Auto blogWed, 23 Jul 2014 16:57:00 EST
Every year in the fast-paced automotive industry brings new models, but it also spells the end for some that have been less successful. This year will be no exception.
Japan's automakers make up the bulk of the list of discontinued models for the 2015 model year: Acura is replacing the TL and TSX with the new TLX sedan, Honda is bidding farewell to the Fit EV as the new Fit hatchback takes its place, and Nissan is saying goodbye to both the Cube and Murano CrossCabriolet. Both the Nissan Maxima and Mazda2 exit stage left before their upcoming replacements arrive, while Toyota is terminating the RAV4 EV and FJ Cruiser as well as the Scion xD, and Lexus IS C and IS F that are being effectively replaced by the new RC. Meanwhile Infiniti is finally discontinuing the G37 that was already replaced by the newer Q50.
From our own domestic automakers, Cadillac discontinues the CTS-V sedan and wagon as the new CTS rolls in, Chevy is canceling the mild-hybrid Eco versions of the Malibu and Impala sedans, and Chrysler is killing off the 200 convertible as the new 200 sedan arrives.
Acura hasn't been shy about trotting out the concept version of its upcoming NSX hybrid supercar - we've seen it colorized on Facebook, wearing Super GT drag and running wrapped at Mid Ohio - but until now, we've missed seeing the production version at all. Thankfully, our boys in the field have been diligently camped out by the Nürburgring, just the place for Acura engineers to get the NSX shaken down and ready for the public.
The first thing you'll likely notice (and no doubt appreciate) is that Acura is staying very true to the concept car. The same wind-tunnel-carved wedge shape is in evidence in the car's silhouette, and details like aggressively scalloped engine vents behind the cabin have made it through unscathed.
We do notice that there are some vertical elements at the bottom of the front fascia/grille that appear to be revised, and the mirrors are considerably less slinky than those of the concept car. Still, by and large, we're seeing a direct translation from show stand to real life here.
It's been three months since Acura unveiled the supposedly production-ready TLX sedan at the New York Auto Show, but dealers have yet to receive any units to sell. That's because, as we reported back in April, production of the TLX was pushed back. We're glad to report now, however, that production has commenced at the Marysville Auto Plant in Ohio.
The Honda facility in Marysville, just south of Columbus, also produces the Accord sedan and coupe for local consumption and export. With over 30 years since its founding, the factory has previously handled production of the Acura TL and RDX as well as the company's Gold Wing motorcycles.
The Marysville Auto Plant is one of many facilities which Honda operates in Ohio. Among the others, you'll also find the East Liberty assembly plant that handles the Acura RDX as well as the Honda Crosstour and CR-V, an engine plant in Anna, a transmission factory in Russells Point, several R&D centers, component manufacturers and a new Performance Manufacturing Center being built to handle the coming NSX sports car in Marysville.
Business for Acura has been in a weird place, recently, and the company's latest car launches have been especially rocky. For example, the ILX Hybrid was recently discontinued after just two model years with only about 2,660 sold in that time. The company also delayed the launch of its new TLX by a few months until later this summer. However, despite its issues with sedans, the automaker's utility-vehicle business in absolutely booming. In fact, it now claims that the MDX is the best-selling three-row, luxury SUV, ever.
The MDX is already leading its class this year with 30,664 units sold through June 2014, up 68.4 percent compared 2013. Also, in five of the last six months of reported sales, Acura has posted gains. It appears that the company's utility lineup is really pushing it along.
To take the bestseller ever crown, Acura claims that through its three generations, the MDX has sold a cumulative 692,710 units. The premium model has also been at the top of the annual sales rankings for three-row luxury crossovers every year since 2002. The company believes that its nearest competitor is the Lincoln Navigator with an estimated 420,000 lifetime sales, and even arguably more comparable vehicles like the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class only have 350,000 or fewer sales under their belts. Of course, it probably doesn't hurt that the MDX has one of the lower starting prices in its class.
The Acura ILX just can't seem to catch a break. The Japanese automaker recently decided that the ILX Hybrid would no longer be offered in the US for the 2015 model year. Now, a possibility for fires has also cropped up in the compact luxury sedan. Acura has announced a recall of 14,078 examples from the 2013 and 2014 model years because the headlights could overheat and ignite the car. The company also issued a stop-sale for examples still at dealers until they can be repaired.
The campaign covers ILX and ILX Hybrid models with halogen projector headlights from specific build dates. The problem is that the headlights aren't cooled sufficiently when the cars aren't moving. After several hours of sitting with them on, it's possible for the lights to build up so much heat that they melt and potentially cause a fire.
To Acura's knowledge, there was only one case of an ILX actually catching fire due to this problem, though. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defect notice, a car was idling at a dealer for about two hours when the model went up in flames. The automaker brought the vehicle in for a detailed investigation to find what caused the blaze.
Following a delay this spring, Acura is now ready to launch the 2015 TLX sedan this August, with pricing now confirmed to start at $30,995, *not including $895 for destination. This base MSRP is just $360 more than that of the outgoing TSX sedan; the TLX replaces both the TSX and TL in Acura's 2015 model year lineup.
That's a pretty fair deal considering that introductory price gets buyers a front-wheel drive TLX with a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 206 horsepower,mated to a new eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, and featuring the automaker's Precision All-Wheel Steer (P-AWS) system. Adding a Technology Package ups the MSRP to $35,025.
Of course, the TLX is also available with a 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 mated to Acura's new nine-speed automatic transmission. The TLX V6 P-AWS starts at $25,220 and climbs to $39,250 with the Technology Package. The bottom line on the range-topping Advance model is $42,500. Acura's Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive is available with the 3.5-liter engine, too - the SH-AWD Technology model starts at $41,450, while the SH-AWD Advance commands $44,700.
The recall of faulty airbag inflators supplied by Takata has exploded today to grow to seven automakers. In most cases, only models in certain high-humidity regions were affected because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found in its investigation that moisture played a roll in determining whether there would be a problem. However, some companies opted for national campaigns. The exact number of affected models for these campaigns isn't yet known at this time.
BMW is recalling an undisclosed number of 325i, 325Xi, 330i and 330Xi models from the 2001 through 2005 model years and the 2001-2006 model year versions of the 325Ci and 330Ci for the driver side and passenger side inflators. Only vehicles currently registered in Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands are covered under this recall.
Neither Chrysler's filing with NHTSA nor its press release list the specific models affected, but a company spokesperson told Autoblog that at this time it only covers the driver and passenger side inflators for the 2006 Dodge Charger in Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands
Earlier today, Acura issued a press release detailing its entry-level 2015 ILX range, but something was missing. Honda's luxury arm listed all of the information about the naturally aspirated 2.0-liter and 2.4-liter ILX models, but nothing was said about the Hybrid - a model that, when we reviewed it in 2013, left us utterly cold. But now we know why: Acura has confirmed to Autoblog that the ILX Hybrid will be discontinued for the 2015 model year.
The company issued the following statement to us regarding the hybrid's demise:
The 2015 ILX remains a standout choice in the entry premium segment with its combination of performance, luxury, refinement and value and is the top-selling luxury vehicle to younger buyers. Based on the stronger appeal of the ILX 2.0 and 2.4 models, we are streamlining the ILX lineup to better align with customer demand, Acura will no longer offer the ILX Hybrid starting with the 2015 model year.
There are certain vehicles on sale today that are affected by what I call 'Camry Syndrome.' Named after Toyota's ubiquitous family hauler, Camry Syndrome affects a fair number of cars and trucks, many of which are exceedingly popular with consumers.
The issue I have with these vehicles is that while they're adequate, they lack ambition. Their looks are clean and reasonably attractive, but they're not particularly stylish, let alone adventuresome or - heaven forbid - polarizing. Their interiors are comfortable and well screwed together, with the sort of popular features that consumers expect at a given price point. Their engines are decently powerful and vocal enough to set the heart very slightly aflutter, yet they're not too thirsty. Their transmissions are invisible and their rides are best described with whatever buzzword synonym Joe Consumer might come up with for "sporty" or "luxurious." In short, they're boring.
In reality, provided they sell well, there's really nothing wrong with automakers building Camry Syndrome vehicles - they're reasonably competent at everything and clearly meet a need. The problem is that I want some aspects of my vehicle to be better than others, because contrast breeds character. I wish someone at Acura felt the way I did when it redesigned this MDX for 2014, because for me, there's so much of this premium crossover that's merely middle of the road.
It's easy to think of most wealthy celebrities as egotistical, materialistic individuals who own a Ferrari for every day of the week. The reality, though, is often much less severe. See, they can get attached to things, like cars, just like normal folks. Take Alfred Morris, for example. A 22-year-old running back with the Washington Redskins. Morris still drives the 1991 Mazda 626 that he had in college, despite a healthy $2.2 million contract.
Rapper/actor Ludacris is an even more extreme example of automotive loyalty. With an estimated net worth of over $70 million, Luda has the money for his own private plane. Yet that wealth doesn't stop him from regularly driving the 1993 Acura Legend he has had since before he found fame.
Ludacris, whose real name is Chris Bridges, recently discussed his old Acura during an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneris Show to promote his new album. It sounds like he's put 10,000 miles on the trusty sedan since it last popped up online less than a year ago, so it's pretty clear that he drives it on the regular. In fact, Ludacris says he still pens new songs sitting inside it, just like he used to back in the day when he was starting out.