There is no sugar-coating the fact that the Acura RL has been a dud since Day One. Honda's luxury brand is painfully aware of this fact, especially since next to nobody purchased the pricey sedan. Then again, the RL has suffered the indignity of being outgunned by a lower-priced model from within its own portfolio, so we can see how selling one has been an uphill climb for dealers. But Acura has an all-new luxury flagship waiting in the wings, and it's seen its first light of day as the RLX Concept, which just debuted at the New York Auto Show.
Like most other Honda/Acura concepts, the RLX is sure to look much the same in production trim. The concept features a new design direction for the upscale marque, with more understated yet elegant lines that just look more expensive than the outgoing RL. With the exception of the fussy concept car wheels, we think it looks rather crisp, though it is very conservative and has a trunk that reminds us more than a little bit of the BMW 7 Series when viewed in profile. The concept appears to be quite large as well, but Honda is quick to point out that the sedan will provide large car interior volume in a mid-size package.
Honda is quick to point out that the sedan will provide large car interior volume in a mid-size package.
The RLX concept arrives packing some advanced technology under the hood as well, including an all-new 3.5-liter V6 mated to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. But the reworked V6 and all-new transmission is just part of the powertrain story. The concept also features an advanced Sport Hybrid SH-AWD system that helps boost overall power to a V8-like 370 horsepower.
The "hybrid" part of that title includes what Acura is calling a "unique dual electric motor drive unit with a bilateral torque adjustable control system." Basically, it's a through-the-road electric all-wheel-drive setup with torque vectoring on the rear axle. The same Sport Hybrid SH-AWD system first appeared on the NSX concept, and we drove a prototype of the system disguised as a Honda Accord last November. Acura promises fuel economy numbers of at least 30 miles per gallon on the highway and in the city.
The concept features a Sport Hybrid SH-AWD system that boosts power to a V8-like 370 horsepower.
The production RLX will also be available sans electric-AWD system, with 310 horsepower coming solely from the 3.5-liter V6. The front-wheel-drive version will feature a plethora of technology that improves handling, including Amplitude Reactive Dampers, a new double-wishbone front suspension and a multi-link rear suspension. It will also weigh in "well under 4,000 pounds," which should help in the handling department.
The production Acura RLX should be available in early 2013. Scroll down to read Acura's official press release and click on the image above to view the RLX concept in high resolution while you wait for our live shots from the show floor.
The RLX Concept employs an extraordinary array of new Acura technologies, including the Sport Hybrid SH-AWD® system, in combination with sophisticated styling and smart packaging to deliver an entirely new level of performance, sophistication and comfort.
Utilizing highly efficient packaging, the RLX Concept delivers the interior space of a large luxury sedan with the footprint and agility of a midsize luxury sedan. The RLX Concept's all-new 3.5L direct-injected VTEC® V-6 engine and Sport Hybrid SH-AWD® system combine to generate more than 370-horsepower, and are paired with a 7-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT) and lightweight body to deliver V-8 acceleration with four-cylinder fuel economy-with an estimated EPA (city/highway/combined) rating of 30/30/30 mpg.
"We have created a true luxury sedan based on our Acura DNA," said American Honda president & CEO, Tetsuo Iwamura. "This means achieving advanced performance through engineering efficiency to create a unique synergy between the vehicle and its driver. Inside and out, on the open road or city streets, the sophisticated and elegant Acura RLX will offer a level of connectivity, comfort and advanced performance demanded by today's luxury buyers."
Acura also announced that the production RLX will be offered in a 310-horsepower, front-wheel-drive version, which will also deliver superior handling performance through the application of another new Acura technology- Precision All Wheel Steer™.
The RLX Concept styling builds on Acura's 'Keen Edge' design motif with its taut and aerodynamic shape, carefully tailored proportions, and sophisticated and distinctive detailing. Its athletic stance is accented by 20-inch forged aluminum wheels and 255/35 R20 high-performance tires. Dimensionally, the RLX Concept is approximately the same length as the current RL, but with a two-inch longer wheelbase and two-inch shorter front overhang. Both the track and vehicle width increase by approximately two inches.
Acura's exclusive new Jewel Eye™ LED headlamps debut on the RLX Concept. The Acura signature Jewel Eye™ headlamps use a dual-stacked array with a total of eight separate high-intensity LED lamps, with ultra-reflective optical lenses and high-gloss trim, to provide powerful down-the-road illumination while simultaneously giving the RLX a highly distinctive and bright-eyed look in both daytime and nighttime conditions.
Body and Chassis
Through engineering efficiency, including substantial use of high-strength steel and aluminum, the RLX Concept achieves an ultra-rigid and light body design, with the front wheel drive version to weigh in at well under 4,000 pounds. An all-new double wishbone front suspension, multi-link rear suspension, Amplitude Reactive Dampers and electronic power steering with a variable gear ratio team to provide the foundation for the RLX's precise and intuitive handling control - termed by Acura as "Inomama" or "at the will of the driver."
Front-wheel-drive versions of RLX will utilize Acura's all-new Precision All Wheel Steer™ system. This system provides for independent control of the steering (toe) angle of the right and left rear wheels by utilizing electrically controlled actuators. Precision All Wheel Steer™ works in tandem with Vehicle Stability Assist™ (VSA®) and Variable Gear Ratio (VGR) steering to deliver an extraordinary level of cornering control and steering precision.
All-wheel-drive RLX models add even more handling performance with Acura's highly advanced Sport-Hybrid SH-AWD® (Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive), recently introduced at the 2012 North American International Auto Show on the NSX Concept. The performance hybrid system utilizes a unique dual electric motor drive unit with a bilateral torque adjustable control system to instantly generate negative or positive torque to the rear wheels during cornering. This provides a new level of agility and confidence to create an "on-the-rails-cornering" experience.
The Acura RLX will offer an extensive array of passive and active safety features. These include a Collision Mitigation Braking System™ and the first application of Acura's Lane Keep Assist System. In addition, Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning will be offered as standard equipment on the RLX.
Passive safety features will include front, side and side-curtain airbags for the driver and front passenger, and a driver's knee airbag. The RLX also incorporates the second generation of Acura's Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) body structure, with reinforced front frame members for further enhanced frontal crash energy management. The RLX is expected to achieve a 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score from NHTSA and TOP SAFETY PICK status from IIHS.
In keeping with the 'human-centered synergy' focus of Acura, the RLX will feature state-of-the-art communications, navigation and infotainment technologies with intuitive and easy-to-operate controls. Dual LCD screens (8-inch display and 7-inch touch screen) will provide easy and direct one-touch access to key functions - including audio, heating and cooling, navigation and voice-to-text SMS text message function.
The RLX will also feature the first application of the next-generation AcuraLink® Communication System, which incorporates built-in two-way cellular communication to deliver an array of new convenience features, including airbag deployment notification, stolen vehicle tracking, remote locking and unlocking, security alarm notification and concierge service.
An all-new, 14-speaker ultra premium audio system will be offered in addition to Acura's award winning ELS Surround® sound system. Both audio systems provide MP3 connectivity via USB along with integration of HD radio™, Pandora® internet radio interface and Aha Radio® interface via Bluetooth® smart phone pairing. Using Aha Radio®, RLX drivers can create personalized web-based radio stations and receive audio updates from Facebook and Twitter. In addition, a new Acura-exclusive smart phone application integrates smart phone functions (such as email, text messaging and contacts) into the RLX's on-demand touch screen functions. Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink® calling and pre-loaded text message replies provide for easy two-way communication.
The RLX also will be available with Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition™. This innovative system offers the driver a wide range of search options including Bing™ search functionality and the option for an AcuraLink® concierge to send a destination to the vehicle's navigation system. In addition, the RLX navigation system will feature AcuraLink Real-Time Traffic™ for both highways and surface streets.
With a focus on 'human-centered synergy,' Acura is embarking on its next 25 years as a pioneering and innovative performance-luxury nameplate and is undertaking an aggressive revitalization of its Acura product and technology portfolio.
The RLX Concept is Acura's fourth new model debut since January 2012, when Acura took the wraps of its redesigned RDX Protoype crossover SUV, all-new Acura ILX Concept sedan, and next-generation Acura NSX Concept supercar, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Following the introduction of the production versions of the more powerful and fuel-efficient 2013 RDX in March, and the all-new 2013 Acura ILX and ILX Hybrid sedans in May, the production RLX will launch in early 2013. The next-generation Acura NSX, being developed by Honda R&D Americas in the U.S., will be produced in Ohio using domestically and globally sourced parts and launched within the next three years.
Acura is projecting annual an annual sales volume of 180,000 vehicles for the brand in 2012, which would represent a nearly 50 percent increase over 2011 sales results.