Acura, hoping to rebrand itself and shore up sagging sales, on Wednesday unveiled its new RLX flagship sedan at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
The luxury brand of Honda Motor Co. has lived in the shadow of Toyota’s Lexus division, the top Japanese luxury nameplate, and the German premium brands such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
It hopes the RLX, as well as the NSX supercar it plans to offer soon, will carve out an identity for Acura and lure buyers to its showrooms.
“We needed to sharpen the focus of the brand and bring greater awareness to Acura, because we have fallen off the radar screen of a lot of shoppers,” said Michael Accavitti, marketing chief for the Acura and Honda brands.
As the flagship sedan, the RLX is an important launch for Acura, because it sets the standard and direction for complete turnover of the brand’s model lineup, he said.
Acura sales peaked in 2005 at 209,610 but have dropped steadily, to 123,299 last year. Sales are expected to rebound to about 150,000 this year.
The RLX is a stately sedan with a gentle “S” curve across the side body panels, which Acura hopes will distinguish the car from its Honda cousins.
Powering the RLX, which will go on sale this spring as a 2014 model, is a new 310-horsepower direct-injected V-6 engine that’s expected to get fuel economy ratings of 20 miles per gallon in the city, 31 on the driving and 24 combined. Honda has not provided specific pricing, but said the car will start at less than $50,000.
Later in 2013, Acura will offer a RLX all-wheel-drive hybrid version with a drivetrain that produces 370 horsepower and expected fuel economy ratings of 30 mpg for all conditions.
The RLX will offer safety features including lane departure warning, forward collision warning and automatic braking, as well as adaptive cruise control that keeps the vehicle at a constant distance behind other cars and blind spot information systems such as a rear-view camera.
The sedan also features what Acura is calling “Precision All-Wheel Steer.” It offers independent and continuous control of the left and right rear-wheel steering angles to enhance handling agility in a front-wheel drive vehicle.
“The 2014 Acura RLX heralds the introduction of a number of new signature Acura technologies that provide the driver a feeling of connection to the product and to the road,” said Jeff Conrad, vice president and general manager of Acura Sales.