It wasn’t too many years ago when $30,000 was the launching pricepoint for purchasing an entry-level luxury car. Now, $30,000 is about the average price of a new car in the United States.
So what should a consumer expect from a car with a starting point of just under $50,000?
That’s the beginning price of 2014 Acura RLX, the new medium-sized Acura luxury sedan. It replaces the RL as the carmaker’s top sedan, and it’s firmly positioned against a few heavy-hitters — the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Lexus GS 350.
And like its rivals, the Acura RLX has a lot to offer with a variety of trims, powerful engines and enough plushness and superior touches to make it hard not to like.
For starters, it has a 3.5.-liter V6 with 310 horsepower. There are faster sedans, but the new Acura has a steady powerful growl of authority while accelerating. It only took a brief learning curve, and once I realized there was power on demand, the RLX won me over.
There are lots of small, but important features on the new Acura RLX I really like:
* Retractable and tilting side mirrors. Turn the ignition off and the side mirrors fold nearly flush at the sides of the car; And when in reverse, the side mirrors tilt down for a better angled view of the curb;
* Lights under each of the four door handles. It gives the Acura a classy look at night and, of course, it’s a keen safety feature;
* Full-sized back window shade screen and small shade screens on the two rear side windows;
* Newly styled “Christmas tree” headlamps. They look authoritative coming at night.
* Spacious seats, leg room and head room in the front and rear. The RLX is classified as a mid-sized car, but it has as much room as larger categorized sedans.
* The dashboard dials have clean, handsome white numbers reminiscent of the faces of fine wristwatches;
* A full slate of control functions and tucked away paddle shifters on the steering wheel;
* Turn signal indicators and nearby traffic warning sensors on the upper right and left corners of the front door pillars;
* The storage console between the front two seats. It opens in myriad clever ways;
* With all of the optional packages installed, the new Acura tops out at more $61,000 with destination charges. There’s no other way to look at it — that’s a lot of money;
* The interior design is attractive, but what’s the dash material? Shouldn’t it be better quality for the car’s pricepoint?;
* The Acronym P-AWS . . . It stands for Precision All Wheel Steer. It’s the cheep-sounding name for the Acura system that allows the rear wheels to steer independently. The system, in development for five years, just doesn’t seem to make much difference.
* Two displays for the navigation system, sound system and the way-too-detailed technology package features;
* The straight-on rear view of the RLX is clean and handsome, similar to a BMW. Angled views of the exterior rear look like the car is unfinished.
Facts & Figures: 2014 Acura RLX
Curb Weight, 3,933 pounds
Driving Range, 370 miles (city), 573.5 miles (hwy)
Drive Type, Front wheel drive
Engine, 3.5 liters, V6, 24 valves
Fuel, Premium unleaded (required)
Fuel Tank Capacity, 18.5 gallons
Gas Mileage Estimates (MPG,City/Hwy/Combined), 20/31/24
Manufacturer’s website, www.acura.com
MSRP range, $48,450-$60,450.
Warranty, bumper to bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles; Drivetrain, 6 years/70,000 miles; Roadside, 4 years/50,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited mileage.
Transmission, 6-speed Shiftable Automatic
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words
“I don’t know of any lousy luxury cars. And the new Acura RLX is far from lousy. In fact, it’s a fine cruising machine. But in a car segment in which BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Audi rule, the RLX will have a difficult time finding a substantial share of the market.”