2015 Acura RLX Rating Breakdown
2015 acura rlx
EPA est City/Hwy
Starting at
3.5L V6
310 hp

Starting at



3.5L V6


310 hp





The Car Connection Expert Review
Marty Padgett

Marty Padgett

Editorial Director

  • Design isn't distinctive
  • Rear-wheel steering is a pretty exotic solution
  • Multiple screens, multiple guesses?
  • Less rear-seat headroom than there seems to be
acura rlx 2015

The design of the 2015 RLX is graceful rather than bold -- which won't turn heads but gives it more universal appeal.

The RLX's design is handsome in a nondescript sort of way. Inoffensive but forgettable. There isn't much to attract the eye, and nothing to turn it away either. The biggest risk Acura took was with the jeweled headlights, which don't do much to spruce up the otherwise bland front end.

The design game of many cars in this price category has been stepped up lately. Take, for example, the Audi A7 or Jaguar XF. Even Cadillac's XTS, a big front-drive-based sedan like the RLX, has a look all its own.

That doesn't mean it'll appear on any runway. The RLX has the right stance and proportions, and even the BMW-inspired roofline is different enough to avoid being called a copycat. The rest is subtle and graceful, from the LED headlights and curves stamped over the front wheels, to the LED taillights in back. The RLX's smooth roofline and somewhat aggressively stance are attractive, but not entirely groundbreaking.

The cabin is useful and handsome, but not entirely groundbreaking. It manages to have all the right stuff, but not in the same places as others. It's not handsomely modern like Audi cockpits, nor is it swathed in old-school luxury like Jaguar interiors. Cadillac is doing great things in interior design, and the RLX manages to hit all the right notes in interior materials. In that way, it's very refined, but lacks the drama found in the A7, XF, and XTS.

The design of the 2015 RLX is graceful rather than bold -- which won't turn heads but gives it more universal appeal.

The dynamic zeal offered in RLX Sport Hybrid models is unlike anything else in this class.

Unlike many of its competitors, the RLX doesn't take a high-horsepower approach to performance. Instead, it tries to use unique technological solutions to differentiate itself.

Even among the milder versions of the other sedans in its class, the RLX's 310 horsepower and 272 pound-feet of torque isn't going to entice many on paper. It's up 10 hp from the RL, but compared to outputs from the Lincoln MKS (365 hp) or the Hyundai Genesis (429 hp) the RLX isn't all that impressive.

We want a little more drama in the way the RLX speaks to us. The big Acura doesn't scream away from the line, it's far more relaxed. That's in contrast to the Lexus GS, which is on par with the RLX, but at leas whips up some drama in its performance.

The front-drive RLX's automatic transmission nets shift paddles and a sport shift mode, but it's still a six-speed like the RL used. Upshifts are very smooth, while downshifts can be less invisible. Competitors at the top of the category are already moving over to 8-speed automatics, as is the Chrysler 300. The ZF 8-speed used in other is a good example, and we think a tightly packed set of gear ratios could help the RLX run off the line faster.

As for the gas mileage benefits of more gears, the RLX doesn't need much help. It's estimated at 20/31 mpg, or 24 mpg combined with front-wheel drive, near the Chrysler's numbers with two fewer gears.

The front-drive model's handling benefits from the trick four-wheel-steering system, which uses electric actuators at the rear to add just a few degrees of steering. The system, called Precision All-Wheel Steer, or P-AWS, is enough to make the front-driver feel a little more solid in tight turns than most front-drive barges. While changing lanes, all four wheels move in the same direction. On a curvy road, the rear-wheel steering system can move the wheels up to 2 degrees in the opposite direction, effectively making turn-in sharper. It can be helpful in daily driving too, not just corner carving. In parking lots, the P-AWS system makes the RLX feel shorter than it is by making it more agile—just watch those curbs on the wheels.

On a race track or tight back road, the system can require some recalibration of your driving style. The rear-wheel-drive steering system is unlike many other cars, and is a quick way around a track, albeit disarming for a car that has no track pretensions.

Extra performance is available in the form of the RLX's Sport Hybrid SH-AWD model, which packs a special new three-motor hybrid system. It's a novel concept, and what has us most interested is that a version of this setup will make its way into the future NSX supercar. The basis is a 3.5-liter V-6 mated to a new seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual gearbox that has a 35-kW motor built in. All-wheel drive, and the real handling genius, lies in the two-motor electric rear differential, which performs torque vectoring while also helping power the car and move it away from a stop smoothly. Instead of using a traditional first gear in the dual-clutch, the car instead relies on the motors for initial propulsion, thus avoiding the jerkiness that can come from the transmission's automated clutch take-up. The rear motors each put out 27 kW of power, and can act to regenerate power for the battery. The Sport Hybrid SH-AWD hybrid system makes 377 horsepower and 377 pound-feet of torque.

Both RLX models have a conventional suspension tuned for comfort first, with a bit of lively feel dialed in via electric power steering and either the actuators at the rear wheels or the trick electric differential. The steering is light at low speeds, which is what engineers were looking for, before transitioning to more heft at higher speeds. The feel is less obvious at speed, where the rear-wheel steering becomes the RLX's main selling point for new hardware.

The base RLX is sprung to absorb bad roads without fuss, and it leans into corners without drama. If you're looking to own apexes, the RLX's mono-spec layout doesn't make promises. It's meant to be a mile-eater, not a corner carver, and competitors with adjustable dampers do that kind of dancing much better.

The Sport Hybrid is the sleeper pick with surprisingly good driving feel. Head into a corner a little too hot and the RLX counters with torque vectoring to nudge you back into the right line. It's a little unnerving at first because the steering comes in the driver's seat, but not the steering wheel.

That novelty doesn't get old either: We can see the RLX's good steering becoming useful for safety reasons all the same as we found them entertaining on back-road jaunts.

We found the Sport Hybrid to be responsive to stabs at the gas pedal, with plenty of acceleration from the electric motors and the electrons filling in for whenever the dual-clutch gearbox is reaching for another cog. It's an entirely different sensation than the front-drive RLX and it's a little unexpected considering the car's plain clothes look.

The dynamic zeal offered in RLX Sport Hybrid models is unlike anything else in this class.

Rear-seat headroom is lacking; otherwise the 2015 Acura RLX cabin is spacious and well-fitted.

The Acura RLX has some well-designed, if not overly big, shoes to fill when it comes to the interior. The RL sedan it replaces was very comfortable up front, although the rear seats were tight and interior storage was lacking. The RLX is mostly an improvement, although we're still coming up short (or tall) on rear-seat head room.Another sacrifice to the design gods, apparently.

The RLX is fractionally longer than the RL with a 2.0-inch wheelbase stretch, and it sits 1.8 inches wider. Those size differences instantly register, not so much from the RLX's stance, though that's certainly chunkier and broader, but when you get inside.

And when you open the door, the RLX keys up, emits a little musical jingle (yes, a jingle), and shimmers its screens in an emotional display we're not used to from the practical Japanese luxury brand. The interior reads big and it's not all smoke and jingles—even though clever designers have boxed out the door panels and the central tunnel to make the car a modern architectural example, rather than a car.

True to the RL's legacy, the front seats fit like broad-backed executive desk chairs. They have 12-way adjustment and standard heating, with ventilation an option. The center console is wide, but it manages to avoid cutting into space for people. Head room is adequate for tall folks, even without having to lean back in those comfortable thrones.

The back seat looks enormous, and mostly makes good on that visual promise. The rear door openings are cut large, making it easy to slide into the three-passenger space. The cushions are wide and long under the leg for great support; it's the vertical dimension that gives us problems. Because of the slope of the roof in back, taller folks will rub their heads on the ceiling, something we almost expect in smaller family sedans, but never encounter in something the size of an MKS or XTS. There's somewhat less shoulder room than expected, too. The rear seats can be optioned up to heating, but there is no massage function or any of the fancy reclining seats found in the big German sedans. That might be helpful for those with height problems, come to think of it.

In a nice about-face from the RL, Acura has fitted the RLX with plenty of small-item storage. The center console's the place to hide valuable objects; its clever lid opens from either side, or it can also slide a very luxurious damping toward the rear. The trunk has a somewhat scant 15.3 cubic feet of storage room—less if you get the top audio systems—and it's a flat floor, or a couple gym bags shorter than the MKS.

The interior materials are impressive in the RLX. Everything you can ouch feels as it should, a noticeable step up from Accords and even smaller Acuras. The prototypes we were allowed to drive didn't exhibit many signs of being unfinished, and we were pleasantly surprised by the engine noise. The RLX's hollow-core wheels were meant to address tire noise, but there's still some to be heard.

The ride is comfortable with either powertrain setup, with Acura once again aiming for bump suppression with a bit of a sporty edge. You feel the road when you're really leaning on it; otherwise, the RL's serenity comes through nicely.

Rear-seat headroom is lacking; otherwise the 2015 Acura RLX cabin is spacious and well-fitted.

Safety technology is well-represented on the features list, and crash-test ratings don't get any better than this.

Only one of the two main safety agencies has rated the RLX's crash performance so far, to good results. The big Acura boasts new safety technologies along with Honda's recent advances in crash mitigation and prevention.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given the RLX top 'good' ratings in all five of its categories, including the new small overlap front test, which earns it the Top Safety Pick+ rating. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn't yet tested the RLX, as it's still a relatively new model and is likely to sell in lower volumes.

Acura equips the RLX with the usual complement of airbags, stability control systems, and a driver-side knee airbag. The automaker also includes as standard Bluetooth connectivity and a rearview camera, two items we say are good equipment due to driver inattention. The rearview camera displays a 180-degree viewpoint for better visibility. It also helps that outward vision is very good thanks to thin pillars and large rear glass.

The RLX also offers blind-spot monitors, which we like and advanced safety tech such as adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and a collision avoidance system that sounds a chorus of chimes and warnings that can prevent low-speed accidents—even grant a degree of self driving. When active, the RLX will stop itself at lower speeds and the driver can resume by tapping a button on the steering wheel, or by tapping the gas pedal.

While self-steer and adaptive cruise are now showing up on more and more cars, the Acura versions could use some extra polish. The lane-keeping system has a tendency to ping-pong within the lane, while the cruise doesn't seem to be looking or thinking far enough ahead, allowing vehicles changing lanes in front of the RLX to startle it into rough braking followed by lazy acceleration back to the set speed. It doesn't help that the RLX's closest following distance practically invites other drivers to slot in ahead of you.

And ostensibly for safety reasons, the RLX not blocks touchscreen input while the car is in motion. The logic is sound for drivers, but what about passengers? We say the feature has become an annoyance, so it's best to connect up and dial up navigation before taking off, or the voice recognition becomes the new distraction while on the move.

Safety technology is well-represented on the features list, and crash-test ratings don't get any better than this.

NHTSA 5-Star Safety Rating

2015 Acura RLX Models

Overall Rating


Overall Frontal Barrier Crash Rating: (5/5)
Overall Side Crash Rating: (5/5)
Overall Side Barrier Rating: Not Rated
NHTSA Roll-over Resistance Rating: (5/5)

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Ratings

2015 Acura RLX Models

Side Impact Test Good
Roof Strength Test Good
Rear Crash Protection/Head Restraint Good
IIHS Small Overlap Front Test Results Good
IIHS Moderate Overlap Front Test Results Good

The multiple screens and clunky interface aren't so delightful, but there's amazing Krell audio and good smartphone connectivity.

The RLX is available with plenty of features, but adding more equipment can quickly send the price a bit higher than is competitive; top models can breeze past $60,000, putting it in competition with the Cadillac XTS for the title of most expensive front-wheel-drive car on the market. Pricing and equipment haven't changed for 2015, likely because the 2014 model year was a short introductory one for the RLX. And since the Sport Hybrid model doesn't yet have an on-sale date, we also don't know how much it will cost or what's included.

At $49,345, the base RLX is equipped with the features you'd find on other competitors. The RLX comes standard with power windows, locks, and mirrors; a power sunroof; keyless ignition; leather upholstery; automatic climate control; 12-way power adjustable heated front seats; automatic headlights; 18-inch wheels; Bluetooth connectivity; a rearview camera; forward-collision and lane-departure warnings; an 8.0-inch upper LCD and 7.0-inch lower LCD touchscreen for infotainment, and 10 speaker audio with HD radio, USB port, and AUX connections.

The RLX with Navigation throws on, you guessed it, navigation with voice commands; AcuraLink, which we cover below; and an additional screen that sits between the primary gauges for $51,845. The RLX with Technology package adds Milano hides and 19-inch wheels, blind-spot monitors, quieter acoustic glass, and four more speakers for $55,345.

For $57,845, the RLX comes with a 14-speaker Krell audio system with reference-quality sound, one of the near-overkill systems usually found on ultra-premium brands, and also adds power sunshades. At the top of the lineup, the $61,345 RLX with Advance includes adaptive cruise control with follow ability; lane-keeping assist; front and rear parking sensors; ventilation for the front seats; and heated rear seats.

Based on these prices, we can expect Sport Hybrid models will be easily into the $60,000 range as well. If other hybrid models are any indication, the gas-electric RLX should come pretty well equipped, and it may only be offered in a few of the front-drive car's top trims. We'll update this section once we have pricing and feature availability for the all-wheel-drive Sport Hybrid model.

All RLX models carry Acura's standard warranty of four years or 50,000 miles.

We think the AcuraLink system and dual-screen setup for infotainment may take the most time to learn. The AcuraLink setup uses a smartphone app to be the gateway to dozens of other apps such as Facebook. With one link they're all available on the head unit, and new information such as points of interest are available without time-consuming app updates. Still, it's another way for drivers to be distracted—and something that simple or smartphone mirroring setups can do better. AcuraLink also offers paid concierge services with live operators, which we don't quite understand in the smartphone era.

Then there are the dual screens. It's a different take on the complexity of systems found in Lincoln or Cadillac competitors, but we're not sure about the overall effect. By splitting the functions, Acura looks to keep non-touch information on the bigger screen, while more vital tasks are placed closer to the driver on the smaller touchscreen. Confused yet? Some models sport a third screen between the gauges for more information.

As you might guess, the result is a little much. There's nothing fluid or intuitive about hunting from screen to screen for the information or settings you want, and it certainly doesn't reduce distraction while in motion. In fact, the touch screen's placement low on the center stack almost assures a few seconds' worth of eyes off the road. Unfortunately, this is another attempt that was so long in the making it still doesn't offer the simplicity of the glass boxes we all carry in our pockets. 

Let's hope Acura adopts something like Android Auto or Apple's CarPlay to replace the obsolete manufacturer-driven infotainment model. With smartphones evolving and adapting so quickly, the long lead times of vehicle manufacturing simply can't keep up, so maybe they'll stop trying.

The multiple screens and clunky interface aren't so delightful, but there's amazing Krell audio and good smartphone connectivity.

Front-wheel-drive RLX models get better mileage than non-hybrids in this class, while Sport Hybrid models definitely emphasize the 'sport' over high mpg.

The Acura RLX is more powerful than the RL sedan it replaces, but it's also more fuel-efficient. As expected, the Sport Hybrid model receives the better EPA ratings, while front-drive RLX sedans do fairly well, especially in highway testing.

Models with the all-new Sport Hybrid system will be the best-performing in the lineup, not only from a performance perspective—as the system has more power and all-wheel drive—but from a green one. EPA ratings for these jump to 28 mpg city, 32 highway, from the new three-electric-motor hybrid system and lithium-ion battery pack, in addition to the 3.5-liter V-6. That puts it up there with some of the diesel offerings from German competitors.

The front-drive, non-hybrid RLX is rated by the EPA at 20 mpg city, 30 highway, 24 combined. Among competitors, that's good stuff and nothing comes close without opting for Lexus GS or Infiniti M hybrid models. Cars like the Lincoln MKS can't compete, and the RLX's numbers are improved from the old RL's figures of 17/24/20 mpg.

Front-wheel-drive RLX models get better mileage than non-hybrids in this class, while Sport Hybrid models definitely emphasize the 'sport' over high mpg.

Fuel Economy Information

Ratings Based on 6 cyl, 3.5 L, 6-Speed Shiftable Automatic



4.2 gals/100 miles





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