Acura shows new flagship concept

  • 11-Apr-2012 07:15 EDT
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American Honda president and CEO Tetsuo Iwamura introduces the RLX concept at the 2012 New York International Auto Show.

Dan Carney

Honda Motor Co. routinely exhibits production prototypes labeled as “concepts,” and that was the case with the Acura RLX concept at the 2012 New York International Auto Show. The RLX will arrive in dealer showrooms in early 2013, according to the company.

Perhaps hoping that adding an “X” to the nameplate of the company’s slow-selling RL flagship will convey a bit of extra cachet, the company has stuck with its current formula of having a front- or all-wheel-drive, V6 powered, mid-sized sedan as its top-of-the-line model.

Continuing Acura’s reputation for technology, the RLX will feature all-wheel steering. The base car will use a 310-hp (231-kW) gasoline V6 engine driving the front wheels, with an available Sport Hybrid All Wheel Drive system that adds electric motors powering the rear wheels.

The 3.5-L V6 will be the Acura brand’s first direct-injected engine. (Honda debuted the technology on the four-cylinder Accord.) It drives through a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission.

The powertrain is similar to that seen previously in the NSX concept, but with the positions of the gasoline and electric drivetrains swapped. The combined power of the hybrid system will be more than 370 hp (276 kW), according to Large Product Leader, Yousuke Sekino. The car is forecast to achieve 30 mpg on both the U.S. EPA city and highway driving cycles.

The new steering system uses independent electric actuators on each of the rear wheels to adjust their toe as needed to aid cornering. Unlike previous all-wheel-steer systems from Honda, Precision All Wheel Steer will not steer the rear wheels opposite the fronts during parking maneuvers, Sekino said. “Parallel parking was awkward, so that is gone.”

Instead, the rear steering is meant as a driver aid, especially in adverse conditions. “On slippery roads or in snow the car will point where you want it to,” he said. “It will do what the driver intends.”

The car features the Amplitude Reactive Dampers first seen in the RDX crossover. The shocks feature softer damping for short suspension strokes for a comfortable ride and stiffer damping for longer strokes for maximum control.

The RLX uses increased percentages of high-strength steel and aluminum to trim curb weight to less than 4000 lb (1814 kg) in front-drive configuration, slicing about 100 lb (45 kg) from the car’s minimum weight. The front double-wishbone suspension is redesigned for improved ride and handling.

Infotainment and HVAC controls are managed by dual LCD screens, an 8-in display and a 7-in touch screen. Audio entertainment takes another step up from today’s ELS Surround system with a new 14-speaker ultra premium stereo. Other electronics typical for premium sedans will be included such as Collision Mitigation Braking, Lane Keep Assist, Forward Collision Warning, and Lane Departure Warning. A new AcuraLink two-way cellular telematics system provides airbag deployment notification, stolen vehicle tracking, remote door unlock, alarm notification, and concierge service.

The RLX is the same length as the RL, but has a 2 in (51 mm) longer wheelbase and is 2 in (51 mm) wider in both track and body width for more cabin space than the outgoing model.

Despite the added letter to the name, a similar front-drive V6 powertrain, similar exterior styling, and body size beg the question of whether the RLX will be able to break out of the sales cellar where the RL has languished.

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