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Posts filed under ‘Acura’

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.

Image credits:,

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FWD Champions: The Acura Vigor

October 19, 2012 by Matt

Acura Honda 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.

Acura Honda Vigor Engine Motor G25A G25A1

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.

Acura Honda Vigor Green Turquoise Rear Back

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.

Acura Honda Vigor Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard Shifter

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:

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New Acura NSX Concept:
Worthy of the Name?

January 13, 2012 by Matt

Acura Honda NSX NS-X Show Car Concept New Silver Gray Grey

It’s not the bolt from the blue its predecessor was. The original NSX literally redefined the supercar, introducing the notion that blistering performance and prestige didn’t have to come at the expense of usability, ergonomics and reliability, and sent Ferrari and Porsche, among others, scurrying back to their drawing boards. The new NSX concept, on the other hand, slots rather quietly into the burgeoning crowd of alternative-propulsion supercar concepts such as the Porsche 918 or Jaguar C-X75. Mid-engined shape festooned with corporate design themes? Check. One internal-combustion engine augmented by two or more electric motors? Got ’em. Shameless plundering of its marque’s history while incorporating as many trendy concepts as possible? Yessir. And so on…

Acura Honda NSX NS-X Show Car Concept New Silver Gray Grey

Forgive my cynicism. In spite of its same-ness, with respect to the raw ingredients, the NSX Concept certainly carries its namesake’s torch in key areas: It’s a usable, range-topping halo car that delivers the expected levels of performance and elevates its brand’s image accordingly. And yet—there’s something missing… The shock of the original, perhaps? But how can you engineer a revolution? And anyway, the first-generation car was an easy answer to a surprisingly obvious question; what do modern supercars lack or overlook that could bestow a point of distinction on a new arrival so ingenious as to shore up those oversights? User-friendly, reliable supercars are all around. It’s been done.

I don’t have an answer. What say you? Are you pleased with Acura’s update of the NSX concept? If not, what could they have done differently to better distinguish the car from its rivals?

And whilst you ponder, check out the promo video after the jump, put together, appropriately enough for such a technological wundercar, by the Polyphony Digital team, the same crew responsible for the Gran Turismo series:

Watch the clip!

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Worthy of the Name?

Upcoming Supra and NSX?
The New Sports Car Landscape

December 13, 2011 by Matt

Toyota FT-HS Supra White

Of all Japanese automakers, Nissan and Lexus, with their GT-R and LFA, respectively, get it.

No electric motors, please. No fuel cells, giant capacitors or kinetic energy recovery systems. Just plain old gasoline-generated horsepower, and lots of it, for our sports cars.

And yet, Honda and Lexus’ parent company Toyota, seem to want to mimic their eco-crazy European counterparts in developing hybrid sports cars. As if that weren’t bad enough, it seems likely both companies will revive storied model names to give their new creations a measure of “legitimacy” out of the starting blocks.

In Toyota’s case, the rumors aren’t anything new—the automaker has been coy about the development of a “Mark 5” Supra for ages now—but the recent introduction of the clean-sheet, RWD GT 86/Scion FR-S has freshly stoked the fires of speculation. And with the FT-HS concept car, shown at top, all that’s left to wonder is what Toyota’s waiting for to pull the trigger. It’s understandable the collapse of the Japanese sports car market during the late ’90 would leave that country’s automakers wary of introducing any new top-of-the-line road eaters, and Toyota is a cautious company in general. That said, the automaker is the poster child for hybrid success with the runaway popularity (relatively speaking) of their Prius, so it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch for them to adapt some well-proven hybrid technology to a range-topping sports car. And Toyota’s never made a dynamically bad car, so its driving characteristics will undoubtedly be above reproach. The only question left, then, is what enthusiasts would make of a new Hybrid Supra. Would they enthusiastically embrace it? Or recoil in horror that the legacy of the canonized Mark 4 Supra would be tarnished by association with technology primarily geared toward economy?

Acura Honda NSX Purple Iron Man Tony Stark

For its part, Honda has more or less committed to introduce an NSX successor, if you can call it that. The Jalopnik report states:

Sources inside a Las Vegas dealer meeting earlier this month exclusively told us the new Acura NSX Concept would look like the vehicle from the upcoming Avengers movie (albeit in hardtop form) and feature an AWD hybrid drivetrain. If true, this would mean a radical departure from the car’s previous life as a pure, light-weight, RWD sports car.

I share the site’s sense of disappointment at Honda’s divergence from the formula that made the original so distinctive. In a way, if the automaker does decide to attach the NSX nameplate to the trunklid, they stand to lose more than Toyota would in naming an upcoming hybrid sports car Supra. Although comparable performance-wise, the NSX was an altogether more pure sports car than the Supra, offered at a higher price point, and basically unchanged (or unsullied, depending on your point of view) from its introduction through the end of its model run. The game-changing nature of the original NSX‘s arrival means a new AWD, hybrid version of the car would more radically redefine the car’s image and purpose compared to a similar situation with the Supra. For the record, I hope both Honda and Toyota come around and offer genuine GT500/Corvette/M3/911 competitors, but given industry trends toward more complex, “eco-friendly” vehicles, I’m doubtful a refreshingly conventional successor to the NSX or Supra will see the light of day.

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The New Sports Car Landscape

How To Ruin A Good Design

September 17, 2011 by Matt

2007 Acura TSX

The first rule of car design should be: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Nothing aggravates me more than to see a clean, crisp, classically-tailored design spoiled by the injection of a dose of fussiness for the sake of “updating.” The Acura TSX is a prime example of how designers—and the marketers that influence them—can ruin an excellent shape for no other reason than it’s due for a redesign.

Examine the lines of the first-generation car, shown at top. Observe how pleasingly coherent and tucked-in the shapes are. Look how well the headlights and grille interrelate. Notice that the designers didn’t feel they had to torture the clean taillight parallelograms just to “make them more interesting.” Their restraint allowed the car’s proportions to come to the fore, and in the process created quite a timeless shape.

2012 Acura TSX

Now study the second-generation TSX. The overall size and proportions haven’t changed, but lines are tweaked seemingly just for the sake of changing them. Among other things, the front wheel arches acquire a flat flare that doesn’t really echo anything else on the car. Instead of looking trim and styled, the car looks decorated, with little chrome bits and trinkets like the grille tacked on. It loses the substance of the first-generation car in favor of ephemeral fashion. It’s very much an inferior design.

The failure of the TSX redesign should serve as a cautionary tale to car designers: If your clean, understated, elegant car is due for an update, figure out the elements that made it successful in the first place, and for heaven’s sake, don’t tamper with those.

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Return of the Scalpel?

August 2, 2011 by Matt

Acura NSX

A few months ago, Honda kicked the rumor can a little farther down the road with renewed talk of a long-awaited successor to their groundbreaking NSX exotic. For a while, the safe money had been on a Formula 1-inspired V10 as the upcoming car’s powerplant, but as high-revving, naturally-aspirated engines are presently unfashionable in the range-topping stratum of high-end sports sedans and sports cars, lately the odds have been on yet another hybrid, this time a combination of a breathed-upon standard Honda V6 and an electric motor.

Regardless of what motivates it, an NSX sequel would be a welcome addition to Japan’s portfolio of Porsche- and Ferrari-fighters, a dossier currently containing just a pair of files in the Nissan GT-R and Lexus LFA. For their part, both Honda and Mazda have so far declined to pick up the succession of gauntlets thrown down by the Europeans.

As with the rumors of a possible Porsche 928 successor, the talk of a sequel makes me eager to revisit the original. The NSX is member of that cadre of sport cars, like the Porsche 993 Turbo or Caterham Superlight R500, that I would give a kidney to drive, or even just experience for a few minutes.

Acura NSX Interior

When the NSX burst onto the world stage in 1990, it truly shifted the paradigm for supercars. The lightweight aluminum construction, the user-friendliness and reliability, the corner-slicing purity of the handling, the choice of a high-revving, docile-but-potent naturally-aspirated V6 over a more exotic engine design—these decisions rocked the establishment. Ferrari developed the F355 in response, at the time their best all-around car, with its new (thanks to the NSX’s influence) emphasis on drivability, balance and handling. Gordon Murray even used the NSX as inspiration for his almighty McLaren F1, seeking to reproduce the flexibility, ease of use and bandwidth of the Acura, albeit with more than twice as much horsepower as the Japanese car. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the NSX would have drowned in a sea of adulation from its peers.

From a design standpoint, at least in its ’95-’01 body-colored-roof, pop-up headlight incarnation, the car is a perfect 10. Demure but shapely, reserved but absolutely unmistakable, the lines are a tour de force of functional but deeply pleasing style. I appreciate the interior design in particular—it’s exceedingly well laid out, with a businesslike but fighter-jet feel. The low cowl improves sightlines over the front corners, and the center console design seems to effortlessly sweep the car forward. It’s an environment where I could see myself spending quite some time.

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