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2014 Acura RLX Preview

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Mike Goetz
Flagship sedan reinforces brand's commitment to front-wheel drive
Los Angeles, CA - Acura’s new luxury flagship sedan, the 2014 Acura RLX, made its world debut at the LA Auto Show, and it is unapologetically front-wheel driven.

Acura’s main competitors in the luxury market tout rear-wheel drive as the chassis format to best achieve the driving fun and sophistication sought by upper-end luxury buyers.

“We believe [the RLX] will have better handling than many rear-wheel drive cars,” Jeff Conrad told us, immediately after the vice president at Honda USA, in charge of the Acura division, had the honours of unveiling the car on Acura's show stand.

2014 Acura RLX

Precision All-Wheel-Steer
He and his fellow executives are of that conviction because the 2014 RLX will debut Acura’s first application of Precision All-Wheel Steer. Acura is touting it as the world’s first technology to feature independently and continuous control of both left and right rear-wheel steering (toe) angles.

Actuators in each of the rear wheels make it happen.

The rear wheels can turn two degrees in each direction. For some situations the rear wheels will turn in the opposite direction of the fronts.

Acura feels it will give the 2014 RLX new levels of agility at all speeds, and in all situations.

Front-Drive Packaging
Furthering the handling story for the 2014 Acura RLX is the better packaging afforded by the front-drive architecture. Notes Conrad: “The exterior of this car is a little bigger than a 5 Series BMW, but the interior is the size of 7 Series. With the smaller exterior, it is more nimble, more toss-able.”

The 2014 Acura RLX is said to have the largest rear seat legroom (985.5 mm), and longest tandem seating distance (924.6 mm) in the mid-luxury class.

Chief Engineer
The chief engineer and project leader for the 2014 Acura RLX is Yousuke Sekino, who we spoke to via an interpreter (though we suspected he understood our questions perfectly).

We asked if they ever considered going rear-drive for the flagship model…

“We understand the benefit of the rear-wheel drive. We also know very well the benefit of the front-wheel drive. We tried to capture the benefit of both and combine it, and then create a totally new world. Not a rear drive. Not a front drive. Front drive, plus all-wheel steer. It’s a totally new value we’re trying to create,” Sekino stated.

We asked how the 2014 Acura RXL will get around the understeer associated with front-drive.

“In a front drive, the front tires have a lot of load on them, and produce a lot of understeer. But the rear tire has a surplus. Now we use the rear tires to [an] advantage. We’re trying to lessen the load on the front tire. There is almost no feeling of understeer,” explained Sekino.

We asked if the 2014 Acura RXL can replicate a rear-drive car’s pleasurable ability to put down all that power at the back of the vehicle, a push instead of a pull…

“[It] can’t. But I can tell you that because it doesn’t really use the front tires as much, [there is] more available for high power. The front tires won’t have as much wheel spin as [before],” said Sekino.

Direct Injection V6, and future hybrid
The 2014 Acura RLX also debuts the all-new 310-hp direct-injection V6, which can shut down a bank of cylinders to increase fuel economy. The RLX is expected to achieve city/highway/combined ratings of 20/31/24 mpg.

A version of the 2014 Acura RLX will debut later in 2013 with Acura’s new Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel technology. The extra electric oomph will net an effective 370 horses, while returning 30 mpg for all categories (city/highway/combined).
2014 Acura RLX
acura rlx 2014
2014 Acura RLX
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Mike Goetz
Mike Goetz
Automotive expert