The Truth About Cars » Acura http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 22:29:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Acura http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com New York 2014: 2015 Acura TLX Live Shots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-acura-tlx-live-shots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-acura-tlx-live-shots/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 21:52:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=800698 2015-Acura-TLX-22

As the Acura TL and TSX are both dropped into the crusher of history, their replacement, the production-ready 2015 TLX, took the stage today at the 2014 New York Auto Show.

Having made its world debut at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show earlier this year, the TLX in New York will retain the former’s beak nose and bejeweled headlamps on its way to the showroom later this year.

As for what future TLX drivers will receive, two engines will put the power to either the front or all four wheels: 2.4-liter four-pot with 206 horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque through an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, and 3.5-liter V6 producing 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque through a nine-speed automatic. The four-cylinder FWD model will be augmented by Acura’s PAWS all-wheel steering system, while the V6 receives the SH-AWD handling system when AWD is selected on the options list. Combined fuel economy is expected to be 28 mpg for the 2.4-liter 4, 25 mpg for both FWD and AWD V6 models.

Inside, drivers will enjoy soft-touch plastics, wood and alloy accenting, leather, Acura’s AcuraLink infotainment system, GPS-linked climate control, and premium stereo sound.

And the price? Acura will make that announcement closer to the launch of the TLX.

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Timing Is Everything http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/timing-is-everything/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/timing-is-everything/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 16:07:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=769154

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“This life came so close to never happening” -David Benioff, The 25th Hour

A bit of fortuitous timing can make all the difference. Just missing a particular wave by even the briefest interval can radically alter a particular outcome.

(N.B. Unlike most Sunday Stories, this story is true. Names, dates and other details may have been modified.)

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“Swipe right or swipe left?”  My father is holding up my iPhone, screen towards me, a thumbnail photograph of a fairly attractive young woman is on screen. We’re sitting in the kitchen after dinner on a Friday night. My brother and I are showing him how to use “Tinder“, the latest online dating app, where users  can view photographs and a brief biography and either swipe right (yes) or left (no) on-screen. If both parties swipe right, then they are notified of a potential match. If there is a discordant selection between the two, nothing happens.

“Right!” comes the cry from my brother and I. My father breaks out into his characteristic cackle as we flick through several more. “Right! Right!” with a few “Lefts” thrown in, intonated with mock revulsion. He’s still howling. “This is great! I love this app!”. I want to tell him how Tinder is the most ruthless manifestation of r-selection, an entirely superficial appraisal of one’s value in the dating market, a place where I am consistently matched with the obese, the tattooed, the homely. My pseudo-intellectual train of angsty thought is interrupted by his display of a woman, pudgy, dressed in bargain basement clothes, clearly from a lower socioeconomic background.  This one is a slam dunk. ”Left!” says my brother. I concur. My father swipes right and we break out into laughter yet again.

II.

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Despite my earlier meditation on Tinder, I’m at it again mere minutes later, as I wait for my father to bring my press car back. I’m driving a 2013 Acura RDX, a car so utterly anonymous that I struggle with how I’ll even write about it. “It’s a two row crossover. It’s nice” is about all I have so far.

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While he’s out taking it for a spin, I’m swiping right in a catatonic trance, hoping to be matched with somebody, anybody, with a BMI under 25 and no tattoos. Elizabeth is a year older than me, and resplendent in her main photo, coyly smiling while lounging poolside in a deck chair. Instead of the absurdly contrived faux-candid bikini shot so common to most profiles, she is wearing a white men’s button up shirt, demurely hiding most of her figure – except for a pair of slim, shapely legs. I hit the button to pull up more photos, and I like what I see – a big mane of wavy brown hair, grey eyes and that trademark smile. I swipe right.

“You have a match!”

Before I could even revel in my moment of triumph, I catch a glimpse of her bio.

“Location – Calgary, AB. Visiting for the weekend.”

We message anyways. She’s here visiting friend and family. Works in Oil & Gas. Went to a good school. “You’re cute,” I message her, trying to sound like the aloof, cocky archetype that so frequently brings success, “but you live in Calgary. Poor ROI for me.”

“Trying to throw around business terms to impress me?” she replies. “Noted.”

We meet that night, and she is just as attractive and charming as she was on Tinder. She tells me that I came so closing to blowing it all up with my attempt at arrogant humor. And then she returns to visit me in Toronto, twice.

III.

“When you’re here, I want you to drive my car. Driving is a blue job.”

Not long ago, it was my turn to visit her, and the anticipation gnawed away at both of us in the weeks leading up to it. We kept in touch via Skype and FaceTime, but the internet connection in my condo wasn’t always the most stable – for example, the garbling of the word “blue” made is sound like something else entirely. The term “blue job” connotes something undesirable, like pumping gas, or apparently, driving her car around while I stayed with her. Who was I to argue?

“What do you drive?” I asked

“I have an RDX. Is that a good car? I wanted a CR-V, but I also wanted leather. By the time you optioned it up, it was as much as a two-year old RDX, so I got one from Acura with a warranty. Certified, or whatever they call it.”

“That’s what I drove down to the bar on the night I met you.”

“I really like mine. It feels sporty. Is it a good car?”

One of the most dreaded questions a woman can ask. Almost as bad as “does this make me look fat”. How do you tell them their 2005 Cavalier is not a shining example of automotive engineering, and not risk getting kicked to the curb?

“Well, yeah, but the new one is a lot different. More of a mom car.”

“That’s ok. The turbo is really bad on gas. I think I’d like an MDX when it’s time to upgrade. But not for a while – I want to drive my car into the ground.”

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Having never been to the Rockies, Elizabeth and I decided to take a weekend trip to Banff and Lake Louise, a couple of hours north of Calgary. Both sites are some of the most popular tourist destinations within Canada, attracting visitors from around the world who are looking to take in the majesty of pristine Canadian wilderness. I was ashamed that I had been to all points in Canada except Alberta.

Elizabeth’s car is about 5 years old and has barely 30,000 miles on it. Aside from a small scrape on the rear bumper, it might as well be brand new. Elizabeth doesn’t know a lot about the RDX, just that is has a turbo and takes premium gas. I don’t think many consumers or enthusiasts understood it either. When it launched in 2006, it had the first turbocharged engine that Honda had ever brought to the North American market, a 2.3L 4-cylinder engine that put out 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque.

Mated to a 5-speed automatic, this motor was never used on any other product in the Honda or Acura lineup, even though it’s possible to think of countless applications where it would have been appropriate. Putting that power to the ground was a trick torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system dubbed SH-AWD. At the time, SH-AWD was novel for being able to send as much as 70 percent of torque to the rear wheels and distribute torque laterally between the rear wheels. Inside, heated seats, XM Radio, navigation and an ELS sound system added up to a pretty generous equipment list for the time.

But it all added up on the scales, with the RDX weighing a hair under 4,000 pounds despite being the size of a Honda CR-V. The difference between Elizabeth’s first-generation example and the new one is a great contrast in how quickly the automobile has changed in the few short years that separate the pre and post recession environment.

The road to Banff is a fairly smooth and straight, but it gave me a chance to sample what the first-gen RDX was made of. As the air thinned out and the grades got steeper, the turbo engine kept chugging away, and with careful throttle application, it was possible to stay out of the boost enough to maintain a decent 23 mpg (on winter tires and in unfavorable terrain, cruising at a steady 80 mph). The hydraulic steering is a bit light but transmits a fair amount of feedback, while the chassis is keen to tackle curves with enthusiasm. The only conditions that unsettled the RDX were the harsh cross winds in the low-lying areas approaching Banff, which blew the Acura around as if it were a Fiat 500.

The new RDX feels lifeless by comparison, with numb steering, and well-appointed, well-finished but anonymous cabin. It’s 3.5L V6 gets the job done, but is rather unremarkable in operation, and still requires premium fuel. Fuel economy is up, thanks to a conventional, less-complex AWD system and the V6 engine. Ironically, this is the kind of car that you’d expect to have existed prior to the wave of engine downsizing and technology bloat that flooded the post-recession market.

Instead, it’s Elizabeth’s 2009 model that, on paper, seems more modern, with the turbo engine, the torque vectoring all-wheel drive and the sophisticated technology. In many ways, it was the analogue of the current Ford Escape, but launched five years too soon. In 2006, the market wasn’t willing to accept poor fuel economy in exchange for sophisticated mechanicals and an engaging driving experience.

IV.

When we left Calgary, the temperature was close to 40 degrees and the sun was shining. Two hours later, we were standing on the now-frozen Lake Louise, with overcast skies, blowing snow and temperatures back into the high twenties. In my naivety, I imagined that I’d be able to enjoy the magnificent views of the lake, so common in Canadian iconography. Instead, I found cross-country skiers, families building forts and snow men, Japanese tourists posing for pictures and snapping away with telephoto lenses.

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Elizabeth and I wandered hand in hand along the frozen lake and the grounds of the Fairmont hotel, pausing to watch a pond hockey tournament on the lake. I tried my best to shut my brain off, to purge thoughts of cars, TTAC, the auto industry, and I was mostly successful.

But I was left with a nagging notion about timing, about how with the RDX, Acura had been too far ahead of the market and suffered for it, while Ford had launched a similar crossover at just the right time and enjoyed massive sales. I thought about how the new RDX, launched in the midst of a recovering luxury market,rapidly outsold the old car. It was a safe, affordable choice, dull, charmless but competent.

“What are you thinking about?” she asked me. This was a common question. I have a bad habit of staring off into space, getting lost in my own head, of not being present. “I want to know everything that goes on in your head,” was something she said to me time and again. “No you don’t. It’s a mess,” was my constant reply.

I snapped out of it, stopped thinking about sales volume, scale, emissions regulations and everything else that normally occupies my mind. I thought about Elizabeth, and how fortunate – in the most literal sense of the word – I was to be with her in this setting, with the snow softly blowing, the natural wonders of the wilderness obscured in a soft focus of hazy fog. I thought about my silly pickup line and how for the first time in my life, I didn’t need to put on any kind of persona or hide who I really was. I was with someone who liked me for my vulnerabilities, my anxieties over the future, my job and my family, who forgave me for my mistakes, who asked for nothing more than communication and some company while she watched the kind of reality TV I normally disdained. And in return, she gave me everything.

I thought about timing, and how it all came so close to never happening.

But what I told her was “nothing.”

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Acura TLX Spied With A Beak Job http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/acura-tlx-spied-with-a-beak-job/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/acura-tlx-spied-with-a-beak-job/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 16:39:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=769122 550x412x2015-Acura-TLX-Concept-01-550x412.jpg.pagespeed.ic.B25dLMtbZv

Acura has a habit of debuting concept cars that look nearly identical to the production version – which is part of the reason why we’re showing you the concept version of the Acura TLX, when undisguised photos of the real thing have surfaced.

Over at Vtec.net, spy photos from KGP have surfaced of an undisguised TLX. Without the big wheels and fire engine paintwork, the TLX looks much more subdued, with a mix of ILX and RLX styling cues. The TLX will replace the TL and TSX, both fine cars in their own right. The TL 6MT SH-AWD was, in my opinion, a rather underrated car. Despite its ungainly looks, it proved to be an entertaining performer in deep snow, thanks to the trick AWD system and the meaty Blizzaks installed by Honda Canada. The TLX will get both a 2.4L 4-cylinder and a 3.5 V6 powertrain with DCT and 9-Speed automatic transmissions respectively- no word on an MT option.

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Generation Why: Forced Introduction http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/geneva-2014-honda-civic-type-r/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/geneva-2014-honda-civic-type-r/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 23:47:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=763705 Civic-Type-R-Concept-04

Back in September, I wrote a piece lamenting the death of Honda’s high-perofrmance hallmark, the twin-cam VTEC 4-cylinder engine. It was just the sort of article many of you are fed up with: a lengthy piece filled with flowery prose and Honda fanboy-ism sprinkled with a condescending explanation of the auto industry’s inner workings. Miraculously, it was fairly well-received. But I’ve had a change of heart.

November and December let me get behind the wheel of two fairly different cars: the Acura ILX 2.4 and the Ford Fiesta ST. Despite the bad rap it gets in the media, I was fairly excited to drive it. The Honda Civic Si sedan gets a lot of guff for being quantitatively underwhelming compared to the current crop of sport compacts, but it’s what I call a “Goldilocks” car: it just feels right, similar to how the Acura TSX does. How bad could a Civic Si be with a better interior and more grown-up looks?

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It turned out to be a bit of a letdown. The ILX is definitely a softer car than the Civic Si and lacks the composure and solidity of the Euro-Accord based TSX. The K24 motor was also less charming than I remembered it to be. The new, emissions-friendly, long-stroke VTEC motors work well in a CR-V or an Accord Sport, but don’t deliver the kind of excitement one would expect in a modern-day Integra GS-R sedan.FiestaSTExterior12-main_rdax_646x396 (1)

The Fiesta ST, on the other hand, was a revelation, one of the most thrilling drives I’ve had in a long time. Nothing else on the market brings such a hypomanic intensity and sheer driving thrills in an accessible and practical package except for, well, an older Civic or Integra with a VTEC swap and a dialed in chassis. In a larger car like an Escape or Fusion, the 1.6L Ecoboost feels overburdened, and delivers fairly poor fuel economy. In the Fiesta ST, it delivered a combined 26 mpg even though the throttle spent a lot of time getting hot and heavy with the floor mat. Whatever Ford’s powertrain group has done to squeeze some more power out of the tiny turbo mill has not only paid dividends on the spec sheet, but virtually eliminated turbo lag.

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Driving the Fiesta ST made me a lot more optimistic about where the next generation of affordable performance car is going – especially with respect to the death of naturally aspirated engines in these types of applications. In all likelihood, Honda’s messaging will spin the new Civic Type-R (gallery below, since it was introduced in concept form today at Geneva) and the NSX’s turbo engines as congruent with the newest Formula 1 regulations, and as a link to Honda’s return to Grand Prix racing. Knowing what I know about The Big H, the adoption of forced induction was not so much voluntary, but an inevitable concession to emissions and fuel economy requirements around the world. But I’m no longer worried. Bring on the turbo VTEC era.

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Honda Establishes New Acura Planning Arm For Brand Overhaul http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/honda-establishes-new-acura-planning-arm-for-brand-overhaul/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/honda-establishes-new-acura-planning-arm-for-brand-overhaul/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 10:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=754849 2015-Acura-TLX-Concept-First-Look-Video-Main-Art

A 10 percent drop in sales experienced by Acura in 2013 has led parent company Honda to form a new business planning and development group with the long-term goal of overhauling the brand’s identity.

Bloomberg reports Honda R&D Americas president Erik Berkman will be appointed as division manager of the new Acura Business Planning Office, whose top priority near-term will be to solve the issues leading to a combined 10 percent drop in sales of Acura’s sedan lineup. The drop not only overshadowed the luxury brand’s successes with the RDX and MDX SUVs, but prevented Honda from hitting their record sales goal in 2013.

Though Honda remains mum on how exactly the new division will operate, the automaker is readying the TLX — which will replace both the TL and TSX in June — to aid in boosting sales for 2014, as well as improving upon the entry-level ILX (reportedly, a more powerful engine is in the works), and unleashing the second-generation NSX from its home in Ohio come 2015.

Long-term, the brand may be overhauled to help establish its identity in the luxury market, as AutoPacific industry analyst Ed Kim explains:

Acura for many, many years has been a brand without an identity. They are good, solid, dependable, somewhat premium cars that don’t communicate any clear message about what they are. The best luxury brands stand for something.

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Crapwagon Outtake: The Wine Dark TSX http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/crapwagon-outtake-the-wine-dark-tsx/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/crapwagon-outtake-the-wine-dark-tsx/#comments Fri, 07 Feb 2014 14:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=731970 $_20

The best part about working at TTAC has very little to do with the constant press car access, the barely-disguised graft known as “new car launches” or having various varieties of invective spewed at you by tens of readers each day. No, the real fringe benefit is that you are paid to spend a fair amount of your waking hours reading and researching about cars, and that includes browsing the online classifieds for strange and obscure cars.

I came across this gem during a break in a search for some oddbals to post on our forum’s Used Car section. I really like the TSX. It’s not the fastest, or the sharpest handling car money can buy. It’s certainly not the most prestigious, and it won’t impress the superficial types. But it just feels right, in a way that the ILX 2.4 (a very similar car on paper) does not. The fact that it’s an Acura is also re-assuring. This is the kind of car that you can hang on to for 15 years, safe in the knowledge that if the stereo conks out, your car won’t be immobilized either (see: BMW E46).

There’s a surprising number of manual transmission TSXs available near me, but this one jumped out due to its price and condition (both great, as far as I can tell) and for how awful the color and specification are. Whoever ordered this is a real oddball. It’s painted in a ghastly shade of purple that could charitable be described as “Merlot-from-a-screw-top-bottle), while the cloth interior fabric is as bland as it gets. But it also has a 6-speed manual.

This kind of car is arguably the least desirable TSX, from a retail perspective. I know this because I first saw an ad for the car in September. At the time, I put aside any notions of buying another car, let alone getting rid of my Miata.

The latter option is still unpalatable, but Jack’s accident has made me revisit one of the reasons I sold my first Miata (much to my regret): there’s a good chance that a collision with a modern car, truck or SUV would be very ugly for myself and any passenger I was carrying. Almost as ugly as the TSX’s color.

Of course, I am not the typical retail used car buyer, and for an enthusiast like me, that salesman’s floorplanned folly is a great opportunity for me. Cloth seats and purple paint aside,  big draw is that it’s a relatively affordable and reliable car with a manual transmission that is fairly fun to drive. Of course, if anyone asks, it’s burgundy, thank you very much.

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Chicago 1989: Where Are They Now? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/chicago-1989-where-are-they-now/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/chicago-1989-where-are-they-now/#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2014 17:10:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=735185 1989-Acura-NSX-prototype-during-Chicago-Auto-Show-public-days

The 2014 Chicago Auto Show marks the 25th anniversary of the introduction of two of God’s most perfect creations: The Mazda Miata and the Acura NSX. Long-time readers will know that I have a strong affinity for both of these cars. The Miata was the first car I ever owned, while the NSX remains a focal point in my relationship with the automobile.

Automobile Magazine takes a look at both of those cars, as well as three others – the Lexus LS400, the Infiniti Q45 and the Nissan 300ZX – in what is considered to be a very strong draft class for the Japanese auto industry. Four of the five cars still exist in one form or another, with the NSX said to be just around the corner – though that’s been the word since it was discontinued roughly a decade ago.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect is that even today, these cars still stand the test of time, whether it’s a pristinely preserved Miata or a tired LS400. Get behind the wheel of any of them, and they still manage to thrill and excite, even if they don’t seem quite so fresh.

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Editorial: Acura Needs Another Crossover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/editorial-acura-needs-another-crossover/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/editorial-acura-needs-another-crossover/#comments Fri, 31 Jan 2014 12:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=728482 450x278xsuvx-450x278.jpg.pagespeed.ic.qs_Rnv3QLW

Everyone is eager to read Acura its Last Rites, but in the United States, it managed to outsell Audi last year. Despite having little to offer enthusiasts and traditional fans of the brand, the RDX and MDX are unqualified successes: the RDX outsells all of the small crossovers from Germany’s luxury bands (Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLK etc.) with the larger MDX outsold only by the Lexus RX and Cadillac SRX respectively. As much as Acura touts the NSX as the future of the brand, what they could really stand to use is another crossover, one that slots below the RDX.

Acura’s sales have been a roller coaster over the past decade. 2006 saw the beginning of a steep decline in sales, with Acura losing nearly half of its volume by 2009, going from 201,000 units annually to just over 105,000 in three years. In the throes of the financial crisis, Acura canned expensive projects like a front-engined, V10 NSX, a planned V8 and rear-drive platforms. There was even talk of shuttering the brand altogether.

Evidently, that didn’t happen, and the brand managed to claw its way back. Last year, it sold 165,000 units, with the RDX and MDX accounting for 59 percent of the brand’s total volume. People are coming to Acura for the crossovers, not for the cars, though that picture should improve now that the RLX has replaced the RL and the moribund TL is on its way out.

That doesn’t change the situation, as much as the Integra GS-R worshiping faithful may not like it. Crossovers are a growing segment, and perhaps the only bright spot in a globally depressed auto market. Even in Europe, the spiritual home of the station wagon, crossovers are practically the only segment that is not shrinking. Acura itself is not a global brand, but the key markets in competes in – North America, China and Russia – are crossover crazy, especially the latter two, where poor roads dictate a higher ride height, and a high driving position and faux-SUV proportions are all desirable traits.

In America, CUVs are already eating into segments like mid-size and large sedans, while small crossovers like the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape are among the most popular light trucks. At the same time, premium small cars like the Mercedes-Benz CLA are gaining conquest sales from mainstream nameplates like the Honda Accord. It would be foolish to assume that the upcoming Mercedes-Benz GLA won’t do the same with the CR-V, Escape and other larger, but comparably priced mainstream vehicles.

Acura is said to be working on a GLA-sized vehicle for the Chinese market, based on the Honda Vezel. From a business standpoint, they’d be foolish not to bring it here. It’s hard to imagine it would fare worse than the awkwardly proportioned ILX, which hasn’t been accepted by the market place, and will likely get its lunch eaten by the CLA.

When it comes to passenger cars, the European nameplates have Acura beaten lock, stock and barrel. But the crossover space is a different story, and it’s only going to grow further and further. A competitor to the GLA, the BMW X1 and an Audi Q3 could be a way for Acura to turn the ship around, adding volume for the brand while maximizing profit for the Fit/Vezel platform and preventing the European brands from owning that corner of the market.

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Acura May Get Vezel-Based Small Crossover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/acura-may-get-vezel-based-small-crossover/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/acura-may-get-vezel-based-small-crossover/#comments Thu, 16 Jan 2014 16:08:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=701169 suvx

Acura might be next to jump on the B-segment crossover train, with a new model based on Honda’s Vezel apparently under consideration. Automotive News reports that Acura is considering such a model for China, and possibly other markets, given the popularity of models like the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. The vehicle in question would be built in China for the Chinese market, but there’s no word on whether it would be produced in Japan for other markets. The SUV-X concept, above, previewed such a vehicle, but was shown only on the Chinese auto show circuit.

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In Defense Of: The Acura RLX http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/in-defense-of-the-acura-rlx/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/in-defense-of-the-acura-rlx/#comments Fri, 10 Jan 2014 14:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=694713 2014-Acura-RLX-review-main-1_rdax_646x396

 

“There aren’t many bad cars on the market,” is the trope trotted out by auto reviewers when justifying their enthusiastic response to whatever is trotted out in front of them at the Lowes Santa Monica on Wave 2 of the latest press launch. The post-recession era is one where the quality of the average car has never been higher, at the expense of idiosyncratic flaws that give cars character. Sure, there are always the whipping boys of the market, namely cars people actually buy like unibody crossovers and some that people don’t, like big, front-drive sedans.

Big, front-drive sedans are a segment in decline. In the mainstream market, crossovers, SUVs and even crew cab pickups have displaced the full-size car from its traditional role as a family vehicle. Roughly half of them go to fleets, and the segment is chock full of nameplates like “Taurus”, “Avalon”, “Maxima”, which have as much sex appeal as Kirstie Alley flaunting her post-Weight Watches body on Oprah. As far as I’m concerned, they send power to the wrong wheels and their dynamics have more in common with a sea-faring vessel.

They’re also quiet, comfortable, ride smooth over most surfaces and have lots of room in the back. These are very desirable traits for a lot of buyers, as evidenced by booming sales of, you guessed it, unibody crossovers, SUVs and crew cab pickups. Most car reviewers, who would gladly place themselves in the enthusiast camp, don’t care all that much about these traits. Performance is what matters, whether that means an uncomfortable ride, heavy steering, a complicated gearbox and a thirsty engine are all desirable, even at the expense of driveability in situations that don’t involve sub-8 minute laps of the ‘Ring.

This has been a chief complaint about Cadillac. Rather than trying to build the best Cadillac they can, The Standard of the World really wants to be The Ultimate Driving Machine. And one could argue that to varying degrees, Audi, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz are as well, with the A6 3.0T S-Line, the GS F-Sport and the newest E350, which isn’t completely numb to drive.

And then there’s Acura. When everyone is going for rear-drive, German-inspired, letter-series lukewarm D-segment sports sedans with lots of “high gloss piano trim” (read: black plastic with a shiny finish) they launch the RLX a front-drive, Accord-based sedan that looks utterly anonymous and has absolutely zero sporting pretensions.

When the RLX was introduced, the internet product planning brigade (Associates Degree required, must have an internet connection and 2-3 years selling mobile phone accessories at Best Buy) was livid. “No serious luxury brand sells a front-drive V6 powered car,” they sputtered, half choking on a Five Guys burger. “Acura needs a V8 and rear-drive to be taken seriously.”

I’m not about to get into a discussion of what Acura’s future direction should be, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. And that makes me qualified enough to tell you that the RLX is a pretty good car. Is it a rival for the crop of rear-drive 5-Series wannabes? No, but the four-wheel steering system (dubbed with the comically stupid moniker P-AWS, from the people that brought you Super Handling All-Wheel Drive) really does work as advertised, helping the car rotate when pushed into a corner hard. I only did that once, since I wanted to drive the car as your typical RLX buyer would, and in that context, it excelled.

The venerable Acura 3.7L V6 feels quick enough, and instrumented tests show that it’s about as quick as a Camry V6, or quick enough to dust a Fiesta ST to 60 mph. More important than that is what you don’t notice. The RLX is supremely quiet, while the chassis neutralizes whatever imperfections exist in the road. The steering isn’t totally numb, but you don’t have to put much effort into using it. The front drive layout means that there’s no driveshaft or large transmission tunnel cutting through the back seat area, so there’s lots of room for rear passengers. The Krell audio system is one of the best I’ve experienced in any car, and I hope it filters down to other Acuras.

For a lot of people, that’s what real luxury is about. Driving from one destination to another, in a silent, climate controlled conveyance, the only noise emanating from the stereo if they so choose. Not long ago, I would have shied away from that notion in near revulsion. I’m the kind of guy who wouldn’t buy a new car unless it had a manual transmission, and I consider it a treat whenever I can drive something with a real cable throttle, let alone rear-wheel drive. My father’s E39 530i will always be my benchmark for sports sedans.

Back then, the 5-Series was distinct from the other offerings, with a purity unmatched by anything that didn’t have a roundel on the hood. Now, you’d be hard pressed to tell the BMW apart from the Audi from the Lexus if you could do a hypothetical blind taste test. The RLX on the other hand, is more like a Japanese take on American luxury. In a strange sort of way, that’s a rather unique proposition.

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Acura’s TL, TSX Out, TLX Coming Next Summer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/acuras-tl-tsx-out-tlx-coming-next-summer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/acuras-tl-tsx-out-tlx-coming-next-summer/#comments Fri, 20 Dec 2013 11:30:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=684642 2015 Acura TLX Spy Shot

We’re a bit late on this one, but it’s still worth noting that both the Acura TL and TSX will soon fade into history, and will be replaced next summer by the TLX.

Acura’s newest mid-sized offering — slotted between the Civic-sized ILX and the automaker’s RLX flagship (what do these letters mean, B&B?) — will be underpinned by the current Honda Accord, which will also make the sedan smaller than the TL it will replace; the TSX, underpinned by the outgoing European Accord, will simply be phased out.

Under the hood will be the Honda’s Earth Dreams 3.5-liter V6, which, in spite of the granola name, makes 310 horsepower under the bonnet of the RLX. The TLX will most likely also include AWD, an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, and all-wheel steering like the system used in the aforementioned RLX.

Though no price has been given as of this writing, the TLX will make its worldwide debut as a prototype during the 2014 Detroit Auto Show alongside the new Honda Fit, and will be assembled at Honda’s Marysville, Ohio plant.

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First Drive Review: 2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrd (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/first-drive-review-2014-acura-rlx-sport-hybrd-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/first-drive-review-2014-acura-rlx-sport-hybrd-with-video/#comments Fri, 13 Dec 2013 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=675970 2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Exterior

It wasn’t that long ago I had an Acura RLX for a week. If you recall that review, I came away liking the car but found little joy in the price tag. Despite wearing a fantastic stitched leather interior, there was just no way I could justify the $10,000 premium over the AWD turbocharged competition from Lincoln, Volvo and others. Can a new dual clutch transmission and three electric motors turn the RLX from being a good car with the wrong price tag to a value proposition?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Because of the RLX’s FWD drivetrain, I was forced to view the RLX with an eye towards the Volvo S80, Lincoln MKS and the Lexus ES. With the Sport Hybrid model, Acura has done two things to take the RLX out of that pool and dive into another: AWD and a hybrid system. On paper a 377 horsepower hybrid system should put the RLX head to head with the Lexus GS 350, Infiniti M35h, and BMW AciveHybrid 5.

On the outside, the RLX cuts an elegant and restrained pose. Although the cars Acura allowed us to drive at a regional event were pre-produciton, fit and finish was excellent. Lincoln has certainly made strides in recent years, but there is a difference in build quality between the MKS and the RLX that didn’t go unnoticed. Acura attempts to further distinguish the RLX from the other near-luxury brands by going aluminum intensive with the hood, quarter panels and all four doors courtesy of Alcoa. I find the RLX unquestionably attractive but the overall form fails to beat the Cadillac CTS or BMW 5-Series in my book. I place the RLX’s exterior form a tie with the Infiniti M and a hair behind the Lexus GS, especially if the GS is wearing that funky F-Sport nose.

2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Interior

Interior

While German interiors continue to be somewhat spartan and cold, the RLX feels open and inviting. Stitched dash and door panels elevate the cabin well above what you will find in a Lexus ES Hybrid or Lincoln MKS. The same is true for the rear of the cabin. Constructed out of the same high quality materials as the front, this is a definite departure from the hard plastics found in the ES and MKS. Most of my day was spent in an RLX with a grey and ivory motif that played to my personal tastes. On the down side, Acura continues to woo luxury shoppers with obviously fake looking faux-wood. This decision is doubly perplexing, as the new MDX is available in Canada with real wood trim, but not in America. Why don’t they offer it in America on either car?

Front seat comfort is among the best in the luxury set, beating the Mercedes E350, Lexus GS 450h and Infiniti M35h that I drove that day, but falling short of the million-way BMW M-Sport seats. Because the RLX rides on a transverse engine platform, there is an inherent space efficiency and the direct beneficiary is the rear cabin where you’ll find 2-3 inches more rear leg room than any of the other hybrids. I had hoped the Sport Hybrid design would allow a low “hump” since there isn’t a driveshaft going rearward, but unfortunately Acura decided to use this space for hybrid drivetrain components. It’s probably just as well, since the middle seat is considerably higher than the outboard rear seats making it impossible for a six-foot passenger to ride in the middle. Thanks to lithium-ion batteries(rather than the nickel-based packs Toyota and Lexus use), the RLX maintains a decently sized trunk capable of swallowing four golf bags.

For reasons unknown, Acura decided to use the Sport Hybrid to re-invent the shifter control. I know that everyone else is doing this, but Acura’s 4-button arrangement strikes me as one of the most unusual. Instead of a flat button bank ala-Lincoln, Acura uses a bank that is designed to have some meaning. Park is a button, Drive is a differently shaped button, Neutral is yet another shape of button and Reverse is a button on its side that you push toward the rear of the vehicle. While that sounds logical, it was far from elegant when we had to make several four-point turns in San Francisco. Anyone else prefer a regular old console shifter?

2014 RLX Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Acura

Infotainment, Gadgets and Pricing

Like the regular RLX, the Sport Hybrid combines a 7-inch haptic feedback touchscreen with an 8-inch display only screen set higher in the dash. The engineers say the concept is as follows: the lower touchscreen handles the audio, freeing the upper screen for navigation and other tasks. My opinion of the system has improved since I first encountered it on the MDX but I still think the casserole needs more time in the oven. You can change tracks and albums using the touchscreen but changing playlists or genres requires you to use the rotary/joystick lower in the dash to control the 8-inch screen. In my mind this sort of kills the dual-screen sales proposition. On the positive side the system is very responsive and the graphics are all high-resolution and attractive. iDrive is still my favorite in the mid-size luxury segment, but AcuraLink ties with MMI in second.

Base Sport Hybrid models get a speaker bump from the gas-only RLX’s 10-speaker sound system to the mid-range Acura ELS system. As you would assume, the Sport Hybrid model is well equipped versus the gasoline model and all models come with navigation, tri-zone GPS-linked climate control and keyless go. Keeping things simple there is only one option, the “Advance package” (no, Advance is not a typo), which adds Krell speakers, ventilated front seats, sunshades and seat warmers for the rear passengers, front parking sensors, power folding mirrors, radar cruise control, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, a pre-collision warning system and electric front seat belt tensioners.

2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Acura

Drivetrain

Now for what makes the RLX a Sport Hybrid. First up, we a direct-injection 3.5L V6 producing 310 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of twist that now sports start/stop technology. This engine is mated to a brand-new 7-speed transaxle developed specifically for the RLX. The new transaxle is a hybrid of sorts (and I’m not talking about the motors yet) blending a 2-speed planetary gearset with a 6-speed dual-clutch robotic manual transmission. The two technologies allow the entire unit to be as compact as possible. First gear is obtained by setting the dual clutch gearbox to 5th gear and the planetary gearset to low while “second” through “seventh” use DCT gears 1-6 in order with the planetary set to high. I found this solution particularly interesting because it would, in theory, allow Acura to obtain more than 7 ratios from the same unit with some software programming. 12-speed anyone? After the transmission is the first (and largest) motor/generator, rated for 47 horsepower/109 lb-ft. Thanks to the dual-clutch transmission, the engine can be decoupled from the drivetrain, making this different from Honda’s IMA system where the engine is always spinning.

Linked by a high-voltage electrical system is a rear mounted two-motor drive unit. The single inboard housing incorporates twin 36 horsepower /54 lb-ft motors and a clutch pack. The clutch pack is used to connect the motors together when the system needs to deliver equal power to each rear wheel. Combined with the lithium-ion battery pack in the trunk (the same one used in the Accord Hybrid), you get 377 total horsepower and 377 lb-ft of combined torque. Until you reach approximately 75 MPH at which point you have around 310 horsepower because the rear motors gradually disengage and completely disconnect over 80 MPH. The whole shebang is good for 28/32/30 MPG (City/Highway/Combined).

2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Exterior-006

Drive

Why bother with two motors in the rear? Torque vectoring. The dual rear motor arrangement separates Acrua’s system from the e-AWD systems in the Lexus RX 400h and Highlander Hybrid, or the mechanical systems in the Infiniti Q50 Hybrid or Lexus LS 600hL. Although it produces about the same amount of power as Toyota’s rear hybrid motor and likely weighs more, splitting things in two allows it to vector torque all the time, power on or off. Say what? Yep, you read that correctly, this is the first production system that torque vectors when your foot isn’t on the gas. Think of it like a canoe. If you’re moving forward and you plant an oar in the water, the canoe will rotate around that axis. Instead of oars, the RLX uses motors.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now – this isn’t a replacement in my mind for Acura’s mechanical SH-AWD system. The mechanical AWD system uses an overdrive module to make the rear wheels almost a full percent faster than the front wheels causing the vehicle to behave like a RWD biased vehicle. In that setup, the front wheels are being “pushed” by the rears and the result is steering feel that is very much like a RWD sedan when under power. When the power was off in the old RL, the car would plow into the bushes like a front-heavy Audi. The RLX Sport Hybrid is completely different.

2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Exterior-007

Under full acceleration, the rear motors in the RLX contribute 72 ponies while the engine serves up 310 to the front wheels. The numerical imbalance between that total and the 377 “system horsepower” is consumed in the power curve of the motors and engine and the use of the front motor to draw a little power off to send to the rear. This means that while the old RL could effectively shuttle the majority of the power to the rear wheels, the RLX hybrid is at best an 80/20 split (front/rear). As a result, flooring the RLX from a stop elicits one-wheel peel, a vague hint of wheel hop and a smidge of torque steer. Once the road starts to bend, the hybrid system starts to shine. By not only accelerating the outside rear wheel in a corner but essentially braking the inside one (and using the energy to power the outside wheel), the RLX cuts a near perfect line in the corners. Point the RLX somewhere, and the car responds crisply and instantly. And without much feel.

The downside to the rear wheels contributing so much to the RLX’s direction changes is that the steering is next to lifeless. The analogy that kept coming to mind was a video game. The RLX changes direction more readily and easily than a front heavy sedan should, yet there is little feedback about the process. When the power is off, things stay the same, with the RLX dutifully following the line you have charted in a way the FWD RLX or the old RL never could.

Acura was confident enough in the RLX to provide a GS 450h for us to play with and the difference was enlightening. The GS is less engaging from a drivetrain perspective thanks to the “eCVT” planetary hybrid system, something the RLX’s dual-clutch box excels at, but the well-balanced GS platform is by far the driver’s car on the road. The Lexus feels less artificial, more nimble, and more connected to the driver. The RLX is not far behind in terms of raw numbers, and is faster off the line, but the RLX feels less connected and more artificial in the process. It is also important to note that the RLX is the only AWD hybrid in this class since the Infiniti Q50 hybrid is Acura TL sized and the Lexus LS 600hL is considerably larger and more expensive. That feature alone makes the RLX attractive to anyone living in areas where winter traction is a consideration.

2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid Exterior-002

The 2014 RLX Sport Hybrid is an amazing bundle of technology. Combining a dual clutch transmission, a torque vectoring AWD system and three hybrid motors, the RLX is the gadget lover’s dream car. As a technology geek, the system is an intriguing solution to two problems plaguing near luxury brands like Acura, Volvo and Lincoln: How do we make our FWD platforms compete with RWD competitors, and how do we put a green foot forward. In doing so the RLX Hybrid may have also solved the value proposition I complained about with the FWD model. According to Acura”s thinly veiled charts, we can expect the RLX to be priced the same as the Lexus GS 450h which is $5,000 more than the M35h and about $1,000 less than BMW’s ActiveHybrid 5.

Factoring in the AWD system’s $2,000-$2,500 value and standard features on the RLX and the value proposition gets better. At the high end, the “Advance” package is likely to represent a $10,000 discount vs a similarly configured Lexus or BMW. The RLX Sport Hybrid has caused me to look at the RLX in a different light. Instead of thinking the FWD RLX should be $10,000 cheaper, I now think it is irrelevant. The Sport Hybrid has what it takes to compete with the Lexus and Infiniti hybrids head on and the value proposition to tempt potential BMW shoppers, but that turns the front-drive base model into a potential image liability. I’ll reserve my final judgment until we can get our hands on one for more than a few hours, but until then, it appears Acura has crafted a compelling hybrid system that should be on any snow-belt shopper’s list and may provide enough value to sway RWD luxury hybrid shoppers. Stay tuned for more pricing information in the Spring.

 

Acura provided the vehicle at a regional launch event and one night’s stay at a hotel.

 

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QOTD: Better Off Mainstream? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/qotd-better-off-mainstream/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/qotd-better-off-mainstream/#comments Wed, 27 Nov 2013 15:30:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=665738 SONY DSC

Speaking at a preview event for the next-generation Hyundai Genesis, Hyundai CEO John Krafcik defended his company’s decision to forgo establishing a seperate luxury channel for cars like the Genesis and Equus. While the rationale put forth usually revolves around the exorbitantly expensive pricetag for launching a new brand and an all-new sales network, Krafcik put it from another angle.

Speaking to Automotive News, Krafcik remarked

“I do believe that when the three premium Japanese brands were launched, it was during a certain time in the industry when there was a certain optimism about where the industry was headed,” he said.

“I really believe that if those three companies had a chance to really think about their path, they might have taken the path that we chose.”

The epoch that saw the launch of Infiniti, Acura and Lexus was the peak of Japan’s “bubble”, when Japanese automakers seemed to have limitless budgets for new vehicle R&D, marketing (think of those wacky home-market ads with Hollywood star endorsements) and sales channels (whether it was new luxury brands in America or multiple sales channels in Japan).

At the time, the rationale was that a Nissan President or Toyota Aristo was suitable for sale with a more plebian badge in Japan, but American consumers would not be willing to shell out premium car money for a luxury sedan sold alongside a Corolla or a Civic, no matter how good it was.

Nearly three decades on and Acura is largely confined to America and China, while Infiniti seems to be stuck in the mud as far as becoming a global luxury brand. Even Lexus, which has become a household name on par with BMW or Mercedes-Benz, hasn’t made any kind of dent in Europe. Do you agree with Krafcik’s assessment? Let us know in the comments.

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Los Angeles 2013: 2014 Acura RLX Debuts New Hybrid Powertrain http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/los-angeles-2013-2014-acura-rlx-debuts-new-hybrid-powertrain/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/los-angeles-2013-2014-acura-rlx-debuts-new-hybrid-powertrain/#comments Thu, 21 Nov 2013 03:33:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=658426 2014 Acura RLX SH-AWD 01

Though fans of the NSX may need to wait until 2015 to throw down the hammer with Tony Stark and Thor, most Acura consumers will get a chance to utilize the automaker’s new SH-AWD hybrid powertrain anchoring the 2014 RLX Sport Hybrid to the road.

Debuting at this year’s LA Auto Show, the RLX Sport Hybrid is the first to use the new technology, which delivers power to the front wheels through conventional means while power to the rear comes from a trio of electric motors. Two motors individually drive their respective wheels while the third boosts torque already found up front, eliminating the need for a driveshaft and rear differential. Power is regenerated to all three rear motors through braking.

Speaking of power, the trinity’s 67 horsepower augments the main 3.5-liter direct-injected V6′s 310 ponies for a total of 377 on all corners. Honda won’t quite say how quickly their RLX will get to 60, though they say it’s comparable to similar cars with V8 firepower. On the other hand, they expect the hybrid powertrain will pull 28 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway for a combined score of 30 mpg.

Directing the power up front is a seven-speed dual clutch transmission with its own electric motor — controlled via an electronic gear selector that swaps the traditional stick for a set of buttons — that will match revs while downshifting in automatic mode, while manual mode shifting is done through paddle shifters.

Finally, a HUD display monitors and informs the driver of what the RLX’s many systems are doing at a moment’s glance, along with speed and direction. Expect to see the RLX Sport Hybrid in showrooms in spring of 2014.

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Next Acura NSX To Get Twin-Turbo V6, As Honda Moves Towards Forced Induction http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/next-acura-nsx-to-get-twin-turbo-v6-as-honda-moves-towards-forced-induction/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/next-acura-nsx-to-get-twin-turbo-v6-as-honda-moves-towards-forced-induction/#comments Tue, 19 Nov 2013 16:59:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=655930 191113hon-b

The naturally aspirated engine has always been a cornerstone of Honda’s engineering philosophy, but the company looks set to abandon that in the near future, with a move to turbocharged engines happening by the end of the decade.

honda-civic-type-r-gallery-01

Mainstream applications will see a 1.0L 3-cylinder engine  and both a 1.5L and 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engines, with the 2.0L variant making as much as 280 horsepower. The big-bore application will be debuting in the next-generation Civic Type-R, and all three engines will incorporate VTEC variable valve timing. North American applications have yet to be confirmed.

The 1.5L engine will be a go for North America, in vehicles like the Acura ILX, Honda Civic and even the Accord. Honda envisions the 1.5L unit as a replacement for naturally aspirated 1.8L units, delivering 15 percent gains in fuel economy while besting it in torque by as much as 45 percent.

A new 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox will debut alongside the 7-speed unit Honda has developed, though according to Automotive News, the 8-speed unit will be mated to a torque converter to help increase smoothness. Dual clutch gearboxes will be prominent in vehicles with engine sizes ranging from 2.0 to 3.0L, while CVTs will be the main gearbox in smaller vehicles, even replacing manual transmissions. On larger vehicles like the Odyssey minivan, the automatic transmission will remain.

Perhaps the most exciting news is that of the NSX and its future powertrain. Honda will be going with a longitudinal layout (rather than the old NSXs transverse layout) for its V6 engine, which will now pack twin turbochargers. Honda hasn’t announced displacement figures for the V6, only saying that it may not be larger than the RLX’s 3.5L unit. With a similar Sport-Hybrid All-Wheel Drive setup, the RLX is good for 370 horsepower while getting 30 mpg combined. With turbocharging and perhaps a more aggressive hybrid setup, the NSX could easily top 500 horsepower, while being substantially lighter.

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A Day Late And A Dollar SH(AWD)ort http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/a-day-late-and-a-dollar-shawdort/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/a-day-late-and-a-dollar-shawdort/#comments Fri, 01 Nov 2013 21:43:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=640257 RLX_SH_SH_AWD-2

Late breaking news from Los Angeles – this month’s LA Auto Show will herald the debut of the RLX Sport Hybrid All-Wheel Drive, nearly a year after the front-drive V6 RLX debuted.

As Alex Dykes discovered, the standard car’s buying proposition is about as strong as the Lincoln MKZ’s, which is to say, nearly non-existent. In such a hyper-competitive market, the RLX hasn’t made much of an impression, and will likely suffer the same fate as its predecessor – lingering in obscurity, despite being a pretty good car.

It’s a shame too, since the RLX SH-AWD is a very interesting proposition. With two-electric motors in the rear wheels servicing as an AWD-system-cum-hybrid-powertrain, the RLX is able to crank out 377 horsepower and achieve 30 mpg combined, according to Acura’s figures. If what they’re saying is true, then this car really does deliver on the “V8 power, 4-cylinder fuel economy” promise that so many others have failed to live up to.

Knowing Acura, it won’t be bad to drive either, but it fails to make any kind of visual statement despite its performance and eco-friendly credentials. In that sense, it’s the antithesis of the Tesla Model S, and for a car this advanced and this expensive, that’s the surest recipe for failure.

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Review: 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/review-2014-acura-ilx-2-4-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/review-2014-acura-ilx-2-4-with-video/#comments Sat, 26 Oct 2013 13:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=629290 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The Acura ILX has been derided as being nothing more than a gussied-up Honda Civic, an analogy that I too applied to the compact Acura when it first arrived. But then our own Brendan McAleer caused me to question my dismissal of the ILX. How many shoppers out there are willing to option-up a base model by 50% and don’t think twice about the fact their “limited” model looks just like the base model? All of a sudden the ILX, especially the 2.4L model we tested made sense to me. What was the revelation? Click through the jump to find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

 Exterior

I know that we have a segment of readers that believe all modern cars look-alike, but I’m going to say it any way. The best thing about the ILX is that it doesn’t look like a Civic. Don’t believe me? Park a Civic and an ILX next to one another and you might even think the two cars are totally unrelated. How is this possible?  First off, no sheetmetal or glass are shared between the two and Acura decided to tweak just about every hard point other than the wheelbase for Acura duty. If you look at the picture below (which highlights how poor my Photoshop skills are) I have overlayed the ILX on the Civic for reference.

In addition to a blunter nose, lower roof and a more aggressive character line, Acura modified the structure of the car by moving the pillars around. The A pillar moves 8 inches rearward vs the Civic giving the ILX a hood that is several inches longer and a windshield that is more deeply curved. The C pillar has also been tweaked giving the ILX a more graceful silhouette and a smaller trunk lid. While they were at it they swapped in an aluminum hood for some moderate weight savings.

2013 Honda Civic EX-L SedanThe result of Acura’s nip/tuck is an attractive, albeit sedate, premium look. I think that Buick’s Verano is more exciting and the not-yet-on-sale 2015 Audi A3 looks more luxurious, but the ILX plays right to the conservative heart of the target Acura shopper. In keeping with the premium image, 17-inch wheels are standard on all ILX models except the hybrid where things drop to eco-minded 16-inch rims. The most demure Acura “beak” integrated into the front grille and hidden exhaust tips complete the design of the smallest Acura.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes
Interior

The ILX’s interior represents more of an upgrade over the Civic than I had expected. Soft injection molded plastics span the dashboard and very few parts are shared with the Honda . By my estimation. the interior parts sharing is limited to a traction control button, air vent open/close dials and the door handles. Anyone worried that the Civic’s funky two-tier dash is along for the ride will be pleased, the interior style of the ILX is very mainstream from the double-bump dashboard to the four-dial gauge cluster.

In typical Acura fashion the ILX comes well equipped in base form and options are bundled into packages helping to keep dealer inventory manageable. All ILX models get zone climate control, keyless ignition, push button start and a steering wheel wrapped in soft leather. Base hybrid models get manual cloth seats but all other ILX models get heated leather thrones coated in perforated leather with a driver’s side only 8-way power mechanism.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-012Front seat comfort is substantially similar to the Honda Civic thanks to shared seat frames and adjustment mechanisms. The ILX’s front seats get more generous seat back bolstering in keeping with its more premium and sporting image while the seat bottoms remain as flat as Kansas. Thanks to the platform changes that make the ILX more attractive on the outside, interior room is compromised slightly with headroom and legroom figures falling when you compare it to the Civic.  Compared to the Buick Verano the numbers are right in line.

The ILX’s rear seats are slightly less comfortable than the Verano, but a step above the mainstream compact segment with more thigh support for adults. Opting for the hybrid ILX forces the removal of the folding rear seat backs (the batteries have to go somewhere), while the ILX 2.0 and 2.4 sport the same 100% folding mechanism as the Civic. This means it’s not possible to carry long cargo and three or four passengers like you can in the Verano. This deficiency is made more of a problem by the ILX’s small 12.3 cubic foot trunk, notably smaller than the Verano, Lexus CT, or even the Mazda3.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

Nestled in the “double bump” instrument cluster is a standard 5-inch color LCD that does double-duty as a trip computer and infotainment display. This base system runs the same software as the Honda Civic but places the screen in a more “normal” location and uses a button bank that should be familiar to current Acura owners. The base system features standard iDevice/USB integration, Bluetooth speakerphone/streaming and Pandora smartphone app integration. The 200-watt amplifier and 7 speaker sound system are well-balanced but volume isn’t this system’s forte.

ILX 2.0 and Hybrid models with the “technology package” link the climate control system to a sun sensor and the GPS system for improved comfort and bumps the sound system up to a 10-speaker surround sound system with a 410-watt amp. Also along for the ride is the same 8-inch navigation system found in the Acura TSX and TL. The system doesn’t sport the improved high res interface in the MDX and RLX but is among the easier to use on the market as long as you don’t try to use Acura’s voice commands for browsing your iPod. Seriously, just don’t even try. Sadly 2014 hasn’t brought any major changes to the options lineup meaning that the more powerful engine and the more powerful sound system are mutually exclusive. The choice to saddle the 2.4L model we tested with the same 5-inch display and software as the Civic is the biggest flaw with the ILX so far.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Under the ILX’s long hood you’ll find an “interesting” assortment of engines. Why interesting? Let’s start at the beginning. First off, Acura uses three different engines in the various ILX models. Rumors that Acura planned to kill off the base 2.0L four-cylinder appear to be unfounded as the 2014 ILX can still be had with the 150 horsepower mill. This is the same engine found in European market Accords and other world Honda models but appears to be exclusive to the ILX in America.  Honda’s old 5-speed automatic was tapped to send the 140 lb-ft to the ground. The ILX Hybrid gets the Civic’s 111 horsepower, 127 lb-ft hybrid system without modification. While the 1.5L engine seemed adequate in the Civic, I found the small engine and traditional belt/pulley CVT vexing in a near-luxury sedan.

On to what we’re here to talk about: the 2.4L Civic Si engine. Yes, Acura decided ILX shoppers should get a little sport-love and snatched the Si’s 201 horsepower engine for premium duty. In typical Honda fashion, the 2.4L engine screams like a banshee on its way to its 7,000 RPM redline and matching 7,000 RPM power peak. 170 lb-ft come into play at 4,400 RPM and the engine is mated exclusively to a 6-speed manual. Yes, you heard that right, Acura is trying to get a larger share of the premium compact market with a high-revving engine four-cylinder and a slick shifting stick. Although the manual-only policy is an obvious impediment to sales success, if you have outgrown your Civic Si, or if you think the Honda looks a little too “boy racer”, you can get a classier, leather coated version at the Acura dealer.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

Once out on the road the ILX’s powertrain deficiencies become obvious. The base 2.0L engine may be smoother and more refined than the 1.8 in the Civic, but compared to Buick’s modern 2.4L direct injection mill, it is rough around the edges and anemic. How about the 111 horsepower ILX hybrid? It is quite possibly the only car that can make Lexus’s underpowered CT 200h seem quick. But we’re not here to talk about those ILX models, this is TTAC and we’re interested in MOAR POWARR.

The 2.4L four-cylinder is an entirely different animal. With 33% more power than the base model our 0-60 run clocked in at a respectable 7.29 seconds. That slots the ILX between the regular Verano and the Verano Turbo that accomplished the same task in 6.5 (Verano Turbo with the 6-speed manual). The time was closer than I thought it would be considering the 90 lb-ft of torque that separate the two but the driving experience couldn’t be more different. The Verano’s turbo engine provides an extremely broad torque curve which negates the need for frequent downshifting on winging mountain roads while the ILX’s engine needs to scream like a leaf blower to deliver the maximum thrust. While I found the Verano’s power delivery more liveable, the ILX at 7,000 RPM made me giggle. (Yes, I said that out loud.) As you would expect from the “luxury Civic Si,” the ILX’s shifter action is precise, clutch engagement is nearly perfect and the shifts are short. In contrast, the Verano’s clutch is rubbery, vague and the shift throw is lengthy.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-006

Instead of lifting the Civic Si’s suspension as is, Acura decided to tweak the design with dual-valve damper technology lifted from the RLX and MDX. The two valves allow the damping to be firm and body roll to be well controlled under most conditions while soaking up large road imperfections like a sedan with a softer suspension. The system retains most of the Civic Si’s road holding ability while delivering a ride that more composed than the Verano. Similarly the lightly revised steering setup is a little less direct than the Si but yields better feel than the baby Buick. Despite incorporating laminated glass and an active noise cancellation system, the ILX manages to be several decibels louder than the eerily quiet cabin of the Verano.

At $29,200, our ILX was about $6,500 more than a Civic Si. When you factor in the additional equipment you find in the ILX and the expanded warranty coverage, the difference between the Honda and the Acura drops to about $2,000. When you look at the ILX in this light, the sales proposition makes perfect sense. While the Civic Si is a great compact car, it looks just like a regular Civic. The ILX on the other hand nets you a better brand name, longer warranty, an improved ride and car that won’t make your boss question your maturity. Like the Integra of yesteryear, this is the sort of “gateway” product Acura needs.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-009

There are just a few problems however. The ILX’s option list and spec sheet is a mess. Despite getting better fuel economy than the Verano in every trim, Acura needs to drop their 6-speed tranny into their base model for spec-sheet-shoppers to give it a second look. Likewise the 2.4L engine needs a 6-speed auto and some infotainment love, the 2.0L engine needs more grunt and the hybrid needs to be euthanized. Without changes like these the Acura ILX will remain a sensible Civic upgrade but as a competitor to Buick’s new-found mojo, Acura has some catching up to do. The ILX’s driving dynamics may be superior, but taken as a package the only reason to avoid buying the Verano is if you still associate Buicks with the blue-haired set.

 

Acura provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.55 Seconds

0-60: 7.29 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.6 Seconds @ 89.9 MPG

Interior sound level: 74db @ 50 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 26 MPG over 345 miles

 

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-010 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-009 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-011 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-010 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Engine-001 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-009 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-008 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Engine 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-005 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-008 . 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-004 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-015 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-014 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-003 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-006 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-005 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-002 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-012 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-002 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-001 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-011 ]]>
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Acura Pitchman Jerry Seinfeld: Car Advertising “Too Commercial-y”. Really? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/acura-pitchman-jerry-seinfeld-car-advertising-too-commercial-y-really/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/acura-pitchman-jerry-seinfeld-car-advertising-too-commercial-y-really/#comments Fri, 04 Oct 2013 20:17:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=606049

Click here to view the embedded video.

In a rather promotional feeling interview with Bloomberg, comedian and noted car collector Jerry Seinfeld discusses his growing relationship with Honda Motor’s Acura brand. Last year’s Super Bowl featured an ad for the upcoming revival of the NSX sports car scripted by Seinfeld himself, with a cameo from Jay Leno, riffing off of the two comics’ reputation as serious collectors. More recently Acura has become the sole sponsor of Seinfelds popular “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” webcasts. Jerry told the news agency that in general he’s not a fan of car advertising.

Seinfeld said, “For the most part, car advertising is a total turnoff to the consumer; I think it needs a complete reboot. It’s too commercial-y and fear-based. Stop showing us the cars driving through the desert.”

Seinfeld thinks that auto companies shouldn’t focus on product in their advertising, but rather getting consumers to like them.

“Don’t sell me your product, sell me you,” said Seinfeld. “You’re trying to make people like you. You don’t have to sell them your product. You have to make them like you.”

So if Jerry doesn’t like how automotive advertising is “too commercial-y” one can’t help but wonder if the wisecracking comedian has offered his opinion to Acura on their high concept “Made for Mankind” commercial that somehow equates owning a MDX crossover with humanity’s eternal quest for knowledge and adventure. I suppose that it sort of fits into Seinfeld’s notion of selling the brand, not the product, but the ad takes itself so sonorously seriously, that it’s easy to imagine Jerry’s reaction to something like “If your quest is to built the world’s smartest luxury SUV for mankind, you must hold yourself to the standard of mankind”. Really?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Piston Slap: A High Mileage Tale to TL http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/piston-slap-a-high-mileage-tale-to-tl/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/piston-slap-a-high-mileage-tale-to-tl/#comments Wed, 11 Sep 2013 11:15:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=513217 Capture

Dan writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I enjoy your columns and thought I would get your input regarding what I should do with my current vehicle, a 2002 Acura TL 3.2. I purchased the vehicle new almost 12 years ago. The Acura has about 200,000 miles on it and is still on its third-transmission. As we all know, the transmission used on this vehicle was problematic but seems to be running okay. The car is very clean inside.

I recently priced out a new headlamp ballast and was surprised at the expense. I probably also need a new temperature sensor for the cooling fan, which seems to run in temperate weather when it shouldn’t. Timing belt change coming up and probably the brakes will also need to be changed soon.

A used car dealer I know, who I thought could sell the car for me instead suggested that I could get $5,000 or $6,000 at auction. I was surprised that the car could get such a high dollar amount, but he insisted that a lot of foreigners attend the auction and purchase vehicles such as mine to be sent overseas. He speculates that the mileage gets rolled back when they arrive in their overseas destination.

Sounds like it’s time for a new car and there are a lot of interesting vehicles these days, but at the end of the day, Honda/Acura has treated me right over the years and I don’t dare rock the boat. Besides, I’m from the Columbus area so I’m doing my part to help the local economy.

Ideally, I would like to wait for the new Acura TLX to purchase as a replacement. According to a local Acura dealer, it should start coming out about March, 2014. Would you 1) keep the TL around until the new TLX comes out, knowing that there might be expensive repairs coming up; 2) dump it now and get an Accord (with leather) or a CRV; or 3) just keep it until it dies?

Sajeev answers:

I’m surprised to hear a price range that high at auction, no matter who rolls back the odometer! Me thinks $3500-4500 is the high side with a very clean leather interior and shiny paint. Just for giggles, I logged into Manheim Auctions (thanks Steven Lang!) and verified that I was–once again–correct about the market for 2002-2003 Acura TLs. Why do I even bother with modesty anymore? 

Oh right: the Best and Brightest…but I digress…

Your man on the used car scene knows the local market: who participates, what they like, what they’d pay, etc. And I bet you want a new Acura TL, no matter what.  How difficult is that?

If a new TL is too damn hideous (could be worse, it was somewhat de-fugly’d in 2012) for your tastes, limp yours along until the next version arrives. And why not? You stomached those transaxle swaps and still love Honda/Acuras, so you can handle anything.

Buy a new TL or wait for the next one.  Either way, you can’t lose. Off to you, Best and Brightest.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Review: 2014 Kia Cadenza (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2014-kia-cadenza-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2014-kia-cadenza-with-video/#comments Fri, 30 Aug 2013 22:08:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=501244 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Kia has big plans for America. The Korean brand that was written off in the 1990s, and is best known for making inexpensive cars with long warranties, isn’t planning an assault on the mass market. Kia has bigger plans: compete head on with Lexus, BMW and Mercedes. Say what? Yep. By 2017 Kia promises they will be ready. Rather than leaping right into the market, Kia is dipping their toes into the murky waters of the near-luxury pool. In many ways the near-luxury segment is a harder place to compete. This segment is full of aspiring brands trying to move up (Buick and Cadillac), brands that are floundering (Acura), brands that are treading water (Volvo and Lexus’s FWD models ), brands trying to expand down (Mercedes with the CLA) and brands that have no idea what their mission is (Lincoln). Into this smorgasbord lands a sedan that managed to be the most exciting car I have driven this year and the most awkwardly named. Now that I have that spoiler out of the way, let’s dive into the Credenza. I mean Cadenza.

Exterior

Kia has long been accused of copying styles and jamming discordant cues into one product. The pinnacle of this was the unloved Kia Amanti, mercy killed a number of years ago. That model had Mercedes E-Class headlamps, a Jaguar-meets-Chrysler grille, Lincoln tail lamps and a decidedly Town Car profile. The 2014 Cadenza is so different you’d think it was from a different car company. The overall style is “Optima’s big brother” with the same “tiger nose” grille up front. The large grille strikes me as the best interpretation of this style yet, although the plastic accent strip inside the aggressive headlamps struck me as slightly cheesy. There is still something derivative about the Cadenza, the side profile is exactly what a FWD 7-series would look like. (Shorten the hood, stretch the overhang.) Overall the Cadenza’s “smoothed out Optima” lines strike me as conservative and elegant, something that appeals to me.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Before we go further, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: the Hyundai Azera. The Cadenza isn’t simply a badge engineered Azera, but neither is it a unique vehicle. Through a convoluted set of financial arrangements, Hyundai and Kia are 32.8%  joined at the hip, which means Hyundai doesn’t “control” Kia and Kia can’t just grab an Azera and stick a Kia logo on the front. Instead what we see are two cars with common drivetrains, crash systems, hard points and bits grabbed from the same parts bin. Think of the Cadenza as the Azera’s younger cousin and not a corporate twin.

2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

Style is a subjective matter, there’s no way around that. I found the Cadenza to be traditional, almost to a fault, on the inside but still handsome. For me that’s a good thing as I don’t tend to gravitate to “ground breaking designs” like crazy asymmetrical dashboards or shifters that require an instruction manual and 30 minutes to master. I found the Azera’s interior to be more unique, but less to my taste. On the flip side there is little about the Cadenza’s interior that creates a burning desire, unless you like value. Being the cheap bastard that I am, words like “value” “bargain” and “deal” light a primeval fire in my loins. Keep that in mind.

As I have said in the past, value is all about cutting corners. Lately Kia has been displaying a level of perspicacity unseen in the competition. This balance is obvious when you look at the dash and doors which combine hard and soft touch plastics. This isn’t unique by itself, what is rare is the placement of the hard bits away from the driver’s reach and a careful matching of color and texture so that its hard to tell what’s hard and what’s not. This is something Lexus got totally wrong with the new ES. Most Cadenzas on my local lot had the optional Alcantara headliner and cream colored leather seats which have a huge impact on the feel of the interior. Faux-suede used to be something you’d only find on high-end European models, but it can be yours for under 40-large in Kia-land. Unlike Chrysler’s application of the soft-stuff, Kia also coats the A, B and C pillars in fake cow. Speaking of fake, the wood isn’t real. The lack of real tree bugs me a hair, but when you consider that a $60,000 Acura still has imitation burl I guess I shouldn’t complain. In terms of interior feel, the Cadenza ranks slightly above the new LaCrosse and Azera and just below the Toyota Avalon. While I think the Acura RLX’s interior was made of nicer bits, the Cadenza isn’t far off and almost everyone had a nicer interior than the current Lexus ES.

2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Front seat comfort proved good for the driver in the base model and excellent with the optional soft Nappa leather which adds a power extending thigh bolster. You should keep in mind that the front seats aren’t created equally and the passenger seat doesn’t have the same range of motion making it harder for your spouse to find an ideal sitting position. Trust me, I heard the complaints. Being self-centred, this didn’t bother me, but I should note the American competition offers matching controls on their front passenger throne. The Cadenza’s lumbar support hit me at exactly the right spot on my back which is fortunate because unlike the GM sedans the lumbar isn’t adjustable for height.

The Cadenza’s rear compartment was surprising, not just because the seats seemed designed for adults with cushy cushions suspended high off the floor, but because the plastics quality was consistent with the front cabin. That may sound like an odd thing to comment on, but most mass market entries and even cars like the Lincoln MKS and Lexus ES350 gets cheaper bits in the back. Speaking of the back, the Cadenza’s trunk is acceptable for the class at 15.9 cubic feet, notably below the Impala and Taurus with their cavernous trunks. It’s worth noting that the Cadenza’s rear seat backs don’t fold like some of the competition so keep that in mind if you’re a regular IKEA shopper.

2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

The dashboard of the Cadenza is dominated by a standard 8-inch touchscreen infotainment/navigation system dubbed UVO2. The Microsoft-powered system is bright, easily readable and a bit far from the driver. This distance could be a problem if you have short arms or long legs. The Cadenza gets the latest version of Kia’s software featuring full voice commands of your music library, allowing you to select songs and playlists with voice commands ala Ford’s SYNC. Also included is an array of OnStar-like services including vehicle diagnostics, car locator and automatic 911 dialing when your airbags deploy. Unlike OnStar however the system depends on a compatible smartphone being paired with the system and present for these services to work. The lack of a cell modem means you also need a paired smartphone for some of the data services to operate. In an odd ergonomic twist, Kia places the system’s button bank between the screen and the climate controls. The loaded Cadenza we tested gets a 7-inch TFT instrument cluster which houses the speedometer, trip computer, secondary infotainment display and navigation instructions.

Overall the Cadenza’s system is easy to use and intuitive but not as feature rich as some of the other options on the market. Notably uConnect and MyFord Touch offer sexier graphics and better app integration, although the Ford system crashes as often as a 1980s computer. Toyota/Lexus’ systems are getting a little long in the tooth at the high-end with older graphics and a smallish 7-inch screen, and their less expensive systems use small and dim 6.1 inch screens that are easily outclassed. GM’s direct competition is a bit disappointing because the LaCrosse and Impala use the same buggy software as the Cadillac XTS with a different brand attached instead of the excellent systems used in the Buick Verano and Chevy Malibu. If you want to know more, I take a deep dive into UVO2 in the video.

2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

The Cadenza uses the same 3.3L direct-injection V6 engine as Hyundai’s Azera mated to the same 6-speed automatic transaxle. The six-pot is good for 293 horsepower at 6,400 RPM and 255 lb-ft of toque at 5,200 RPM. These numbers place the Cadenza in the middle of the pack, below the GM triplets and the Acura RLX, but above the Avalon and ES350 and a virtual tie with Chrysler’s 300 V6. When it comes to performance, curb weight and transmission design are  just as critical as raw engine numbers. At around 3,750lbs the Cadenza is lighter than everyone but the new Avalon and ES (around 3,550lbs). In theory, this should skew performance in the Cadenza’s favor, but when the numbers are tabulated the Kia is 3/10ths slower than the RLX to  60 and half a second slower than the Impala and LaCrosse V6. Compared to the AWD XTS, the Cadenza is a hair faster. (The XTS AWD was tested in-house which is why I don’t use a FWD XTS estimate.) The 8-speed V6 Chrysler 300 was the slowest to 60 by around half a second. What gives? The 300 isn’t a light-weight. Our last instrumented test of the Taurus V6 and MKS put the Ford at the bottom of the pack with the 300 and the MKS on par with the Kia.

GM’s 3.6L V6 not only delivers more twist, it also has a broader torque curve and the GM/Ford 6-speed transaxle has an extremely low first gear helping the Impala and LaCrosse get off the line rapidly. Chrysler’s 8-speed auto may be a gem but it can’t re-write the laws of physics, the 300 is just too heavy. At this time Kia isn’t saying if there will ever be an AWD version of the Cadenza, so if you need four-wheel-motivation you need to look to elsewhere.

2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Pricing

$35,100, $38,100 and $41,100. That’s all you need to know about the Cadenza’s pricing since the up-scale sedan only comes in three flavors. Why the lack of variation? It keeps prices low and helps inventory issues as the Cadenza is made in Korea. The Cadenza is extremely well-featured at the base price with standard heated leather seats, navigation, backup camera, keyless go, dual-zone climate control, 10-way driver’s seat with adjustable lumbar support and rain-sense wipers. This price point sets the Kia at a slight discount versus the main-stream competition, and about $1,600 cheaper than a Lexus ES350 or Lincoln MKS. If that doesn’t sound like a “deal” yet, hang on. For $38,100 Kia adds a ginormous sunroof, HID headlamps, ventilated driver’s seat, heated rear seats, electric tilt/telescopic steering wheel, power extending thigh bolster (driver’s seat only), a seat/wheel memory system, power rear sun shade, a 7-inch TFT instrument cluster and snazzy Nappa leather seats. This level of Cadenza is where the value proposition starts slotting in $2,500 less than the LaCrosse and $4,000 less than an ES350 or MKS before you take into account the features you just can’t get on the competition. Jump to $41,100 and Kia tosses in 19-inch wheels, radar cruise control with full-speed range ability, blind spot warning, lane departure prevention, an automatic electric parking brake, water-phobic glass and (if you select the no-cost white leather) the faux-suede headliner. This is the option level where the Cadenza (like most Kias) starts to shine. The loaded Kia is a $7,000 discount vs the Lexus ES350 which is an apt comparison. The Kia doesn’t offer real wood but it does offer a nicer interior and a few features you won’t find on the Lexus like the LCD disco dash. Compared to the Acura RLX we had the week before, the Cadenza is nearly $20,000 less expensive. The discount is similarly large with you compare the Cadenza to the XTS and smaller vs the MKS.

2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

The one area where the Cadenza didn’t surprise was behind the wheel. Kia’s relative inexperience in the near-luxury market shows, if you know where to look. However the delta between the Kia and the competition, once as wide as the grand canyon,  is now a light shade of grey. Although very well controlled, the Cadenza exhibited slightly more torque steer and wheel hop than you’ll find in GM’s Epsilon II triplets or the Avalon/ES sisters. Of course when it comes to driving dynamics the Chrysler 300′s rear wheel drive layout is the clear winner. When it comes to absolute grip, the Cadenza is likely the equal of the Impala and Avalon, however the steering is not as communicative and the chassis isn’t quite as predictable or refined. Don’t think that makes the Cadenza “feel cheap”, far from it. The Cadenza nails the ” substantial”  feel that this large sedan category is known for.

While drivers will notice the Cadenza is a hair less sophisticated than the competition, passengers are unlikely to notice. The Cadenza’s springs and dampers did an admirable job of soaking up road imperfections around town and are tuned to land somewhere between the Acura RLX’s sportier aspirations and the pillow-soft ride of the LaCrosse. Cabin noise in the Cadenza is extremely well controlled on all road surfaces and thanks all throttle positions. In some ways the Cadenza was too quiet, hushing the engine’s emissions during our 0-60 testing.

In a straight line the Cadenza’s gear ratios and relative lack of low end torque make the Kia feel sluggish compared to the competition, something I hadn’t expected given the engine specs. Part of this is a transmission that feels reluctant to downshift which takes some of the joy out of mountain driving. Fortunately Kia includes paddle shifters so you can command the gears, but in comparison the Ford/GM transaxle and Chrysler’s ZF sourced unit seem psychic in comparison.

2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

When it comes to nannies and gadgets Kia took an interesting line. The Cadenza has lane departure warning but no prevention system tied to it unlike Lincoln and Acura’s systems. On the flip side Kia over-delivers with the radar cruise control system. Acura’s systems brake too hard and too early, Infiniti’s systems brake hard and late, most of the other systems on the market are a combination of the two and the majority give up when speeds drop below 20MPH. Much like the systems on current Volvo and Mercedes models however the Kia system drives like a moderately cautious driver, braking progressively but smoothly to a complete stop, and accelerating at a moderate rate when traffic resumes. The system is so fluid that passengers didn’t know the car was “driving itself”  in heavy traffic until I told them to pay attention to my right leg.

After a week with the Cadenza and 611 miles I have to admit I was hooked and that’s not something I say often. The Cadenza’s elegant but restrained looks, comfortable and well-assembled interior, heavy gadget content and value pricing are an incredibly compelling combo. The interior and sticker price more than justify the negatives I encountered during the week. The only major problem with the Cadenza is the Kia logo on the hood. This begs the question: is luxury looking expensive or feeling coddled? At higher price points I would argue you need both, but near luxury is about value and that’s where the Cadenza shines. I’m not sure about Kia’s Mercedes ambitions, but one thing’s for sure, the Cadenza puts Acura on notice and Lexus needs to watch their back.

 

Hit it or Quit it?

Hit it

  • It turns out you can have an Acura at Honda prices.
  • Alcantara headliners rock.
  • Near-luxury without near-pretentiousness

Quit it

  • Can you handle your premium car’s discount badge?
  • I had expected better performance numbers.

 

Kia provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.51 Seconds

0-60: 6.08 Seconds

1/4 mile: 14.67 Seconds @ 97 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 24.5 MPG over 611 miles

 

2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-001 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-002 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-003 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-004 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-005 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-006 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-007 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-008 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-010 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-011 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-012 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Cadenza Exterior-015 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-002 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-003 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-004 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-006 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-007 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-009 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-010 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-011 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-012 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-013 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-014 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior-015 2014 Kia Cadenza Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

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Review: 2014 Acura RLX (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2014-acura-rlx-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2014-acura-rlx-with-video/#comments Sat, 17 Aug 2013 02:02:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498841 2014 Acura RLX Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Breaking into the Luxury market isn’t easy. Toyota has arguably had the most success with Lexus, the only full-line luxury marque sold in America that isn’t German. Infiniti gave up on trying to go head-to-head with the S-Class and 7-Series when they ditched the Q, and Cadillac has yet to have a complete and coherent strategy. Meanwhile Acura started off strong with the Legend, created a competent E/5 competitor with the all-wheel-drive RL, and then things started to fall apart. Can the RLX bring the brand back?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Why do I bring up Germans in a review of a front-wheel-drive luxury sedan? Because some folks [not everyone mind you] at Acura and plenty of fan boys would like to think the brand runs with the big dogs. In truth Acura has always been a “near-luxury” brand because they lack a full-size competitor to play in the S-Class/7-Series/A8 pool.

Competition

In order to look at the RLX through the right lens, we need to nail down the competition. Acura would like you to believe the front-wheel-drive RLX should be pitted against the rear-wheel-drive BMW 528/535, Mercedes E350 and Lexus GS350. I think this comparison has a few problems. First, the RLX isn’t as dynamic as a RWD sedan. Second, Acura’s brand position is a problem. What say our readers? Should the brand matter in comparisons? Should this all be priced based? In my mind the RLX’s drivetrain and the brand’s near-luxury image put the Acura in direct competition with the Cadillac XTS, Lincoln MKS and Volvo S80. What about the FWD/AWD A6? Perhaps, but Audi’s brand is a solid BMW/Mercedes competitor these days.

2014 Acura RLX Exterior-009

Exterior

Acura’s flagship has always worn elegant and restrained sheetmetal and that continues with the RLX. Up front we get a more muted and better integrated version of Acura’s signature “beak” flanked by multi-beam LED headlamps. The LED high and low beams are standard on every RLX and strike a unique pose as identifiable as BMW’s “angel eyes.”

The RLX’s rump is probably the best looking in Acura’s current product portfolio. I’ve never cared for the jumble of shapes on the TL’s back side, thankfully none of them are along for the ride. In an interesting twist, Acura put the RLX’s quad exhaust tips behind the bumper where you can’t see them instead of integrating them into the bumper cover as in the smaller TL. Looking at the RLX from the side it’s obvious this car has grown. The rear doors give the Acura a more luxurious look than the old RL which had a decidedly Accord-like silhouette. A long front overhang advertises the transverse engine layout in the RLX, but that’s not really a problem with our pre-defined competition since the two Americans and the Swede are all FWD platforms as well.

In my opinion, the RLX’s exterior ranks second behind the 2014 Volvo S80′s clean lines. Yes the Volvo is getting old, but frequent refreshed have helped it age well. I like Caddy’s art-and-science design theme on every Caddy except the XTS where I find the proportions to be awkward. However Awkward trumps the ginormous and bizarre schnoz on the Lincoln MKS.

2014 Acura RLX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

The RLX’s interior is one place where I can not only compare the Acura to the Germans, it’s an area where Acura excels. You won’t find a full-on stitched leather dash like the Volvo S80 or the Mercedes E350 with the “designo” package, but you can “option up” a band of stitched leather running across the cabin. Anyway you order your RLX, perfect seams and a tasteful amount of metallic trim are standard. You’ll also find perfect seams and fit and finish quality that would make Lexus blush. What you won’t find is real tree. The choice of fake wood on upper trim levels perplexes me when all the RLX competitors slather the cabin in acres of burl. (Base RLX models get faux-metal trim.) When it comes to interior styling and quality, I rank the RLX above the E350, 528i, S80, MKS, XTS, GS350, and yes, even the A6.

Front seat comfort ranks second in this quartet behind Volvo’s large and supportive thrones. Enlarging the pool only drops the Acura to third place above the BMW 5-series’ standard seats but behind the optional million-way sport buckets. Oddly however, those seats aren’t covered in leather in base RLX models. Want real moo? That’ll be $6,000 more than the RLX’s base $48,450. This may be in line with Lexus’ recent move in the GS, but the RLX’s closest competition comes with real leather standard.

Rear passengers have notably more room than the outgoing RL with legroom and headroom in line with everyone else. While Lincoln and Cadillac cut corners in the back, Acura delivers rich plastics and an attention to detail that places it first in thus class and certainly on par with BMW’s 5.

2014 Acura RLX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment
If one screen is good, two must be better, right? My short answer is: sometimes. The standard two-screen system first debuted in the new Accord and is tweaked for luxury duty donning the AcuraLink name. The concept as explained to me is: the lower touchscreen handles the audio, freeing the upper screen for navigation and other tasks. My beef with the system is: you still need to use the upper screen to navigate your media device as the lower screen simply selects sources and changes tracks somewhat defeating the purpose of splitting the screens. Because of this split personality, and the fact that you have to use the touchscreen, and the knob/dial controller, and the button-bank to navigate the system, AcuraLink comes across as “not fully baked.”

Since my first experience with AcuraLink, the system has grown on me, and in the RLX the dual screens are very well integrated into the dashboard rather than looking like an afterthought as in the Honda. AcuraLink is without question snappier than MyLincoln Touch or Cadillac’s buggy CUE system. I find Volvo’s Sensus interface more intuitive, but you need binoculars to use the microscopic LCD.

Two screens might be standard on the $48,450 base model, but navigation is not. Want maps? That bumps the price to $50,950. For $54,450 Acura will bump the speaker count from 10 to 14, watts from 404 to 588, add sound deadening side glass, rain sense wipers, and folding side mirrors. If you want the Krell audio and all the electronic goodies like radar cruise, lane keep assist, parking sensors, dimming side mirrors, ventilated front seats and heated rear seats that bumps the price of the RLX to an eye watering $60,450. Ouch.

2014 Acura RLX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Acura’s only engine for 2014 is a direct-injected 310HP 3.5L V6 that cranks out 272lb-ft of torque. In typical Acura fashion peak power comes at 6,500 RPM, torque comes to a boil at a lofty 4,500 RPM and the six-pot is smooth as butter at every RPM. 310 ponies used to be something to brag about, unfortunately this is 2014 and the RLX’s mill only leads when you compare it to base engines in the competition. The problem is everyone but Acura offers a more powerful engine option. If you think nobody options up, let’s look at the numbers. Lincoln says over 30% of MKS shoppers opt for their twin-turbo V6 which puts down 19% more power and 30% more torque. My local Volvo dealer says the take rate on the twin-scroll turbo S80 with AWD (300 horsepower and 325lb-ft, 20% more twist) is nearly 80% and I’m not in the snow belt. It remains to be seen how many of the fire-breathing twin-turbo 410 horse V6s Cadillac ships in the XTS, but judging by the competition I expect them to shift a few. The Germans? Their twin-turbo V8s are in a different performance ballpark but the 443 horsepower 550i starts just $3,500 more than the top-end RLX.

Power isn’t the only area where the RLX is at a competitive disadvantage, Acura also dropped their Super Handling AWD system from their flagship. Acura’s torque vectoring AWD, capable of continually varying the FWD/RWD bias, set the old RL apart (and ahead) from the pack. Yes, there will be a hybrid AWD RLX soon we are told, but with a maximum of around 60 horsepower at the rear wheels the 370HP RLX hybrid is likely to retain a strong FWD bias. (The system will not have a mechanical connection between the engine and rear wheels. Instead there will be a ~40HP motor/generator between the engine and transaxle and an approximately 28HP motor at each rear wheel.) The less sophisticated AWD systems found in the MKS, XTS and S80 are suddenly the choice for driving enthusiasts.

2014 Acura RLX Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

The lack of AWD has a huge impact in the way the RLX drives compared to its predecessor. The old RL was a hoot and a half on winding mountain roads. In comparison, the RLX is three-quarters of a hoot. The old RL was capable of sending the majority of the engine’s power to the outside rear wheel making it corner with precision and confidence. When pushed to its limits, the front-heavy RL understeered predictably. The RLX on the other hand is probably one of the most capable front drivers on the market, easily more capable than the FWD Lincoln, Cadillac or Volvo but slots behind AWD versions of the same.

Acura’s “Precision All Wheel Steer” system (dubbed P-AWS) is the reason for the RLX’s crisp handling. P-AWS differs from other systems on the market in that it can rotate the rear wheels independently of one another allowing the car to toe both wheels in when braking. That might sound odd, but doing so keeps the RLX’s rear end from feeling “squirely” under hard braking, something usually associated with nose-heavy sedans. P-AWS is tuned to “mimic” oversteer as much as possible in corners leading to a peculiar combination of slight torque steer, [very] mild oversteer and a hint of wheel hop all at the same time. This is a confluence of personalities you will find only in the RLX. Helping out is an always-active stability control system. Unlike the stability control on most cars which only intervene when things go pear-shaped, this system is always playing with the brakes trying to “improve” the handling characteristics of the RLX. Paired with electric power steering these systems make the RLX the best handling, but the most artificial large FWD sedan I have ever driven.

2014 Acura RLX Exterior-010

Our RLX was equipped with Acura’s “Lane Keep Assist” system which uses the electric power steering system to help keep you in your lane. Unlike all the other systems on the market, on a freeway the LKA system is almost always providing some level of steering assistance. Acura likens the aid to a ball riding in a “U” shaped trough, the closer you get to the lane lines, the more the system assists. I don’t know if I have formed an opinion on the system yet, but it did work as advertised and can be turned off completely.

If you’ve been keeping score, I found the RLX to be the second most attractive on the outside, have the best interior, second most comfortable seats, best infotainment system, best handling numbers, a middling engine and questionable behind-the-wheel-feel. One might assume this puts the RLX towards the top of the quartet, and perhaps a viable alternative to the Germans. One would be wrong. The RLX is unquestionably a good car, but it’s $3,200 more than a similarly configured FWD XTS, $8,275 more than the  FWD Volvo S80 and $9,990 more than the FWD MKS. Things get worse when you load up the Lincoln and Volvo with the more powerful S80 T6 AWD still $5,000 cheaper and the 365HP MKS Ecoboost AWD $3,000 less expensive. Only Cadillac’s 410HP XTS VSport is more expensive ranging from $62,000-$72,000. The news is just as grim when pitted against the luxury competition with the RLX being $1,300 more than the Lexus GS350, $1,200 less than the Infiniti M37, and only a $3,000 discount compared to the E350 and BMW 535i. The result is the RLX has no “value” proposition to counter the middling engine numbers, FWD bias, road feel and most importantly: the brand image. Sadly I fear the RLX is about $10,000 away from being a great car and $15,000 away from being a game changer. Until Acura realigns their flagship’s capabilities (or shrinks the price tag) the RLX is destined to be the car everyone likes but nobody buys.

 

Acura provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.38 Seconds

0-60: 5.72 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.28 Seconds @ 99 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 23 MPG over 781 miles

 

2014 Acura RLX Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-001 2014 Acura RLX Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-003 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-004 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-005 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-006 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-007 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-008 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-009 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-010 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-011 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-012 2014 Acura RLX Exterior-013 2014 Acura RLX Interior 2014 Acura RLX Interior-001 2014 Acura RLX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura RLX Interior-003 2014 Acura RLX Interior-004 2014 Acura RLX Interior-005 2014 Acura RLX Interior-006 2014 Acura RLX Interior-007 2014 Acura RLX Interior-008 2014 Acura RLX Interior-009 2014 Acura RLX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura RLX Interior-011 2014 Acura RLX Interior-012 2014 Acura RLX Interior-013 2014 Acura RLX Interior-014 2014 Acura RLX Interior-015 2014 Acura RLX Interior-016 2014 Acura RLX Interior-017 2014 Acura RLX Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura RLX Interior-019 2014 Acura RLX 2014 Acura RLX-001 ]]>
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Derek And Doug’s Fantastic Crapwagons: Acura Integra Type-R http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/derek-and-dougs-fantastic-crapwagons-acura-integra-type-r/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/derek-and-dougs-fantastic-crapwagons-acura-integra-type-r/#comments Fri, 21 Jun 2013 12:30:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=492818 Integra1998

Derek writes:

Where do you find a clean, unmolested Integra Type-R in Toronto? In somebody else’s driveway.

The peculiarities of Canada’s auto market meant that modifying Hondas became one of the only avenues of affordable speed for young people. With a market size 1/10th of America’s, our choices are limited from the get-go. The most popular car, for years and years, has been the Honda Civic. So what do you get when a large percentage of car enthusiasts are able to buy cheap but well-maintained stick shift Civics? Well, for one thing, extraordinarily high rates of theft for both Civics and the better, VTEC equipped Hondas. One of the reasons I got my Miata in the first place is because any Civic, Integra, Prelude or Accord cost an outrageous amount to insure. An Integra GS-R would have been $330 a month versus $150 a month for my Miata (and that’s with no accidents or tickets).

It’s really easy to find a cheap Civic with a well-done VTEC swap, but that’s led to the virtual extinction of the Civic Si, the Integra GS-R and of course, the Integra Type-R. Anybody that still has a Type-R keeps theirs in a garage. Otherwise it will be stolen, crashed, or both. I was amazed that none of the cars I came across online had salvage or theft titles. Then again, I only found two.

Both are yellow, which is not my choice of color. Both have relatively low miles, but they go for between $12,500-$14,500. Fair money for these cars, but more than I’d ever want to pay. I know that the Type-R chassis has extra welding and less sound deadening, and there’s the specialness of it being an original Type-R and all that, but knowing that I could have a better performing Integra sedan (which I prefer to the hatch) built for me, with my choice of engine (a B18C from a GS-R, mated to an LSD gearbox from a Japanese Integra), for half the cost, is too appealing to ignore. And it wouldn’t be yellow.

Doug writes:

There really aren’t any Integra Type Rs around here.  Craigslist, for example, has precisely zero.

AutoTrader.com has just one.  It’s black and it features a K20Z1 swap, which I hope is an engine.  It also boasts – and I’m quoting from the ad here – “15×8 Rays Gramlight 57dr” as well as “dc2R red Recaros.”  And ladies and gentlemen, you’re unlikely to find those ever again in one place, at least if you believe the seller.  I personally have no idea what they are.

Anyway, this car is a 2000 with 75,000 miles and the seller is asking $16,000.  If you’re questioning whether it’s worth it, don’t bother, as he lists right in the ad that it’s “worth every bit of what I’m asking.”  Tough, but fair.

A stock example doesn’t show up until I expand my search radius to 500 miles.  It’s a 2001 model in Virginia, yellow and beautiful.  Mileage is at 115,000 and pricing is very reasonable at $12,000.  This one is stunningly stock, right down to the shift knob, which looks like the top end of a screwdriver stuck in the shift boot.

The only problem with an ITR purchase, on my end, is that it comes with a huge bill: I’d have to spring for a garage.  That’s because the ITR does three things: it looks good, it drives well, and it gets stolen.  And I wouldn’t want to buy a new K20Z1 or dc2R red Recaros.  I wouldn’t even know where to look.

 

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A Trip To The Honda Museum http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/a-trip-to-the-honda-museum/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/a-trip-to-the-honda-museum/#comments Mon, 17 Jun 2013 14:19:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=492083 LosAngelesJune6th 019

Two weeks ago, Honda kind enough to throw open the doors of their museum in Torrance, California, which houses a collection of significant vehicles sold by the company. There’s something for everyone here, from the smallest N600 to the NSX, along with all sorts of detritus located in a secret corner of the warehouse space. Allow us to take you on a virtual tour below the jump.

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The N600 – one of Honda’s first efforts in North America, and a striking doppleganger for the original Mini, no? It wouldn’t surprise me if Honda was “inspired” by Sir Alec’s creation.

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The funkier looking Z600.

LosAngelesJune6th 046Speaking as someone who was born long after these cars had oxidized, I was amazed at how thin the door panels were compared to modern cars.

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In the corner were some wheels and tires for a 1973 Civic. They don’t look much bigger than my go-kart tires.

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A 1973 Civic. That same year, one of my Grandfather’s congregants approached him and said “Rabbi, I am selling a new car, from Japan. It’s called the Honda Civic.” My grandfather was a die-hard Detroit guy up until then, but he took a chance on Mr. Reddinger’s new car. People laughed at him…until winter came, and he had no problems with traction. Or filling up the gas tank. My grandparents drove the car until it literally fell apart. My grandfather’s last car was a 1991 Accord that he purchased off my Dad.

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A Civic wagon.

LosAngelesJune6th 058The interior is, as Bring-A-Trailer would say, “period correct”. I haven’t seen red/burgundy upholstery since the early 1990′s Chevrolet Lumina.

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Hang on to your hands, B&B. A brown wagon with a manual transmission. This one has 68 original miles.

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I am digging the houndstooth fabric seat covers. It looks like one of my father’s old sport coats.

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A Civic Si hatch.

LosAngelesJune6th 067These EF sedans were a staple of my childhood. Every year, my mother would get a new one, always in white.

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Sadly, this car is automatic.

LosAngelesJune6th 070Inside the museum is a replica of the first American Honda store at 4077 West Pico in Los Angeles. Outside sit an N600 and something on two wheels.

LosAngelesJune6th 072Inside is a veritable treasure trove of Honda goodies…

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All those 10 Best awards for the Accord? They have to go somewhere.

LosAngelesJune6th 076Badges of all kinds.

LosAngelesJune6th 074An oil painting of Senna during the McLaren years

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Old brochures

LosAngelesJune6th 079And even this diorama. I suppose that’s Asimo about to dock a spacecraft with a Ridgeline.

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Across from the Civics was a row dedicated to the Accord. What a metamorphosis it’s gone through, from hatchback

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To brown sedan

LosAngelesJune6th 093To tan sedan (with flip-up lights)

LosAngelesJune6th 096To station wagon (another relic of the Kreindler family. My brother and I threw up in the back of countless examples of these)

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To coupe. And they all had 4-cylinder engines.

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Acura wasn’t forgotten either.

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Nor were Honda’s greener efforts.

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But this is what I was really here to see.

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Next to the Insights and fuel cell concepts sat a 1991 NSX with 80,000+ miles on it. Almost like a middle finger to the green cars. The outside looked pretty, but the inside was actually fairly worn and ratty.

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Not that it matters. Honda has this 78-mile 2004 example as well.

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And what might be the last unmolested Integra Type-R.

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The iconic RealTime Racing cars were in attendance

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As well as a more dubious example of a “race car”

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This, however, is the real deal.

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A beautiful example of a CRX Si.

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Alongside it, an earlier Si as well as a real-life Mugen version.

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Behind them, an original ad for the U.S. built Accord coupe, which was exported to Japan briefly.

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I asked the curator if I could drive an NSX during my visit. Unfortunately, they didn’t have enough time to prepare one, but they did have this kicking around. So, you’ll have to excuse me.

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Arigato gozaimasu, Honda-san

Thank you to American Honda and Brad Long for opening their doors to TTAC!

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Future Looking Bleak For The Acura TSX http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/future-looking-bleak-for-acura-tsx/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/future-looking-bleak-for-acura-tsx/#comments Mon, 03 Jun 2013 17:13:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490594 2013-Acura-TSX-_10_-450x300

The Acura TSX’s future has been in doubt ever since the debut of the smaller ILX, but more than ever, the rebadged European Accord appears to be living on borrowed time.

Automotive News reports that a few factors are conspiring to bring about the demise of the TSX. One is that the European Accord that the TSX is based on is a very poor seller in Europe, and the car sales crisis happening on the continent isn’t helping matters. Mid-size cars have really taken a beating, and the slow-selling Accord has been hit especially hard. Because of the slow sales, Honda is killing off the car rather than developing a whole new generation. That means no future platform for the TSX to ride on.

Furthermore, the next generation TL is going to be downsized to fit better below the upcoming Acura RLX. The TL and the new American market Accord actually use a global platform that can be scaled up or down, which is far more efficient rather than using regional platforms. The new, scaled-down TL is reportedly slightly larger than the TSX, meaning cannibalization would be inevitable.

Acura says that the TSX will remain in the lineup ”for the foreseeable future.” After all, why kill a good thing. The ILX isn’t exactly setting the sales charts a blaze – it can barely pull away from the TSX.

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First Drive: 2014 Acura MDX (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/first-drive-2014-acura-mdx/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/first-drive-2014-acura-mdx/#comments Fri, 31 May 2013 14:01:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489100 2014 Acura MDX Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The RDX may have supplanted the MDX as Acura’s best-selling model, but Acura hopes to put the their mid-sized crossover back on top with the all-new 2014 MDX. To show us how they plan to do that, Acura invited us to Oregon to sample the new MDX for a day around Newberg. Even without the snazzy trip it’s easy to see that regaining the Acura sales crown shouldn’t be difficult. After all, the current MDX is Acura’s second best-selling vehicle and despite being seven years old (ancient in the auto biz) the MDX is still the best-selling 7-seat luxury SUV in America and the second best-selling mid-sized SUV/crossover period. How does one redesign success? Carefully.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

You’d be forgiven for thinking little has changed by just glancing at the MDX, and that’s the way Acura shoppers like it. That statement makes me scratch my head just a little, because the 2014 model still sports the Acura “beak,” the most controversial style decision Acura ever made. We have to keep this in perspective however: nothing about the MDX is overdone, the only reason anyone complained about the beak in the first place is that Acura is known for conservative design cues. This love for conservative, evolutionary design is why the MDX is instantly identifiable as an Acura despite riding on an all-new MDX-exclusive platform and sharing little beyond some transmission parts with the outgoing model.

Bringing the MDX’s signature shape up-to-date we have standard full-LED headlamps which (if I am not mistaken) will make the MDX the least expensive vehicle on the road with the snazzy beams. Since we only had a limited time with the car in the day I can’t say how they perform at night, but the color temperature of the lamps is a pleasing neutral color and not the harsh blue light LED lamps are known for.

2014 Acura MDX Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Although the 2014 looked wider to my eye, it’s lost 1.3 inches in overall width and 1.4 inches of track up front, 1.2 in the rear. Perhaps it’s the loss of 1.5 inches in height over last year that creates the illusion of width? One thing’s for sure however, the MDX is longer and looks longer, gaining 2 inches overall in length and an important 2.8 inches in wheelbase, helping out that tight third row seat.

Interior

The MDX is notable for being a mid-sized crossover with seven seats. This size difference is important to keep in mind because comparisons to the likes of the Infiniti QX56, Mercedes GL, and Lexus GX seem everywhere. The more appropriate cross-shops are the Infiniti JX35 (now the QX60), Buick Enclave, Volvo XC90 and maybe the Lincoln MKT. (If you watch the video, pardon the lack of MKT comparisons, it slipped my mind, as I’m sure it slips the minds of most luxury shoppers.)

2014 Acura MDX Interior, Third row seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Acura continues to stick to their formula of traditional injection molded dashboards and plenty of convincing fake wood. I would be interested to hear your opinions on this choice, so be sure to sound off in the comment section below. While I like the look and the materials are premium in feel, it can’t match the visual impact or feel of a stitched leather/pleather dash, something that the refreshed Buick Enclave does incredibly well. The MDX continues to do have a very uniform feel with perfect seams and gaps and a consistent quality level throughout, something that Buick’s CUV continues to struggle with (the lower dash and door plastics in the Enclave are still a bit cheap.)

The MDX’s front and middle thrones still sport the Acura hallmark “Lady Gaga horny shoulders,” a design cue frequently imitated but never duplicated to the same effect. Like Lexus and Infiniti, Acura still hasn’t discovered seats that more in more than the same basic 8-10 ways as any $25,000 family sedan. Despite having only half the “ways” as BMW’s sport seats, I find the MDX’s redesigned thrones to be among the most comfortable in the segment for my body shape.

2014 Acura MDX Cargo Area, Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Most of the MDX’s length increase has gone where current owners wanted it: the cargo area. That means the passenger area is smaller than last year with a drop in headroom ranging from more than an inch up front to two-tenths in the back. Legroom stays largely unchanged but Acura altered the middle seats to slide further forward/rearward allowing either more middle leg room than before or more third-row room than before (not both at the same time.) That third-row is best left to the kids or your mother-in-law, although it’s not as cramped as the Infiniti JX’s rear accommodations. Helping you get back there is a new push-button middle-seat folding mechanism that worked well but reminded me the Infiniti has middle seats that can slide forward to allow ingress while a child seat is strapped in.

The cargo area stretches by 2.75 inches from the third-row seat hinges to the tailgate and 5.88 inches from the third-row headrests to the rear glass. That’s the difference between fitting a 20-gallon cooler and 7-people in your SUV and not. There isn’t much daylight between the Infiniti or Acura and the MDX when it comes to stuffing bags behind the third row, all three beat the old XC90 by a wide margin and all hold considerably less than the Buick Enclave.

2014 Acura MDX Interior, Infotainment, Navigation LCD, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

Honda’s two-screen infotainment/navigation system has filtered up from the 2013 Accord to the RLX and now to the MDX as standard equipment. The logic behind the twin screens is: the lower screen is for your media devices while the upper screen is for navigation. In practice, the lower screen allows you to select sources, skip to a different album and change tracks, but in order to browse or search playlists, songs, change treble, bass, and surround processing, you have to use the upper screen and the rotary control knob. In essence this is the same software as before with a snazzy color touchscreen remote that handles some of the functions. The result is a system that could have been more elegant but the execution seems half-baked. Put it back in the oven and let me know when it’s done.

Although out time with the MDX was limited, I was able to sample my usual audio selection from my iDevice and didn’t notice too much difference between the base 8-speaker audio system, the 501-watt 10-speaker or 529-watt 11 speaker systems. They all exhibit the same balance I have come to expect from Acura: neutral with a somewhat limited range but excellent fidelity for a $42,000-$56,000 vehicle. The Logic 7 systems in the BMW are better, but they are also spendier. If you’re one of the 10 Acura customers that latched on to DVD audio, it’s time to sell those discs on Ebay, DVD-A is dead.

2014 Acura MDX Exterior, Front Grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Now is as good a time as any to talk pricing. The FWD MDX starts almost a grand lower than the 2013 AWD model at $42,290 and is only available in four flavors. $46,565 adds the “Technology package” and included rainsense wipers, lane departure warning, collision warning, a color display between the dials, 19-inch wheels (not sure how that’s a tech item) and links your climate control to your GPS position. $48,565 adds on the “Entertainment package” which is a 16.2-inch wide-screen rear entertainment system that allows either a single wide picture or will display two things side-by-side. The system brings two extra speakers, a 110V power outlet, wireless headphones and HDMI in to the party. If you want lane keep assist, full-speed-range radar cruise control, remote start, auto dimming mirrors and parking sensors, you need to pony up $54,505 for the “Advance package” which cannot be had without the rear seat entertainment system for some reason. Want AWD? add $2,000 to those prices. That places the MDX in the middle of the pack with the Enclave delivering similar bang for less buck and the Acura and Infiniti very similarly priced.

Drivetrain

For 2014 Acura has swapped the 3.7L V6 for the new 3.5L “Earth Dreams” mill with direct-injection and “Variable Cylinder Management.” (VCM allows the V6 to drop to a 3-cylinder mode on the highway.) To quell vibrations, the MDX gets unique active engine mounts which generate vibrations opposite to what the engine produces to cancel them out. (Think Bose noise cancelling headphones.) Despite the DI treatment, power is down from 300HP to 290 and torque takes a small drop from 270 to 267 lb-ft as well. To counter the power loss, Acura put the MDX on a diet and 2014 sees 275lbs shed. The weight loss and improved low-end torque mean that performance is up, even with the power down.

2014 Acura MDX

Perhaps the bigger change is not the engine, but which wheels spin. For the first time since the MDX rolled onto the scene there is a FWD model. While I think this dilutes the MDX “brand” because it has been associated with AWD system since its debut, the rational can’t be dismissed: fuel economy and sunbelt sales. According to Acura’s research, the southern states love their 2WD crossovers and while the 2WD RDX compact crossover did eat into sales of the AWD model, combined RDX sales were up some 90% when they added the FWD model. Go figure. We didn’t get our chance to drive a FWD MDX, as none had made it across from the factory in Alabama, but Acura is promising a class leading 28 MPGs on the highway and 20 in the city –  one more highway MPG than the recently announced Infiniti JX35/QX60 hybrid model (25/27 MPG). When equipped with AWD, economy drops to 18/27 MPG, still a huge bump from last year’s 16/21 score.

2014 Acura MDX Exterior, LED Headlamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

Because the MDX has a transverse engine and a transaxle under the hood, weight balance isn’t as ideal as the Audi Q7 or BMW X5 (Acura thinks the X5 is their prime competition). Aside from the fact that Honda/Acura doesn’t have a RWD drivetrain to borrow, the benefit is improved interior packaging evident in the ginormous center console (positioned right where the X5 keeps its transmission). On the down side Acura is two-cogs shy of Audi and BMW with their revised 6-speed transaxle. Before you discount Acura, we must discuss SH-AWD.

“Super Handling All Wheel Drive” may not have been the best name for the system, but it is arguably the best AWD system you can tack onto a transverse FWD platform. The systems used by Infiniti, Lexus, Volvo, Lincoln and just about everyone out there that had an AWD system tacked onto a transaxle has no center differential. Instead the power flows from the final gearset of the transmission to the front diff and the rear diff via gears at a fixed 1:1 ratio. Between this gear arrangement and the rear diff is a clutch pack that allows the car to connect, disconnect or have a varied connection between the transmission and rear axles. When fully connected the power is split 50/50 assuming all wheels have traction.

SH-AWD also uses the same arrangement but adds a unique differential unit in the rear that does two things. First, it has a gearset to “speed up” the rear wheels so that when they are connected, they spin 1.7% faster than the fronts. Next it has a torque vectoring unit that is capable of slitting power 100:0/0:100 left to right. In a straight line, “overdriving” the rear wheels gives the MDX a more RWD feel than otherwise possible and in corners the system is capable of sending up to 70% of the power to the outside rear wheel helping the MDX’s cornering manners and masking the “plowing” tendencies normal in a front heavy car. For 2014 Acura took this a step further and uses a system to brake wheels selectively to improve neutral handling. This is beyond stability control because the system is always active rather than active only when things are going pear-shaped.

2014 Acura MDX Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Thanks to SH-AWD, the Acura is almost the X5′s dynamic dance partner, unfortunately you can’t completely hide the MDX’s extra nose weight. Still, despite Acura’s insistence I can’t see than many X5 shoppers stopping by Acura’s lot. Instead the MDX shines against the Infiniti with a more refined and better performing drivetrain. The JX hybrid is likely to get better combined MPG numbers, but with only 250 ponies on tap and no “sporting” changes, it’s unlikely to be half a hoot, let alone a hoot and a half. Encore shoppers looking for a more premium brand and some handling cred won’t be appointed and Mercedes ML shoppers will find a better value than on the German lot.

How does that FWD model compare? You’ll have to wait for that review as Acura didn’t have any examples on hand. I can posit an opinion however: the driving dynamics will be disappointing. Remove SH-AWD and you have a front-heavy front driver just like base Buick Enclave models. I know that Acura is sure to sell lots of these, but please TTAC readers, check that AWD option box.

 

Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • One more MPG on the highway than the Infiniti JX35/QX60 hybrid and the same highway economy as the RX450h.
  • Oddly enough, “Super Handling” really does describe the AWD system.

Quit it

  • I’m not sure what radar cruise and parking sensors have to do with rear seat DVD players. Why are they only sold together?
  • The two-screen infotainment system seems half-baked, put it back in the oven and let me know when it’s done.
  • Fake wood was so 1980s Oldsmobile.

 

Acura flew me to Oregon, stuffed me with poached salmon and craft beer and set me loose on the streets of Oregon for this review (but not in that order necessarily).

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