By JIM PARKER

The Post and Courier

Two months into the year, and Acura has already introduced one of its 2014 models.

Not just any car, mind you: It’s the RLX midsize sedan. Years in the making, the luxury vehicle will replace the brand’s RL line, which ends with the 2013 model year.

“This is Acura’s all new flagship,” said Keith Drayton, sales associate at McDaniels Acura. The four-door, which starts in price at $49,000, “is redesigned from stem to stern,” he said.

The Savannah Highway dealership last week received one of the first 2014 RLX sedans, powered by a 3.7-liter V-6 engine churning out 310 horsepower and mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

As Honda Motor Co.’s upscale carmaker, Acura has scored solid marks on quality but has struggled to mint memorable, signature vehicles.

The RLX is geared to change that image. “It’s a very refreshing enhancement to the current fleet,” said Drayton, who put the car through its paces on an Atlanta area road course in February.

In a walk-through last week, the sales associate highlighted the model’s host of features:

• Direct injection engine that shoots gas straight into each cylinder’s combustion chamber.

• Remote key device that starts the engine when you push the ignition and unlocks the door when you touch the handle.

• Steering wheel paddle shifters as well as a roller on the wheel to scroll through the information display screen.

• Precision All-Wheel Steer or P-AWS, in which the four wheels turn independently when the vehicle is traveling at 40 mph or higher. Also during dramatic stops, the back wheels adjust their “toe angle” to provide extra braking ability.

• Acoustic windshield glass that removes road and wind noise.

• A “sport” button that switches the car into “a more aggressive mode,” he said.

• Oversized 19-inch wheels designed for noise reduction.

• Jeweled and light-emitting diode (LED) headlights.

• A Forward Collision Warning system that lights up on the dash in case of a potential crash in front, Collision Mitigation Braking system that helps the driver brake in an imminent crash and the Lane Departure Warning system, which alerts the driver to cars making an unintended move into your lane.

• Blind-spot indicators that light up on the side-view mirrors, and a Lane Keeping Assist System to help prevent the driver from drifting into another lane.

• Upgraded audio sound, including a standard version from ELS and a high-end optional system from Krell Industries.

• AcuraLink concierge system whereby the driver pushes a button to call a “personal assistant” in case of an emergency or for information such as traffic conditions.

• Voice command preferences to control the navigation and audio systems as well as smart technology to have e-mails and text messages read aloud.

• Ample head and legroom in the perforated leather front and back seats.

• A wide and deep trunk that can be opened electronically or push-button. “It’s a golfer’s dream come true,” Drayton said.

The sedan posts a more-than-respectable 20 mpg city and 31 mpg highway fuel numbers. Premium gas is recommended.

Acura retooled the body in the new RLX. “Basically, they started all over from the shell,” Drayton said. The manufacturer “made it more aerodynamic, wind resistant,” he said, while giving the car a fuller shape. The model is considered midsize but has the appearance of a full-size edition, he said.

Drayton said Acura intends to continue ramping up its lineup, with a host of new models on the way this year and next including the 370-hp RLX Sport Hybrid and the buzz-worthy NSX sports car.

In a moderate drive of a $55,000 RLX with nav system and other extras last week, the new Acura proved to be an eye opener.

First off, the four-door sedan takes on a refined aura outside and in. It’s a car with midsize measurements but a full-size personality.

The interior is elegant with fine wood grains and supple leather upholstery. Seating is quite comfortable, including in back. The rear space behind the driver’s seat provided plenty of legroom, even with the seat pushed all the way back.

Another engaging perk was the car’s quiet ride, from the purring engine to the sound dampening features.

On the open highway and in traffic, the RLX steered well, changing lanes with alacrity. The six-cylinder provided decent acceleration and brakes were firm but unwavering.

The high-tech safety gadgets, which also include a rear camera that activates when the car is in reverse, worked as advertised. Meanwhile, the center console was reasonably user friendly, with clear digital readouts for the dual climate control system for instance.

A clever feature is the center storage bin, which can open either to the left or the right. A button ingrained in the woodwork opens the glove compartment.

There were a few quibbles. The RLX performs almost sports-car like in the sport mode but lags somewhat in standard mode. The $55,000 pricetag, which included a few extras but not a whole lot, seems steep. Also, the solid fuel numbers don’t seem so sprightly when filling up with premium fuel.

Still, the new RLX is a luxury car, not a low priced economy model. At the very least, Acura may have struck on a sedan that motorists will remember. More likely, it’s on the way to the Japanese “inomama,” which the company said in a brochure is “Acura’s philosophy of carrying out ‘the will of the driver.’

To learn more, visit your local Acura dealer.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.