Acura just unveiled their new flagship sedan, the RLX, and there's two things you'll notice right away: it's kind of boring looking, but, damn, does it have a lot of headlights. Like eight per side. Sure, they're small LED units and not the colossal sealed-beams of yore, but still, it's some pretty aggressive face-jewelry for what is otherwise a fairly elegant if restrained car. It sort of like if Helen Mirren smiled to reveal a massive, diamond-studded grille.
Aside from the looks, the RLX is packed with some very cutting-edge tech, and its clear that Honda is looking to reposition itself as a technological leader after a period of some indifference. For example, this car will be the first of theirs to feature direct-injection, which is becoming almost common among their competitors.
The RLX also has such advanced goodies as a hybrid version with three electric motors, one on the tranny (about 30 HP or so) and one for each rear wheel (about 27 HP per motor), making it an AWD car. Each of the rear wheel motors is independently controllable, which allows the hybrid RLX to use torque vectoring on the rear wheels to dramatically (the film promised me) improve handling and braking. The combo of the three motors and the 3.5 L V6 should come to about 370 HP and 30 combined MPG. Not bad!
There's a FWD, non hybrid version as well that just uses the V6 for about 310 HP, and gets 20 city/ 31 HWY/ 24 combined MPG. The FWD version also gets some rear-wheel wobble love as well, thanks to Acura's Precision All Wheel Steer system, which they name (and badge the car) as P-AWS.
P-AWS as a name sounds like some lost Disney movie from the early 80s about a cybernetic sheepdog that helps some kids save their grandma's house or some shit. I can almost picture the scene where the kids look deeply into the blinky LED eyes of an injured P-AWS and cry "P-AWS! Please don't die! We love you!" Spolier alert: P-AWS is okay!
Oh, right, back to the real P-AWS. Honda is leveraging their decades of playing with 4-wheel steering systems in Preludes and whatnot and now has what seems to be an effective system that controls toe-in and toe-out for each rear wheel. Also, under heavy braking, both rear wheels toe-in like a skier slowing down. Again, this seems like a very welcome bit of tech that could have real handling benefits.
The overall weight is down from the RL by about 275 lbs, thanks in part to aluminum fenders, hood, and door skins. So, if you're a locksmith with a magnetic door sign, I think we've just ruled out the RLX for you. Sorry.
The interior is quite nice on the RLX, as a flagship executive sedan should be, with very nice feeling materials all over the damn place. Even the inside door handles have a pleasing rubbery grip. There's three full-color LCD screens on the dash, two huge stacked ones and a small one in the cluster. It sort of looks silly, and makes me think less, bigger screens may not be a bad idea, like the Tesla Model S or something. One nice thing is that while the lower screen handles all sorts of climate and infotainment duties, most commonly-used controls are repeated in a nice, compact, physical cluster below.
Comfort is a big, big deal to Acura right now. They're using, for the first time in a car, real acoustic glass for the side windows, they have the biggest interior cabin room in the segment, and I heard a rumor that if you lick the headliner it tastes like butterscotch.
One weird thing about the interior I can't really explain is this funny little trapdoor to view the frame number. It's even labeled "FRAME NUMBER." Is easy frame number access a big selling point in this segment? It looks pretty handy to stash just a little bit of drugs or a couple vials of illegal tiger urine as well.
There's also a very high-end sound system sourced by Krell, whom I should have heard of if I knew anything about high-end audio, which I don't. At least that's what Acura VP Jeff Conrad said, but I'm not so sure if I trust him because he kept pronouncing "concierge" with a strange "shhh" sound in the middle that was really grating.
All told, the RLX seems like a lot of impressive technology in a clean but anonymous package. However, if your car-buying criteria demands over a dozen headlights, lots of interior room, and rapid, no-fuss frame number access, boy are you in luck.