Acura RLX:

Acura RLX Sport Hybrid-Super Handling Wheel Drive – Dancer

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Early in its life, Acura was a brilliant attempt to establish an upscale Japanese brand that was a smart buying decision.  The Acura Legend and Acura Integra carried the brand at first with the Legend being a very rational buying desicion vs. a Mercedes 300 or BMW 525.

Unfortunately, Acura lost its way when it went further upscale and changed from using names for its vehicles to alphanumeric nomenclature.  This was a move that Honda insiders once admitted cost $1.5 billion in lost sales revenue and damaged the Acura image immeasurably.  At the same time the third generation of the Acura range topper was launched replacing the well-liked Legend.  This was the RL.  It had boring style, was heavy, slow and expensive.  It had completely abandoned the Legend’s Unique Selling Proposition.  Wags called it the “Ruined Legend”.

2014 Acura RLX Hybrid F342014 Acura RLX Hybrid R34The RL never caught on except with buyers heavily engaged in technology.  Adding the Super Handling All Wheel Drive System as an optional drive package helped handling, but was very heavy.  The engine did not have the oomph to handle all the weight.  RL sales slumped into the range of hundreds per month – an unsustainable level.

Now we come to the introduction of the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid in Spring, 2014.  The front wheel drive RLX was launched in early 2013 as a 2014 model.  The RLX is arguably better styled than the RL it replaces.  However, it is still a very heavy car (3,933 lbs base) and with its standard 310-horsepower 3.5L V6 it is a lot of weight to push around.  The solution?  Add a Sport Hybrid model as the new top-of-the-line RLX – the Sport Hybrid system adds 350-lbs to the weight of the car, but the power of the hybrid powertrain more than offsets the weight gain..

Officially, the hybrid is a mouthful – Sport Hybrid – Super Handling All Wheel Drive.  The hybrid absolutely transforms the car.

With one of the most technologically advanced powertrains in the industry, the RLX hybrid puts out a combined 377 horsepower.  Impressive.  We won’t go into the details of the technology much beyond the fact that it has Honda’s Earth Dreams Three Motor Hybrid System combining the RLX’ 310-horsepower 3.5L V6 with one 47-horsepower and two 36-horsepower rear electric motors.  The resulting 377-horsepower combined with the 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission makes the car into a dancer.

Think of Disney’s Fantasia.  The front drive RLX can be the dancing hippos in tutus.  The Sport Hybrid with SH-AWD plus DCT in sport mode becomes a completely different car.  A star.  The transmission downshifts in the blink of an eye anticipating what you want it to do.  Fantastic!

The Sport Hybrid adds equipment not available on the front wheel drive car:  larger front brakes, electric air conditioning, power distribution monitor added to the 8-inch color display, head-up display, Chestnut wood trim, premium audio system with 14 speakers, electronic gear selector, unique wheels, smoked chrome plating for grill.2014 Acura RLX Hybrid Cockpit2014 Acura RLX Hybrid Shifter

The front wheel drive base car gets 20/31/24 (City/Highway/Combined) mpg with a city range of 370 miles and highway range of 575 miles from its 18.5 gallon fuel tank.  The hybrid is rated at 28/32/30 mpg giving city range of 425 mile and highway range of 475 miles from its 15.1 gallon tank.  While the hybrid does get much better city fuel economy, its smaller fuel tank hurts its maximum range.  Clearly the hybrid in the RLX is about technology and performance, not maximum range.

While Acura has not released pricing the the hybrid, the 2014 RLX with the top of the line Advance Package is priced at $60,450, $12,000 higher than the base RLX.  Given this price range it’s reasonable to expect a price of between $65,000 and $70,000 for the RLX Sport Hybrid.  Given the dynamic improvement the hybrid system gives the car, this may be worth every penny.


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Honda Engines – Earth Dreams in Your Future

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EarthDreams LogoIt has long been said that Honda is first and foremost an engine company and everything it does is really just to sell more engines. It sells everything from motor bikes and generators to jet planes with cars in between.  Honda engines can be as small as 25 cubic centimeters used in lawn and garden equipment.  The engines we are interested in are Honda engines powering their cars, minivans and crossover SUVs.  The new evolution of Honda’s car and truck powertrains is “Earth Dreams Technology”.    Earth Dreams includes a range of engines and engine technology, CVT transmissions and hybrid powertrains and EV technology.  It is a comprehensive approach to updating Honda’s automotive powertrains in response to looming United States and global emissions regulations.

Engines for Every Application Focusing on Environmental Friendliness and Fun  The engine line-up goes from 660cc (in foreign markets – N-One and N-Box) to 1.5L, 1.8L, 2.0L, 2.4L and 3.5L.  In the USA, we find these engines in Honda’s lineup from Honda’s Fit (1.5L 4-cylinder) to Accord and from Acura’s ILX to RLX.  Earth Dreams technology improves efficiency with better fuel economy, and lower emissions while still providing fun-to-drive performance.

Three Sport Hybrid Drive Systems  There are three unique extra cost hybrid systems:  one-motor, two-motor and three motor systems.  Honda refers to them as “Sport Hybrid” systems.  The one-motor system uses Intelligent Dual-Clutch Drive (i-DCD) that combines a 1.5L DOHC i-VTEC Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder engine with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.  The two motor system is found in the 2014 Accord Hybrid using a 2.0L DOHC i-VTEC Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder engine with a CVT.  Honda calls this two motor hybrid Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD).  Coming later in the Acura RLX is the Super Handling All Wheel Drive three motor hybrid system.  Honda claims this “unique system achieves both fuel economy and superior driving performance at a whole new level by combining a new V6 3.5L direct-injection engine and a newly-developed 7-speed DCT system with a built-in motor, while enabling free control torque distribution to the right and left rear wheels through the use of two motors installed in the rear.”  From a company only having mild hybrids before, this onslaught of Earth Dreams hybrids in such a short period of time is impressive.

Continuously Variable Transmissions  Coming with the new engines and hybrid systems are new CVT transmissions.  Honda engineers state that the toughest challenge when developing the 2013 Accord was getting the CVT right.  It is used on all 4-cylinder Accords.  The key is to make the CVT feel more like a conventional automatic transmission with noticeable (but smooth) shift points rather than the rubber band feeling that many CVTs provide.  Honda says their new CVTs are 5% more efficient than other CVTs on the market today and 10% more efficient than a 5-speed automatic (who is using those anymore?).

Earth Dreams Electric Vehicle  There is even an EV in the Earth Dreams portfolio found in the Fit EV.

PHEV Accord  We can’t forget the 2014 Accord PHEV introduced earlier in 2013.  This top of the line Accord plug-in hybrid has stretched the technology in the Honda brand lineup by adding an EV system that provides an all-electric range of 13-miles and an MPGe fuel economy rating of 115MPGe.  EPA fuel economy ratings are 47/46/46 (city/highway/combined).  The recently launched Accord Hybrid (not PHEV) gets 50mpg in the city.

Powertrain System Naming Becoming the Rage  Earth Dreams may sound a bit hokey to customers, but Honda is not alone in naming their powertrain technologies.  Ford has EcoBoost.  Toyota has Hybrid Synergy Drive (for its hybrids).  Mazda has Skyactiv.  Nissan has Pure Drive.  Chrysler has Hemi.

 


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