Car Reviews

2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Review

By Jim Robinson

Oct 27, 2014 5 min. read

Article was updated 8 years ago

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2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD at a glance

BODY STYLE: Four-door, full-size premium sedan.
DRIVE METHOD: All-wheel-drive.
ENGINE: 3.5-litre V6 engine/electric motor with seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission front; two electric motors rear for a combined 377 hp, 341 lb/ft of torque
CARGO CAPACITY: 328 litres
FUEL ECONOMY:(Premium recommended) 8.0/7.5/7.7L/100 km city/highway/combined
PRICE: $69,990

2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid, the most powerful Acura ever

COLLINGWOOD, ON: Acura calls its flagship RLX Hybrid the most powerful sedan it has ever produced.

With the mating of a 3.5-litre gasoline engine, three electric motors and a potent lithium-ion battery, this full-size premium sedan easily leaves others behind at the stoplight.

But in real world terms, the ability to pass on the highway is (excuse the pun) electrifying.

When the engine/motors come together, the RLX takes off, but what impresses is the linear feel as you are pressed back into the seat. You can almost sense the building of torque through the steering wheel.

Try one and you will be surprised.

Officially called the 2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive) there?s quite a lot of thinking that went into the overall concept and design.

Acura says the RLX Hybrid is part of its ?Human Centered Approach? or more simply, the blending of what a human can do to make life easier and what a machine can do to make life richer.

If we take a little trip into Japanese culture, Acura wants the RLX to achieve two goals ? Takaburi (exhilarating) and Inomama (at the will of the driver).

Taking this one step further, the RLX SH-AWD Hybrid is aimed at providing V8-class performance (Takaburi) with four-cylinder fuel economy but not without the enjoyment of driving (Inomama).

So how does Acura do this?

2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Engine

It starts with a 3.5-litre direct injection V6 at the front in tandem with an integrated electric motor and seven-speed dual clutch transmission.

The engine alone produces 310 hp and 273 lb/ft of torque.

But at the rear are two, one-way clutch electric motors drawing on the lithium-ion battery producing a combined 54 hp and 108 lb/ft of torque for an overall 377 hp and 341 lb/ft of torque.

That results in a 2015 five-cycle fuel economy rating of 8.0/7.5/7.7L/100 km city/highway/combined, which is as good or better than hybrids at half the size not to mention luxury.

All this is displayed to the driver through the information display located at the centre of the main instrument panel.

At launch, only the electric motors at the rear drive the RLX.

Depending on how gentle you are, the range at moderate speed in my case was 12 km.

At that point if you switch to gentle acceleration, the engine drives the front motor and front wheels.

While all this is going on, the hybrid drive system is monitoring electric draw and engine/coast/brake regeneration harvesting for the most efficient of the onboard power sources.

Of course, you have to accelerate or pass at some point. So if you lay the hammer down, the engine and all three motors kick in to impress (at least me) with the acceleration.

When you get up to highway speed, the rear motors shut down and the engine drives the front wheels, which is pretty standard in most hybrids.

Where the RLX Hybrid differs is in the way the SH-AWD system deals with traction by using rear torque from the motors to generate its own turning force by actually changing the pitch angle to, in effect, create rear end torque vectoring.

Think of it this way.

You come into a right corner. The front engine and electric motor powers you forward.

At the rear the motors supply positive torque to the outside wheel and negative torque to the inside wheel.

That alters what is known as the Yaw Moment, resulting in what Acura says creates ?unique flexible control of rear torque (that) generates its own turning force,? meaning the car actually pivots on the inside rear wheel for a much cleaner and stable exit.

It sounds confusing, but it is completely transparent and it works.

The same system will be used when the Acura NSX supercar debuts later this year, but it will be swung around 180 degrees with the engine/motor/transmission at the rear and the two electric motors at the front.

With torque steering available at the front, the NSX looks to re-write cornering power.

On the RLX Hybrid all of this is displayed by a full color heads-up display that is very entertaining, but I found distracting. I didn?t look but I expect it can be turned off.

The packaging of the motors and battery is very discreet with the trunk (328 litres) able to swallow four golf bags whole and there?s even an under cargo floor storage tray.

This comes home in the rear seating area with knee room of 985 mm, which Acura claims is segment leading.

As there is no AWD prop shaft running from the engine to the rear, the intrusion on the back seat floor is minimal.

As the brand?s flagship, the RLX Hybrid abounds with the latest safety technology such as Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, and a truly nifty 360-degree surround system with no less than six viewing angles.

On the highway from Collingwood to Meaford on a wet surface my co-driver and I tried lane departure mode. Sometimes older roads with faded lines cause the cameras recognition problems.

But in this case, the RLK sensed what was going on and gently steered us back to the correct position between the lines.

On the inside, the choice of materials was top drawer, especially the way the hues of the leathers and woods complimented each other.

Price is $69,990 and it comes loaded. It's mixing hybrid apples and oranges but a roughly comparable Lexus GS450 Tech Package is $55,200 with a BMW ActiveHybrid5 costing $79,150.

The only problem with the 2015 Acura RLX SH-AWD Hybrid is the brand hasn?t been hooting its horn about how much this luxury sedan has to offer.

Acura, over to you.

2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Rear

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