FWD Champions: The Acura Vigor
I sometimes wonder why the 1992-1994 Acura Vigor is FWD.
Just look at it. The front wheels are pushed to the front corners of the car in a characteristically RWD fashion. The engine is mounted longitudinally, not sideways, and the transmission is located behind the engine—again, like a RWD car. And the whole package has distinctly BMW 3-series proportions and overtones, mimicking the RWD sports sedan benchmark.
So again, tell me why the Vigor had to be FWD? Featuring a punchy 188-hp, 2.5l 5-cylinder engine, the aforementioned rear-mounted transmission sent power to the front wheels through a sports-car-like limited-slip differential, giving the car excellent handling in spite of its FWD nature. The engine orientation and gearbox location allowed the powerplant to be advantageously located farther rearward in the chassis, greatly benefiting weight distribution, which came in at a remarkable (for a FWD car) 60:40 front-to-rear. The whole setup is actually reminiscent of that of Saab’s first-generation 900, itself a FWD Champion. I’m no engineer, but it seems like it would have been simpler to stick a driveshaft out the back of the transmission, connect it to a diff and halfshafts out back and call it a day, rather than making the power do a U-turn and cluttering up the engine bay with the kit necessary to get said power to the front wheels. Who knows; perhaps it was a parts commonality issue? Honda didn’t produce a mass-market RWD car until the much-later S2000 roadster. They may have wanted to use much of what was in the parts bin, but the result, although excellent, suffered from a sort of halfhearted, middle-of-the-road sense of execution.
Positioned between Acura’s range-topping Legend and entry-level Integra, the short-lived Vigor was the automaker’s attempt to poach midsize executive car sales from Infiniti and Lexus in particular, going head-to-head with the latter’s successful ES300. Sadly, it didn’t accomplish its goal, the most common reasons cited being a smaller size and considerably firmer suspension tuning than its rival at Lexus, qualities lost on a typical American consumer.
As with so many aspects of the Japanese entry into the American luxury car market in the early ’90s, it’s a shame the Vigor wasn’t properly developed and pitched. In addition to its dynamic qualities and handsome styling, one look at the beautifully understated and driver-focused cockpit above makes it clear that it’s one FWD I wouldn’t mind rolling around in on a daily basis.
Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series highlighting FWD cars I think highly of, in spite of my overwhelming RWD bias. Read the other installments here:
- Peugeot 205 GTI
- B4 Volkswagen Passat
- Lancia Fulvia Coupe
- Mazda Millenia
- Citroën SM
- Fiat Coupé
- ’91-’96 Infiniti G20
- ’91-’94 B13 Nissan Sentra SE-R
- ’88-’92 Mazda MX-6
- Audi Coupe GT
- Volkswagen Corrado
- Peugeot 405 Mi16
- ’78-’93 Saab 900
- Volvo 850 T-5R
- 5th-generation Honda Prelude
- 1st- and 2nd-generation Volkswagen Scirocco