We have a pretty good idea what the new Acura RLX looks like based on the concept shown at this year’s New York auto show. And now we’ve test-driven both versions of the RLX’s powertrain at Honda’s Tochigi, Japan, proving grounds. Our test cars were previous-generation Accords equipped with RLX running gear.

The front-wheel-drive version debuts first next spring. It’s powered by a direct-injection version of Honda’s 3.5-liter V-6 making at least 310 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque, which is basically the same output as the 3.7-liter in the outgoing RL sedan with a claimed 10 percent increase in fuel economy. A six-speed auto manages the gear swaps. Key to the front-wheel-drive RLX is what Acura calls Precision All-Wheel Steer (yes, animal lovers, it spells PAWS). This system has two electric motors built into the rear toe link, and each link can act independently, a world first. Under braking, PAWS will increase toe-in for enhanced stability. In a lane-change maneuver, the rear wheels will steer in the same direction as the front wheels, whereas the rear wheels turn opposite of the front in tighter corners. The total adjustment is roughly two degrees in each direction, and a Honda engineer on hand said it acts in less than a second. It also works at all speeds.

On our test drive, a few laps around a 0.8-mile handling course, the RLX exhibited much less understeer than we expected from a large front-wheel-drive sedan. Turn-in was especially sharp, and the car held the line particularly well in sweeping corners. When coming out of corners, we did notice a slight bobble as PAWS adjusted, not enough to upset the chassis but enough to tell that the system was working.

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Sampling the 2014 Acura RLX’s Goodies: Precision All-Wheel Steer and Sport Hybrid SH-AWD

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