2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid presents electrifying performance
This ultimate split personality Acura takes hybrid technology in a serious performance direction. We’ve never driven anything quite like it, but it does come with a lofty price tag. Is 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid worth the price of admission?
After taking a model bi-year, RLX Sport Hybrid returns in 2015 as a 2016 model with an advancement or two
The last built in Japan Acura happens to be this mostly "Made in America" brand’s flagship. It also just happens to be Acura’s most expensive, highest tech offering, and comes with a mind bending combination of hybrid driven performance, camera activated active safety features, and arguably Acura’s best constructed and most comfortable seat in the house.
2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD features 5-Star cabin accommodations
Easing into Acuras flagship cabin for the first time is much like fitting an exquisite Italian loafer to one's bare foot. Unlike most Acura and Honda leather covered seating surfaces, this one feels well broken in on first sit.
While perhaps not visually stunning by luxury car standards, Acura takes balance, functionality, and personal-auto connectivity to a higher level; while cloaking this tech-controlled compilation in quality leathers, burnished metals and wood-grain-like smooth and textured surfaces.
While exploring Acura's latest and greatest RLX offering, we discovered the 10 way adjustable heated and cooled drivers seat, heated power adjustable steering wheel, exceptional individual side climate control, power moon roof, and expansive rear seating area, also featuring separate climate controls, to be exquisitely crafted.
Perusing the passenger cabin one discovers aviation-style reading lights and an integrated cup-holder center armrest, punctuating surprisingly plush accommodations, accented by very effective pull-up side window sun shades.
Passenger visibility from rear to front is supported through a slight rise in the elevation of the rear seat, while ensuring ease of ingress and exit for passengers of all ages. Note: Rear headroom is exceptional.
2016 Acura RLX presents the most comfortable long-legged rear seating area in the class, truly limo-like. We further enjoyed the night-visual-experience that is RLX, with convenience, accent and safety lighting evident and most appreciated throughout. RLX Fit and finish is found to be without compromise as to craftsmanship, composition and material quality.
The 2016 RLX driving environment becomes intuitive in nature within minutes, as one eases into the tech driven world of Acura active safety features, 4 way external camera, static touch screen infotainment, climate control, and top-of-stack integrated navigational screen with split hybrid-systems display.
Driver’s will discover an exceptionally smart-steering wheel, and in the case of RLX Advance, a “Heads-Up” windshield display.
Heads-up display, yes
The RLX Sports Hybrid driving environment is reminiscent of your neighbor’s Honda Jet; multiple screen glass dash, center cluster i-MID, navigation, seamless voice activated settings, timed - traveled distance calculator and more.
And then there’s that 377 horsepower 3-motor sports hybrid system, dual drive mode double clutched electric-motor integrated 7 speed automated transmission with paddle shifting, and torque vectoring smart handling all-wheel-drive.
341 ft-lb monster torque
By combining Acura’s mechanically bullet proof direct injected i-VTEC V6 gasoline engine with a 3 electric motor regenerative and torque vectoring rear-drive, Acura has all but eliminated the negative handling aspects of primary front wheel drive, while producing copious amounts of on demand torque.
The loud peddle in RLX Sport Hybrid is understated impressive! Actually, we discovered a seamless transition between electric only and hybrid power, producing an astonishing performance launch off of the light, and uphill progression rivaling the highest powered import V8s on the road today.
Zero torque drop noted
Acura-Torque News noted zero torque drop while piloting RLX Sport Hybrid over steep freeway grades. Acceleration experienced behind the wheel of RLX is chiropractic-calling-lightening fast, and yet, RLX Sport Hybrid can be as stealth quiet as a purring kitten while traversing city streets and parking lots in electric-only mode.
The entire RLX drive and ride experience is a bit mind-bending at times. Seriously, the uphill trajectory of 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid bends the mind and the body. No other mainstream gasoline-electric hybrid make or model on the road today can approach Acura RLX Sport Hybrid performance at this price point, while preserving real-world-livable fuel economy.
370 combined horsepower, 341 ft-lb torque, 30 MPG highway, $ 65,950+
As is said, performance and technology does come at a price. And, in the case of 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid, the ticket price for a fully loaded RLX Sports Hybrid smart handling all wheel drive(SH-AWD) Advance is $65,950 +.
Still, a relative performance bargain when compared apples for apples to Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, and Lexus GS 350, all fantastic import performance cars. However, none of them present the over-the-top combined meld of active safety and creature comfort features meets gasoline/electric hybrid driven performance. And, in true Acura fashion, RLX comes in at $10,000 below BMW’s top trim offering.
Call me crazy, I love the occasional electric-only drive experience
There's nothing quite like silently creeping up to a ‘take out’ window in a 4400 lb premium sports sedan, or watching the RPM gauge drop to zero while driving down the freeway at 58 mpg. It’s a bit of a Tesla moment, something that we came to experience in the Honda Accord hybrid.
However, this EV-only moment doesn’t happen often in RLX, nor does it last very long. The hybrid system here is employed mostly for bolstering performance while preserving a reasonable MPG rating, and frankly can be a bit disconcerting at times. The first time one drives RLX Sport Hybrid, that initial launch in electric only mode, finds one fumbling for an engine-on button. It’s silent!
900 miles behind the wheel Of Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
Acura-Torque News waited a year for an opportunity to review RLX Sport Hybrid. The last time we enjoyed any seat time in RLX was while attending Pirelli World Challenge a year past this week.
After driving 2014 RLX on the freeways of Marin County, California, we found the 310 horsepower 2014 RLX advance to be impressive, but lacking just a bit in true-straight-line acceleration. And, it was a bit heavy on the downhill swoop, diving into tight cornering. however, it’s suite of active safety components saved our collective behinds more than once in city traffic.
Drive and ride performance
From a luxury vantage point, Acura RLX Sport Hybrid while very-cabin-comfortable, is not Bently, nor even MDX-Pilot quiet under certain driving conditions.
This techno-wonder has many systems running simultaneously, with an evident (occasional) wirel of a driveline component, or regenerative transmission internal (regenerative braking) motor doing its job. And, once again we find Acura’s choice of “S” rated high performance low sidewall summer-treads to be very road surface sensitive, noisy, and less than effective in a high speed 2 lane transitional sweep.
Granted, one rarely finds super high performance and limousine-like quiet packaged in the same automobile, thus is the case with RLX Sport Hybrid; we believe it could be a bit quieter. We also found the wind noise at the driver’s side door to be bordering on intolerable at highway speeds; to the point that we questioned the effectiveness of the door seals, something we will take up with Acura.
Unfortunately, early on in our drive we encountered a high speed projectile resulting in a cracked windshield, other than that, all RLX Sport Hybrid systems performed as designed, including voice recognition, something we’d experienced a bit of difficulty with in the past. Note: The 16 speaker Krell stereo system in RLX produces a serious concert-like listening experience; we like that!
A closing thought or two
Although 2016 RLX Sport Hybrid is measurably impressive on the tech and engine/motor performance side, at 4359 lbs, it’s the heavy weight of its class, and remains more than just a bit heavy in cornering. Hybrid technology due to battery modules, added electric motor components, and in this case SH-AWD. Ad a boat-load of technological wizardry, and RLX Hybrid is heavy, no getting around it.
The “Sport” in RLX Sport Hybrid is a mixed bag, when it comes to true-track-like performance handling. We don’t look to RLX for NSX road stickiness or record breaking track capabilities. But, for a relatively heavy 4 door sedan, 2016 RLX Sport Hybrid is arguably the best(priced under $100,000) all around drive and ride performer in the mid to full size premium/ luxury sedan class.
RLX is much like that 260 lb football linebacker that can sprint a 4.5 second 50 meter dash; while not possessing the ‘cut and turn’ capabilities of a pass receiver. However, RLX does move exceptionally well when asked to do so. For us the icing on the cake is the EV mode only feature; a glimpse into the future of automotive engineering, if you will; Acura style.