A lot of folks may forget that Honda was the first of the Japanese makes to create a luxury division, like Cadillac or Lincoln. And like the two domestics, they took their bread and butter sedans, fitted them for a tux, jacked up the price and voila! You have instant luxury.

That's pretty much the story with the new ILX, for example, which is a Honda Civic in a dinner jacket. That's not entirely a bad thing when the guts of this little ego-mobile are as good as the Civic's. The RSX and TSX are based on variations of the Honda Accord, the RDX on the Honda CRV, the MDX crossover is a Honda Pilot underneath, and so forth. And just as an aside, the model lettering is now officially silly. When Acura started, they had simple, good names with the Legend Sedan and the Integra Coupe. Then they tried to copy Mercedes with alpha-numeric designations, and I’m now completely lost. I drove the newest Acura, the TLX for a week, and really grew fond of the little sedan. Ours was the pricier of the two basic modes, with all-wheel-drive and the 3.5-liter, 290-horsepower V6. The base model makes do with a 2.4-liter four cranking out 201 ponies.

The V6 is mated to a new 9-speed, automatic gearbox with I have to say, the weirdest control setup I’ve ever seen. Park, Reverse, Drive, and the Parking brake are lined up along the console with a different-shaped button for each. On the plus side, the designers did a good job of hiding the Accord in the Acura, and gave it a much more pleasant and upscale look. Inside, typical Honda workmanship and comfort in the leather-lined cabin make it a nice place to do business on a long trip.

But, yes, it is anonymous in a very lovely way. With the Korean makes going upscale and their designers unchained from their drafting tables, it’s getting hard to tell the TLX from a Hyundai or Kia. Except for the multiple segment headlights, which you will either love or hate. But even at a price just north of $40K, this little Acura is a sweet machine. I frankly loved my week with it, funky transmission controls and everything.

I'm not frankly sure I get cars like this. It's like the Cadillac Escalade. A dressed up Tahoe gives you everything the Caddy does for a lot less money. The same could be said for the always lovely Honda Accord. Not sure how you can really gild that lily.

The misbegotten Cadillac Cimarron, which was a Chevy Cavalier with gold badges, is a good example of how to do this badly. You can polish a cowpie all you want, it will never shine. But there's a reason for my confusion, as my wife will tell you. I'm a cheapskate.

So, I'd just get an Accord with all the bells and whistles, and laugh all the way to the bank. But if you splurge for the delightful little TLX, you won’t regret it, and my wife will have made her point.


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