Auto blogMon, 10 Nov 2014
Here's a vehicle that nobody saw coming. Unless Honda/Acura is keen to play tricks on us, our spy shooters recently caught what appears to be an Acura minivan fully camouflaged for testing on some back roads on a rainy day.
Details on the disguised minivan are rather scarce, but it certainly bares all the hallmarks of an Acura. The front grille alone gives it away with a look that mimics the latest MDX, and note that the orientation of the rear door handle heavily suggests that it slides to open. Moving inside, the tester appears to borrow some tech from the luxury brand's parts bin too, and the Acura logo seems to be covered in tape right in the middle of the steering wheel.
Mechanically, our spies believe that the production version of Acura's minivan might borrow the brand's V6, nine-speed automatic and Super Handling All-Wheel Drive - a similar layout to some trims of the TLX. The photographers also think that the vehicle is a little wider than the current Honda Odyssey to give occupants a bit more room. Given the more luxurious focus, the high-end model would surely carry seven people with a bit more opulence than the standard Odyssey, especially, we'd imagine, for second-row passengers. A launch for this posh hauler could be slated for the 2016 or 2017 model years.
It's been eighteen years since we last saw the Legend nameplate in Acura showrooms here in the US, but in Japan it's still very much alive as Honda's flagship sedan. And now the Japanese automaker has revealed the latest generation.
Set to go on sale across Japan on January 22 - 30 years since the nameplate was introduced - the new Honda Legend is essentially the same model we already know in the States as the new Acura RLX. Only by "essentially," we mean exactly. It is the RLX, only with Honda badges instead of Acura ones. The manufacturer hasn't even changed the grille or the wheels.
Although the RLX is being offered Stateside in two forms, the new JDM Honda Legend will only come in one form, equivalent to our Sport Hybrid, with Super Handling All-Wheel Drive and a hybrid powertrain pairing a 3.5-liter V6 to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission with integrated electric motor. For the privilege of owning the most luxurious car Honda makes, Japanese customers will have to pony up ¥6,800,000 - which about adds up to $59,950 we'd pay for an RLX Sport Hybrid.
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.
The net enveloping vehicles in the Takata airbag inflator recall just seems to keep widening. Honda is now updating its previous campaign to revise the status for even more models that were ever registered in (or originally sold in) 13 high-humidity US states and territories.
All of these vehicles were included in the company's earlier repairs. However, at the time this fix was titled "a safety improvement campaign." This latest action upgrades that condition to "a formal recall," according to Honda's official statement. The models include: the 2003-2005 Honda Accord, 2001-2005 Civic (pictured above), 2002-2005 CR-V, 2003-2004 Element, 2002-2004 Odyssey, 2003-2005 Pilot, 2006 Ridgeline, 2003-2005 Acura MDX and the 2005 Acura RL. All of these need to have their passenger-side, front airbag inflator replaced, and the recall affects Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Saipan, Guam and American Samoa.
As with the rest of these affected vehicles, it's possible in a collision for the inflator to rupture spraying metal shrapnel at occupants. There are at least 139 injuries attributed to this problem from a variety of automakers so far. Among this latest population of vehicles, Honda says there have been no confirmed injuries or fatalities related to these exploding inflators.
Acura used the SEMA Show this week to remind enthusiasts that it still considers itself a performance brand, teaming with Galpin Auto Sports to build a TLX that highlights Acura's sporting and racing heritage.
The TLX is painted a deep shade of blue, called Andaro, and the color will be used on the NSX supercar when it returns to the United States in 2015. It rolls on custom gray wheels with gunmetal and "liquid smoke" pieces, and they're wrapped in Pirelli P Zero rubber. The exterior design is punched up with a body kit that adds side skirts, a rear spoiler and new bumpers to create a more sinister look.
The TLX has a sport suspension kit with coilovers with 36-way adjustable damping. There's also brake upgrades and custom exhaust outlets.
Motorweek's decades of history on television make it the perfect medium to look back into the automotive past and see how things are different now. It recently added old road test videos to its YouTube channel of the Acura NSX and Toyota Supra, as well as the Ferrari F40. For one of its newest flashback clips, Motorweek has exhumed an affordable five-car challenge of 1986's premiere hot hatches.
By today's standards, this is an eclectic field that features fondly remembered classics like the Volkswagen GTI 16-valve and Acura Integra. However, it also throws in some nearly forgotten contenders like the Dodge Colt Turbo and Ford Escort GT. The angular Toyota Corolla FX16 GT-S rounds out the group.
It's fascinating to watch Motorweek run the quintet through the slalom, down the drag strip and on various roads. What's most striking in this clip is the difference in the definition of a performance car between then and now. With its 16-valve, 1.8-liter four-cylinder, the GTI is the burliest of the contenders with 123 horsepower, but it still takes 8.8 seconds to reach 60 miles per hour. By today's standards, that would make it a plain-jane economy car, and not even a particularly quick one.
Developing a new vehicle is not without its complications, we're sure, but usually things follow a fairly predictable progression: you develop a prototype, you test it, test it and test it again, then you put it into production. What you don't expect is that your prototype will burn to the ground, but that's what famously happened to the NSX which Honda engineers were testing a few months ago.
Fortunately, the Acura NSX prototype is back on track, both literally and figuratively, as you can see from this latest batch of spy shots snapped at the Nürburgring. This camouflaged prototype looks pretty much the same as the last one, only, you know... less crispy. Which is to say, it looks pretty much ready to hit showrooms.
The naysayers may point out that Honda chose colder and damper weather to put the NSX back into testing - thereby mitigating the risk of another fire - but we're sure the Japanese automaker has been working hard to fix the flammability issues, whatever may have caused them, over the past few months. At least, we hope they have.
Honda has built two Accords for many years. There's the one we're familiar with here in the United States, and then there's the Accord sold in markets like Europe and Australia, known here in the US as the Acura TSX. But just like Acura did with the TSX, the Euro-market Accord has been discontinued.
The news comes from The Motor Report in Australia, which is reporting that the Accord Euro will be discontinued in 2015. Sold Down Under alongside the US-market model, the discontinuation of the Aussie car indicates an end to Honda's midsize sedan efforts in Europe, where there is no obvious replacement for the four-door and wagon models.
According to TMR, Honda Australia Director Stephen Collins indicated that focus will be placed instead on the US market "wide-body" model, as it's known. That said, this decision doesn't sound like it's sitting too well in Oz.
Honda has already showcased its new Fit-based crossover around the world. We've seen it in Tokyo wearing the Vezel name and we've seen it in Paris in 'prototype' form. We've even seen photos of the US-spec version. We just haven't seen that North American model in the flesh, but that'll all be fixed next month at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
That's where Honda will, at long last, unveil the US version of its new HR-V subcompact. The Japanese automaker hasn't told us much else, save to say that the HR-V will, of course, slot in below the CR-V in US showrooms. It'll also feature the company's lauded Magic Seat system, "which allows for multiple seating configurations and the ability to fold the second row seat completely flat for added cargo space."
Alongside the HR-V, Honda's luxury division will also be showcasing a revised version of its ILX sedan at the LA show as well. Acura hasn't revealed precise details of what revisions are in store for its smallest sedan - or a more detailed photo than the teaser inset at right - but it is promising "a comprehensive update that include a potent new powertrain, more forceful, sporty exterior styling and a substantially upgraded interior design."
It's easy to poke a joke here and there about John Davis, the long-time host of MotorWeek. His voice is so monotonous that, from time to time, if you closed your eyes, you may think it's generated via a computer. But you have to give him and the rest of the show a lot of credit. The program has been on the air for decades, giving people direct, straight-down-the middle automotive reviews.
MotorWeek's massive back catalog of reviews are slowly making their way onto YouTube, and they provide a fascinating chance to look back on how performance cars rank against their contemporaries from back in the day. Two recent additions include the show's old looks at the 1986 Toyota Supra, the dawn of the third-generation model, and the now-iconic 1991 Acura NSX.
Both reviews are interesting in their own way. These days you hear nary a negative word about the original NSX, but MotorWeek isn't afraid to point out a few flaws. And the Supra really shows the progress of suspension tuning in the intervening decades because it has some serious body roll in the corners. Scroll down to check out both videos and get a blast from the automotive past.