Saving money on gas may not be the only reason people buy gas-electric hybrid cars, but it does seem to be the first thing many mention when they extol the virtues of their green-oriented vehicles.
Eventually, after bragging about how many miles-per-gallon they get around town — 40?, 50?, 60? — they may bring up how they are “saving” the environment (though the impact on the environment may be greater than you might assume) or how they got tax credits from the government or how they like the bonus features like getting to drive in the HOV lane all the time or special parking privileges.
Contrary to the Super Bowl ad for the Toyota Prius, one thing you’re not likely to hear much about is how fun their hybrid is to drive. With the usual tiny four-cylinder gasoline engine and electric motor hooked up to a CVT (continuously variable transmission) for maximum fuel economy, the tradeoff is a reduction in performance.
There are, however, exceptions, and one that falls into that class is the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid sedan.
The hybrid version of the automaker’s flagship sedan actually packs even more punch than the gas-only model. That’s because the same V6 engine in the standard RLX is also under the hood of the Sport Hybrid, augmented by not one but three electric motors. A 35-kilowatt, 47 horsepower motor supplements driving the front wheels and two 27-kilowatt, 36 horsepower motors help drive the rear wheels in the all-wheel-drive setup.
That boosts horsepower and torque in the hybrid to a combined 377 horsepower and 341 pound-feet, respectively, over the 310/272 in the non-hybrid RLX.
The result: Edmunds.com clocked the Sport Hybrid’s zero-to-60 mph time at 5.4 seconds, nearly a second quicker than the gas-only model.
The other significant difference: The Sport Hybrid features a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that essentially operates as an automatic while allowing for manual selection of gears via paddle shifters. The gas-only RLX gets a six-speed automatic also with paddle shifters.
The Sport Hybrid gets that extra oomph while also producing better fuel consumption numbers than the standard RLX. EPA figures for the gas-only RLX are 20 miles-per-gallon city, 31 highway compared to 28/32 for the Sport Hybrid. Those numbers for the Sport Hybrid are lower than what you get from more mild-mannered hybrids and can be even lower depending on how much time you spend driving in “sport” rather than normal mode, but you have to sacrifice something to get that power.
One thing common to both the hybrid and non-hybrid models is that Acura has loaded up the RLX with lots of standard equipment plus two optional packages, the Tech (navigation with voice activation, AcuraLink services, perforated leather seats, blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, and lane keeping assist) and an Advance package. The latter includes a Krell premium sound system, remote engine start, surround view camera system, heated and ventilated front seats and heated rear seats, and parking sensors to aid in both parallel and vertical parking.
Such features as forward collision and lane departure warning, head-up display, driver and passenger 12-way power adjustable seats, electronic tilt and telescoping steering wheel, electric parking brake and also hold, push-button start, push-button shifter, power moonroof, and more are standard standard on the Sport Hybrid.
The Sport Hybrid comes with either the Tech package that brings MSRP to $60,970 or with the Tech and Advance packages for a total of $66,870.
What’s good about the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid: This is a hybrid that doesn’t act like a hybrid. It has an eye-catching exterior and high-quality materials were used in filling out the interior.
What’s not-so good about the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid: In addition to some fussy telematics controls, the trunk is small and more befitting a coupe than a sedan because of the location of the battery for the electric motors.
For a look at the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid and more details, check out the accompanying slide show.