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Answering The $30,000 Entry-Level Luxury Question
Twenty years ago, a comparison between an entry-level Buick and Acura would have matched a Skylark against an Integra.
Twenty years ago, a comparison between an entry-level Buick and its Acura equivalent would have matched a Skylark against an Integra. The unfair battle would have resulted in the compact American's defeat in nearly every measurable category, as the Japanese competitor was arguably at the height of its powers.
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 You might spot a few minor tweaks here and there - the strip of LEDs in the lower front bumper have been replaced by round fog lamps and some of the chrome accents are missing - but by and large, we're looking at the same vehicle we saw in Detroit earlier this year.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.
The Acura Integra (pictured above in Type R trim) was one of the definitive vehicles of the Acura brand in the US, having joined the Legend at the marque's birth here. However, since the retirement of the RSX, the luxury arm of Honda has lacked a compact, sporty coupe to fill that niche. There appears to be a chance of that absence possibly coming to an end in the coming years, though.
Acura lead designer Dave Marek spoke to Car and Driver during the SEMA Show and said, "A performance brand needs a flagship and it needs an accessible sport car. Not a sports car, but a sport car." However, he also suggested that a new model wouldn't be spinning its tires too soon, at least not before 2017 by his indication.
While the vague possibility of a new sports coupe is still years away, Acura is taking its early steps in a brand revitalization campaign that includes spinning the luxury arm further away from Honda. The strong initial sales of the TLX are certainly a good start, but the work appears to just be beginning, according to Marek. "There are changes coming, and then there are more changes coming," he said to Car and Driver.