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2014 Acura RLX Styling

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On Styling

Good-looking but not at all daring, the Acura RLX would get called "catalog" on any of the cutthroat fashion-model reality shows.

Take apart a premium sedan like the Acura RLX, then try to tell it apart from a mass-market car. There's more in common than you'd think. Some extra aluminum or steel, more glass, probably some wood or possibly a few bits of carbon fiber. The biggest difference, in some cases, is more badges and more sound deadening.

The Acura RLX leaves the bold statements to other brands, and settles for a graceful, more universal appeal.

The differences that can't be seen are intangibles like heritage, prestige, and word of mouth.

To hit on the point we're building to: The challenge for any luxury sedan today is to hit some benchmarks that would have been coachbuilt in a bygone era. The Audi A7 and Jaguar XF are in the RLX's periphery, and they faintly reek of sophistication and substance--nevermind the Cadillac XTS and its flair-filled, jewel-blinged bod.

The RLX? It's less apt to leap off a runway. The stance is right, and the proportions are good, and even the BMW-esque turn to the roofline has enough distance between it and the original to claim its own birthright. The rest is subtle but graceful, from the LED headlights to the curve stamped over the front wheels to the LED taillights. As rolling stock, the RLX's smoothly arched roofline and somewhat aggressive stance are attractive--but they're not groundbreaking.

The cabin is a pretty functional, handsome place to check off driving tasks, but it's more of the same. It falls in the gap between the opposing ways drivers tend to define luxury: it doesn't wrap itself in the precisely modern design cues that define most Audi cockpits, or in the pervasive sense of old (and new) money that fills every Jaguar cabin. Cadillac is doing fantastic interiors in this class, too, and the choice of materials and grains and glosses are as point-perfect in the Acura RLX. It has the sense of refinement down pat, but lacks the sense of drama that's almost a basic requirement in an age of A7, XF, and XTS.

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