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Auto blogTue, 19 Nov 2013 16:58:00 EST
Acura has endured a year of mixed reviews and middling sales for its new RLX flagship. Meanwhile, the Japanese automaker has been readying what may be the very best version of the car for its debut. Now the wait is almost over, as Acura will show its 2014 RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD at this year's LA Auto Show.
When it comes to dealerships in the spring of 2014, the RLX Hybrid will be the most powerful production car Acura has ever sold. The combination of a 3.5-liter V6 and three electric motors - a 35-kilowatt motor pushing torque to the front wheels and two 27-kW units feeding the rears - creates a total system output of 377 horsepower.
Those rear-end electric motors do more than just add power, they also drive the rear wheels without a traditional rear drive shaft and differential. This newest iteration of the Super Handling-All Wheel Drive calls upon the two rear motors to both drive and brake the rear wheels, vectoring torque in cornering situations for additional grip. All three electric motors make use of regenerative braking to feed electricity back into the system's 260-volt lithium-ion battery pack.
Good. But Good Enough?
Spoiler alert: The 2014 Acura RLX is a good car. But that shouldn't come as a surprise. Despite the fact that Acura is subject to a lot of criticism for things like its odd positioning in the automotive landscape, questionable styling choices in recent years, and the fact that, more or less, its products feel like lux'd-up Hondas rather than something truly unique, the cars have always been inherently good - decent to drive, nice to sit in and reliable to own. That's what happens when you ride that sort of "affordable luxury" line.
Because Acura's sedans don't really fit into any one definable segment, the brand hopes it can draw customers from a broader range who aren't necessarily dedicated to a certain marque. And while there's certainly rhyme to that reason on the more entry-level end of the spectrum, that proposition makes less sense as you move toward higher price points. (Have a gander at the Hyundai Equus, if you will.) On the other hand, Acura pulled data from a 2012 Strategic Vision survey that showed the number one purchase decision for luxury buyers last year was value for the money, with manufacturer reputation coming in at a close second.
The 2014 North American International Auto Show is right around the corner, which means it's high time we found out which cars and trucks would be finalists for the prestigious North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year awards.
The finalists - three in cars and three in three trucks/utilities - are dominated by American brands, with two-thirds of the finalists hailing from either General Motors or Chrysler (don't worry Ford, there's always next year), while outliers from Mazda and Acura can be found in each contest. Here now is the list of finalists for the big prizes:
2014 North American Car of the Year: