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2018 Acura RLX Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.3

Acura offers the choice between a gasoline-only and a hybrid powertrain for the 2018 RLX. Both feel refined and smooth, have excellent fuel economy ratings, and are powerful enough to move this large luxury sedan with ease. While the RLX has an adequate amount of agility, it isn't very sporty or engaging. It also doesn't offer as comfortable of a ride as some competitors.  

  • "This is an area where the RLX falls short, with a ride nowhere near as comfortable and refined as the competition. While the suspension absorbs bumps with some isolation, on smooth pavement the RLX feels too jumpy and agitated with short, quick pitches. That kind of jitter is annoying and fatiguing in any car, let alone a luxury car costing this much." -- Consumer Reports
  • "As a pure sports sedan, we still give the nod to a BMW 5 Series, which has more steering feel and a more agile nature. Where the RLX shines is as a sophisticated sleeper with a quiet and comfortable ride, and a gasoline/electric powertrain that is among the most sophisticated in the business." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The RLX combines luxury and performance in a way that makes it an excellent everyday commuter." -- Edmunds (2017)

Acceleration and Power

The RLX comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine with a 310-horsepower rating. New for 2018 is a 10-speed automatic transmission (replacing the previous six-speed gearbox). The powertrain in the RLX Sport Hybrid adds three electric motors to the V6 engine, which increases total system output to 377 horsepower. It features a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Both models feel polished and have enough power to easily attend to all of your daily driving needs, though a number of test drivers say the RLX doesn't feel sporty. It is economical, though. The gas-only RLX gets 20 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway, which is one of the highest ratings in our luxury large car rankings. With the RLX Sport Hybrid, fuel economy increases to 28/29 mpg city/highway.

  • "The standard … [powertrain] is perfectly acceptable and comfortable for a premium car, but not all that engaging to drive. Our preference is the all-wheel-drive RLX Sport Hybrid. … In addition to providing power, [the electric motors] can also apply negative torque vectoring through regenerative braking. All this happens behind the scenes, but the effect is smooth and can be engaging when pushed." – Kelley Blue Book
  • "The new 10-speed automatic transmission is responsive and quick to pick the right gear when extra throttle is administered." -- Autotrader
  • "The 310-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 is a strong, refined engine and even better when paired with three electric motors. … Both RLX models pull hard to redline and are always smooth, though acceleration times aren't any quicker than those of most competitors." -- Edmunds (2017)

Handling and Braking

The nonhybrid RLX is a front-wheel-drive sedan. It comes standard with Acura's Precision All-Wheel Steer (P-AWS, for short). On curvy roads, the P-AWS system turns the rear wheels slightly to increase stability. Test drivers are split over the effectiveness of this system, though most say the RLX has a respectable level of agility. The RLX Sport Hybrid doesn't come with the P-AWS system, but it does feature Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system.

  • "Slow response to steering input and little feedback from the wheel contributes to ungainly handling. The RLX lacks agility, even relative to other large sedans. A rear-wheel steering system … is meant to improve handling and maneuverability by angling the rear wheels slightly in the same direction as the fronts at higher speeds and in the opposite direction during low speed maneuvers. However, we noticed no particular benefit in either scenario." -- Consumer Reports
  • "Over long stretches of paved roadway, the RLX cruises effortlessly, almost serenely, as it absorbs bumps and blemishes and delivers a first-class luxury-car ride. The trick up its sleeve, however, comes when the road begins to twist and wind. Where other luxury cars might wallow, with tires squealing at every turn, the RLX carves through S-shaped asphalt like a scalpel-wielding surgeon who's late for his tee-off time … But it's the RLX model's Precision All-Wheel Steer coupled with Acura's Agile Handling Assist, which uses active braking to help keep the RLX traveling on the intended path, that really gives this big sedan its moves." -- Autotrader
  • "Though relatively nimble, the standard RLX doesn't have the taut dynamics of a BMW, Audi A6 or AMG variant of the Mercedes E-Class." -- Kelley Blue Book (2017)
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