2018 Acura RLX: The Full-Size Luxury Sedan That Gets No Respect













Acura was the first Japanese luxury brand. Introduced to the US market by its parent company Honda in 1986, it was three years ahead of Lexus. After an auspicious beginning, the Acura brand has so far been unable to reach the top tier of luxury brands that now includes Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, and Lexus. The 2018 Acura RLX is the latest attempt to address this chronic shortcoming.

The Acura RLX was first released for the 2014 model year. It is the successor to the Acura Legend and the Acura RL. The current model represents the fifth model year of the first generation. The RLX has been given a mid-cycle refresh for 2018. Its competitive set includes the Audi A6, Mercedes-Benz E Class, BMW 5 Series, and Lexus GS.

Most Acura Vehicles Are Just Optioned-Up Hondas

The majority of the Acura lineup consists of restyled Honda platforms, with more luxury and technology added to justify their higher prices:

Honda Civic = Acura ILX

Honda Accord = Acura TLX

Honda CR-V = Acura RDX

Honda Pilot = Acura MDX

There are two exceptions: the Acura NSX mid-engined sports car (which is sold as a Honda in other markets), and the Acura RLX full-size luxury sedan, which has no counterpart in the Honda lineup.

What’s New On The 2018 Acura RLX

The most noticeable difference on the 2018 Acura RLX is the new styling. Gone is the much-derided “beak” of the previous RLX. The front end now features Acura’s new signature diamond pentagon grille, along with Jewel-Eye LED headlights and more muscular fender flares. There are also six new exterior colors. The interior has been upgraded. Traffic Jam Assist has been added to the AcuraWatch suite of advanced driver assistance technologies, which is standard equipment on all 2018 RLX models.

2018 Acura RLX Model Lineup, Drive Systems, And Pricing

There are two different Acura RLX models for 2018, with two completely different drive systems. The gasoline-powered RLX P-AWS has front-wheel drive and rear-wheel steering, and is mated to a new ten-speed automatic transmission. The RLX Sport Hybrid combines the gasoline engine with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and three electric motors (one in the front and two in the rear), effectively producing an all-wheel drive system.

The power output of the 2018 Acura RLX P-AWS is 310 horsepower from its gasoline engine. The RLX Sport Hybrid has a total system output (gasoline plus electric) of 377 horsepower, and uses a new, lighter 72-cell lithium-ion battery to store electrical energy. The gasoline engines in both models have the ability to deactivate three of their six cylinders to save fuel.

Pricing for the 2018 Acura RLX P-AWS is $54,900, with the RLX Sport Hybrid priced at $62,865.

Plus All The Luxury And Technology You Expect: Too Bad No One’s Buying

Of course, the2018 RLX also includes a long list of luxury appointments, high-end sound systems, sophisticated infotainment, and cutting-edge driver assistance technologies, but it doesn’t really matter. No one is buying high-end Acura sedans.

Why not? Because for the same price, you could buy (or more likely lease) a Benz, a Lexus, a BMW, or an Audi. Those brands have a status and cachet that Acura lacks. For calendar year 2017 through November, the Acura RLX sold 1,051 copies. This is against 45,927 of the Mercedes E-Class, and 35,915 of the BMW 5 Series. No contest.

And that is why Acura can make a luxury car that has more advanced technology than any of its competitors, and no one cares. It’s sad but true. You can drive it, you may like it, but would you sign on the dotted line? The numbers say no. Brand image matters. Unfortunately, Acura has none to offer.

About The Author

Stephen Fogel

Stephen follows the global automotive industry on a daily basis, including new model announcements, new technologies, sales trends, and the latest in "green" cars.