Has Acura built the ultimate high tech road trip vehicle? It took driving 3500 kilometers to decide the answer to this one… Yes. Yes, it is.
July was pretty haywire. Career transitions. Priority re-assessment. Psychotic neighbours. It was relieving to reach the finality of spring and the step forward into summer’s sunshine. As life’s demands multiply, there’s only one way to escape the city’s maddening warcry. You have to drive. Drive as far as you can.
For this little campaign, my lovely partner Madaline Zanni and I drafted up an ultimate Canadian road trip: Hit the Trans Canada Highway for an Ontario to Quebec, then New Brunswick to PEI.
Traditionally, road trips reek with stale memories of cramped space, roadside “timeouts”, and the memorable scent of sweaty humans. Sitting in a car for more than 6 hours is generally reserved for two types of travel groups: a grungy road trip with your motley crew – usually done in your 20s – and fun-filled family excursions with your energetic kids. I don’t know, call me pampered, but at this stage in your life where you’re making good money and demand a level of suitable luxury, we tend to fly more than drive. You’ve officially realized time is the more important commodity and 2 hour flights trump 20 hour drives at any feasible price point. Fortunately, our pals at Acura helped put those precursory thoughts behind us with style and comfort.
The need is simple: we need driving technology to help make really long road trips tolerable.
The car of choice? The 2015 Acura RLX. This all-wheel drive sedan has enough bleeding edge technology to make Stark jealous (well, maybe). The four-door sedan mimicks the movements of a silent ninja, cutting through the wind like a sharp blade. When you hit the gas, the devilish growl will have you sneering in excitement. Packing a V6 engine/electric motor and 377 hp, this $69,990 hybrid is easily one of the best cars Acura has ever built.
So we packed up our suitcases and hopped into our future-ready automobile, with our compass set east.
While the total travel time of this road trip is 17 hours, we simplified things by taking a last minute hotel stop in Quebec City at Hotel 71, using the Hotel Tonight app. A much needed luxury break after 8 hours on the road. Although we arrived a bit late, we did get to take in a bit of Old Quebec’s scenic alleys and city views, followed by an evening of dinner and drinks at Le Pub du Vieux Port.
We left early the next day, zipping by the thick green forests towards New Brunswick for an additional 6 hours. I’m originally from Saint John, NB, so a lengthy stay with the ‘rents was both mandatory and well-appreciated. When the weather cooperated, the beaches were a nice way to break the day up, followed by an overindulgence of Maritime mainstays such as donairs, fish & chips, lobsters, mussels, and oysters. For seafood, you can’t go wrong @ $9/lb lobsters off the ships, or for a more intimate evening at Grannan’s or Billy’s for the abundance of great seafood. Oh, and make sure you take a walk through the boardwalk to the Saint John Ale House. Literally anything you order will rock: steak & frites, blueberry beers, even the darn buttermilk chicken fingers are a blast.
With three hours on the Google Maps timer, we headed across New Brunswick towards the Confederation Bridge to PEI. While Madaline had PEI on her bucket list since she was 8, I hadn’t been on the little island in over 28 years. It’s obvious that some parts of the world are far more impactful when you’re mature enough to enjoy it.
We had a microsuite set up for the weekend in Summerside, PEI at Hub 223; a sleepy yet vibrant little town that held some magnificant gems, including an exceptional barbershop fittingly named The Humble Barber and the best donair we ever ate at A1 Pizza. It also served as the perfect launchpad to all the lovely things PEI has to offer: a plethora of both popular and hidden beaches, fresh oysters straight from the shores of Malpeque, and the ever popular home of Anne of Green Gables. More on PEI in the next post: The Beach Road Trip on the Island.
After feeling the full reboot of small town life, we took the road home with a bit more driving confidence. Excluding a stop in NB to say g’bye to the parents, we did the full 14 hours to Toronto, leaving Saint John at 8am and arriving in Toronto at 10pm. First thing we did? Street meat. You can’t make real hot dogs without the airy scent of city pollution (but don’t quote me on that).
With nearly 100 hours of driving experience under our belt, including 34 hours of highway driving, we’ve identified 10 awesome reasons why the Acura RLX is the optimal choice for the high tech road trip.
1. Premium gas without the premium pricing.
One of the biggest surprises I had was how solid the electric hybrid feature was. While the Acura RLX does require premium gas, the tank rarely needed to be filled in the city thanks to the integrated electric motor. However on the highway, it took 2.5 full tank stops to drive 1700 kilometers. At a fuel economy rating of 8.0/7.5/7.7L per 100 km in combined city/highway driving, I could guestimate the one-way cost at around $120, flat.
2. The RLX is (almost) smart enough to drive for you.
The 2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid includes two unique features: Lane Keeping Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control.
Lane Keeping Assist utilizes the network of cameras that surround the vehicle, watching for the highway lines on the road, turning the vehicle with the road. While the technology isn’t perfect enough to confirm Minority Report to be a complete reality, it works incredibly well while driving just under the speed limit in lanes that are bordered by solid yellow and white lines. Sharper turns still need your trusty hands, but your hands are on the steering wheel at all times, right?
Adaptive Cruise Control works a lot like proxy bidding on eBay. Wait, let me explain.
Imagine setting a maximum speed – for fun, lets say something over the speed limit at 120 km/hr. If there’s nobody in front of you, cruise control operates as cruise control does, keeping you in at 120km/hr. But as soon as you catch up to a car in front of you, the RLX will engine break to keep you at a comfortable distance from the car in front of you – if they’re going the New Brunswick speed limit, you’ll go steady at 110km/hr. If you’re ready to pass ’em, change lanes and the RLX will automatically speed up. If you’d like to stay behind and follow, the RLX will keep your speed in check. You can even set how comfortable of a distance you’d like to stay behind them.
Combine these two features and well, your car is pretty much driving itself. You might even find yourself managing the drive rather than actually driving. Just don’t get too comfortable, because you should always keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes glued ahead.
Oh, speaking of keeping your eyes glued ahead..
3. There’s a holographic speedometer inside the windshield.
Just like 2Pac was able to grace us with his Machiavellian 3D presence, the Acura RLX includes a holographic heads-up display for the driver. This allows you to keep your eyes on the road and an idea of how fast the car is going. It also does other cool stuff like hybrid monitoring and volume adjustment, but keeping your eyes focused ahead is about as safe as you can get it. By the way, when’s the next holographic concert?
4. Eyes everywhere. Literally, everywhere.
Tried to count how to many cameras there are around the car. I think there’s eight. It allows you to see nearly every important angle you could ask for. An overhead view of your car so you can watch all four sides for nearing vehicles and creepy people hiding in your blind spot. Cameras on your two front wheels to see how close to the curb you are, which is very important in narrow streets like in Quebec. There’s also standard cameras in both the front and rear. It’s like a central command station in there. Or like the Architect in Matrix Reloaded. But waaaay less confusing to understand.
5. Got valuables? Privacy mode activated.
In nearly every road trip, there’s always the occasional pee break, roadside nap, or overnight stay that will usual lead to your next great concern: OMG, all my travel junk is in the backseat! No worries. Assuming you hadn’t already tinted out your RLX, the backseats have manual privacy shades while the rear window can automatically close up shop like the Skydome. While it’s nowhere along the lines of limo-tinted, the piece of mind is a nice touch.
6. Spaciousness – it’s not an SUV, but it’s nearly as comfortable as one.
While it’s standard practice to take an SUV over a sedan for lengthy road trips, it’s more than enough for 2-4 people to take a trip across the country. The trunk space can fit four solid luggages. The backseat is spacious enough to have companions sit in style and comfort too. However if you really need that SUV space, word on the street is that the 2015 Acura MDX has similar technology too..
7. Those high quality tunes, man!
The top end RLX includes Knell audio speakers, which help give better clarity and boom to your music. Couple that with the USB ports for either Bluetooth or USB music streaming on Spotify and you’re laughing. Actually, you might not be laughing if you streamed music for the whole trip. Tip: Download your music on Spotify offline in advance before hitting the road, or you’ll burn through your data fast. Hello there, unwanted $150 cell phone bill!
8. Temperature + Technology = Ultimate Comfort
Got some temperature sensitive passengers? Every passenger, including the driver, front and rear passengers have separate climate control. However the front two seats get cooling seats that push cool air through the perforated leather seats to keep your tush freshly ventilated.
9. Emergency measures: ENGAGE.
Imagine you’re passively driving a long dark stretch of road, paying little attention to the road until bam: there’s a deer in front of you. This happens a fair amount in the Maritimes along with the occasional moose crossing, which is probably the terrifying thing you’ll ever drive towards at 110km/hr. The RLX has a solid automatic braking system that flashes wild warning signs and attention-grabbing beeps to get you to arrêtez. Not fast enough? That’s cool. The RLX will just slow down or stop for you, while pulling your seatbelt snug so you don’t get end up flopping all over the place. When things get sour, the RLX’s got your back, bro.
10. It just makes things easy, so you can focus on the fun part of road trips.
The bells and whistles that help complete the 2015 Acura RLX is what really differentiates basic luxury vs. luxury. The lit door handles illuminate when you’re near the door, for when it’s dark on the campgrounds. The keyless entry & driving allow you to get-in-and-go without thinking. The auto-connected Bluetooth is snappy. It just does everything exceptionally well.
Strap on an Android Wear watch and sync your calls and navigation to the car at an instant. Open Google Maps and point where to go, and the watch will assist with turn-by-turn navigation so your eyes can stay stuck to the road. Wearing the LG G W100, I was able to observe directions and take calls with my peripheral vision. It just made it easy.
While we were excited to get back to the city and get on the grind, we were pretty bummed to return the vehicle. It was easily the best Acura I’ve ever driven – neck to neck with the Acura RDX to be exact. Looking back at the road trip, it’s safe to say choosing the Acura RLX was the best choice; just imagining driving 17 hours each way without the extended features gives me the shudders. Ultimately, it didn’t even feel like we drove 3, 6, 8, or 14 straight hours – with the help of inventive technology and smart thinking, we were able to have more fun jamming to high quality music, get trapped in deeper conversations, and most importantly, taking in the incredible scenic views that Canada has peppered across the country.
Yo Acura. Thanks.