Luxury mid-size sedan
Acura launched the latest version of its mid-size sedan for 2014, giving owners the choice between conventional and hybrid power, all while packing in plenty of high-end features for a reasonable price. Previously known as the RL, this generation was renamed the RLX in line with other Acura vehicles. 2020 marks the final year of the model in North America.
A flagship premium sedan without the premium price tag to match, the RLX deployed numerous technologies to give drivers a pleasingly smooth and quiet motoring experience to go with plenty of space, safety, and connectivity.
All models offer a suite of advanced safety features including collision alert, lane-keep assist, and plenty more. Notably, the RLX earned top crash-test scores from industry authorities, helping it stand out as one of the safest sedans on the road. Feature content includes climate-controlled seats, automatic lighting, active noise cancellation, a premium stereo system, LED lighting, and plenty more.
Many owners suggest that a newer second-hand RLX is best, citing a recalibrated suspension that came online for 2016 and various revisions for 2017 that saw improved standard safety feature content. From 2018, a restyling added more dramatic looks, too.
Standard models got a 3.5L V6 with 310 hp, an automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive. Four-wheel steering was included. The Sport Hybrid model and its so-called Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive is preferred by many owners for its use of a hybrid powertrain that cranks output to 377 hp, reduces fuel consumption, and ditches the four-wheel steering.
What Owners Like
Owners typically report top levels of comfort, quietness, fuel efficiency, and luxury from their RLXs. Many say the car looks upscale but understated, and flies under the radar compared to flashier alternatives. The RLX came with an appealing price and feature content combination when new, and this seems to have translated well into the used marketplace, too. By many accounts, this is an easy, comfortable and very relaxing car to drive.
What Owner’s Dislike
Some owners wish for more straightforward and responsive operation from some of the electronics and menu systems, while others wish for a bit more flair from the RLX’s style or driving experience – especially from front-drive models.
A common complaint is a rougher-than-expected ride on city roads, though this relates specifically to earlier front-drive versions of the RLX. Avoid a model with up-sized wheels – and pay careful attention to tire pressure and condition – to help mitigate ride quality issues on 2014 and 2015 models.
Pro Tip: Dealership Inspection
Plan an inspection in a dealer setting. In any form, the RLX is a highly advanced car with plenty of high-tech features and systems, including an available hybrid driveline, all-wheel steering, and various advanced safety systems.
A key factor towards worry-free ownership? Having the vehicle inspected by a qualified Acura technician before you buy. With a check for any outstanding software updates, safety recalls, and a full electronic diagnostic scan coming up with satisfactory results, you’re well on your way towards worry-free ownership. Do not underestimate the importance of this step; a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) by a qualified technician is one of your best defences against potential headaches.
Pro Tip: Be Patient
If you’re set on an RLX, shop patiently. Sales volumes of this machine were very low, and selection in the used market is fairly limited.
The Test Drive
If one or more of the sensors powering the RLX’s safety systems is acting up, you’ll see a warning light or message illuminated on the instrument cluster. Be on the lookout. Fixing a non-functional safety system often requires a simple software reflash or reset, or some recalibration of the computer network that controls them. Dealers can perform this work fairly quickly.
In some cases, non-functional safety gear may be a sign of component damage, computer module failure, or something else. You’ll want to know before you buy. At least one safety recall deals with recalibrating the forward collision sensor on certain RLX models for improved safety. Ask a dealer service advisor for more details.
A weak or dying battery may cause similar problems with non-functionality of various features. Though they can be dramatic, many owners have stopped annoying electronic issues by replacing the RLX’s battery with a newer one at the first sign of trouble. Here’s some more reading.
Noisy Air Conditioner
Some owners have reported an unpleasant sound from the RLX’s HVAC system in certain situations. The sound may resemble a moan or whistle, and become louder at higher revs. Check the A/C system by running it, quieting the cabin, and listening for any unwanted noise.
If you notice any noises, have a dealer look up Technical Service Bulletin 13–026, which may provide easy instructions for a fix, involving replacement of one of the lines in the A/C system, with a revised refrigerant valve. Here’s some more reading.
A Reminder About Brake Noise
Car brakes have built-in provisions that create an annoying scraping or squealing sound to tell driver’s when it’s time for a new set of brake pads. Other causes of brake-related noises are also possible.
In the RLX, some owners have reported unwanted sounds from the brakes of their vehicle that come and go, likely as the result of a piece of debris becoming lodged between a brake rotor and a nearby shield. While cruising at various speeds and braking at different intensities, listen carefully for any signs of unwanted noise from the brakes.
If you notice any, have a technician investigate. The fix may involve the simple removal of the offending debris, or a full brake job. You’ll want to know before you buy.
Triple-Check the Ride
Some owners have complained about a rougher-than-expected ride on earlier units from this generation, and others have not. Front-wheel-drive models are most suspect.
In any RLX you’re considering, spend some time on the roughest road you can find and assess ride quality for yourself. Avoid a unit with up-sized wheels for optimal comfort. This is a luxury flagship car, and it should drive like one. Note that a rough or noisy ride may also indicate some wear to one or more suspension components. A technician should assess the vehicle if you have any concerns.
Some owners have reported other issues that test-driving shoppers should be aware of. At highway speeds, listen carefully for any sign of air leakage from around the windows, doors, inner door handles, rearview mirrors, or sunroof. Though relatively inconclusive, some owners have had dealers adjust or replace various components, including weather seals, to quell unwanted air leaks.
You’ll also want to try the premium stereo system at high volume, confirming that all speakers sound clear and vivid. Be on the lookout for unwanted interior panel rattles and audio distortion, which may require further attention.
Finally, carefully check the area beneath the floor of the trunk for signs of water leakage after removing all interior panelling. If you notice any signs of mould, moisture, or standing water in the trunk, you’ll want to have a professional investigate or move to another unit. This is a very rare issue.
Though some earlier models from this generation may suffer from a rough ride and weak batteries, most owners report few issues that can’t be easily remedied with a dealer software update. Based on our research and numerous reports from the owner’s community, the RLX Sport Hybrid, or a 2016 or newer front-drive model are likely your safest bets.
Here’s a list of recalls.