Steering with All Four Wheels | 2014 Acura RLX

October 2013 View more

Photos courtesy of ©2013 Acura

The all-new 2014 Acura RLX plants a flag at the top of Acura’s model lineup, but it does so with such little visual fanfare that many people will overlook this subtly styled sedan.

Their loss.

N2013_10_01_011ROADThe RLX replaces the slow-selling RL, which had a front-wheel-drive platform and V6 engine. That’s the same formula as the new car, but the “old” RL came to market at a time when its mid-size luxury competitors were strutting around town with rear or all-wheel-drive and bigger V8 engines. The market has caught up with Acura’s thinking, thanks to advanced engine technology and more stringent fuel economy standards. The front-wheel-drive/V6 formula no longer seems like such an anomaly and the RLX plays those notes just right.

The RLX’s 310 horsepower engine is paired with a six-speed transmission that always seems to be in the right gear to quickly get the car where you want it to go. Car and Driver magazine recorded a 5.8 second 0-to-60 mph sprint, which places the RLX squarely in line with the competition.

The RLX’s engineers have squelched any torque steer—the tendency of powerful front-wheel-drive cars to wrench their front wheels to the side on hard acceleration. But the engineers did not stop there when they considered how this new car should drive. And that’s where things really start getting interesting.

N2013_10_01_012ROADThe RLX’s all-wheel-steering system sprinkles a bit of fairy dust on the car’s handling. This technology is not new. In the 90s, Honda itself had a version on the Prelude, but its comeback tour on the RLX is definitely worth the ticket price.

Turn the steering wheel sharply and the AWS pivots the rear wheels a few degrees in the opposite direction. Turn the steering wheel gradually, and the rear wheels will follow. It’s the same engineering trick that lets hook-and-ladder trucks maneuver through tight city streets, but here it endows the car with a nimble spirit.

The all-wheel-steering comes into play in other ways, too. Under heavy braking, the rear wheels turn inward a bit to bring the car to a stable stop – like pointing your skis inward to snowplow on the bunny hill.

The driving sensation is as subtle as the RLX’s styling, but if you are paying attention to the car’s feel as you glide through curves, you will quickly appreciate what the all-wheel-steer system is doing.
Like other luxury cars, the RLX offers adaptive cruise control (ACC) that can keep the car at a set distance from the vehicle in front. Acura calls it “low-speed follow” mode. Paired with a lane-keeping assist system that steers the car back toward the center of the lane if you drift toward the lines, an RLX driver essentially has a bit more room for error in stop-and-go traffic. The car will literally keep its speed and direction in line with traffic.

Bigger than the car it replaces, the RLX has ample legroom for rear-seat passengers and an airy, comfortable cabin. The overall effect is classic Acura luxury. If there is one misstep, it is the confusing mix of buttons, knobs, and screens that comprise the radio, navigation, and climate control. The lower touch-screen offers nice tactile feedback, but overall the three-level setup turns simple commands into complex endeavors.

Acura has long eschewed the trend toward a never-ending option list, and the RLX continues the practice. Starting at a base price of $48,450, it stair-steps up to a high of $60,450 with logical additions such as navigation, the technology package, audio package, and advance electronics package along the way.

Click here for more info on the 2014 Acura RLX.