Cayuga, ON – Acura recently invited me to the media launch of the all-new 2014 Acura RLX and the 2014 MDX. It’s always a great experience to be at a manufacturer-hosted event, but even moreso when said event takes place at a track. In this case, the launch involved my colleague and I to drive the latest flagships from the Acura brand at the Toronto Motorsports Park.
The RLX’s predecessor, the Acura RL, died a slow and painful death this year. Sales dropped to single-digits nationwide and dealers were forced to essentially give them away to get them off their lots. A shame really, because the RL with its 300 horsepower and SH-AWD was a thoroughly great car. During the technical presentation, we were presented with everything that makes the new RLX a wonderful machine. One thing stood out to us though; the car goes back to a front-wheel-drive setup with what’s known as “P-AWS”, which stands for Precision All-Wheel-Steering. Reminiscent of the Honda Preludes from a couple decades ago, the system slightly turns the rear wheels to help with handling. While neat from a gizmo standpoint, it’s no all-wheel-drive. It’s definitely not “super handling” all-wheel-drive either. It’s a noticeable hole in the admirability of the RLX too, because every single one of its competitors has all-wheel-drive as an option.
The Acura RLX is aimed right at the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the Audi A6, and most importantly, the Lexus GS. The top trim level, the Elite, comes with literally everything one would expect from a full-size luxury sedan. At just over $62,000, it comes with toys such as a Krell ultra-premium stereo, heated and ventilated seats, and a navigation system that’s actually user-friendly (unlike every other one made by Honda or Acura). All RLXs are powered by a 3.5L 310 horsepower V6 that Honda has branded “Earth Dreams” just like the Accord. They also all have jewel-eye LED headlights that I’m personally hoping become a trend just like BMW’s trademark angel eyes.
Acura also took advantage of this event to introduce the 2014 MDX luxury sport-utility. Despite not looking any different from the outgoing one, Acura decided to perfect the flaws that most people found with the last model. For one, they improved the fuel economy. I have a few friends with the last-generation MDX and they are regularly seeing 15L/100km or worse. Acura insists that this one can get under 9L/100km on the highway. Not a bad number at all, but I’ll have to wait till my actual road test to see what real-world figures I’m able to achieve.
A big front-wheel-drive luxury sedan and a luxury SUV aren’t exactly at home on the track, but we were pleasantly surprised at how capable these two were. Throwing the RLX around the corners in Sport mode with all assists off was an exhilarating experience no matter how you look at it. The car is very responsive in the slalom and tossable around every corner I threw at it. The MDX was awesome for a big SUV too; both my colleague and I had boatloads (pun intended) of fun with it in the corners.
Notable features on the MDX include a huge widescreen display on the rear-seat entertainment system that can do split-screen video. The SUV also has my personal favourite suspension; even though the MDX weighs as much as Noah’s Ark, the ride quality is positively awesome. I was fortunate enough to drive the 2012 MDX Elite to New York City last year and short of the full-size luxury sedans, there isn’t another vehicle on the road I would prefer for a long haul like that.
In my eyes, Acura was on a roll between the years 2004 and 2007. The TL of that vintage is to this day one of my favourite sedan designs on the road, the RSX was always one of my favourites in the segment, and the TSX with its snick-snick manual transmission was a classy choice for any young urbanite. Since 2009, I definitely felt as though the brand took a downward turn with their designs, but with these two new flagships (not to mention the RDX and ILX), Acura is definitely on a roll.
First Drive: 2014 Acura RLX & 2014 Acura MDX Gallery