Finally, an Acura you can take home to meet Mom

2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid

Type of vehicle: Five-passenger sport sedan with front- and all-wheel-drive, depending on which motors are working

Price as tested: $66,870

Fuel economy: 28 miles per gallon city, 32 highway

Weight: 4,350 pounds

Engine: 3.5-liter V-6 engine, supplemented by three electric motors for a net output of 377 horsepower and 377 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic

Performance: 0 to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds

Sources: Acura; Car and Driver

When I heard I would be getting a 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid, I knew it would be, uh, unique — and boy, it was.

Think of the RLX as the anti-Prius.

When Toyota spent billions to engineer the complex Prius gas-electric hybrid, it aimed for high economy and low emissions, both honorable goals.

Not only is the RLX more complex, it offers vastly more smiles per gallon than the Hush-Puppy Prius.

And best of all, I didn’t have to park it in a dark corner somewhere, away from children and small dogs.

Rather than relying on meat-cleaver styling, the new RLX leans heavily on unusual engineering to lift it above other midsize luxury sedans.

How about a V-6 engine combined with three — yes, three — electric motors?

That’s a hybrid with a gun in every pocket, though the silver-blue RLX I had recently didn’t look very sinister.

The big sedan kept Acura’s basic, familiar-shaped grille but flashed a shiny, easy grin, bordered by wild, reptilian-looking headlamps.

Although the sides were Japanese flat, a couple of high-stepping character lines gave the car some quirk.

One fairly conventional line above the door handles formed a slight shoulder, while a second whoop-de-do line zipped off the front fender, curving down below the first line and fading into the rear fender.

Long doors and a high trunk added more visual substance to the car, which seemed to draw styling influences from Subaru, Toyota and BMW. It kind of worked, though, helped some by extremely silver 19-inch alloy wheels wearing sporty 245/40 tires.


But the car’s most intriguing elements lie buried out of sight underneath the sheet metal.

Like standard RLX models, the hybrid gets a 3.5-liter V-6 engine, which is definitely a good start.

Acura then bolted in two electric motors to drive the rear wheels and a third motor for extra assist through the front wheels, which provide most of the propulsion.

The result was a hearty 377 horsepower and impressive 28 miles per gallon in a 4,300-pound sedan that can periodically be all-wheel drive.

If that strikes you as a vehicle that speaks in multiple tongues, I understand.

Sometimes, the X stepped away from stops in total silence, letting the rear electric motors do the work up to about 30 mph, when the V-6 would quietly step in.

Other times, the V-6 would be strutting on deck, ready to run and then would shut down as I backed off the throttle, again allowing the electric motors to do the pushing.

I never really knew what the front electric motor was up to.

But step hard on the throttle and the X’s seven-speed tranny would drop down a couple of gears — no awful CVTs here — unleashing all 377 horsepower with a surprisingly strong surge to 6,500 rpm.

In fact, the big, torquey sedan can blast to 60 mph in a highly respectable 5.3 seconds, according to Car and Driver, which is as fast as a BMW 535 sedan.

Technically, the electric motors also assist handling, using torque from one or both rear motors to push the car more cleanly through curves. But I never felt it. (I may not have thrown the X around hard enough.)

Though the car seemed pretty eager to play and powered into curves with modest body lean, it never felt as agile to me as the BMW or Lexus GS 350. Part of the problem was numb, thick steering, which gave the X a heavy feel.

Still, it was competent in curves and even better as a firm, roomy, long-legged cruiser.


Fortunately, I suppose, Acura saved most of its outbursts for the interior, where you can at least keep them private.

The black interior in mine seemed conventional enough at first, with a broad, deep dashboard and standard-issue hood over the instrument panel.

But I got lost in the large center stack protruding from mid-dash with not one but two display screens to look at. The bigger top screen provided most of the systems information, with cursed, distracting touchpads for tasks like tuning the audio system.

Even more baffling — though far more amusing — was the lack of a shifter. Instead, buttons controlled park, neutral and drive, while a switch handled reverse.

I don’t know the why on that, either.

But the seats were gorgeous, with smooth, rich-looking bolsters and perforated, sectioned centers. In addition, the back seat had more headroom and legroom than most taxis — er, Uber-mobiles or whatever.

Honestly, I couldn’t help but like this large, strange sedan with its ultra-21st-century powertrain, admirable performance and ample array of eccentricities inside.

I’m just not sure I could bring myself to pay $66,870 for something so high-tech — even if I had a real job.