Auto blogMon, 10 Mar 2014 11:29:00 EST
Acura doesn't tend to do concept cars these days that don't foreshadow a specific upcoming production model. The ZDX prototype of 2010 previewed the production version, as did the ILX and RLX showcars of 2012 and the MDX of 2013. The NSX concept is on its way to production, as the SUV-X concept is likely to do as well in the coming years. So when Acura revealed the TLX prototype at the Detroit Auto Show a few months ago, we all but knew it would only be a matter of time before that, too, would be produced. And here it is.
Spied all but completely undisguised while undergoing testing, this pair of TLX prototypes (one in white, one in black) looks almost identical to the show car. You might spot a few minor tweaks here and there - the strip of LEDs in the lower front bumper have been replaced by round fog lamps and some of the chrome accents are missing - but by and large, we're looking at the same vehicle we saw in Detroit earlier this year.
The finished production version of the TLX is expected to debut at the New York Auto Show next month, after which it will replace both the TSX and the TL, slotting in between the smaller ILX and the larger RLX in Acura's sedan lineup.
Honda and Acura North America have announced a major restructuring of operations in hopes of turning around Acura's flagging business. For 2013, sales for Acura's sedans dropped 10.4 percent, while its CUV sales grew by 21 percent. The newly formed Acura Business Planning Office will attempt to right the ship.
As part of the restructuring, Acura is promoting Erik Berkman from President of Honda R&D Americas to lead a new division called the Acura Business Planning Office. Berkman has been with Honda since 1982 and led development of the 2006 Accord. He was also the first US engineer to head North American research and development and has been head of Honda Performance Development since 2008. "Erik's appointment to the new Acura Business Planning Office is a clear indication of the high priority we place on Acura," said Honda spokesperson Jeffrey Smith to Automotive News.
American Honda Motor President and CEO Tetsuo Iwamura is also going to be working to improve the business. He has been elected chairman of American Honda's board, and has simultaneously taken the new position of Corporate Brand Officer to improve the management of the company's brands.
Consumer Reports has released its 2014 Car Brand Report Cards, with Lexus again reigning at the top and doing so with the same industry-topping score of 79 that it registered in last year's Report Cards. This year, the institute credited its lineup for being "usually quiet, comfortable, and fuel-efficient," noting it's the only brand on the list "to achieve an excellent average overall reliability score." The Car Brand Report Cars list is meant to rank the best all-around vehicles based on CR testing and reliability results tallied by subscribers it surveyed. Each brand included must have sufficient test and reliability data for at least three models, a standard which left out 11 marques including Fiat, Jaguar, Land Rover and Porsche.
This 2014 Brand Report Cars edition is the first of a new format in which sub-brands have been broken out from their parent brands, with Acura using this year to move up the leaderboard into second place with a score of 75 for its "reliable, well-finished and somewhat sporty models." The top three was rounded out by Audi, climbing from eighth to third by scoring a 74 for "well-crafted interiors, nice handling and good gas mileage." Audi scored highest in the road-test portion, its improved reliability aiding its rise. The top nine was completed by Subaru, Toyota, Mazda, Honda, Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz.
Ford and Jeep weighed in at the other end of the rankings, Jeep taking the lowest overall score in the road tests and hampered by "a mix of spotty reliability." Ford was sunk by reliability issues with its MyFord Touch infotainment system which consumers found troublesome enough to negate its cars earning "solid test scores" for being "very nice to drive." Perhaps the rumored switch from Microsoft to Blackberry's QNX for the next generation SYNC will help them out. Cadillac's score also took a hit for infotainment reasons after it was the leading US brand last year, the CUE system in the XTS dragging Cadillac to the bottom of all General Motors brands.
For the first time since 1998, J.D. Power and Associates says its data shows that the average number of problems per 100 cars has increased. The finding is the result of the firm's much-touted annual Vehicle Dependability Study, which charts incidents of problems in new vehicle purchases over three years from 41,000 respondents.
Looking at first-owner cars from the 2011 model year, the study found an average of 133 problems per 100 cars (PP100, for short), up 6 percent from 126 PP100 in last year's study, which covered 2010 model-year vehicles. Disturbingly, the bulk of the increase is being attributed to engine and transmission problems, with a 6 PP100 boost.
Interestingly, JDP notes that "the decline in quality is particularly acute for vehicles with four-cylinder engines, where problem levels increase by nearly 10 PP100." Its findings also noticed that large diesel engines also tended to be more problematic than most five- and six-cylinder engines.
Originally forged with a brand identity based on luxury, sportiness and practicality, Acura has spent the last decade or so struggling with its image. The sporting credibility suffered a mighty blow with the loss of cars like the Integra, RSX and NSX, and recent years have seen the Japanese company attempting to recast itself as a technology leader.
All of that makes this latest Acura commercial, Let The Race Begin, even more difficult to understand, metaphorically speaking. The horsepower-horse race 'theme' certainly isn't difficult to fathom, with mecca-equine versions of popular luxury brands filling the screen. But the choice to make Acura's filly a flesh-and-blood creation seems odd, for the high-tech theme. Acura as "thoroughbred apart from the rest of the field" seems to be the rough message here, though we're not sure we're buying it. We're also not sure we're comfortable with how much these ponies reminded us of a certain off-putting robotic dog...
Looks expensive, at any rate. Watch the robot ponies run for yourself, below.
Over the last decade or so, many foreign automakers have challenged the idea of what defines an "American car," but Honda took things a step further last year by exporting more cars out of the US than it imported in. Reuters is reporting that in 2013, a total of 108,705 Honda and Acura models were exported from the US with only 88,357 being shipped in. This gives Honda a net exporter status here, and makes it the first of such among the major Japanese automakers.
Honda's US imports have been dropping over the last five years while its exports have been steadily increasing. In 2008, the report indicates that Honda shipped 187,000 vehicles to the US and exported only 20,000, and even by 2012 Honda still favored imports with 136,000 imports and 74,000 exports. The article says that US-made Honda and Acura vehicles were exported to 50 countries with most ending up in Mexico, but the big news is that the Honda's US production set a record in 2013 with 1.3 million units built.
If you're a fan of The Avengers from 2012, then here's your chance at owning a piece of movie memorabilia. Following last year's auction of a Acura MDX from that movie, Scottsdale Motor Company is now listing another S.H.I.E.L.D. vehicle on eBay Motors - this time a 2012 Acura TL.
Unlike the MDX, this TL has fewer modifications limited to the custom front push bumper, matte-black paint job and the various LED emergency lights in the back window and in the front bumper, while the inside appears untouched with the exception of small auxiliary switches. The current auction price of this car $32,900 - compared to the $41,535 MSRP of a new TL with Advance Package back in 2012 - but this is a steal compared to the movie-prop Monroney that comes with the car listing the "palladium-powered" sedan at $227,085. The seller says that this car was only one of five built for the movie, and it only has 1,111 miles on the odometer.
After the S.H.I.E.L.D. MDX and TL, we can only hope that Scottsdale Motor Company will offer Tony Stark's Acura NSX Roadster as its next movie car auction.
There's a distinct benefit to automakers having their own premium brand. After all, why develop one vehicle to be sold under one nameplate if you can turn it into two? Especially if a little reconfiguration and some premium accoutrements allow said automaker to charge significantly more for the luxury version. It's a winning formula - for crossovers especially - that Toyota has used to turn the Highlander into the Lexus RX (even if the first-gen RX arrived before the original Highlander), that Ford has used to transform the Edgee into the Lincoln MKX and that General Motors has applied to the Chevrolet Suburban to turn it into the Cadillac Escalade (to name just a few of the many examples out there). And it's one to which Honda and its Acura division are certainly not unaccustomed.
Acura has adapted its Euro-spec Honda Accord into the TSX, the Civic into the ILX, the CR-V into the RDX and the Pilot into the MDX. And now that the Honda Vezel is coming to market, Acura reportedly has its eye on that as well. The idea was first introduced when Acura unveiled the SUV-X concept (shown above) at the Shanghai Motor Show this past April, just a few months after Honda revealed its Urban SUV concept that previewed the production Vezel. At the time, says Automotive News, Acura said it intended to put the concept into production in China for the Chinese market, and it's reportedly moving ahead with those plans. But now that it is, executives are wondering where else they might find buyers for the premium compact crossover.
With the Vezel soon to begin production alongside the Fit at Honda's new plant in Mexico, it wouldn't be a stretch to see the Acura version follow suit. The market does, after all, seem to be heating up with entries like the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA, and we couldn't blame Honda - pardon us, Acura - for wanting a slice of that pie.
One doesn't normally think of Acura offering anything to mix it up with the SRT Viper, Lamborghini Gallardo, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, Nissan GT-R, Audi R8 and Ferrari 458 Italia (at least while the NSX is still off in the ether), but that's exactly what's about to happen. Honda's premium outpost is jumping into the top tier of the Pirelli World Challenge with this 2015 TLX GT.
The surprise reveal of this racecar at today's Detroit Auto Show will be campaigned by RealTime Racing, no stranger to racing Acuras, in the GT class (previously, the team had campaigned the series a rung down in GT-S).
The racecar is powered by a twin-turbo variant of the direct-injected V6 to be found in the production TLX sedan, right along with its Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system. There's no word on how much power this HPD-massaged engine will put out in race trim, but we won't have to wait long to hear it fire up - the car is set to take to the track with team owner Peter Cunningham at the wheel in the next few weeks.
Herein lies the broom that will sweep away both the TL and the TSX, and its name is the Acura TLX Prototype. Proposed as a "red carpet athlete," the production midsize TLX will slot in between the ILX and RLX range-topper in the brand's sedan lineup while presenting its take on "luxury refinement and sports-sedan athleticism with exhilarating performance."
Custom five-spoke alloys on low-profile tires support a sedan full of design cues honed on other Acura models, including a chiseled hood and exaggerated fender lines with shorter overhangs (the TLX is 3.8 inches shorter than but has the same wheelbase as the TL), all draped in Athletic Red Pearl paintwork. Acura's Jewel Eye headlights get a supporting act from the side mirrors, where a strip of LEDs light up dynamically when the turn signal is used.
The TLX's upscale powertrain option will be a direct-injected 3.5-liter V6 with cylinder deactivation, paired with a new nine-speed automatic.