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First Drive: 2014 Acura RLX

A worthy flagship.

by on Mar.01, 2013

With the 2014 RLX launch Acura finally gets a real flagship sedan.

When it was launched, more than a quarter-century ago, Acura transformed the way Americans thought about Japanese cars, proving that the Asians could challenge the well-established European and domestic luxury brands. But the initial success of the Honda Motor Co. subsidiary proved far too fleeting and in recent years, Acura has lagged in the back of the premium pack.

One can come up with any number of reasons to explain Acura’s malaise: the switch from well-respected model names like Legend to forgettable alphanumeric alternatives; some strange styling decisions, such as the awkward chrome grille critics deride as the “beak”; increased competition, especially from newer Japanese brands – but perhaps the start of the decline was the model that replaced the once-formidable Legend, the Acura RL.

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It wasn’t a bad car.  Well, not all that bad. It just wasn’t the sort of product to provide a halo around your brand – even if you could remember its name. Now, to be honest, there was more than a bit of disappointment when Acura announced it would introduce an all-new flagship model but not bring back the Legend nameplate. The question is whether the all-new 2014 Acura RLX delivers what the Honda luxury brand needs, whatever you call it?


First Drive: 2013 Acura ILX

Maker announces $25,900 base price.

by on Apr.20, 2012

Acura adds an entry-lux model with the new ILX.

It can be a challenge to explain Acura to those unfamiliar with the brand – perhaps the reason why it has slipped under the radar for so many potential buyers.  The first of the Japanese luxury brands, the Honda division quickly earned a reputation for style and sportiness with products such as the original Legend flagship and the smaller Integra.

But, in a head-scratching move, Acura  responded to newcomers Lexus and Infiniti by abandoning those well-known nameplates in favor of indistinguishable alphanumeric designations.  Worse, all too many of its products became dull and lackluster, sales tumbling in response.

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To its credit, Acura has finally recognized the errors of its way. And while it has yet to finally abandon the naming strategy, which leaves motorists struggling to determine the difference between an RL, TL and RLX, it has toned down the ungainly “beak” grille.  Now, more importantly, it is also fleshing out a thin line-up, adding the new “flagship” RLX and, at the other market extreme, the 2013 Acura ILX.


First Look: 2012 Acura TL

Timing is everything.

by on Feb.09, 2011

Acura rolls out a major update of the TL.

Timing is everything, or so it’s been said, and Acura discovered that the hard way with the 2009 launch of its updated TL sedan, which arrived in showrooms just in time for one of the worst downturns the automotive market has endured since the Great Depression.
This time around Acura marketing executives are counting on a recovering automotive market to bring buyers around for their latest update, the 2012 Acura TL, which debuted at the 2011 Chicago Auto show and is scheduled to reach showrooms in March.

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Jeff Conrad, vice president of Acura sales said the new iteration of the  TL delivers fresh looks, improved performance – three mpg more on the highway -  and upgraded technology.  The TL also has been given a visual makeover for 2012, with changes that incorporate new front and rear styling, with features such as a redesigned front bumper, updated headlights and turn signals, a new fog light design and a shorter front overhang.


Acura Updates 2011 TSX, Adds Sport Wagon

Building on one of brand’s strongest models.

by on Dec.08, 2010

Acura adds a Sport Wagon to the TSX line for 2011.

Hoping to build demand for what is already one of its strongest models, Acura has some significant plans in store for the 2011 update of the TSX model.

The maker is freshening the small car up, both inside and out, even taking steps to boost the mileage of the 2011 TSX engines, but the most significant news is that Acura is bucking conventional wisdom by adding a new sport wagon to the TSX line-up.

The wagon, as the name implies, has a decidedly crisp and sporty look, especially when compared to Honda/Acura 2-box designs of the past.  The comic book-style Acura grille is notably downplayed, while a sharp character line runs from the flared front wheel wheels to the wraparound tail lamps.

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Acura, which has expanded its SUV/crossover line-up, is aiming the 2011 TSX Sport Wagon at buyers who might want not only the cargo-carrying utility of a crossover but better fuel economy.  The wagon provides comparable space, with a number of hidden storage areas, and there’s an available power liftgate, something normally not offered in the segment.  With the rear row folded down, the TSX Sport Wagon offers 60.5 cubic feet of cargo space.

“With the Sport Wagon, the customer simultaneously enjoys the benefits of sports-sedan performance along with SUV-like cargo capacity,” said Jeff Conrad, Acura’s vice president of sales.


First Drive: 2010 Acura ZDX

Missing the strike zone.

by on Nov.17, 2009

Is it a sports coupe, a crossover, a wagon...or...?  The Acura 2010 ZDX.

Is it a sports coupe, crossover, wagon...or...?

This year marks the 20th anniversary for Japan’s two largest luxury brands, Lexus and Infiniti, but it’s easy to forget that they were latecomers to the high-line market, following a half decade after the introduction of Acura.  With its original Legend sedan, Honda’s up-market division disproved the naysayers who argued the Japanese would never be able to build a word-class luxury car.

Unfortunately, over the years, Acura has had, at best, a mixed record with the models that have followed the original four-door.  It’s pitched some great ones at the market, including the MDX, the TL and the RL, but the marque’s latest model doesn’t even come close to the strike zone.

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The 2010 Acura ZDX is probably the weakest product to join the maker’s line-up since its early mid-size Vigor.  Indeed, it’s difficult to understand what Acura was trying to achieve with the new ZDX, which comes across as the automotive equivalent of a platypus, part crossover/SUV, part truck, part sport coupe.  In this case, it all adds up to less than the sum of its parts.