Carmakers are masters of the cryptic catch phrase that means almost nothing but gets your attention and, they hope, prompts you to wander into their showroom to see what the fuss is all about.
For example, when Infiniti introduced its FX45 crossover a few years back, they described it as a “bionic cheetah” and well before that – in the early 1990s – when Jerry Hirshberger was this company’s head of design, he described the J30 as escaping “the tyranny of the wedge” in its stylistic approach. Nissan/Infiniti are probably the front-runners when it comes to quirky little nuggets of descriptive fluff.
But Acura isn’t far behind, and during the recent western Canada launch of the 2014 MDX crossover and RLX sedan, Darrell Matushita, Acura’s head of product planning in Canada, described the overall theme of the RLX as “inomama”, which is apparently Japanese for “at the will of the driver”. Uh-huh.
The made in Japan RLX replaces the RL and like its predecessor, is chock-a-block with engineering gizmos and electronic convenience features. Among other things, it will have a comprehensive safety system that prevents you from wandering out of your lane on the highway, getting too close to the guy in front of you, and preparing the car in the event of an unavoidable front-ender. This latter feature, and I quote, “visually alerts the driver when it determines that a collision with a detected vehicle is imminent”. Underway, it’s kind of eerie; you’ll be driving blithely along, and when a car appears too close in front, the car slows itself down, with no input from you whatsoever.
Acura has also toned down on the front grille treatment. The controversial chrome beak that drove a lot of buyers away has been integrated into a freer-flowing front end design and is much less off-putting than before. Still not a beauty queen, but definitely better.
And for audio-philes, the RLX has a “Krell” sound system that includes 14 speakers, magnesium tweeters, and bipolar power transistors….whatever they are. Manufacturers seem to be in love with designer audio systems these days….Rockford/Fosgate, Bose, Fender, Harman-Kardon, etc…and the Krell system marks the first time this company has designed an automotive application.
Power is up too. A revamped V6 engine now delivers some 310 horsepower mated to a six-speed automatic with an all-wheel steering aid that actually allows the rear wheels to “tilt” while powering out of a corner, for example….up to 1.8 degrees. Described by the company as “Precision All Wheel Steer”, strictly speaking, this is a handling enhancement and not an AWD system.
The new RLX is offered in three trim levels and prices start at $48,450, going up to $60,450 with all the bells and whistles.
Moving over to the MDX, this upscale SUV gets an all-new platform for 2014, and according to Acura, improved sound-deadening. This has long been one of Honda/Acura’s shortcomings: a loud ride and poor NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness). Apparently, thicker window glass and additional acoustic sound-proofing throughout the vehicle makes for a quieter ride.
The MDX has the same all wheel steering set-up as the RLX, with which it shares suspension components, and slightly better fuel economy than last year’s version….about 2.0 L / 100 km thriftier, according to Matsushita. This, despite featuring quicker acceleration times than before and a greater percentage of steel construction. Like its predecessor, it also has a full-time all-wheel-drive system.
If you want them, the MDX has all kinds of extras, including no less than six exterior cameras to provide a 360-degree view of your surroundings. What’s the point in that? Keeping tabs on the cars around you while parking, for starters, explains Matsushita. There are also goodies like a heated steering wheel, power tailgate, remote starter, heated second row seats, full leather interior and on and on. The MDX is an upscale SUV, and has all the accoutrements you’d expect in this market, including availability of the same safety system found in the RLX.
It also has its own catch-word, which, in this case is “earth dreams”. This refers to the MDX’ engine technology, which, says Acura, marries technology and efficiency to produce the cleanest-running V6 the MDX has ever had. It also has Acura’s variable cylinder management system, which shuts off up to half of the engine’s cylinder during highway driving, for example, to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy. Acura isn’t the only manufacturer to utilize this technology, but their system may be the most unobtrusive on the market. You literally don’t even notice it.
Manufactured in Alabama, the MDX will have a starting price of just under $50,000, going up to the mid-$60,000 range for the full-loaded Elite model. Both the MDX and RLX are in showrooms now.