Bigger isn't necessarily better, even in the luxury realm, but it figures to be a key persuader for Acura's new RLX.
Unveiled at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show, Acura's new front-wheel-drive flagship will roll into showrooms sometime next spring with 38.8 inches of rear seat legroom, a dimension Honda's luxury division characterizes as best in class, and big improvement on the current RL, which has drawn persistent complaints for its snug rear quarters.
The RLX should also roll with more vigor and improved mpg, thanks to its SOHC 3.5-liter SOHC 24-valve V-6 engine. The 3.5 replaces the RL's 3.7, and while its displacement is identical with that of the 3.5 V-6 in mid-size TL sedan, Acura says there is no commonality. The new engine is all-new from top to bottom, and includes direct fuel injection—a first for any Honda corporate V-6.
Output goes from 300 horsepower for the outgoing 3.7-liter to 310 for the new direction injection engine, tops in the Acura powertrain inventory. The engine will be paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, and Acura expects fuel economy ratings of 20 mpg city, 31 highway, an impressive increase from the RL's current 16/22.
P-AWS and SHSH-AWD
Acura loves its system acronyms, and the RLX entails a couple new ones that the division's engineers see as dynamic trumps versus sports sedans such as the Audi A6, BMW 535i, Lexus GS350, and Mercedes E350.
We'll see the P-AWS—for Precision All-Wheel Steer—system first. It's Honda's third attempt at steering both ends of the car. Previous four-wheel steering setups—the mechanical system on the 1988-1991 Honda Prelude, and the electric system on the 1992-1p96 Prelude—drew ho-hums in the market.
But the new P-AWS system, which alters rear toe settings as a response to cornering demands, is a definite dynamic , according to Acura, and will have a higher take rate since it will be standard equipment.
The other alphabetic collection refers to the new Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system, due sometime next fall.
Like the much-ballyhooed Acura NSX supercar, the system will include a 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission and employ electric motors in two of the car's wheels—the rears, in the RLX—to add punch when the driver demands. Total system output will be 370 horsepower, according to Acura, and Honda anticipates fuel economy ratings of 30 mpg city, 30 highway, 30 combined.
Risky styling is rare at Honda, and Acura has taken no risks with the new RLX. The new sheetmetal is smooth and sleek, but unlikely to turn heads. On the other hand, the big greenhouse and relatively low cowl add up to excellent driver sightlines, and the LED headlamps—"Jewel-Eye headlights," in Acura-speak—lend drama to the front end.
The RLX body shell is composed of 55 percent high-strength steel, according to Acura, as well as substantial stretches of aluminum—door skins, hood, and decklid. The net is a bigger flagship sedan that weighs in some 275 pound lighter than its predecessor.
To fortify its luxury credentials, the new car's interior is a festival of premium materials, soft-touch surfaces, an 8-inch nav screen, 7-inch info screen with touch controls, the next generation of the Acura Link infotainment system with enhanced telematics, classy stitching in the leather dash and seats, a USB-port, terrific audio with the option of even more terrific (the 14-speaker ELS Studio system), and a number of measures aimed at reducing ambient noise levels from the RL's already quiet interior.
Acura had nothing official to say on the topic, and won't until the RLX is headed for showrooms. But one insider said the base price would "probably be a little more" than the RL.
We read that to mean about $50,000.