Redesigned on the outside, almost the same on the inside

Introduced in 2013, the RLX is one of Acura’s newest nameplates. Designed to replace the severely outdated second-generation RL, the RLX was received with mixed reviews. While praised for its powerful V-6, hybrid drivetrains, and technology, the full-size sedan was criticized for its bland looks and relatively high prices compared to its rivals. This is probably why Acura is introducing a new styling for the RLX only four years after the original model hit the market. The redesigned sedan was just previewed ahead of the Monterey Car Week, where it will make its public debut on August 15.

Although a four-year-old vehicle usually gets a mild facelift, the RLX was redesigned from the ground up on the outside, now reflecting the company’s new Precision Crafted Performance styling language. Granted, the interior carries over unchanged save for additional equipment and the drivetrain options all have the same specifications, but Acura solved one of the RLX’s biggest issues: the dull design. Let’s have a closer look at what it brings to the table in the review below.

Updated 11/06/2017: Acura announced prices for the 2018 RLX which is now on sale at dealer nationwide. Check the "Prices" section for the full details.

Continue reading to learn more about the 2018 Acura RLX.

  • 2018 Acura RLX
  • Year:
    2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V6
  • Transmission:
    10-speed automatic
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    310
  • Displacement:
    3.5 L
  • 0-60 time:
    6 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    155 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • size:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:

Exterior

2018 Acura RLX Exterior High Resolution Wallpaper quality
- image 726089
The RLX's new exterior design is familiar if you've seen the new TLX and MDX, but it's a significant departure from the current sedan.

The RLX’s new exterior design is familiar if you’ve seen the new TLX and MDX, but it’s a significant departure from the current sedan. Up front, the most notable change is the new "beak" grille with sharper corners and a wider center section. The mesh grille design is also new, and it appears to combine elements seen on Lexus and Mercedes-Benz models. I’m not saying that Acura took inspiration from those cars, but it’s the best way I can describe it. My other option is that it looks as if tiny UFOs shoot out of the Acura badge toward the headlamps. How’s that for PR, Acura?

Speaking of the headlamps, their sharp inner corners have been reversed, so the car gets a more aggressive, frowning appearance. The outer corners are also sharper than before, while a new, L-shaped LED strip adds a unique look. Below, we have large chrome inserts at each corner, a significantly wider lower intake with integrated daytime running lights, and a larger splitter. The engine hood also looks more muscular thanks to the extra creases on each side.

Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase (Inches) 112.2
Length (Inches) 196.1
Height (Inches) 57.7
Width (Inches) 74.4
Track front/rear (Inches) 64.3 / 64.2

Interior

2018 Acura RLX Interior High Resolution
- image 726094
Unlike the exterior, the interior design remains largely unchanged.

Unlike the exterior, the interior design remains largely unchanged. This isn’t a bad thing, but the cluttered center stack with the two small displays and HVAC control above the center console needs a redesign. I’m also not a fan of the A/C vents placed all over the dashboard, but other than that, the current RLX still feels fresh on the inside.

2018 Acura RLX Interior High Resolution
- image 726095
The seats have been revised for improved comfort, while both the gasoline and hybrid models now come with the enhanced AcuraWatch.

There are few changes to talk about it though. The seats have been revised for improved comfort, while both the gasoline and hybrid models now come with the enhanced AcuraWatch suite of technologies as standard. The package includes Traffic Jam Assist, a first for Acura, Collision Mitigation Braking System with automatic emergency braking, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow, and Road Departure Mitigation. AcuraWatch uses a millimeter wave radar and monocular camera sensing technology to detect other vehicles as well as lane markings.

The Sport Hybrid models also includes a premium Krell audio system, Surround View Camera, parking sensors, remote engine start, ventilated and heated front seats, heated rear seats, and heated steering wheel as standard. Acura upgraded the materials too, including high-contrast piping and stitching for the seats and a new Espresso upholstery color option with light wood veneer.

Interior Dimensions

Headroom front/rear (Inches) 37.6 / 36.9
Legroom front/rear (Inches) 42.3 / 38.8
Shoulder Room front/rear (Inches) 59.6 / 57.0
Hiproom front/rear (Inches) 55.9 / 54.5
EPA Passenger Volume (cu ft) 102.1
EPA Cargo Volume (cu ft, w/o Krell / with Krell) 14.9 / 14.7

Drivetrain

2018 Acura RLX Drivetrain High Resolution
- image 726098
While V-6 engine cranks out the same 310 horsepower, it now mates to a 10-speed automatic.

Under that sexy shell, there’s a blend of old and new. While the 3.5-liter V-6 in the gasoline model cranks out the same 310 horsepower as in the outgoing car, it now mates to a 10-speed automatic transmission that improves acceleration. Unfortunately, there are no performance figures to back this claim yet. The sedan also gained rear-axle steering for improved stability.

The Sport Hybrid model returns too, with a 3.5-liter V-6 gasoline engine and three electric motors, just like the NSX supercar. However, the configuration is a bit different, as two of the three motors are on the rear axle, giving the sedan all-wheel drive. Ouput is rated at 377 horsepower and Acura claims that the Sport Hybrid is its best performing sedan to sedan. We’re still waiting for performance figures on this model too.

Drivetrain Specifications

Engine Type Direct Injection V-6
Displacement (liters) 3.5
Horsepower 310 HP @ 6,500 RPM
Torque 272 LB-FT @ 4,500 RPM
EPA Fuel Economy Ratings (City/Highway/Combined) 20/30/23
Curb Weight (lbs without/with AcuraWatch Plus) 3,955 / 3,962
Transmission 10-speed automatic

Prices

2018 Acura RLX Exterior High Resolution
- image 726099

Pricing for the new RLX starts from $54,900 for the P-AWS model. This sticker makes it only $450 more expensive than the outgoing model. Opt for the RLX Sport Hybrid and the sticker jumps to $61,900 before options. The price gap compared to the old model is bigger here, translating to a $1,950 increase. All told, the new RLX is some $4,000 more expensive than its main competitors. But more about that below.

Trim MSRP MSRP Including $965 Destination Charge EPA MPG Rating City/Highway/Combined
RLX P-AWS $54,900 $55,865 20 / 29 / 23
RLX Sport Hybrid $61,900 $62,865 28 / 29 / 28

Competition

Lincoln MKZ

2017 Lincoln MKZ
- image 726178

Acura’s goal for the RLX is to compete against the big German three and give cars like the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Audi A6 a run for their money. However, the general consensus is that the RLX compete with vehicles that usually bridge the gap between affordable and premium. The Lincoln MKZ is one of them. Introduced in 2012, the current MKZ has been revised in 2016, when much like the RLX, it received a significant overhaul on the outside. Now sharing styling cues with the larger Continental, the MKZ sports a similarly rich interior, but benefits from a larger infotainment display. It’s also doing well in the technology department, being equipped with everything one needs in a big sedan, including navigation, smartphone connectivity, and an instrument cluster packed with information. Drivetrain options include a 2.0-liter EcoBoost with 188 horsepower, a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle hybrid with 240 horses, and a new 3.0-liter turbo V-6 rated at 400 horses and 400 pound-feet of torque. Pricing starts from $35,170, but in order to get a model that matches the RLX’s output, you’ll have to go with the V-6-powered Black Label model, which retails from $50,580. The good news is that you pay some $4,000 less and you get 90 extra horsepower.

Read our full review of the Lincoln MKZ.

Infiniti Q70

2015 - 2016 Infiniti Q70 High Resolution Exterior
- image 548895

The Q70 is yet another Japanese full-size aimed at the big German sedan that so far has yet to make a big impression. Launched in 2013, it has already gained a few updates, and much like the RLX, it has a sporty yet styling exterior that’s not as understated as the MKZ. Technology is abundant inside the cabin, which in my opinion has the best looking design of the three. The leather and contrast stitching is combined with loads of wood veneer, which adorns large portions of the dashboard, center stack, and center console. The drivetrain is as diverse as they get and includes only high-output engines. The range begins with the 3.7-liter V-6 rated at 330 horsepower and 270 pound-feet, but Infiniti also offers a 5.6-liter V-8 good for a whopping 420 horsepower and 417 pound-feet. Finally, we have the hybrid version that combines a 3.5-liter V-6 with electric power for a total output of 302 horsepower and 258 pound-feet. The Q70 retails from $50,100, which makes it a bit more affordable than the Acura RLX.

Read our full review of the Infiniti Q70.

Conclusion

2018 Acura RLX Exterior High Resolution
- image 726092

The RLX was never a high seller compared to other offerings in this niche, but it did pretty good compared to other vehicles in Acura’s lineup. But, things have gone really stale in recent months, and it was very obvious that Acura had to do something about it. While a redesign is definitely the better option, Acura did the right thing to turn this mid-cycle facelift into a styling overhaul. The sedan’s exterior was rather dull, while the cabin and the drivetrains remain competitive with both German and Japanese rivals. It’s safe to assume that the RLX will stay fresh for a few more years, but it remains to be seen how customers will react to the slightly revised drivetrain and the performance gains that come with them.

  • Leave it
    • * Still more expensive than the competition
    • * Needs a new interior soon

Exterior Side-by-side Comparison

2014 Acura RLX High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 484035
2018 Acura RLX Exterior High Resolution Wallpaper quality
- image 726089
2014 Acura RLX High Resolution Exterior
- image 484036
2018 Acura RLX Exterior High Resolution Wallpaper quality
- image 726090
2014 Acura RLX 2018 Acura RLX
Overall, the RLX is a big improvement design-wise. Not only stylish and sportier at the same time, it also exudes a premium look.

Moving onto the sides, not much has changed save for the chrome trim on the side skirts, the chrome door handles, and the new wheel design. However, we can see more modifications around back, starting with the crisper taillights and the thicker chrome trim on the trunk lid. Both elements give the RLX a more premium look, as do the larger exhaust tips and the chrome bumper inserts below. The new exterior is rounded off by three new colors choices, including two premium paint offerings: Brilliant Red Metallic and Majestic Black Pearl.

Overall, the RLX is a big improvement design-wise. Not only stylish and sportier at the same time, it also exudes that premium look Acura has struggled to achieve for many years.

2014 Acura RLX High Resolution Interior
- image 484045
2018 Acura RLX Interior High Resolution
- image 726094
2014 Acura RLX 2018 Acura RLX

References

2017 Acura MDX

2017 - 2018 Acura MDX High Resolution Exterior
- image 670503

Read our full review on the 2017 Acura MDX.

2017 Acura TLX

2018 Acura TLX High Resolution Exterior
- image 717347

Read our full review on the 2018 Acura TLX.

2014 Acura RLX

2014 Acura RLX Exterior
- image 484027

Read our full review on the 2014 Acura RLX.

Press release

Acura today unveiled a redesigned 2018 Acura RLX reflecting the brand’s new Precision Crafted Performance design direction to create a more substantial presence for Acura’s top-of-the-line luxury sports sedan. The 2018 Acura RLX will make its public debut during the prestigious Monterey Automotive Week, August 15-19 on the Monterey peninsula. The new RLX incorporates design cues to showcase its performance capabilities, including Acura’s signature diamond pentagon grille, a more sculpted hood, new wheel designs, bold, newly designed LED taillights, dual exhaust finishers and a gloss black rear diffuser.

The 2018 Acura RLX is the most sophisticated and best performing Acura sedan ever, with Sport Hybrid Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive™ (Sport Hybrid SH-AWD™) technology, shared with the NSX supercar, that creates a powerful and precise driving experience unmatched in the segment. Acura has simplified the RLX trim structure to make the brand’s innovative Sport Hybrid technology more desirable and accessible streamlining the offering to two well-equipped variants. The new 2018 Acura RLX will go on sale in November.

2018 Acura RLX Exterior High Resolution Wallpaper quality
- image 726091

The 377 total system horsepowersup1 RLX Sport Hybrid seamlessly integrates a direct-injected V-6 with three electric motors and Super Handling All-Wheel Drive™ for instant acceleration, precise handling, outstanding all-weather performance and excellent fuel economy. Based on developments from the NSX, the RLX Sport Hybrid powertrain and dynamic handling has been further optimized.

The 310-horsepower RLX with Precision All-Wheel Steer™ is now mated to a new 10-speed Automatic Transmission (10AT) delivering a more refined driving experience, as well as improved acceleration and passing times.

“This redesign of the 2018 Acura RLX is transformational, creating road presence and styling that better reflect underlying performance capabilities of the vehicle,” said Jon Ikeda, Acura vice president & general manager.

2018 Acura RLX Exterior High Resolution Wallpaper quality
- image 726090

Standard features on the 2018 RLX Sport Hybrid include premium Krell Audio System, Surround View Camera, parking sensors, LED fog lights, remote engine start, ventilated and heated front seats, heated rear seats and steering wheel and more.

The 2018 RLX features the unique AcuraWatch™ suite of technologies, as standard equipment, and has been enhanced with the addition of Traffic Jam Assist, a first for Acura. Working in conjunction with Adaptive Cruise Control with Low Speed Follow, Traffic Jam Assist helps reduce driver stress in highly congested traffic situations by helping keep the vehicle in its lane and a set interval behind a car detected ahead.

AcuraWatch™ also includes Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) with automatic emergency braking, Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow and Road Departure Mitigation (RDM). AcuraWatch uses a millimeter wave radar and monocular camera sensing technology to detect other vehicles as well as lane markings and can help intervene to prevent or mitigate the severity of a collision.

2018 Acura RLX Interior High Resolution
- image 726094

The 2018 Acura RLX is complimented by three new exterior colors including two premium paint offerings – Brilliant Red Metallic and Majestic Black Pearl. Inside, the 2018 Acura RLX receives upgraded materials and touchpoints including a completely redesigned seat featuring high-contrast piping and stitching, as well as a new Espresso interior option, which adds sophistication to an interior with class-leading space and comfort.

The 2018 Acura RLX will be featured at multiple events throughout Monterey Automotive Week including the Carmel-By-The Sea Concours on the Avenue on Tuesday, August 15 and The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, on Friday, August 18.

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