• 2016 Acura RLX Hybrid
  • 2016 Acura RLX Hybrid

Road Test: 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid

Not Your Typical Hybrid

2016 Acura RLX Hybrid, engine

The sporty heart of the Acura RLX hybrid

The 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid sedan isn’t your typical hybrid. For one thing, it puts out 377 horsepower and 341 lb.-ft. of torque, while scoring an EPA 30 mpg Combined score. It’s all-wheel drive. And it’s loaded with luxury, safety, and entertainment features, too.

Hybrids combine a gasoline engine with an electric motor to increase fuel efficiency. The RLX has not one but three motors. Two are in back, replacing the drive shaft and rear differential; each is 27 kW. Then, there’s a third, 35 kW motor up front. A 260-volt lithium-ion battery powers them and accumulates energy generated by regenerative braking.

Big and Loaded

The RLX is Acura’s largest sedan, its flagship. It’s imposing on the road, and wears today’s styling while remaining somewhat anonymous and subtle at the same time. The Jewel Eye LED headlamps are a slim row of ice cubes—an Acura exclusive.

The RLX is a full-size car inside per the EPA’s measuring tape, and it feels like it, too. The padded, undulating interior design flows from door to dash to door, enveloping you in fine Milano leather and handsome wood trim.

Dual Screens

2016 Acura RLX Hybrid,interior

The Acura dash is loaded with tech

You can view your audio, climate, and hybrid settings on a high-mounted eight-inch screen. There’s a second seven-inch touch screen below it to make selections. Essential information such as speed is projected onto the windshield in a head-up display. There are the traditional gauges too.

Like most hybrids, the RLX shows you a diagram of where the energy is coming from and where it’s going, so you can monitor your driving efficiency. With two screens, you can be watching that while you make selections from the wide range of audio choices.

My Crystal Black Pearl tester was a top-level car with The Tech and the Advance Packages, so it was packed with various features and upgrades. It even had a 14-speaker Krell audio system. Krell is supposed to be one of the world’s finest—but I’ve never heard of it or seen it in a vehicle before.

Unlike many Japanese-brand sedans, which are built in the United States, this car is a product of Japan. That probably doesn’t make any difference today.

The Hybrid Difference

Part of the goal of a hybrid is to achieve better fuel economy and environmental performance than a regular car. Let’s check the numbers. The 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid earns EPA fuel

2016 Acura RLX Hybrid

Sporty on the road , but thrifty too

economy numbers of 28 City, 32 Highway, and 30 Combined. I averaged less—24.5 miles per gallon—and I’m not sure why. The green scores (also from the EPA) are a matching 7 for Smog and Greenhouse Gas.

The non-hybrid RLX is EPA rated at 20 City, 31 Highway, and 24 Combined and has a 6 for Smog and a 5 for Greenhouse Gas. So only the Sport Hybrid earns the coveted EPA Certified SmartWay designation. The Sport Hybrid saves you $350 a year in fuel costs, while emitting 297 grams of CO2 per mile versus 378 for the regular car. So—it makes a big difference.

For efficiency and quietness, the RLX Sport Hybrid uses Idle Stop (Honda’s name for its start-stop system) technology, which turns off the engine when you’re stopped. It also features a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Having more gears means a better match for different driving conditions, and dual-clutch means it switches instantly to a preselected gear. You control the transmission not with a lever, but with a slim row of differentiated buttons, freeing up room on the center console.

A Connected Car

2016 Acura RLX Hybrid,logo

The Acura flagship

The 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid gets Acura’s next-generation AcuraLink cloud-based connected car system. It gives you all the media, security and convenience features you could ask for, from Aha streaming to AcuraLink real-time traffic reports.

You’d expect a flagship car to be loaded to the gunwales with safety features, and it is. You get collision avoidance and some assisted driving capability. For example, there’s the lane departure warning system to inform you and the Lane Keeping Assist System to gently nudge you back across the line if you’re momentarily distracted. You also get blind spot Information, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning. It all works together, so if you’re distracted by the entertainment features, the car will help keep you on the road.

A Luxury Car Price

2016 Acura RLX Hybrid, Jewel Eye headlights

Jewel Eyes looking out for you

The RLX Sport Hybrid with the Advance Package will set you back $66,870, including the $920 delivery fee. The Sport Hybrid with only the Tech package looks about the same, but lacks the Krell

audio, remote engine start, heated steering wheel and rear seats, auto-dimming side mirrors, power rear sunshade, and other Advance package goodies. It retails for $60,870. The standard RLX, minus the hybrid features, starts at $55,370.

The RLX is Acura’s fighter in the mid-luxury sales battle. Facing European, Japanese, Korean, and American competitors, it’s trying to carve out a niche for itself. It just may be the most efficient—for its size.

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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

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About Author: Steve Schaefer

Steve Schaefer has written a weekly automotive column for 26 years, testing more than 1,250 cars. Now, he’s focusing on EVs and hybrids. Steve remembers the joy of riding in his father’s Austin-Healey. After discovering the August, 1963 issue of Motor Trend, he became entranced with the annual model change, and began stalking dealers’ back lots to catch the new models as they rolled off the transporter. Coming from a family that owned three Corvairs, Steve was one of the first Saturn buyers, earning him a prominent spot in their 1994 product catalogue. To continue the GM tradition, Steve now has a Chevrolet Bolt EV. Steve is a founding member of the Western Automotive Journalists. Recently, Steve became a Climate Reality Leader, trained by Al Gore, and is focused on moving to EVs and 100% renewable energy. Read his EV/hybrid blog at stevegoesgreen.com.

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