Acura's flagship sedan gains a second, more powerful variant for 2015 with the addition of the Sport Hybrid SH-AWD model. Don't be fooled by this car's hybrid badging, though: rather than use electric propulsion exclusively to save fuel, the RLX Hybrid uses a trio of electric motors to enhance performance and improve the car's handling through the use of Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system.
One of the three electric motors is under the hood, where it's paired with a 3.5L V6 engine shared with the base RLX, and the other two are found at the rear axle, where they power each rear wheel independently. Put the RLX Hybrid into a corner, hit the gas and you'll actually be able to feel the effect of the hybrid system sending electric power to the outside rear wheel to counteract understeer and improve handling balance.
It's a shrewd use of electric power, but more importantly it gives Acura something closer to true flagship car, something it had been missing for some time. This is an underrated car that attracts little attention among upscale car shoppers, likely because it doesn't look at that different from the less-expensive TLX that slots in below it, which can be had with a more straightforward all-mechanic version of the SH-AWD system.
It also doesn't help that the RLX gets shopped against better-known sedans like the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and Lexus GS, all of which are offered in high-performance trims that make power the old-fashioned way, with big, sophisticated V8 motors.
That's a shame, because the RLX Hybrid is a strong performer, boasting total power output of 377 hp and 377 lb-ft of torque put to the road through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The RLX line starts with a base model using the 3.5L V6 on its own for power ratings of 310 hp and 272 lb-ft, along with a six-speed automatic transmission.
RLX fuel consumption ratings are 11.9/7.7 L/100 km for V6-powered models, and 8.0/7.5 for the SH-AWD model.
Standard features at the starting price of $49,990 include tire pressure monitoring, 18-inch wheels, agile handling assist, heated side mirrors, LED headlights with washers, LED taillights, active noise cancellation, ambient interior lighting, auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic climate control, capless fuel filler, electric parking brake, forward collision warning, Bluetooth, garage door opener, intelligent keyless entry, lane departure warning, multi-angle backup camera, power tilt-and-telescopic steering column, push-button start, 10-speaker stereo with Bluetooth streaming audio, 12-way heated front seats with lumbar and driver's seat memory, leather-trimmed steering wheel and shifter and leather upholstery.
A technology package ($55,990) adds 19-inch wheels, acoustic glass, 14-speaker stereo, AcuraLink connectivity, blind spot monitor, power-folding side mirrors, hard disk media storage, heated steering wheel, Milano leather interior and rain-sensing wipers.
Elite trim ($62,190) brings adaptive cruise control, auto-dimming side mirrors, collision mitigation braking, heated rear seats, ventilated front seats, upgraded stereo, lane keeping assist, parking sensors, power rear sunshade and manual rear side sunshades.
Finally, the SH-AWD model ($69,990) adds the upgraded powertrain, an electronic gear selector, reactive force pedal, exclusive wheels, LED fog lights, surround-view camera, head-up display and unique interior woodgrain trim.
This vehicle has not yet been reviewed