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.