In its heyday, Honda's Acura brand succeeded where names like Buick, Lincoln and even Chrysler once thrived, luring modestly wealthy buyers with the promise of Honda quality and luxury accoutrements. In the past few years, Acura stumbled amid tougher competition, production delays and the unfortunate styling choice of a grille with a massive chrome fang. But with sales rising again, Acura will launch a new flagship, the 2014 Acura RLX, designed to gently reassure its fans that the troubles are far behind.
Based as always on the underpinnings of the new Honda Accord, Honda engineers ran the Acura playbook: take the Accord and add gadgetry. The RLX's 310-hp V-6 is a tweaked version of the 278-hp version found in the Accord, good for 20/31 city/highway mileage. While there's no rear-wheel drive, Acura did revive the idea of four-wheel steering, along with suspension and chassis tweaks. And Acura has loaded the RLX with every electronic service it could conjure, from an updated AcuraLink telematics service to lane departure/warning/shepherding alerts.
Acura banished the beak with the new edition, but it also took any sense of adventure away from the RLX's style. Blandness has never been a strong objection among Acura buyers before, and the RLX will be rewarded for being as outlandish as a morticians' convention. Like other automakers, Acura vows its dealers will offer "concierge" services that will somehow warm the hearts of fence-sitting buyers -- but raising their pulse will have to wait for the 370-hp hybrid version due later in 2013.