• Same V6 engine as front-wheel-drive RLX
  • Torque-vectoring electric drive for rear wheels
  • Expected 30-mpg combined fuel economy

The front-wheel-drive Acura RLX, the automaker's flagship sedan, is already on sale nationwide. But the latest, all-wheel-drive version of the RLX makes its auto show debut at the upcoming LA Auto Show. The 2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD uses the same V6 engine as the front-drive RLX P-AWS, but adds batteries and electric motors to the powertrain. Acura expects the RLX Sport Hybrid to deliver better fuel economy than the P-AWS version.

In fact, Acura says it expects a 30 miles per gallon combined fuel economy rating for the RLX Sport Hybrid. That's a significant 25 percent improvement over the front-wheel-drive RLX, which is rated at 24 mpg combined. The hybrid RLX will be more powerful, too. Total system output, including the output of the electric motors, is 377 horsepower. By comparison, the front-wheel-drive RLX P-AWS delivers 310 hp.

The 2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid earns its power and efficiency advantage through its hybrid technology. The system adds three electric motors and a battery pack to the 3.5-liter direct-injection V6 and 7-speed automatic transmission powering the front-wheel-drive version. As in the nonhybrid RLX, the V6 drives only the front wheels. An electric motor drives each of the rear wheels, and the third electric motor generates electricity using the engine's power. The RLX Sport Hybrid is not a plug-in vehicle.

Having an electric motor drive each of the rear wheels allows torque vectoring on the rear axle. That simply means that, as the driver maneuvers the RLX Sport Hybrid through a corner, one of the motors can deliver more power than the other. The technology is sometimes seen on sports cars that use conventional power. Its application using electric motors is simpler because it requires no mechanical component to divvy up torque.

While the 30 mpg combined fuel economy rating is attractive, it's important to note that Acura expects that figure to be the 2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid's fuel economy rating across the board -- in city, highway and combined driving. While it's a big improvement for city and combined driving, it's actually a fuel economy penalty on the highway. The lighter, front-wheel-drive RLX is rated at 31 mpg highway.

What it means to you: For several years now, automakers have broadened the appeal of hybrids by offering sportier vehicles that use the technology to deliver more power while still improving efficiency. This all-wheel-drive version of the RLX is one of the latest hybrids designed for performance and fuel economy.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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