It’s been nearly three decades since it burst onto the automotive scene, the first Japanese brand to enter the exclusive luxury market. But despite initial success, Acura is little more than an afterthought for most high-line buyers these days. While the Honda subsidiary has scored with utility vehicles like the MDX and RDX, its sedans have been largely ignored. The new TLX could change all that. Stylish, sporty and lavishly equipped, it’s the first four-door from the Acura brand in years that has a serious chance of challenging more established luxury brands like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Acura has long had a thing for alphanumerics, ever since it abandoned easy-to-remember names like Legend and Integra. Even today’s loyal owners have a tough time distinguishing one model name from another. And the alphabet soup only gets more churned up when Acura throws in high-tech features like P-AWS, AHA and SH-AWD. The good news is that they make the new sedan a blast to drive as we tool around the mountainous terrain outside Santa Barbara.

Short for Precision All-Wheel-Steering, P-AWS allows the rear wheels to turn, ever so slightly, which improves both high-speed handling and low-speed parking maneuvers. AHA, or Agile Handling Assist, goes a step further, subtly applying the brakes on the car’s inner wheels to improve cornering. And then there’s Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive. On dry pavement, it helps shift power to the car’s outer wheels to help push you through a turn. In inclement weather, it ensures maximum grip on greasy pavement.

Acura’s love affair with things high-tech isn’t always effective. The double-screen infotainment system can befuddle even a Silicon Valley software programmer. There’s a volume knob but you have to dive into one of the touch screens to change stations—and operate a variety of other basic vehicle functions.

Under the hood, buyers choose from a fuel-efficient 2.4-liter four-cylinder powertrain or a more sporty 3.5-liter V-6. Even with the bigger engine, you won’t want to wager many bets on the Acura TLX—at least not if you’re looking for off-the-line acceleration. But dive into a sharp turn and those abbreviated driver’s aids make it an all-new ball game. Just cruising, you’ll settle back into the sedan’s comfortable seats, your favorite tunes belted out by the optional audiophile ELS sound system.

Acura has long needed a sedan that can define the brand and give shoppers reason to visit its showrooms. It would help to bring back once familiar names like Legend, but the new TLX is good enough that you just might enjoy a little taste of alphabet soup.

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