Acura RLX Canceled, Never Achieved Legendary Status
Acura is dropping the large RLX sedan from its lineup after the 2020 model year, bringing to a close 35 years of flagship car-building dating to the marque’s inception in 1986.
That year, American Honda was the first Asian automaker to launch a luxury brand in the U.S. The sporty Integra spawned a rabid enthusiast fan base, while the luxurious Legend paved an inspirational path for Nissan and Toyota, which brought Infiniti and Lexus to the U.S. nearly half a decade later.
Not to be one-upped by the 1990 Infiniti Q45 and Lexus LS, Acura doubled down on its penchant for performance, and the redesigned 1991 Legend coupe and sedan remain desirable cars almost three decades later, especially in pristine original condition, and with the rare manual gearbox.
For the 1996 model year, Acura decided to chase Lexus. The legendary Legend name was shelved in favor of 3.5 RL, the sporty 2-door coupe got the ax, and the 4-door sedan adopted styling more anonymous than a municipal library. Sure, the Acura 3.5 RL was plush and comfy, but the magic was gone.
Acura attempted to right this wrong with the redesigned 2005 RL. Adventurous styling, a powerful V6 engine, a new torque-vectoring Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system, and new technologies like Bluetooth and automatic emergency braking, the ’05 RL was arguably the most performance-oriented Acura flagship ever.
And then “the beak” arrived, affixed to the RL’s already prominent nose like a third-grader’s art project.
By the time the Acura RLX replaced the RL for the 2014 model year, the car’s fate was sealed. No amount of drivetrain sophistication, or value for the money, or a booming American economy could attract large luxury sedan customers to Acura showrooms. Even after Acura replaced “the beak” with an attractive diamond pentagon grille for the 2018 model year, luxury car buyers failed to take notice.
Acura is not the only Asian luxury automaker struggling in this segment. Infiniti long ago canceled the original full-size Q45 and has now dropped its midsize Q70, leaving the Q50 to serve customers looking for a car with four doors. Lexus sells few LS sedans, and just canceled its midsize GS model. Genesis heavily refreshed its 2020 G90 flagship, but the jury is out as to whether the changes will make a difference in terms of sales.
Moving forward, the redesigned 2021 Acura TLX will carry the luxury sedan torch for the company. With styling rooted in the sensational Acura Precision Concept sedan and showcased in the Acura Type S concept, the new 2021 TLX promises to put the brand in closer touch with its roots. There will even be a Type S version for enthusiast drivers.
Just don’t expect a return of the Legend.
The information in this article is sourced from Acura, Infiniti, Lexus, Wikipedia, and the author’s experience and opinions. It was accurate as of May 15, 2020.