Driver's seat: '14 Acura RLX has a lot to love

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2014 Acura RLX: Episode one, Reviewer Smackdown.

Price: Oops. I said we were going to save about $30,000 over the previous two $70K+ models, and you can get an RLX for $48,450 base price. But my tester was $60,450 for the top-of-the-line Advance Package. The basics of the car remain the same.

Marketer's pitch: "Intuition unleashed by the will of the driver."

Conventional wisdom: says, "The 2014 Acura RLX has all the technology you'd expect in a midsize luxury sedan, but it's eclipsed by similarly priced competitors that offer a more polished driving experience and more elegant design."

Reality: Consumer Reports was as ambivalent as Edmunds. Me? I loved it.

No cheering in the press box? I try to keep my journalistic objectivity about even the fanciest cars.

And then I get an Acura. The ILX. The TSX Wagon. And, now, the RLX. I try and try to give them the brushoff. And all the other reviewers think it's just so-so. "Pressure's on, Sturgis," I think to myself. Especially when you Google my name and "New York Times" and the first page includes a Jalopnik headline noting I kissed a Honda body part that a multinational company couldn't possibly have.

But then I climb inside. And I'm left with notes like, "Everything is Acura beautiful and nice to operate and drive." Often, I pick up the notes weeks later, and I'm a more dispassionate observer. Not this time. Hey, I'm a kiss-up.

Driving: Owners of any trim level -- even the El Cheapo $48,000 model -- will get a 310-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 with a six-speed automatic and paddle shifters.

In sport mode, this thing is fast. Those 70 Grand Sedans were fast, but I'm talking Boss Mustang, pasted-against-the-seatbacks fast (Motor Trend reported 0-60 in 6 seconds).

Twisting: The handling is just superb. The sport mode puts it right up with the best of them. I enjoyed the winding country roads as much as just about any car, and certainly as much as in luxury/premium vehicles. The LS460 and XTS XSport seemed just cars in comparison.

Consumer Reports was displeased with the ride over the long haul, and I confess I didn't take any long trips like I did in the Cadillac or the Lexus.

Shifty: Paddle shifters? No shiftable stick? How disappointing. I got over it quickly. And it's no worse than the LS or XTS.

Outside: I called the exterior "pretty" in my notes, but looking back at the pictures, I'm not delighted. Acura took its understated designs of the late oughts and put them on steroids. Disappointing.

Inside: Beautiful, just like its more expensive "competitors." Wood trim, lots of leather (although this was the upgraded material). Driver comfort is superb.

The gauges are clear and easy to read, and visibility is excellent.

Saving a buck: So, let's say you only have 50 grand to blow on the RLX. Would you still enjoy it? You wouldn't get navigation, because that bumps the base price up to $50,950. But you're not going to buy an RLX and stick a Garmin to the windshield. So, save up the other couple grand.

After that, though, you're just skipping out on the Technology Package (rain-sensing wipers, folding mirrors and supercool dead cow); Krell Audio Package (wicked cool stereo, which I didn't even take note of) and power rear sunshades (Sturgis Kid 4.0 enjoyed them); and Advance Package (heated rear seats I'd miss, but not the adaptive cruise control).

And best of all? You won't be paying for the Lane Keeping Assist System. If you're ready to shell out $12,000 to have this thing beep and boop on every country lane or shifted-lane construction zone, save your money. This is best suited to, say, North Dakotans, who are in danger of falling asleep after not turning the wheel for six hours at a time, not for Western Pennsylvanians.

Two wheels: Both the LS460 and XTS VSport were all-wheel drive, while the RLX is front-wheel drive only.

Two, two, two LCDs in one: The RLX comes with two enormous screens. The top is dedicated to navigation. It's easy to read and clear.

The bottom operates heater and radio controls, and this is the most annoying part of the RLX, after the lane beep-booper. A few buttons and a dial help. But want to change the fan speed? It's on the screen. Where the air is coming from? Ditto. Radio station? Touch screen. It's all just too distracting.

Friends and stuff: The rear seat is about as roomy and comfortable as the LS460 and XTS VSport. Plenty of room for three across, and the center hump is not bad.

The trunk is big enough. And numerous cubbies hold plenty of conveniences close at hand. Console storage is beyond ample.


Scott Sturgis, a freelance auto writer, can be reached at First Published October 16, 2013 8:00 PM


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