Acura RLX and Subaru Impreza
Acura RLX| Starting price: $54,000
Acura’s flagship RLX remains both a supremely comfortable and surprisingly athletic vehicle. The model continues development with the addition of a host of safety features, and newer, bigger wheels.
Having a winning entry, Acura has refined but not radically changed RLX. Starting at around $54,000, the RLX stays with the Acura tradition of form-follows-function, and is a wonderfully useful vehicle that is satisfying to drive and elegant to spend time in.
The RLX is classed as a luxury midsize sedan competing with E Class Mercedes, BMW 5 Series, Cadillac XLS and Lexus GS. Its cabin, however, is noticeably more spacious and seems somewhat larger than the competition.
The luxury grade materials on the interior are very well done. The seating comfort and driver’s position are very good. Technology abounds and is deftly woven into the normal operation of the vehicle. Desirable items such as navigation, Collision Mitigation System, Lane Keep Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control add joy to the drive. A Krell super audio package, an electronic gear shifter and power sunshades for rear passengers are also available. The surround view camera offers a 360-degree bird’s-eye view of the vehicle and the heads-up display informs the driver while under way.
The vehicle is powered by a highly refined 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 310 horsepower and mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Acura’s 3.5 has the rare combination of delivering both large quantities of useful power and excellent fuel economy. The engine has ample torque right from idle and can sprint to 60 miles an hour in 5.9 seconds! The car’s Variable Cylinder Management system allows it to run on just 3 cylinders and the transition is totally indiscernible to the passengers.
The Sport-Hybrid SH-AWD model adds a hybrid system designed for performance. It comes with an All-Wheel Drive setup to help tame those horses plus super handling (SH). This system has intelligence on all four wheels and the beefy RLX handles much better and more nimbly than you would normally expect something this size and dignified should.
The EPA fuel economy rating is 20 city and 31 highway with a combined 24 mpg number. My week of testing averaged 24.8 and I was not light on the gas pedal. Because of the hybrid system in the upscale SH-AWD model, even though it has better performance, it also gets better fuel economy.
Unlike other hybrids, this adds a healthy dollop of performance to the RLX. The 3-motor hybrid system delivers a whopping 377 horsepower and features a 7-speed dual clutch transmission. Fuel economy is rated at 28/32 city/highway.
The RLX is a car that owners can easily fall in love with. It is accomplished in many areas. Luxurious and sporty, passive and aggressive… in a positive way! Prices range from about $54K to $65K.
Subaru Impreza| Starting Price: $19,000
Subaru has successfully built a loyal customer following over the years. Its highly rated vehicles are known for their inclement weather off-road capabilities and their reliability. The Impreza compact sedan recently got a major refresh and offers a broad array of choices.
So how does the Impreza compare with the pillars of the compact sedan world, the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla? The answer is, quite well.
One big change this year is that the Impreza is entirely new underneath. All Imprezas are now built on Subaru’s new Global Platform, which means that it has 70 percent more torsional rigidity and 40 percent more crash-energy absorption compared to previous models. Safety has always been a Subaru hallmark, and the new platform delivers. Other Subaru vehicles will follow.
Being a Subaru, the Impreza starts out designed and equipped differently from other vehicles in its class. The biggest difference is the drivetrain. All Imprezas are equipped with Subaru’s famous all-wheel drive system. That means from the same vehicle platform and drivetrain, Subaru can offer a broad array of vehicles. The “standard” Impreza competes with most compact sedans except that it comes standard with an all-wheel drive system.
The fuel economy is just a touch lower than its competitors due to the extra equipment, but the car can do things and go places that most of its competitors can’t. The highly capable off-road XV Crosstrek (which also includes a hybrid to the Subaru line) is an Impreza derivative. Additionally, two Impreza performance models — the WRX and the WRX STi — are also offered.
Another significant differentiator is Subaru’s horizontally opposed, Boxer (flat) 4-cylinder engine. This design provides more power and because the engine is flat and sits low, the car has a lower center of gravity and therefore better handling. This year, the 2.0-liter engine gets direct injection and an increase of four horsepower, for a total output of 152 horsepower.
Exterior updates give it a slightly more grown-up aesthetic, though it holds onto its fun, counter-culture styling. It’s slightly larger than before and includes more refined features on the inside as well. As always, the Impreza is offered in either a 4 door sedan or a 5 door hatchback. Trim levels include base, premium and luxury. All models come with a Linetronic CVT automatic transmission to handle the power. While manual transmissions aren’t yet in the works, you can opt for paddle shifters on higher trim models. The “standard” and XV Crosstrek Imprezas are fitted with a 2.0 liter 148 horsepower 4-cylinder engine. The performance WRX models have a turbo and a power rating of 268 horsepower. The WRX STi — which is basically a street legal rally car — has a more aggressively tuned turbocharged 2.5 liter with 305 horsepower.
No matter which variation of Impreza you opt for, you won’t be disappointed. Its all-wheel drive capability and reputation for reliability set it apart, but it’s also just really fun to drive. I’ve driven all the Imprezas and every one of them excels in its niche.
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