Today’s Buy/Drive/Burn trio represent the high-dollar sports car that doesn’t quite make it into supercar territory. They’re very expensive, yet among other extra-fast vehicles in the six-figure segment, they’re considered relatively good value.
This makes them all oddballs; none ever burn up the sales charts. But that doesn’t mean they can’t catch fire.
Acura treated the world to a surprise — and much-needed — refresh for the 2019 ILX this week. While it hasn’t abandoned the brand’s signature visuals, it finally made the model interesting enough to warrant a closer examination. Previous incarnations of the ILX — including the post-2016 facelift — have proven excruciatingly dull, resulting in the quick onset of a cripplingly severe mental malaise.
Based on the ninth-generation Honda Civic, all one could really say about the 2018 ILX was that it was a competent vehicle and perfect for someone seeking luxury on a budget. Then came the brow furrowing, a long sigh, and an extended speech about the superiority of Acura’s TSX.
Normal people also appear to have noticed something was missing, as ILX sales have followed a downward trajectory since 2015. However, Acura’s new styling attempts to remedy that by injecting the sedan with some personality.
It’s nothing new in the industry, nor is it at all uncommon, but Honda’s distinctly balanced product mix continues to tip ever further towards the trucks and SUV side, despite the assertion of American Honda’s assistant VP of sales, Ray Mikiciuk, that cars will continue as the brand’s mainstay.
With the same number of selling days as August 2017, last month showed the automaker’s volume on the upswing, propelled by the strength of light truck sales. In keeping with the theme of balance, only one mainstream car saw its sales increase, year over year, while only one light truck model saw its sales decrease.
Can we really call the Acura NSX a supercar? Some might disagree. It’s certainly not a super seller, anyway, but not for a lack of trying on Acura’s part to get motoring enthusiasts interested in the concept of a two-seater sport hybrid.
For 2019, the second-generation NSX sees its first significant upgrades after awakening from its 11-year slumber in 2016. Improved handling is the goal here, but renewed consumer interest can’t be far behind on the wish list.
Acura would love it if we talked about the brand in the same manner that we did, oh, say a decade ago. Maybe the turn of the century. But we don’t, as vehicles like the second-generation NSX simply didn’t capture our imagination like the original. There’s no cheap, fun little car like the Integra anymore, and cars as a whole are vanishing from conversations as quickly as they fade from sales sheets.
Sales of Acura cars in the U.S. fell over 25 percent in June, year over year, and volume over the first half of 2018 was down 6.5 percent. That leaves Acura’s utility vehicles with the job of counteracting the loss — a difficult task for just two models.
For the freshest model in Acura’s stable — the totally revamped 2019 RDX compact crossover — June returned the news Acura execs were hoping for.
Having first appeared back in 2000 as a 2001 model, the Acura MDX is the Ed Asner of premium midsize import crossovers and a crucial breadwinner in the brand’s utility-light portfolio. While the model’s smaller sibling, the RDX, just underwent massive changes, the MDX soldiers on into 2019 muttering, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Thus, most changes fall into the minor but meaningful category.
One thing the 2019 MDX does seek to fix is its mildly conservative persona, but only for buyers willing to take that leap.
In the fiercely competitive compact crossover segment, a game arguably invented by Lexus, a company has to have a killer app in order to stand out. The XC60 trades upon a platform of safety, thanks to the goodwill built by the Volvo brand. BMW has – rightly or wrongly – its rep for being the Ultimate Driving Machine to lure customers into an X3.
But Acura? Most would struggle to finger a standout attribute of their current offering in that segment, the RDX. This is not to say it is a bad machine – it outsells two of its closest rivals – but the company knows change has to be made, and consequently plans to turn up the volume … in more ways than one.
Set to appear on dealer lots within the next few days, Acura has released pricing for the newest version of its compact crossover, the RDX.
Now in its third generation, the trucklet, contending in the savagely competitive compact luxury crossover segment against such heavies as the BMW X3 and Lexus NX, will make an opening bid south of $40,000, even for customers that want all-wheel drive.
Often found in its larger, older sibling’s shadow, Acura’s compact RDX crossover can at least boast of being the brand’s best-selling vehicle. Over the first four months of 2018, Americans picked up 15,326 of the little crossovers, versus the MDX’s 13,909.
But with popularity comes responsibility. As production begins in Ohio on the next-generation RDX, Acura’s smallest crossover must overcome its own falling sales in order to help reverse the brand’s flagging fortunes.
You would think that after 34 years of having the same guitar teacher, I would be better than I am. Yet that’s not really an accurate statement. From the ages of 12 to 14, I went weekly to The String Shoppe on the Ohio State campus for weekly instruction that frustrated more than it educated. My teacher, also named John, was a former New York studio musician specializing in big band and jazz music. I wanted to play Judas Priest riffs. The results were lackluster, to say the least, so I quit in favor of racing my BMX bike.
Two decades later, I sought John out again for some help in playing the old jazz standards to which I had finally come around. In the years since, he has suffered through a series of health scares and personal reversals, while my travel and parenting schedule has accelerated to something just sort of Warp Speed Nine, so nowadays when we meet it’s on short notice and it’s usually just to noodle around on a James Taylor song or something like “East Of The Sun” for an hour or so. It has been a long time since any money has changed hands.
When I stopped by John’s home studio on Saturday — rather predictably, the two songs we fussed with were “Anywhere like Heaven” and “Over The Rainbow” — he expressed interest in the Lotus Evora 400 I’ve been driving as a “long-termer,” while I noted that he’d chopped in his 2015 Accord LX for a 2018 Acura ILX. The conversation that followed has stuck with me all weekend.
Outside of my hometown of Chicago, New York City remains one of my favorite metropolises. I don’t know why – Manhattan is overstuffed with cars and people, garbage is put out on the sidewalks, hotel rooms are no oasis from street noise, and most goods and services are way too expensive.
Perhaps New York has a unique sort of charm that compensates for all its flaws, some sort of charisma that continues to exist despite the continuing transformation of Manhattan into a living Disney city for the wealthy.
I mean, in what other city would I be brazenly approached by a young man trying to sell me cocaine as I walked back to my hotel after some late-night pizza (partake, I did not. Drugs aren’t my thing. Pizza was good, though) while almost within sight of the most famous urban intersection in the world – one that was undoubtedly crowded to the gills even at that hour? In what other city would I have a surreal on-street argument with a fellow pedestrian over an innocent, touristy picture I took of a street sign? There’s this “only in New York” feeling, a sense that certain things happen to you that just wouldn’t elsewhere.
It’s the kind of place where you can swear bloody murder because the F train didn’t show, but find value in the 40-minute walk across lower Manhattan you undertake instead, all because you don’t feel like doing the logical thing and hailing a cab. SoHo, Little Italy, and Chinatown all look much better from on foot.
In the last edition of Buy/Drive/Burn, we concerned ourselves with unpopular large luxury sedans. The general B&B consensus at the end of the day was that none of them were a great purchase idea (see, you’re getting the point now). In the comments, Brian E. suggested we cover a trio of compact-ish sporty sedans he evaluated in real life, back in 2006.
So let’s travel to those days before the Great Recession and pick apart some sporty import sedans. By they way, they all have automatic transmissions.
Our last few entries in the Buy/Drive/Burn series have been stuck in the 1990s, and we’ve had a request recently to talk about something a bit newer, perhaps even… current. While you recover from your immediate shock, I can assure you we aren’t going completely mainstream. No talking about boring everyday things. No, these three will likely all qualify as Rare Rides subjects in the future, assuming I’m 70 years old and there’s still an Internet media (hopefully there isn’t).
Three untouchable large sedans, all of them trading on their luxury intentions. Remember, you only get to burn one, and one has to go home to your garage.
Acura’s reputation, at least as of late, has been that of a brand that’s lost its way. With the exception of the flagship NSX, the current lineup is, generally speaking, underwhelming.
The 2019 Acura RDX could be the first step back in the right direction for the brand, or it could be a dud. At a glance, it seems that Acura has the right idea, even if it expresses the message in eye-roll-worthy marketing gobbledygook.
Twist is up over the previous model by 28 lb-ft, thanks to a standard 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injection four-cylinder. Gone is the previous-gen model’s 3.5-liter V6. The compact crossover’s power output now stands at 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque.
In our last Buy/Drive/Burn entry, we traveled to the heady year of 1995 to peruse a trio of alternative luxury cars. One American and two Swedes vied for a place in the fantasy garage. The comments seemed to indicate a desire for more Japanese cars in the running, and commenter JohnTaurus suggested a trio we might discuss.
The year is 1995 (again). The cars are three unsuccessful Japanese luxury sedans that time forgot. Are you feeling… Vigorous?
Once again, we’re going to keep it in the ’90s and determine which of three imported, alternative semi-luxury SUVs should burn at the stake. Are you ready for gold badges and two-tone? Rhetorical question.
A guest showed up at the apartment yesterday, ready and prepared for when things got hot. No, stop thinking that, you weirdos — it was my landlord. He was replacing my smoke detectors. God.
Nice guy, I should point out, certainly the best landlord I’ve ever had. Anyway, as tends to happen with this fellow, we got to talking about cars. Also per the norm, he found himself on the fence regarding a purchasing dilemma — one that’s no doubt familiar to many readers.
Crossovers and SUVs are the gravy train from which just about every manufacturer is currently drinking, more than happy to quench the buying public’s seemingly insatiable thirst for high riding all-wheel drive machines. Acura’s been in the game for ages with the MDX, RDX, and departed weirdo ZDX.
After vanquishing the unfortunate guillotine grille from the rest of its lineup, Acura has set its sights on revamping its littlest crossover, the RDX. Yes, the word “prototype” is in the headline, but one can be assured that the machine shown here is virtually production-ready.
This week, Acura teased the prototype of its third-generation RDX ahead of its world debut at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Claiming its to be the “most extensive Acura redesign in more than a decade,” the brand believes it will usher in a “new era” for the company.
While the shadowy images hint at more aggressive and angular styling, the RDX needs more than a pretty face to compete in an increasingly crowded segment. It seems as if every luxury automaker fields a midsize crossover these days, though often at higher price points than the RDX. However, Acura isn’t going to bunt here and hope a freshened model boosts this years’ weaker sales. It’s bringing an entirely new platform that’s exclusive to the brand.
Officially, there is no word. Unofficially, Acura seems plenty content with the idea of bringing the Chinese-market CDX subcompact crossover to North America, so long as there’s a business case for it.
“It’s a model that interests a lot of our people, so we have our R&D guys looking into the possibility,” said Jon Ikeda, vice president of American Honda’s Acura division, last April.
Is an American design patent granted to Honda proof that the company’s braintrust have made up their minds?
Though we wrote about the Sterling brand in a previous QOTD post from earlier this year, we’ve never covered one as a Rare Ride. It’s not often one finds a Sterling for sale these days, as most examples fell into disrepair and disuse by the late 1990s. But B&B commenter FreedMike managed to find a very tidy Sterling for sale at a dealer in Wisconsin, which is near Canada.
Come have a look at the not-quite Honda from Blighty.
Honda has been on a bit of a teasing streak lately, showing us a brace of great concepts unveiled by Honda at the Frankfurt and Tokyo Motor Shows – concepts which may or may not evolve into anything we can buy on this side of the pond. Rumors also floated around about a little brother being created for the NSX. Adding fuel to that particular fire, patents were discovered for the latter.
As it turns out, those patents were absolutely real and a baby NSX is on its way… as a driveable machine in the Gran Turismo video game.
Acura has a tough job ahead of it. As the brand tries to grow volume and retain some of the clout it lost in past years, it finds itself with too many cars and two few SUVs in a market that demands more of the latter, not the former. Meanwhile, the impressive reborn NSX, now a hybrid, hasn’t captured the imagination of sports car fans in the same way as its long-lived predecessor.
Keeping up with — and in some cases, getting in front of — technological trends is part of Acura’s comeback plan. Naturally, in the interest of technological advancement and environmental appeasement, it was necessary to bring a multi-cog automatic transmission on board. However, a series of manufacturer service bulletin point to two potential weak points in the company’s nine-speed.
Psst… Have I got a deal for you! There’s a low-profile $30,000 factory incentive out there on a really great mid-engined supercar. You could be looking at just $1,500 a month on a lease, which is about what you’d pay to buy a new Corvette Grand Sport over five years. Or you might get a car with a $165k sticker for just $122,000. Are you FREAKING OUT right now? Or are you waiting for me to tell you which one?
Well, let’s see… It’s not the Ford GT, because those are sold out. It’s not the Ferrari 488GTB, which is on a waiting list and subject to $100k worth of additional dealer markup. It’s not the Lamborghini Huracan, used examples of which are fetching close to MSRP. It’s not even the Audi R8, which has some nice lease programs at the moment but which still generally sells for sticker or close to it.
You know what I’m going to tell you, of course. You know it’s the Acura NSX. From day one it’s been a tough sell and, while I’d like to think that the 2017 Road & Track Performance Car Of The Year accolade helped the showroom traffic a bit, I’d be naive to think that it was enough to move the needle too far. Starting next year, NSXes will be special order only. If you want a car out of dealer stock, now’s the time to do it and Honda will throw $30k worth of cash on the frunk to make it happen.
Maybe it’s time to ask why this state of affairs came to pass — but I bet you already know that, too.
It has become increasingly evident that America’s compact sedan consumers aren’t terribly interested in a semi-premium-branded version of a previous-generation Honda Civic.
But for 2018, the Acura ILX gains a new Special Edition. Ah, that’ll do the trick.
Last week we took entries for the worst utility vehicle of the past decade. There were certainly plenty of submissions; it’s always easy to dream up crossover criticism (less dream, more nightmare in the case of the Acura ZDX).
This time around, we flip the question: What’s the best utility vehicle of the past 10 years?
Is it possible to move this elephant out of the room?
Perhaps not, but whether we try to move the elephant or allow him to stay, a review of the revamped 2018 Acura TLX, even in this top-spec V6 SH-AWD A-Spec trim, will forever be set against a backdrop that is the all-new 2018 Honda Accord, a veritable wooly mammoth.
It can’t be helped. Acura knows the new 10th-generation Accord offers features unavailable in the Acura lineup. The TLX, meanwhile, features an interior that’s more than a little reminiscent of the ninth-generation Accord’s cabin. Fonts, buttons, switches, two-screen format — the upmarket/downmarket connections are too obvious to be dismissed as simply the mandatory parts-bin sharing of a global automaker with justifiable cost concerns. The new 2018 Acura TLX and the old Honda Accord are remarkably similar cars.
But is that so bad? The Honda Accord is, with good reason, consistently one of America’s most popular sedans, and the refreshed 2018 Acura TLX is a particularly nice interpretation of that car. Besides which, the Acura TLX isn’t just an Accord. It’s not merely an Accord. The TLX’s more powerful V6, a nine-speed automatic, and a very effective all-wheel-drive system make sure of that.
True, the elephant hasn’t exited the premises. But now that it’s standing out in the hallway, we can judge the 2018 Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD A-Spec on merit, rather than simply distinguishing the degree to which the TLX is or is not a Honda.
Utility vehicles have been a hot ticket personal transport item for some time, much to the delight of OEMs and their shareholders. As the definition around what should qualify as “utility” became more and more blurred during this (presently, CUV) craze, inevitably some entries missed the mark and floundered. Perhaps a redesign was in the cards if the manufacturer felt confident, or a product cancellation if it didn’t.
Either way, recent examples of bad utility vehicles are our subject today. What’s your pick for the worst utility vehicle of the past decade?
It’s early days for the second-generation Acura NSX, known in most global markets as the Honda NSX. After a decade-long hiatus, the Ohio-built NSX only returned in the summer of 2016.
Yet 577 copies of the NSX have been sold in America during the supercar’s first 14 months. In the much smaller and less supercar-friendly Canadian market, 82 copies of the Acura NSX have been sold since July 2016, including 29 in the last two months.
And in Australia? Down Under, sales of the
Acura Honda NSX have been less, shall we say, numerous. So far, Honda Australia has reported… carry the one, find the inverse sine, if c is equal to a+b… a grand total of two NSX sales.
Two. Dos. Zwei. Ni.
The reasons are obvious.
The long-established U.S. auto industry is essentially impossible to turn on its head. An automaker can’t simply show up with a new brand or a new philosophy or new design tactics and instantly upset the apple cart.
Just as you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, it’s difficult to teach an old automobile market to adopt new buying habits. Market share swings are incremental. Progress is slow. At Acura, for example, facelifts of the TLX and RLX sedans and improved availability of the MDX (after moving some production to Ohio) will likely not combine to increase the brand’s market share by even one-tenth of one percent.
Given the difficulties faced by Acura in America — sales have fallen by more than a quarter since 2005 — Honda’s premium brand is turning its gaze to a larger, fresher, less established market. A market where buying habits are not cemented, where market share is still up for grabs, where market-specific vehicles are the norm.
And if Acura can soon succeed in China, where the brand has high hopes for the near-term, then Acura stands a much better chance of succeeding in America.
It made perfect sense. In 2009, when Hyundai wanted customers to view its new Genesis luxury sedan as a premium bit of kit, Hyundai did not compare the Genesis to the Sonata. In an early marketing campaign, Hyundai’s voiceover said the Genesis is “as spacious as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, yet priced like a C-Class.”
When the time came to market the Genesis R-Spec, Hyundai reached way upmarket to compare 0-60 mph times with the Porsche Panamera. Hyundai wasn’t under the mistaken impression that the Genesis would steal thousands of sales from $100,000 Benzes and Porsches. But Hyundai was crafting an image. Hyundai didn’t require you to believe that the Genesis was a viable S-Class alternative — the company just wanted you to understand that this is premium-oriented S-Class-sized sedan at a C-Class-like price.
Long before the Hyundai Genesis tried to cultivate a premium persona, Acura was failing to keep up with Lexus in the quest to be viewed as a true luxury rival for the German establishment. It’s still a problem. So Acura dealers are now just trying to make sure you understand that the Acura TLX is better than the
Audi A4 Lexus ES Infiniti Q50 2018 Honda Accord.
The Honda Accord is by no means a younger sibling, operating as the senior member of American Honda’s fleet.
More specifically, the 2018 Honda Accord will never be viewed as the little brother in the American Honda family, not with these substantial dimensions and MSRPs that reach deep into the $30Ks.
But the 10th-generation Accord is still a Honda. Just a Honda. Merely a Honda. Only a Honda. And while you might expect Honda to enjoy technological hand-me-downs from the automaker’s upmarket Acura brand, that’s not the way it works. Not when it comes to the Accord.
As a result, we’ll wait and see which hand-me-ups appear on the next all-new Acura, the third-generation 2019 Acura RDX.
Earlier this week in his Question of the Day, Matthew Guy asked everyone to share a favorite vehicle from their year of birth. An interesting walk through history ensued in the days following, and I encourage each of you to head there and read through the comments if you haven’t done so already. You’ve probably already guessed from the title above where I’m going with this particular question.
Today’s inquiry is all about the worst, steamiest pile of junk on sale the year you were born. Let’s get down and dirty.
Last month, I brought to you a Question of the Day about resurrection; saving something from an untimely death. Naturally, we were talking about car brands — specifically, which dead brand you’d select to bring back to life in a modern world, with a modern lineup.
In the well-established TTAC interest of balance, fairness, and equality in all things, now we ask the opposite question: Which car brand deserved its death?
They’re always bridesmaids, never the bride.
But after holding down the fort as America’s second-best-selling Japanese premium brand since surrendering to Lexus some two decades ago, Acura is now about to be bumped from its maid of honor position.
Scottie Pippen? Acura is quickly becoming Toni Kukoc.
After a record U.S. sales performance in 2016, Infiniti sales are rising faster than any other auto brand in America save for four niche-market luxury contenders. After trailing its Acura compatriot for 28 years, it’s past time for Infiniti to catch the bouquet.
Upon its debut in late 2014, the Acura TLX had big shoes to fill. Not only was the TLX intended to replace the Acura TL, the TLX would also serve, at least in part, as a replacement for the Acura TSX.
Not surprisingly, the TLX never sold as often as that duo did at their peak. Acura sold over 113,000 TLs and TSXs in 2005. Yet by the end of their run, in 2013, Acura managed to sell fewer than 42,000 TLs and TSXs. As a result, the arrival of the Acura TLX — and yes, it’s difficult for both reader and writer to keep the letters straight — was heartily welcomed by Acura dealers. The TLX represented a simpler lineup, one sufficiently spacious car, and 47,080 sales in 2015.
But TLX sales have trailed off rather precipitously ever since, and Acura is counting on a thorough refresh for the 2018 model year to spur TLX demand once again.
And quite a spur it must be. Wards Auto is reporting that Acura’s goals for the facelifted TLX are loftier than ever.
Honda Is Considering An Odyssey Hybrid With Acura MDX Running Gear To Challenge The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
Can frugal transportation and family transportation coexist in a single package?
Lead Honda R&D engineer Tom Sladek indicated to Wards Auto at the Hawaiian launch of the all-new, fifth-generation, 2018 Honda Odyssey that Honda’s minivan could receive a hybrid powertrain in the future.
Presently, hybrid powertrains are available in a numerous three-row crossovers. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is presently launching a plug-in hybrid version of the new-last-year Chrysler Pacifica, as well.
“The electrification initiative is definitely coming, but on which products and which timing is not 100% clear yet,” Honda’s Sladek told Wards. If one such product is the Odyssey, we would expect to see improvements both in the Odyssey’s fuel economy and its performance.
And all-wheel drive?
With production of the three-row Acura MDX joining the Acura RDX at American Honda’s East Liberty Auto Plant in East Liberty, Ohio, Acura has become a profoundly Buckeyed automobile brand.
Still stealing some production space at Honda’s Lincoln, Alabama assembly plant where the Honda Pilot, Honda Ridgeline, and 2018 Honda Odyssey are also built, production of the MDX has shifted to Ohio in order to free up capacity for both Honda’s and Acura’s top-selling model.
As a result of the MDX’s relocation, Acura now builds five of its six models in the state of Ohio.
And the one Acura that doesn’t hail from Ohio? That’d be the RLX, which forms less than 1 percent of the Acura brand’s volume.
Stop multi-tasking and listen to me for a minute, because I’m going to tell you the most important thing you’ll read this week.
Many years ago, when I was still in the pharmaceuticals game, I had a business mentor of sorts. He was a thick-set, bald, African-American fellow in his early 60s who dressed exclusively in velour tracksuits and, at the time of this story, had a custom-ordered pink S500, an SL500, and an aftermarket-droptop Lexus SC400 in his garage.
We were sitting at dinner one night and I was griping about a fellow we knew who had been given every chance possible by both of us to become remarkably wealthy. Yet every time one of us gave him a chance, he pissed it away through random acts of fiscal impropriety or domestic violence. I couldn’t understand why this dude could not get his act together and handle his business in an appropriate manner.
“Listen up, young blood,” my mentor said, stabbing me in the chest with a finger about the size of a Mag-Lite flashlight, “you cannot want something for someone they do not want for themselves.” I think I dropped my fork. He was right, of course. In the years since then, I’ve had occasion to remember those words again and again. You cannot want something for someone they do not want for themselves.
I need you to keep that in mind as you read this review. If you are like most automotive enthusiasts, you want Acura to return immediately to the glory days of the beautiful first-generation Legend and the sublime twin-cam Integra. But you cannot want something for Acura that it does not want for itself. Acura is perfectly content with being primarily known as the manufacturer of the RDX and MDX sport-utility vehicles. Those two products are market leaders and they’re more than enough to guarantee Acura’s continued existence. If you continue to hope that Acura will build razor’s-edge sporting compacts and M3 rivals, you will continue to be disappointed. Period, point blank. Got it?
If you’re not familiar with Acura’s subcompact CDX crossover, take a gander at Honda’s HR-V and think of China. Right now, that’s the only country that gets to buy the HR-V-based utility, but things could change.
Acura is reportedly mulling a trans-Pacific journey for the little CUV as it takes stock of its meager U.S. utility lineup.
“We’ve really upped the ante in terms of styling, emotion and road presence,” Acura general manager Jon Ikeda said, talking about the refreshed 2018 Acura TLX shown by Honda’s upmarket brand at 2017’s New York International Auto Show.
And for once, an auto executive’s hyperbole matches reality.
The 2018 Acura TLX’s ante has been upped. It appears as though the grille that’s somewhat awkward on the refreshed Acura MDX is far more cohesively adapted to Acura’s affordable 3 Series alternative.
Given the anonymity of the first TLX, which ran for three increasingly less successful model years through 2017, an aggressive exterior is a positive step in the right direction.
You might look at the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid and think, “Hmm … maybe it’s just me, but that looks a lot like the normal 2017 MDX.”
But don’t be fooled. This seven-passenger midsize SUV is just an incognito NSX; a tiger in Montessori parking lot camouflage. Hey, sometimes you have to ferry around the kids — and, holy God, have you ever tried hauling groceries in a two-seater? Those multiple trips eat into “you time.”
Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but that’s what Acura wants you to think. Honda’s luxury division is in the midst of overhauling its image, and it’s doing so by injecting a little NSX into its products — both spiritually and mechanically. While that supercar, reborn as a hybrid last year following a decade’s absence, might seem totally removed from Acura’s popular — and tastefully refreshed — MDX, some familiar DNA appears beneath the new Sport Hybrid’s sheetmetal. (It also appears in the RLX sedan, if you weren’t aware.)
Oh, you’ll get better fuel economy with the MDX Sport Hybrid, but don’t talk to your friends about that. You bought it for the power. Capisce?
The Acura TLX did not start poorly. When the TL/TSX replacement arrived nearly three years ago, we asked whether the TLX could restore Acura’s car business. First month results were strong.
The next month, the TLX’s early results suggested that, by Acura standards, the core Acura sedan might be a hit.
The Acura TLX then produced some very impressive results in just its third month of availability. In fact, so great were those results, when nearly 5,000 TLXs were sold in October 2014, that Acura has only exceeded that total once in the 28 months since. Instead, TLX sales have rapidly declined, sliding 5 percent in 2015’s fourth-quarter, plunging 21 percent in calendar year 2016, and falling 19 percent so far this year. TLX sales have declined in 14 of the last 16 months, year-over-year.
But 2017’s New York International Auto Show will host the reveal of a refreshed, facelifted Acura TLX next month. Acura says the TLX will feature “a design direction that has already successfully influenced the styling of the 2017 Acura MDX.”
U.S. sales of Acura’s car sales are down 27 percent this year. The Acura brand is down 13 percent. The loss of more than 1,000 TLX sales in just two months is a big factor in the brand’s decline.
Is a refreshed Acura TLX way too little, way too late?
Slowly but surely, the inhabitants of the Acura stable are dropping the toned-down version of the brand’s polarizing “shield” grille in favor of the far more appealing “diamond pentagon” mouth.
That grille debuted on Acura’s Precision concept car before appearing on the redesigned 2017 MDX. Now, it’s the TLX sedan’s turn for plastic surgery. The automaker promises a refreshed and shieldless TLX at the New York International Auto Show on April 11, hoping that a new face might turn the tide on the midsize sedan’s flagging fortunes.
At American Honda’s upmarket division, the Acura MDX is the lifeblood; the premium crossover that keeps Acura’s trains running on time.
In 8 of the last 10 years — including each of the last 7 — the Acura MDX has been Acura’s best-selling model. Fully one-third of Acura’s U.S. volume over the last decade has been generated by the MDX.
Honda knows best of all just how important the MDX has been to Acura’s fortunes, having watched as the brand’s passenger car volume was essentially chopped in half over the last decade. Honda is removing the interference caused by the Pilot, Odyssey, and Ridgeline at the MDX’s Alabama plant by moving production of the big Acura to Ohio.
And more importantly for consumers, the first hybridized MDX — the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid — is launching now with a pricing scheme that evidently makes the hybrid the best MDX of all.
It’s normal for many new car buyers to fall out of love with their vehicles once the honeymoon is over and the thrill is gone, though the majority stick with their vehicles for the long haul — well, until the lease period is up, anyway.
The jilted romantics will run to tell Consumer Reports and anyone else in their immediate vicinity about how unsatisfied they are with their car’s finicky infotainment unit and herky-jerky transmission, but their complaints fail to shed any light on costs. Initial quality and customer satisfaction are nice things, but what about the impact on the buyer’s wallet over time?
Kelley Blue Book can provide some advice, as it tallies up the top brands and models based on ownership costs over a five-year period.
Throughout much of the third-generation Honda Pilot’s tenure, U.S. sales have not measured up to the success of the previous-generation model, though not for lack of demand.
In a market gone mad for SUVs and crossovers, three other vehicles have constrained production of the Pilot in Lincoln, Alabama. In addition to the Pilot, American Honda builds the Honda Odyssey in Lincoln, along with the Acura MDX. The second-generation Ridgeline started rolling off the Alabama line in May 2016.
As a result, Honda dealers have had a difficult time getting their hands on enough Pilots to sate the predictably high level of interest in a respected three-row crossover nameplate. Heading into December, for instance, Honda only had 36 days of Pilot supply according to Automotive News, about half the current industry average.
But with an all-new 2018 Odyssey about to pick up steam and the Ridgeline reaching a second-gen high of 4,085 sales in December, the Pilot needs room to breathe.
With remarkable consistency, the Acura MDX has remained exceptionally popular for more than 15 years, through three generations, and in the face of increasing competition.
Vital to the fortunes of American Honda’s upmarket brand, the MDX is consistently Acura’s top-selling model, earning more than one-third of all Acura U.S. sales in four of the last seven years. No premium-badged three-row utility vehicle now sells more often in America.
But why is it so popular? And does it deserve to be such an automatic choice for nearly 5,000 buyers per month, for more than 835,000 American SUV buyers since its launch in 2000?
Refreshed styling for the 2017 model year joins key mechanical upgrades from the 2016 model year to create this fully optioned $59,340 Acura MDX: all-wheel drive, entertainment package, technology package, advance package.
With distinctly wintry pre-winter conditions and six occupants aboard, we spent one week with a 2017 Acura MDX and came away with few heartfelt compliments and few serious complaints.
Burying its loathed “shield”-style grille in the deepest depths of history’s dustbin is a big part of Acura’s plan to reverse falling sales, but product seems to be at least as big a problem as design.
The automaker, which has seen its U.S. sales fall 10.5 percent so far this year, is in the midst of a design pivot, though many feel that the brand needs a bigger shake-up then just a “diamond pentagon” grille.
If you’re looking to add a subtherapeutic dose of sex appeal to your TLX, Acura has a new GT package with your name on it. The automaker claims the race-inspired offering embodies track-proven performance and marks the company’s racing heritage.
To Acura, this package may embody, symbolize, exemplify, personify, and represent all sorts of great performance-related concepts. What it actually delivers to the consumer is another story.
There’s desperation lurking in this package.
BREAKING: NHTSA Issues Emergency Notice for Certain Takata Airbag-Equipped Vehicles; Rupture Rate is 50 Percent
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration broke from its orderly recall of potentially dangerous Takata airbags today to warn drivers of certain 2001–2003 Honda and Acura models.
New tests show a certain subset of the faulty airbags, linked to 14 deaths worldwide, have a much higher risk of exploding in the event of an accident — a likelihood of up to 50 percent. The NHTSA is urging owners of these vehicles to avoid driving them.
Because of the age of the models, the agency issued an appeal to the public to help track down unrepaired vehicles.
Acura is turning 30, and to celebrate, it’s turning its attention away from the yuppy Gen-Xers who first discovered the brand to the hopeful, car-buying Millennials of today.
It’s not pandering for vehicle sales, it’s a relationship, see?
Honda’s luxury marque just launched a marketing campaign that seems perfectly designed to lure in the largest-growing segment of car buyers. Called “30 Years Young,” the ad plays up Acura’s status as the leading luxury brand of this age demographic, while stroking the ego of the Millennial buyer.
Honda’s Chinese subsidiary is proud of the upcoming Acura CDX compact SUV, as it’s the first Acura designed for, and built in, that expanding car market.
Based on the Honda HR-V, the CDX tries to erase all signs of its body donor’s identity. Among other things, the new model adds shapelier flanks, conventional rear door handles, Acura’s new corporate diamond grille, and taillights that align with the brand.
I remember it like it was yesterday.
I was working for a crazy little company in Fremont, California in 1995. One day the boss-man pulled up in a shiny new Acura NSX. It was low. It was foreign. It was cool. Little did I know the bitchin’ Acura in the parking lot would upset the supercar apple cart.
Twenty-five years ago, Honda put the big-boys on notice with a fast, economical and reliable supercar. Yes, reliable and supercar can be used in the same sentence without irony when speaking of a first-generation NSX.
If you set the way-back machine to 1990, you’ll realize it was a different world. Supercars were rear-wheel drive, few made more than 300 horsepower, and a modern Volvo wagon would probably eat them alive on a track. By the time the NSX was euthanized in 2005, the competition had more than caught up and Honda decided its resources were best used elsewhere.
For 2017, Acura has resurrected the NSX name and applied it to an all-new mid-engine coupe, but can it fill the big shoes left by its predecessor?
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has started rating headlights, and just released a report that takes a dim view on the performance of most midsize cars.
Only one vehicle out of 31 testers earned a rating of “good” from the road safety nonprofit, with the bulk of midsize vehicles earning a rating of “marginal” or “poor.”
The results are even less dazzling when you take into account optional lighting packages, which pushed the number tested to 82. Even then, it was only the LED-equipped advanced technology package on the Toyota Prius V that earned the IIHS’s acclaim.
Acura has two big changes in store for the refreshed 2017 MDX; one up front and in your face, the other hidden beneath its mainly familiar flanks.
The automaker’s flagship luxury SUV, revealed at the New York Auto Show, drops the “silver shield” grille that has adorned the face of Acuras big and small for years, favoring a diamond pentagon mouth reminiscent of the Acura Precision concept.
Acura said the Precision signaled a new design direction for the brand, so consider this the first shield to drop.
New-to-TTAC reader Kobe writes:
I’ve only begun to read TTAC and your email responses are a great read, so I figured I’d give sending you a question a shot.
Two of my wife’s friends are looking for reliable, used cars. The parameters I’ve been given were $4,000 or less (as she will need to save a little for maintenance repairs I figure), a hatchback (preferably four-door), automatic, front- or all-wheel drive, and decent gas mileage. Her friend has lived around NYC most of her life, so although she has her driving license, she has rarely driven.
Now, I went about scrolling through all the makes and models that are listed on Autotrader and came up with this possible list:
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