Starts from the interior, the Acura RLX starts to show its value.
There are two things catches your eyes the first time you entering RLX’s cabin:
1. the 2 LCD screens on the dashboard
2. large percentage of the interior panels (door, dashboard, center console, armrests etc.) are wrapped in genuine leather, with fine stitching
I would like to expand the discussion on the above two points, because they represents the current trend of how automobile industry is evolving in the near future.
First is about the LCD screens in the RLX. One of them are touch screen, primary for controls for audio and climate settings (Acura calls it to be “On Demand Multi-Use Display”); another one, which sits on top of the dashboard, is the main display for navigation and other information. From most new car models which are released recently, we can feel more and more information technology stuffs appear in automobiles. Obviously, Acura is following this trend.
Previously, some luxury cars do not have LCD screens; now, even the Corolla comes with LCD touchscreen and navigation as standard.
The one who is standing at the frontier of this trend is the Tesla Model S, which deletes almost all physical buttons, and integrates everything into a huge 17-in LCD touchscreen.
I will discuss more about the RLX’s electronic features in section 3 of the review.
Next is the leather-wrapped interior. For the price range around $50k, currently non of RLX’s competitors offer such extensive treatments to the panels. For example the Mercedes-Benz E350/E550 sedan still use plastic for the whole of its dashboard; and for BMW 5-series, you need to go all the way up to at least the 550i to get part of the dashboard wrapped with leather.
On the other hand, leather-wrapped dashboard is no longer a luxury-car-only thing this year. For example, the new Mazda 2 also comes with full leather-wrapped surfaces on both the dashboard and the door armrests.
The fierce competition in the budget-priced car markets has forced many auto makers to put many nice features, which previously are only offered in luxury cars, into their new “cheap” cars as standard features. For Mazda 2: full-leather-wrapped dashboard? – checked. For Corolla (starting at LE trim): navigation? – checked; keyless entry/engine start? – checked; moonroof? – checked; synthetic leather seating surface? – checked; LED headlights? – checked; backup camera? – checked; automatic air conditioning? – checked. Pretty much everything you can think of to be related to “luxury”, they have it now. Therefore speaking of the interior features, it becomes harder for luxury cars to have advantages over “cheaper” cars nowadays.
From my personal observation, compared to the latest budget-priced new cars, currently the interior of luxury cars just use the same kind, but better materials. For example, luxury cars has better leather, better plastics, or better LCD resolution. However this is not a real advantage, because this “better” term depends on personal aesthetic, which is very subjective. Actually I heard some people said things like “I don’t like Ferrari’s interior”, from time to time.
Therefore at this moment, luxury cars need to offer something which “cheaper” cars do not have. One new stuff I can think of is the self-driving functionality, but obviously the technology progress is still lacking behind as of today.
One advantage that the RLX over other competitors is its interior space. Because the FWD layout which does not require a wide transmission tunnel, and also the passenger cabin can be extended more forward to the front of the car, the RLX offers spacious interior that other RWD mid-size sedan cannot offer.
The front footwell has lots of room, you will never feel the side of the transmission tunnel pushing against your right foot, which is a typical case for RWD cars.
The front passenger side also has spacious leg room and hip room.
The rear legroom is far more better then rivals from Mercedes, BMW and Audi. Rear seat passenger will not has the cramped feeling during long-distance road trips.
There are sufficient spaces between the front driver seat and the B pillar. In the IIHS side crash test, the RLX got a result of -16.5cm – I think this is just OK, not exceptional.
Many tiny details are paid attention to, which reflects the Japanese craftsmanship and build quality. For example, the underside of the front seats are nicely shielded by high quality materials.
Panels are put in tightly with uniform, minimal gaps.
Pay attention to how seamlessly the outer side AC vent is installed, and the material quality of the AC vent module.
The boundary of different leather pieces on the dashboard naturally and perfectly extend to the door panels.
Front this angle, see how the whole dashboard is wrapped with leather.
Almost the whole inner panel of the doors are covered with leather.
Oddly enough, our 2014 model year RLX does not come with the wood trim as standard, and we looked into the option sheet, the most Acura can offer on the 2014 RLX is a “simulated wood trim”. On places where you think should have wood, there is plastic trims covered with a layer of clear coat. This is the rear door, also mostly covered with leather.
For the 2015 model year, it looks like wood trim (or simulated wood trim) is standard on all RLX.
RLX also treats rear seat passenger well. It has rear seat AC with adjustable cold/heat air feature.
And the rear seat is comfortable.
In the next section, I will talk about the RLX’s interior electronic features, controls and storage.