The anticipated reveal of the replacement for the Acura RL has finally made its debut at the 2012 New York International Auto Show. The all-new Acura RLX will make its production debut in early-2013, as a 2014 model year, giving Honda’s luxury lineup a head start for 2014.
We were all starting to wonder exactly what was in store for the RLX, since Acura announced its debut. Some of the questions that arose were around its power plant and whether or not this would simply be a restyled RL with an “X” on the end of its nameplate.
Acura answered all of those pertinent questions and then some at the auto show, as it pulled the sheet off of the new RLX and surprised everyone with a vehicle that bears little to no resemblance to its predecessor, something Honda Motor Company does not typically do. For the most part, Hondas tend to evolve rather slowly, with the exception of the latest Civic model, and rarely do we see big-time changes.
This all-new sedan is set to do battle with two newly redesigned imports, both of which debuted at the same auto show. On one side, you have the completely refreshed Toyota Avalon and on the other side, you have the redesigned Lexus ES 300h.
Can the RLX possibly fend off these two sister vehicles?
UPDATE 02/20/2013: Acura announced today pricing list for the 2014 RLX set to go on sale at a starting price of $48,450. Still, the car can get pretty expensive when adding an Advance Package; in this case price will start from $60,450.
Hit the jump to find out.
As we laid out earlier, with the exception of bearing the Lexus emblem, having four wheels, and four doors, the RLX concept is nothing like the 2012 RL.
The 2014 RLX concept features Acura’s “Keen Edge” design, with a sleeker front end and a swooping roofline, which puts it in about the same design class as the other upcoming models in 2013 and 2014. It also gets Acura’s new Jewel Eye LED headlights, which are in a dual-stack array and include 10 high-intensity LED nodes. These both lower energy consumption and increase your nighttime vision. Its ultra-reflective lenses help increase visibility, as well as give the RLX a distinctly bright look from the front.
The new RLX is roughly the same overall length of the current RL, but its wheelbase is two inches longer. This gives it a better stance, allowing it to ride more comfortably without compromising its handling. Fitted on this concept vehicle were 20-inch forged aluminum wheels with 255/35R20 high-performance rubber wrapped around them.
Its high-strength steel and aluminum body construction help keep this sedan well below the 4,000-pound mark.
There’s not too much to say about the design and aesthetics of the interior, as Acura did not provide too much information on this. All we have are some images we captured of the interior at the auto show. From what we see, the RLX will feature a multi-tone scheme on the inside with lightly contrasting colors.
On the technical side, Acura got pretty in-depth on what to expect. The RLX has very advanced communications, navigation, and infotainment systems. It also features a pair of LCD touch screens – one 8-inch and one 7-inch – which control various components throughout the vehicle, including: the HVAC system, navigation, and hand-free cell phone usage.
Brand new to Acura is the AcuraLink feature. This is a cellular communication system, much like GM’s OnStar system, that initiates emergency calls when airbags deploy, track the RLX if it is stolen, remote locking and unlocking, alarm notifications, and concierge service.
There are two audio systems offered on the RLX. The base system is a 14-speaker ultra-premium system and the optional system is Acura’s signature ELS surround system. As with all modern cars, this audio system is essentially a computer in itself. It has MP3 compatibility and can accept USB devices, so you can load a ton of MP3s on a flash disc and never have to mess with a CD again.
For slightly more traditional audio enjoyment, the RLX features Pandora or Aha internet radio interfaces, or HD radio. The two former mediums will require you to pair up a smartphone with Bluetooth capabilities. Oh, and make sure to have an unlimited data plan – that can get pricey. Also with a paired Bluetooth phone you can perform all of the basic phone functions – email, texting, and calling – via the RLX’s touch screen interface. You can also preload text messages into the system, so you can reply to messages. There is no option for voice-to-text yet, so you’ll have to preload those lols, l8trs, hahas, brbs, and other textinese words into the system.
On to the RLX’s navigation system. The RLX will have Acura’s Navigation System with Voice Recognition as an available option. This will also have a Bing search feature and AcuraLink’s real-time traffic updates.
Engine and Drivetrain
Now let’s have a look at what makes this thing go vroom-vroom. Under the hood on front-wheel-drive RLXs is an all-new V-6 engine that cranks out 310 horsepower. The top-end trim level on the RLX will feature Acura’s new Sport Hybrid SH-AWD system, which are three electric motors that combine with one gasoline engine. The gasoline engine in the top-level RLX is an all-new direct-injected 3.5-liter VTEC engine. With the SH-AWD system, this car produces over 370 horsepower.
The hybrid engine links to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, but there is no news on the transmission for the front-wheel-drive models. Acura claims this new Sport Hybrid SH-AWD RLX will offer V-8 acceleration with four-cylinder fuel economy. With estimates at 30 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, this looks like it may be a true statement.
The RLX features a collision mitigation system, which brakes when the car senses it is going to hit an object, but only after warning the driver. It will also feature a lane departure warning, which alerts the driver when he veers out of his lane without signaling.
The RLX also features federally mandated front driver’s and passenger’s air bags, but also features side curtain air bags and a driver’s side knee bolster air bag. The RLX has reinforced front frame members to help enhance strength and disperse the energy created in a crash. Acura anticipates the RLX to get five-star overall safety ratings – fairly lofty goals for a car not even in production yet.
| TRIM || MSRP |
| RLX || $48,450 |
| RLX with Navigation || $50,950 |
| RLX with Technology Package || $54,450 |
| RLX with Krell Audio Package || $56,950 |
| RLX with Advance Package || $60,450 |
Let’s start with the newly and not-so-secretly redesigned Avalon. First we’ll start by saying the Avalon looks 100 times better than the 2012 model year, but it’s still lacking something in looks. The rear slopes downward, much like the RLX, but the rest of it just looks a little overdone.
As for the Avalon’s powertrain, Toyota left us all in the dark. All we know from its release is that it’ll bear a V-6 engine, which we all assume will be a 3.5-liter. We do know that Avalon will feature a paddle shifter and two drive modes, regular and sport. The rest of the drivetrain is a mystery.
The audio systems and safety systems in the new Avalon all are pretty much equal with the RLX – crash mitigation, lane detection, ABS, and stability control – with the exception of lacking an equivalent to the AcuraLink emergency system and that the Avalon has more air bags.
The interior of the Avalon is a definite improvement, as it no longer looks like an upgraded Camry. It features wood accents, 6.1-inch touch screen audio system and an optional 7-inch LCD navigation system. A soft white ambient lighting in the interior really sets it all off, giving it a luxurious look and feel. The Avalon has no pricing information yet, but the 2012 pricing starts at $33,195 and Toyota has already announced price hikes in the coming model year. So, expect to see the Avalon to start in the $36,000 range.
The new Lexus ES hasn’t quite grown on us just yet. It looks a little too much like the recently redesigned Fusion, but a little less stylish. The oversized grille looks a little odd and the body lines are pretty boring. On the rear end, though, the ES looks good. It bears the same swooping roofline as the Avalon and RLX, but not the exaggerated C-pillar.
The ES will come as either a 2.5-liter hybrid or a 3.5-liter gasoline-only vehicle, but just like with the Avalon, there is little information on power output. The only bit of info Lexus shared was that the 2.5-liter is anticipated to get around 40 mpg in the city and the 3.5-liter will have a six-speed transmission.
The Lexus’s interior takes a driver-centric approach, positioning all of the important items right in the driver’s sight. This doesn’t mean the passenger doesn’t get anything though. The seats have been sculpted to increase comfort. There are an additional 2.8 inches of knee room and 4.1 inches of legroom in the front. Just like its sister Avalon, the Lexus ES has optional ambient lighting to help add to its luxurious feel.
Just like the Toyota, the Lexus has about the same safety features as the Acura, but it does have Lexus Safety Connection, which is Lexus’s answer to AcuraLink. Just like the Toyota, the Lexus has 10 air bags, far more than the RLX.
The infotainment system in the Lexus is simply ridiculous, It has Lexus’s next-generation Enform system that allows you to search via Bing, and access iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, Pandora, Yelp, and Facebook Places all using a paired smartphone.
The standard stereo system only includes eight speakers, compared to the 14 in the RLX, but it has all of the same features as the Acura, plus the aforementioned Enform system. The optional stereo has a total of 15 speakers and includes a DVD player, iTunes tagging, SiriusXM, an 8-inch display, and a Mark Levinson amplifier that doubles the stereo’s power, yet reduces electrical consumption.
The anticipated price for the ES is unknown, but it shouldn’t stray much higher than the current $36,725 starting price.
The honest answer here is that there is still not enough information on any of these models to make a conclusion. The Avalon is nice looking and the interior is great, but we have zero information on its drivetrain. The ES, on the other hand, doesn’t look right to us, but you may love its looks. It has awesome technology features, but again there are no good details on the drivetrain yet.
The Acura looks to be the most expensive of the group, and we have no real idea what’s going to be happening with the interior. So we will keep an eye out for more information to come out on the Acura, Toyota, and Lexus.
New and fresh design
Powerful gasoline-hybrid drive system
Loads of safety features
Lack of interior details
No four-cylinder option
Will likely be far more expensive than the competition