achieves fuel economy in the mid-20s.
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4 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
The fixed suspension on the RLX delivers an acceptable ride on smooth roads, but when the asphalt becomes less than perfect the ride turns ugly.
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5 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
The PAWS label stands for Precision All-Wheel Steering, a technology that adds minor rear-wheel steering to improve handling.
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6 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
As expected for a big sedan, the trunk provides plenty of room and easy access through its wide opening.
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7 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
Quality materials -- leather and thick wood trim -- line the cabin, while the seats can be heated and cooled, and have two-position memory.
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8 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
Rear-seat room is particularly spacious in the RLX, making it a very comfortable car for four adults.
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9 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
Acura tunes its electric power steering for serious boost, so the wheel is very easy to turn.
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10 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
Drivers can easily turn off the Lane Departure Warning system, which can become annoying, especially on twisty roads.
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11 of 24 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
The rearview camera includes trajectory lines, which help drivers see where the car will go based on the steering angle.
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12 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
The biggest failure in the RLX is this two-screen interface for the cabin electronics. A touch screen sits about midway up the center dashboard, showing stereo and phone controls. Above it sits an LCD controlled by a jog dial and buttons below it. The LCD shows navigation, stereo, and phone controls, some of which are duplicated on the touch screen.
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13 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
As an alternative to using the complicated interface, voice command is fairly comprehensive, and activates screens showing the driver what commands are available at each step.
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14 of 24 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
The hard-drive-based navigation system includes plan, or flat, maps and perspective-view maps, the latter being a new feature for Acura.
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15 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
This rotary menu paradigm carries over from past Acura models to the RLX's navigation system.
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16 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
Also carried over from previous Acura models are destination options that include a Scenic Route database, listing nice drives for almost every state.
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17 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
The touch screen shows audio sources, which include iOS devices, USB, Bluetooth streaming, and the car's own hard drive.
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18 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
A further screen shows more audio sources, with Pandora and Aha, the latter accessing the AcuraLink Streams app on the driver's smartphone.
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19 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
The touch screen shows this Cover Flow-like album method of choosing music from an iOS device.
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20 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
Bluetooth streaming shows track information, and controls for Pause, Play, and Skip.
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21 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
Pandora integration shows song information, thumbs-up and thumbs-down controls, and a button for the station list.
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HD Radio comes standard on the RLX.
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23 of 24 Josh Miller/CNET
One especially worthy upgrade is the Krell audio system, which has incredible dynamic range.
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24 of 24 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
The phone system access on the touch screen shows speed dial numbers and a keypad dialer, also replicated on the upper LCD. However, the upper LCD also shows a paired phone's contact list.

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