Just launched for the 2015 model year, the Acura TLX sedan replaces both the previous TL and its slightly smaller sibling, the TSX, and supplants them both with what could deliver the most bang for the buck in the entry-level luxury segment.

While the TLX shares platforms and powertrains with the Honda Accord, it’s more posh and additionally aggressive in nature, and deftly treads the fine line between sports sedan and luxury car.

Styling-wise the TLX is a welcome departure from its predecessors. It loses the old TL’s “Pokémon” happy face in favor of a bolder and more conventional-looking grille with narrow jewel-eye headlamps reaching into the side fenders and sweeping lines running from front to rear. It’s handsome, yet still rather conservative looking – more Buick than BMW.

But no matter, one drives a car from the inside, and the TLX certainly does not disappoint in terms of its precisely balanced driving dynamics. Our tester came equipped with the standard 2.4-liter 206-horsepower four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic transmission, and the pair work in pitch-perfect harmony to deliver pleasingly peppy acceleration. It’s quick enough to suit all but the most aggressive drivers, with the ability to deliver the appropriate passing punch when needed. Fuel economy is a decent 24/35-mpg city/highway.

Shoppers with deeper pockets and a penchant for power can alternately choose a smoother and quicker 3.5-liter 290-horsepower V6 and a nine-speed automatic.

But with around 100 fewer pounds residing over the front wheels, the four-cylinder TLX feels livelier through the turns. A combination of steering and suspension technologies too lengthy and complex to discuss here deliver agile and athletic handling abilities that makes even darting in and out of urban traffic a playful enterprise, while maintaining a pleasingly smooth ride. Purists may argue that a rear-drive car like the BMW 3 Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class afford more refined ride and handling qualities, but a front-drive car tends to slip and slide less on wet or snowy roads.

As with all other models in its class the TLX offers an optional all-wheel-drive system, but it’s only available with the V6 engine where it eliminates all traces of so-called torque steer, which causes a powerful front-drive car to pull to one side under full throttle. Acura’s system varies engine power both between the front and rear axles, and the left and right rear wheels to help maximize both dry-road handling and foul-weather traction.

Inside, save for some cheapish plastic surfaces, is an attractive cabin. There’s plenty of seat travel for six-footers to stretch out up front, leaving sufficient legroom for two adults (and perhaps a small child) in the rear. Dashboard gauges and large and legible, and there are two separate color LCD monitors on the center console, with the lower one being a touchscreen for the navigation and audio systems and other functions. Unfortunately the latter easily becomes washed out in sunlight and can be difficult and distracting to operate while driving.

All of the necessities – including a sunroof and heated seats – come standard for what is an affordable $31,445 starting price; leather upholstery, navigation, a premium stereo and several safety systems (including forward collision, lane departure and blind spot warning) are included in a Technology Package for an additional $4,005. The Advance Package – available only with the V6 engine – includes even more amenities, including adaptive cruise control with a low-speed function and forward auto-braking to help prevent or reduce the severity of a crash.

A fully loaded TLX with AWD and the V6 tops out at a $44,800, which is still reasonable compared to other models in its segment that can reach well up and into the $65,000 range with a six-cylinder engine and a full boat of options.

Written by Jim Gorzelany