2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Ups the Ante for Electric Motors

The hybrid system uses one gasoline engine and three electric motors

Hybrid vehicles have been available since way back at the turn of the twenty-first century, and the technology could be considered mature. Few people question its feasibility or resale value anymore, or the longevity of the batteries. Hybrids can even seem stodgy and tame, especially in the face of shiny new technologies like pure electric vehicles or hydrogen fuel cells.

But Acura isn’t willing to let hybrid technology become the pleated khaki pants of the automotive world. Its 2015 RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD marries the conventional gasoline engine-electric motor setup we’re accustomed to with another set of twinned electric motors at the rear wheels. Why bother? Two words: torque vectoring.

Say you’re going around a curve to the right. Torque vectoring is the vehicle’s ability to accelerate the outside right wheel to help you get around that corner fast and clean. Often in modern cars, this is done mechanically. Because of the RLX’s two rear motors, though, it can apply both positive torque (drive) to the outside wheel and negative torque (regeneration) to the inside wheel electrically. You get the performance benefit of torque vectoring and the energy recapture benefit of regeneration.

The Sport Hybrid system uses the most efficient mix of all these engines and motors to deliver the power the driver is asking of the RLX while being as fuel-efficient as possible. That means it can start with only the rear motors engaged, cruise on the highway with only the gasoline engine at work, or bring the whole system online when you mash the pedal to pass a poky semi truck. According to the numbers, the system has a total of 377 hp and an EPA combined fuel efficiency rating of 30 mpg.

The system becomes mesmerizing when you can watch it all play out from the driver’s seat using the heads-up display. The wheels and power train float in front of your eyes with blue or green arrows designating power being used to propel you forward or regeneration taking place as you decelerate. The trick is to remember to watch the road, not the animation as it changes according to your (probably by now inattentive) driving.