Refreshed 2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD Review

I reviewed the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD in 2015, I took it on a road trip with a friend, I enjoyed driving the car and was very impressed with the small amount of fuel we used. The RLX is a large car, yet we were able to get the fuel consumption of a small car.

Last week we had our second go at this large sedan, which has gets a mid-cycle refresh with a bold new front end and a redesigned rear and minor changes on the interior.

Prices

Unlike 2015, in 2018 the Acura RLX is offered as a Hybrid only in Canada and only two trims are offered. The base, if you can call it that, is the RLX Sport Hybrid Tech, with a price tag of $65,490 and the RLX Sport Hybrid Elite is priced at $69,990, these prices do not include Freight & PDI of $2,045. Price for the top of the line Elite trim (the one we reviewed) haven’t changed since we last reviewed it three years ago.

Engine

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The 2018 RLX Hybrid uses the same direct injection 3.5 liter V6 engine as our previous review car, producing 310 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 273 pound-feet of torque at 4,700 rpm. The gasoline engine is assisted by 3 electric motors, bumping total combined output to 377 horsepower and 341 pound-feet of torque. One of the electric motors is placed at the front and the two at each of the rear wheels. Power is sent to all four wheels via a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters.

The three-electric motor system is like what the Acura NSX supercar uses. There is one 37 kilowatt (47 HP) motor mounted at the front, integrated into the transmission. This motor powers the front wheels when extra power is needed, it also regenerates electricity during braking/deceleration, and charges the lithium-ion ion batteries during normal driving. The other two motors, 27 kw (36 HP), providing power to the rear wheels and managing the electric torque-vectoring, these motors also regenerate electricity during braking/deceleration.

Driving

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Unlike your average hybrid car, the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD has more of an emphasis on the “Sport” than on saving fuel. However, even with all the power, AWD, and the weight of this car, it’s still impressively fuel efficient. According to Natural Resources Canada, the RLX hybrid should consume 8.4/8.2/8.4 L/100 km in city/highway/combined driving, the fuel consumption number seems higher than our 2015 review, however, a NR Canada changed how they calculate fuel consumption, a couple of years ago, bringing their testing closer to real world driving conditions. For our weeklong review, the onboard computer showed 7.9 L/100 km in mixed city/highway driving, which beats NR Canada’s numbers and is the same number I achieved in my 2015 review. I’m still very impressed with the performance and fuel consumption of this big car.

The Acura RLX Hybrid drives like a normal car, the transition between electric and gasoline power is seamless and I hardly noticed when/if the car was running on electric or gasoline power. Thanks to the torque from the electric motors, the RLX is very quick off the line and it goes very fast.

Driving the RLX Hybrid on twisty roads is also fun, thanks to the SH-AWD torque vectoring, the car handles very well on twisty roads. When you’re in a tight corner, just hit the gas and the outer wheels swing the car around through the corner, and with he 2018 RLX, you can see the extra power delivery to the outer wheels on the Head-Up Display. It’s quite fun watching which wheels are getting more power in corners (it might even be a little distracting). The RLX also feels very nimble, it doesn’t feel like the large car it is.

Driving around in the city in the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid is a very comfortable experience, the car drives very smoothly and because of its hybrid system, city driving is very quiet in electric mode. Driving on the highway, the RLX is a lot fun. Put your foot down and all the motors come to life, shooting you off accelerating forward like a sports car. It’s very fun to go fast in this car and you’ll be hitting 200 km before you even realize it.

Interior

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The interior on the RLX is luxurious, although it is very simple, and I’d say not as good looking as the competition. The interior is well put together with high quality materials and feels luxurious, but it doesn’t have the wow factor a $70k car should have in my opinion.

The interior features dual screens, with the top one displaying the navigation map and acting as a screen for the backup camera, and the bottom screen features controls for various functions like navigation, audio, climate, and phone.

The gauges are large and easy to read. On the left is the tachometer and the right is the speedometer, between the two gauges is a small TFT screen that can display different information. One of my favorite parts of the RLX is the small gauge at the left of the tachometer, this gauge shows how much battery power you have left, normally this is not something to write about, but this gauge on the TLX is an analogue gauge as opposed to an electronic display, the reason I like it so much is because it reminds me of a power reserve indicator on an automatic/mechanical watch, I just love seeing it go up as the regenerative brakes harnessed kinetic energy.

The seats are covered with Milano leather and are very comfortable, the driver and front passenger seats are 12-way adjustable with 4-way power lumbar support and two memory settings for the driver seat, the seats are also heated and ventilated. The back seats offer plenty of leg room and headroom but can only seat two adult passengers comfortably because of the hump in the middle, it could fit a child though. For 2018, the RLX is offered with Saddle Brown leather.

Styling

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The Acura RLX we reviewed previously had very conservative styling, Acura did spice things up a bit for 2018 with its signature diamond pentagon grill, with a giant Acura logo in the middle. The new grill does give the RLX more presence, combine that with the more sculpted hood, the front looks quite good. The rear also benefits from larger taillights. Overall, the design has been improved, but I think it still needs more of a wow factor.

Tech/Convenience Features

As the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD is Acura’s flagship model, it’s loaded up with the latest and greatest technology gadgetry, below is a list of what you can find in the car:

  • Head-Up Display
  • Forward Collision Warning
  • Collision Mitigation Braking System
  • Heads Up Warning
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Lane Keeping Assist System
  • Road Departure Mitigation system
  • Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow
  • Blind Spot Information System
  • Power windows with auto-up/down, auto-reverse and key-off operation
  • Power tilt and telescoping steering column
  • Push Button Start Ignition
  • Automatic Folding Mirrors
  • Keyless Access System
  • Multi Information Display
  • Multi-angle rear view camera with dynamic guidelines
  • Surround View Camera System
  • Cross Traffic Monitor system
  • Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition (8″ display)
  • Traffic jam assist
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring System
  • Heated Steering Wheel
  • Rain-sensing Windshield Wipers
  • Parking Sensors
  • Power Rear Window Sunshade
  • Bluetooth Connectivity

Overall Impressions

Like the RLX Hybrid I reviewed in 2015, I had a great time in the 2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD. It’s a fun to drive large car that’s quiet, has lots of room, it comes with a lot of tech gadgetry, it’s powerful, and it is also very fuel efficient. The styling may be conservative for some, but not everyone is looking for a flashy car.

For more information on the RLX, check out acura.ca.

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Faisal

When I'm not reviewing the latest cars, I'm busy checking out the latest gadgets and watches by the world's best manufacturers. Cars, gadgets, and watches... that's all a man needs to get through life.

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