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Acura RLX Sport Hybrid returns to North America May 2015

Acura’s premium RLX Sports Hybrid sedan is scheduled for a U.S. market return in June 2015.
Will consumers pay upwards of $70,000 for Acura’s high-tech premium performance flagship?


The first time Torque News viewed Acura’s tech-rich hybrid, segment breaking, and priciest luxury performance sedan, was at the RLX Sport Hybrid Los Angeles Auto Show debut back in 2013. We hear from Acura that it’s coming back to North America, and like many Acura fans are excited by the return of this tech rich luxury flagship for several reasons.

The market has spoken, bring it on! We like the technology

We thought we had spied one at the 2104 Los Angeles Auto Show. In fact, we sat in one, but that offering never came to U.S. markets. After missing in action for a full model year in the U.S., Acura’s most expensive and arguable most impressive high performance RLX Sport Hybrid will resume sales in North America sometime in the month of June; so Acura tells us.

Featuring Acura’s iconic 310 horsepower, high torque output i-VTEC V6 and 3 electric motor(1 regenerative, 2 rear axle torque vectoring) hybrid drive system, for a combined horsepower rating of 380, and torque approaching 400 ft-lb, 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid will be the most powerful tech rich, premium sedan in Honda, Acura Division’s North America lineup.

Beginning MSRP was $59,950 for RLX Sport Hybrid tech back in 2014

Toque News, while not privy to the inner workings of Acura Division, or the ins-and outs of importing RLX Sports Hybrid from Japan, does know that not every premium Acura buyer longs to drive an MDX, SUV, no matter how high-tech or segment leading it is. With 2016 ILX A-Spec opening the gate to first time Acura Sedan enthusiasts, a void does exist at the top of the lineup.

Looking to the market as well as the premium sedan segment, Acura has most likely determined that there's a niche market for RLX Sports Hybrid. We’ve driven a 2014 with Tech, and find the drive characteristics of this premium sedan to be like nothing else on the market, bordering on the surreal.

With exceptional torque pull, acceleration and interior quiet rivaling the confessional in a deff congregation’s Lent vigil, Acura RLX Sports Hybrid sits at the pinnacle of automotive technology and refinement. Oh, and it’s darn comfortable to drive and ride in.

So why did RLX Sport Hybrid go missing

It’s one of those puzzling events that happens in the auto industry from time to time, a make or model gone-a-missing. Such was the case with 2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid, Torque News couldn’t locate one and Acura Dealer’s weren't talking; nor were our contacts at Acura.

With the initial release of 2014 RLX Hybrid, Acura PR presented a major promotion touting Acura Sport Hybrid’s exceptional single engine 2 motor hybrid, luxury car platform, with a planned U.S. tour of fashion shopping malls, country clubs and civic events. Yet somewhere along the roll-out, RLX Hybrid fell to the wayside, as 2015 TLX took over in the news. And then, the next model year came and went without RLX Hybrid showing up for the curtain call. Had the market introduction of 2015 TLX side lined RLX sales momentum?

We couldn't locate an on-lot 2015 Sport Hybrid anywhere in the U.S., And our generally very cooperative friends at Acura had no answers as to Acura Hybrid’s where about. Where had Acura’s premium flagship gone, and what were the division’s plans for the near future?

We do know is that Japan Honda experienced a production shortage of the hybrid battery module utilized in Accord and presumably RLX. And, that there were some teething pains encountered in the refinement of Honda’ R&D Tokyo autonomous driving and active safety systems. But, presumably that’s all behind us as we look to June.

Late last year Torque News penned a short news-flash on the discovery of a 2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid located in Eugene, Oregon. Unfortunately, on careful review of the car, and it’s “copied” window disclosure- invoice, we discovered the pearl white on parchment leather beauty to be a 2014 model, and…. it still sits there on the showroom floor. Perhaps that’s the underlying reason behind RLX Hybrid gone-a-missing. Very few people buy them.

A fantastic hybrid sports sedan, but is North America ready for it?

Hybrid fans love the idea of a full-size luxury tech-mobile of exceptional performance, measurable manufactured utility, and from some other planet voice activated Infotainment and new-age active safety features. 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid will feature them all, and then some. So why has RLX Sport Hybrid been missing in action for a year, and why does a handful of 2014 models remain sitting on showroom floor?

For us, and this is a true mystery, when seated in RLX, Torque News finds the fit and finish, ergonomic balance of the cabin and seating surfaces to be in par or superior to that of BMW, Cadillac, Lexus, Mercedes S Class and… who's left? So it has to come down to fuel economy, trunk space and consumer perceived manufacturer’s reputation.

With an MSRP north of $65,000, and the smallest trunk in class…

When 2016 Acura Sport Hybrid comes to Acura dealership showroom floors in June 2015, there will be no other car available in North America quite like it. For well heeled consumers, that presents an interesting question or two.

#1. Am I willing to commit to a $65,000+ lease or purchase agreement for Acura’s hybrid flagship?

2. Do I find the gasoline performance hybrid system, different enough, and “green”-conscious-purchase-compelling to the point of ignoring competing fuel efficient gasoline, plug-in hybrid and stand-alone luxury sedan and SUV offerings? And finally, and this is a big deal for many premium car purchasers that wish for trunk and cargo space as large as many New York City apartment guest bedrooms...

#3 Am I willing to sacrifice trunk space, split fold down rear seat capability and long object trunk pass through for hybrid technology? In other words, the space behind the rear passenger seating dedicated to the battery module.

Last year Torque News experienced the exceptional drive and ride experience that is Acura RLX. Not only did we find the high output 3.5 Liter i-VTEC to be split second responsive when called on, the driveline and quick shifting(6 speed) automatic transmission enabled a split personality driving capability unique to Acura cars and light trucks.

Not only that: Acura’s Lanewatch ™ and accident prevention feature saved our proverbial arses in heavy San Francisco Bay area traffic. The stated 310 horsepower rated V6, close ratio automatic transmission with P-AWS proved to be an exceptional performance ride. But we, like every other premium performance sedan driver, wanted more.

In rolls 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid: As pointed out to us by our Acura contacts, RLX Sport Hybrid takes the gasoline engined variant and jettisons it to the next level in handling, engine performance and quiet; through multiple electric motor enhanced torque vectoring, additional torque, and short-distant electric only drive capabilities. It’s refined, quick and agile. With interior quiet and finishes rivaling some of the finest luxury sedans available today.

Avalon Hybrid has nothing on RLX

And then of course for us, the icing on the cake that is Acura RLX Sport Hybrid presents a combined stated horsepower and torque rating approaching European and Japanese performance V8s, while retaining exceptional fuel economy(estimated at 30 mpg combined driving) and near zero exhaust emissions.

When a luxury performance sedan becomes just a bit more than your next car

While autonomous driving may be just a “buzz word” or catchphrase for most of us, Torque News experienced a bit of what the near future holds for drivers while operating 2016 Acura MDX, TLX, Honda CR-V and 2016 Honda Pilot. When released to the buying public sometime in June 2015, RLX Sport Hybrid will feature the latest in active safety and accident prevention systems. And will present near-self-driving capability. Acura RLX Sport Hybrid will be the safest, most technically advanced luxury sedan produced in Acura’s history.

The short list

Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow (LSF)
Collision Mitigation Braking System™ (CMBS)
Forward Collision Warning (FCW)
Lane Departure Warning (LDW)
Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS)
Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) – new to RLX
Blind Spot Information (BSI)
Multi-View Rear Camera with Dynamic Guidelines
Cross Traffic Monitor – new to RLX
Acura’s 360* surround view multiple camera system

As featured on the current 2016 Acura RLX with Advance Package

Looking to 2016 RLX Advance: We estimate the 2015 RLX Sport Hybrid to weigh in around 4500 lb, making it Acura’s heaviest U.S. offering. Note: 2016 MDX weighs in at 4268 lb in SH-AWD Advance trim, and is 3 inches shorter than RLX. However, RLX Sport Hybrid will produce 20 % greater horsepower and torque than the gasoline only variant, with an overall fuel efficiency improvement of 25% over that of the V6 FWD-P-AWS variant.

2016 Acura RLX Sports Hybrid earns IIHS 5 Star Safety Rating

Note: As of this writing, Acura has not released the price and specifications for 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid. We’re assuming that based on the 2016 beginning MSRP of $54,450 for the Tech trimmed non-hybrid V6 variant, and MSRP $60,450+ for the V6 P-AWS Advance trim, 2016 RLX Sport Hybrid Advance would approach MSRP $68,500 +, that’s just an educated guess.

looking to what Honda and Acura has done to advance autonomous driving, passive and active safety features, near intuitive, voice command, smartphone and Bluetooth connectability Infotainment and Honda, Acuralink ™ features, Torque News anticipates 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid to be Acura’s and NOrth America's most technologically advanced, luxury performance offering to date. We look forward to writing a full drive review on 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid in the near future.


JeffS (not verified)    May 6, 2015 - 10:53AM

Good Day Parks. Maybe the, "Hiatus" of the RLX had, (has) something to do with the finalization on the NSX powertrain so Acura could trickle it down to the RLX. The 3 electric motor design sounds like it may have come from such, (instant torque, gotta be a rush). It would make sense, Draw customers in with their Halo car, the NSX, and then sell them the RLX, touting it has the same drivetrain tech. Honda/Acura is in the midst of revamping their entire line. I think they may be revamping their Marketing strategy as well. Honda is known for engineering excellence, but not so much for Marketing. Case in point, the Civic SI. RARELY,and lately, if ever, do they tout the Civic SI, (talking 9th Gen). I've seen many a post that suggests Honda lost its way with the current SI model. It's such a wonderful car for what it's meant to be, I can only assume that much of the negative banter about it, is what people perceive, most without even driving one. Better marketing on Honda's behalf would have gone a long way in changing those perceptions. The good news is, that along with Acura/Honda's new and ever better offerings, they are also getting better at getting the word out. New cars, new attitude, new thinking, new Wake-up call. Be Well.

Parks McCants    May 6, 2015 - 11:52AM

In reply to by JeffS (not verified)

Good morning JeffS. Yes, I follow your logic here. And, yes, much of the negative bantor read on the Web is spewed by entusiast that have never driven the car that they are bashing.That's the nature of the beast. I look forward to driving the 2016 RLX Sport Hybrid ASAP. It's truly unique, as is the Acura brand. Note: If you find the opportunity to view Acura's flagship in any varient do so. The car is a sensory treet. Enjoy your Si. Fun car!

JeffS (not verified)    May 6, 2015 - 1:06PM

In reply to by Parks McCants

Yep, everyday I drive, I look forward to the, "amusement park fun" of a ride that my '14 SI affords. Yes, I be waiting with baited Breath for the NSX and if if the RLX shows up at a local dealership before then, will be taking a look see at that as well. I have not yet had the opportunity to drive a, "High performance" Hybrid, but on paper the performance available from instantaneous torque is intriguing. My guess is that one will have to recalibrate their, "Driving synapsis". Wave of the future being brought to the masses by Acura. Turning the page, this chapter is probably only the beginning. In general the automotive industry is in a, "Renaissance". Being an enthusiast weaned in the, "original" muscle car era
of the 60's and early 70's, (actually started in the 50's, but I was playing with cap guns at the time), I can say with assurance, "We've come a long way baby and the future of performance looks brighter than ever ". Actually, these days, whatever one wants in a car, can be found. That may be basic transportation to get you from A to B. May be about the image one wants to project. May be from 0-60, or may be about MPG. I have a good friend who is as big a car enthusiast as one will meet, he has a Challenger with some serious HP and handling mods sitting in his garage. He drives his Smart car most of the time, beats the crap out of it, (as much as a Smart car can be beat), has a blast and could care less what others may think. In a nutshell that is a perfect metaphor as to why Cars have become such a personal part of our lives. If you drive it and you like it who gives a flying -------- what others may think.

Parks McCants    May 6, 2015 - 2:21PM

In reply to by JeffS (not verified)

Damn! JeffS. Right on... Couldn't agree with you more. Hey, not too long ago I held on to a Geo Tracker beater rag top. My excuse was that I employed it as a tow vehicle behind my(financial disaster) of the time Pace Arrow Motorhome.My wife hated the damn thing. But, I loved the near ironic utilitarian mechanical simplicity of the thing; you couldn't get me out of it. In the end she won out and the Geo went to a new home. Like you say. vehicles are a personal thing. Keep that Civic Si ground-bound. Take care and enjoy. Note: You'll get a kick out of the RLX Sport Hybrid.

RLX69 (not verified)    May 7, 2015 - 8:39AM

Good deal. I hope that the delay & skipping of 2015 means that they were working on a MMC to differentiate it more from the PAWS. However, since the 2016 PAWS was not an MMC I do not have my hopes up for much change in the hybrid other than the extra safety features.

STONE (not verified)    October 21, 2015 - 11:17AM

I have waited patiently for two years for the Sport Hybrid, cannot get anyone at Acura to tell me anything about the status of the RLX Sport Hybrid. I too am in agreement with JeffS's thoughts. I am inclined in what I have read and gathered from internet sources, a very close debut of the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid and the new NSX at relatively the same time. I think this is unspoken marketing strategy and the Acura dealer networks will use the old "bait and switch tactic" and comfortably move some of the NSX buyers from the NSX and it ultra high price down to the "cheap" RXL Sport Hybrid. The basic customer based for the NSX, I believe would be in the higher age range most expecially given the projected pricing on the new NSX. Once sold on the rabbit performance I suspect this new drive train will have and as well the effiency, those buyers in that age range might be easily switched. For those who are gut bound for the NSX, well Mamma has to have a nice ride too and the Sport Hybrid might fit right in for her...

I am 61, the flip down seat, ski pass through, nor the loss of trunk room would deter me from buying buying the RLX-SH, in fact the only thing that has deterred me so far is the fact it is simply not available, and I for one am getting very impatient of asking for over two years "when and where..???" I have driven many cars, many brands over my years, I bought my first Acura in 2010, a TLX, next in 2012 an MDX, so I am sold on Acura. My current ride in a 2014 RLX Advanced. It is undoubtedly the most sophisticated car I've ever owned, every "bell and whistle" it has works with precision and extreme accuracy. And the KRELL Audio in this car, is absolutely beyond belief in no distortion sound reproduction. My car has been in the shop for only regular maintenance and nitrogen top off's in the tires, and everytime it goes in I bug the sales staff about the RLX-SH...

Mr. McCants, thanks for all you information and the blog to vent. I agree with you on the quality of the RLX, it is an impeccable car in any derivation and for the money, the best full sized luxury car on the market today.