LOS ANGELES — Tucked in the corner of Acura's portfolio, behind the hot-selling crossover duo of the MDX and RDX, the poster-worthy NSX hybrid supercar and the refreshed TLX sedan, is the lonely RLX.
The flagship luxury sedan of American Honda has fallen on hard times, not that it ever soared. Introduced for the 2014 model year, the RLX — starting at $55,400 — has sold fewer than 13,000 units total. This year has been particularly brutal: 619 sales through July, down 26 percent from a year earlier. Dealer inventories are at an all-time high.
With a refreshed model for 2018, Honda is looking to pump some life back into its premier car. The updates include new sheet metal at the front and rear, and Acura's new diamond-pentagon grille replacing the unloved metal-beak look. There are upgraded materials inside the car, a new 10-speed automatic transmission on the base V-6 version and a simpler trim structure.
But with so few sales and an abundance of ultra-sharp competitors in the segment from the U.S., Europe and Japan, why does Acura bother?