Acura's aim with the RLX is to sidestep the headline battles in the midsize luxury contest and create something different. Instead of selling the biggest or fastest or most prestigious car in the class, Acura clearly wants to offer the smartest one. The RLX is a rolling showcase of luxury and safety technology on top of some very interesting powertrain and handling solutions.

Pricing and Equipment

A potential buyer faces a much simpler RLX order form for 2016 compared to last year.

  • The base RLX (to the extent that it can be described as such) has an MSRP of $55,370 and features a 3.5-liter 310-horsepower V6, a six-speed automatic transmission, and four-wheel steering.
  • The Sport Hybrid SH-AWD installs a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission in place of the traditional automatic and adds an unusual hybrid system with three electric motors -- one in front with the gas engine to drive the front wheels, and two with constantly varying torque management for the rears. Add everything together and you have 377 well-managed horsepower under your foot. Sticker for the SH-AWD starts at $59,950.

Buyers can step up to the Advance package on either RLX for an extra $6,000. It adds everything from a surround-view camera to a sound system developed by the masters at Krell Industries.

Performance Pros

Acura RLX

The rear-wheel steering of the standard RLX adds a rousing sense of control and edginess to the car's feel when making time along curvy roads. That very complex hybrid system in the SH-AWD goes further, precisely metering out power to each wheel and boosting performance and handling to levels at odds with the car's discreet styling.

  • In everyday situations we find the RLX to be a serene and soothing way to go from place to place.
  • Fuel economy is among the best in the class. The SH-AWD, in particular, mixes plenty of power with gas mileage that compares well with the German diesels.
  • The RLX is one of the safest cars on the market. A comprehensive bundle of contemporary high-grade safety features is standard, and it has posted top scores in every industry crash test.

Performance Cons

In normal driving the RLX can feel a bit distant and characterless, more like a well-processed computer simulation than a real-world machine.

  • We consider straight-line performance in the regular RLX reasonable for day-to-day use, but don't expect to outdrag your colleagues if they drive more common (and muscular) competing marques.
  • The rear-wheel steering can feel a bit odd at first, and the almost magic torque vectoring in the SH-AWD hybrid likewise requires some acclimation to its unusual near-the-limit responses.

Interior Pros

Acura RLX Interior

Given the serious amount of tech contained in this car, we are impressed by the clean and uncluttered dashboard presentation. Large touchscreens display important information clearly and are backed up by well-placed buttons and dials.

  • Interior materials are as good as, or better than, anything in the class.
  • The fantastic Krell sound system almost justifies the high tab for the Advance package by iteself.

Interior Cons

In the same way that the rest of the car can sometimes feel like a computer model of luxury-car traits, the interior comes off as a well-dressed but somewhat dispassionate place to spend time.

There is ample space for legs and hips in the rear seat, but headroom is compromised by the sloping roofline.

The Most Pleasant Surprise

It's startling to feel how well this large, slightly anonymous sedan handles when we get serious on a twisting road. Whether it's the standard four-wheel-steer RLX or the deeply trick torque-shifting SH-AWD, this car knows that it wears the name that occasionally showed up on Ayrton Senna's visor.

The Least Pleasant Surprise

Acura's Tomorrowland ambitions apparently don't include ambitious styling. All this -- the chassis trickery, hybrid thrust and computer-managed luxury -- is wrapped in sheet metal that lacks distinction or drama.

The Bottom Line

If you believe that "think different" is more than just an advertising tag line and want a bit of roadgoing sparkle underneath your very tranquil and reserved luxury sedan, the RLX is a compelling alternative to more obvious options.