2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Quick Take
In 2017, Acura managed to sell a little more than 1,200 RLX models. For comparison's sake, Honda sold 377,286 Civics last year, meaning it takes a little more than a day for the Civic to outsell the RLX. Currently, the RLX has a 140 days’ supply, meaning that it'd take Acura that many days to sell all the RLXs it currently has in stock. That's a long time.
In a vacuum, the 2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid we just drove is a pretty solid luxury sedan. It offers up a roomy and comfortable interior for four passengers, with room for a fifth straddling a large center tunnel in the middle of the floor. There's ample trunk space. The audio system from Krell sounds utterly amazing. Everything you touch, see, and use feels as first rate as, well, anything you want to mention. The styling refresh last year gives it some visual pop as well, moving it solidly away from the oversized Accord profile cut by earlier models.
High tech hybrid
It's high tech, too. The Sport Hybrid system saves on gas, yes--we saw around 26 mpg in mixed driving, pretty good for a 310-horsepower 4-door luxury sedan--but its real job is to give this big car moves you wouldn't expect. The gasoline engine provides most of the power, augmented by an electric motor in front, and one for each rear wheel. The upshot is that this powertrain consists of four entirely separate power generation units; it can move under electric power by the front wheels or rear wheels, or a combination of both. It also uses the gasoline engine in conjunction with all those electric motors. In a corner, the system sends power to the outside rear wheel to help power the car through corners. It works as beautifully and invisibly as you'd hope, and the RLX corners in a way that's simply uncanny for something its size and character.
The Sport Handling all-wheel drive is more than a neat trick, it's potentially game-changing technology that's appeared in the MDX Sport Hybrid and, believe it or not, the new Acura NSX. Yet the technology isn't enough to save the RLX from its overall blandness. The gripe list is mostly limited to the infotainment interface and its lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, aside from that there's little it does wrong. It's just boring, and "good but boring" doesn't cut it against competitors like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series, Lexus GS, or even the Genesis G80 sedans.
It's a shame to see what's otherwise a competent and nice driving sedan languishing on dealer lots, but it's also an indicator of how competitive the luxury sedan market has become that something as generally nice as the RLX remains an also-ran. Let's hope that the next-generation RLX--if there is one--simply blows us all away.