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Acura’s Meadering Road

June 10, 2013 by Matt

2014 Acura RLX Silver Nose Front Headlights

In his latest column, a comprehensive rating of automotive brand image “hotness,” Peter De Lorenzo takes particular aim at Acura’s persistent inability to focus their brand:

Acura design is an oxymoron. These cars blend into the woodwork like a gray flannel suit on an overcast day. This is supposed to be the best of Honda? It sure doesn’t look or feel like it. Instead, Acura still exists as a perennial symbol of the confusion that reigns at Honda. What are they doing? I’m not sure they know.

I couldn’t agree more. Take the somnolent nose of the 2014 RL shown above, for example. Acura big selling point is the fact that the headlights feature LEDs. That’s all fine and good, but there are two fatal flaws in that line of advertising:

  1. Audi’s been putting LEDs in their headlights for years, maybe not as the primary source of illumination, but it’s profoundly old news, and
  2. The last luxury car to use its headlight design as a selling point was the ghastly ’01-’06 Infiniti Q45, and then only because the car’s design had absolutely no other redeeming qualities. Touting such a tiny detail is hardly what I’d call putting your best foot forward, design-wise.

2007 Acura TL Type-S Blue

If the latest RL and especially the mercifully defunct ZDX are examples of Acura’s worse design examples, what’s one of the better ones, and a possible clue as to what Acura’s design direction should be? The ’04’-08 TL (shown above). I see these on my commute all the time and they never fail to catch my eye. The styling is crisp, tailored, aggressive and cohesive. The whole car has an arrow-like flow from nose to tail, and the flanks are adorned with unique channels tying together the side markers and door handles. With the contemporary TSX, it exemplified a high period in Acura’s styling history; before and after the mid-2000s their designs were and are mind-numbingly bland.

For better or worse, the attractiveness of the automaker’s vehicles seems to have a direct correlation with their quality as drivers’ cars; more than that, the more focused the design effort, the sharper Acura’s marketing outlook seems to be as well. Honda’s luxury marque has so much to offer; here’s hoping their reflect on their own history and draw lessons from the times when their cars were better received.

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Filed under: Acura, Car Industry

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