We didn’t go into our first drive in the new, range-topping 2014 Acura RLX luxury sedan with astronomically high hopes, given the wallflower-like nature of its predecessor, the RL. The old RL was nice enough, but in no way was it revolutionary, sexy, or state of the art. And it certainly wasn’t going to blow the mind of its no doubt slightly bored driver, who probably wondered why he didn’t get a TL instead.
But after experiencing the game-changing wild child that is the 2014 Acura RLX, we think it’s time that Mercedes, Lexus, and even BMW take note of how markedly competitive this new car truly is. This is odd because a GS350, E350 or 5-Series are all rear-wheel-drive, and according to the auto journalism rulebook, RWDs are always superior to front-wheel models like the RLX.
Funny, if we weren’t mistaken we would say that Acura engineered the new RLX as a bitchslap to every repetitive traditionalist to show them front-wheel-drive can be fun too. Plus, if you live somewhere that has seasons and weather you would probably prefer a front driver — unless spinning around in circles after hitting black ice patches is your idea of a good time. Frankly, we’d rather go cow tipping, and trust us when we say that is not on our bucket list, much less our lunch pail list.
Thankfully, we packed our superhero lunchboxes and headed off for drives on winding Napa Valley back roads, leading us finally to the Sonoma County Raceway, where we really got to put the RLX and back-to-back E350, GS350 and 535i models to test. Make no mistake, we know how great Acura models are and have been in the past, so why were we somewhat reticent to believe in an Acura flagship that appeals to driver pleasure centers as well as those seeking serene comfort? In this case we simply didn’t know how many engineering tricks Acura still has up its sleeve.
The answers to all of our doubts and questions, dear readers, were found behind the wheel of the new RLX, which proved once and for all that you don’t need to be a rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan to carve corners with the best of them. In fact, we think that the P-AWS four-wheel steering system (which stands for Precision All-Wheel Steer and is not a reference to kitty cat claws) will convince any luxury sport sedan shopper that the RLX handles like no vehicle they have driven before.
Now, without an engineering degree it might be a bit difficult to understand how Acura worked such miracles with its P-AWS system but as you would expect, it allows you to turn the rear wheels in the optimal direction during various driving scenarios. This optimization of the wheel toe-in or toe-out (i.e. when the wheel is pointed inward or outward) provides extremely predictable and stable cornering, even in bad weather. It may also lengthen the life of your tires — though that claim came from Acura, so don’t complain to us if your tires don’t last as long as you had hoped.
The point here, people, is that this P-AWS system makes understeer nearly undetectable and gave us a level of confidence on the rainy race track that may or may not have led to a rather long sideways power slide around one long sweeping turn. Not once did we fear losing control of the vehicle, although we do hope no one at Acura saw us do it.
Interior and Exterior Judgments
The 2014 Acura RLX is a naturally pretty and well-balanced design when viewed from the outside, with LED front headlamps giving the face a unique appearance akin to someone with the compound eyes of a spider. The traditional Acura grille holds together the handsome corporate face that not only faithfully screams “upscale” but is also capable of looking like a working professional’s car. As for that, the back seat offers best-in-class legroom so this car may be a hit for real estate agents who sell multi-million-dollar homes across the country. Truly, if you take five adults with you for any period of time, then the RLX is your finest choice.
Otherwise, the leather lined interior is quite simply one of Acura’s most stunning pieces of handiwork since the original NSX, what with its refined simplicity that the easy-to-figure-out RLX also manages in a smaller dose. Honestly, the RLX has way too many high tech features not to require some more buttons and at least a control knob when compared to the old NSX which (gasp!) didn’t even have a navigation system. Oh, how quickly automotive expectations change.
The RLX has an interior that is definitely pushing the boundaries. Audiophiles will be interested to know that the once-vaunted Acura/ELS audio system is no longer the top rated unit: this honor now goes to an awesome sounding Krell system available in upper-level trims. Your ears will never want to hear music anywhere else after experiencing this sound system, trust us. Most especially you won’t want to be hearing music at a Justin Bieber concert, since that act renders adult ears deaf from all of the pre-teen shrieking. And his singing.