2021 Acura Trim Levels and Configurations, Comparisons, Pros vs Cons
Acura is the premium imprint of the Honda Motor Company. Honda, founded in 1948, created the Acura brand for the United States and Canada market in 1986. Later, Honda would premeire the brand in Hong Kong, Mexico, and China. Paradoxically, the Acura brand is not available in Japan. Some of the models sold in America are available in Japan, just under the Honda imprint
Why Luxury? Acura's beginnings
In the Japanese domestic market, Toyota and Nissan built cars designed for the executive. The initial Acura Legend model was created to compete in that market. Nissan's Gloria and Toyota's crown were the business person's car of choice. All of the Japanese makers had no problem selling upmarket cars to their home market, but none had tried to do so in America.
Although it is hard to remember a time before BMW and Mercedes Benz were not typical fixtures on the highway, in the early and mid 1980's that was the case. The German manufacturers were able to take a piece of the market away from the American makers. Where was Japan?
In America, Honda enjoyed a reputation of solid build quality and reliability. But the Honda name may not have ben the first to jump to mind when one thought of opulence. Younger drivers loved their Hondas, and would happily drive them at the beginning of their careers. As the drivers excelled at the workplace, they would sell their trusty Accords and Civics and move into Cadillacs.
While this was happening, Honda had been developing a larger Accord, complete with premium features, but at the time Honda was not a name associated with prestige.
A game changer was needed. Under the vision of Tom Elliott, the larger Accord project, would become the Acura Legend. The Legend would a twenty four valve six cylinder engine, complete with modern fuel injection, when many cars on the road were still using carburetors. And like the BMW's and Porsches, the Legend would also have independent suspension. Honda's suspension system would offer the handling of a performance car, but the ride quality expected in a luxury car.
These features did not come cheap. The refined Accord would be offered at nearly twice the price of its budget minded relative. An additional car was added to the line up, the Integra. Developed from the a Japanese model meant to compete with the German "hot hatchbacks", the Integra featured a sporty four cylinder, an evocative chassis, and handling meant to rival even the nimblest of Volkswagens.
Launching the brand with two models, the luxury Legend and the sporty Integra, was considered a foolhardy by many in the automotive media. On top of manufacturing two new models, dealerships, service technicians, parts, and marketing had to be built from the ground up. Despite the critics, Acura sold over one hundred thousand (100,000) cars during their first year, more than half of them the pricy Legend.
From 1986 to 1990, the Acura line increased visibility, reputation and sales. Important industry reports rated Acura at the top of many polls. Of note to speed enthusiasts, the NSX was introduced. The NSX was Acura's premier model. Designed to compete with Italian supercars, like the Ferrari and Lamborghini, the NSX was well received. Along side the NSX, the "A" emblem was also introduced. Upon close inspection, the A is actually a pair of calipers meant to symbolize the company's commitment to accuracy.
The 1990's were a trying time. Upon the success of Acura, Toyota and Nissan introduced Lexus and Infiniti, their own luxury marquees. Along with increased competition from European manufacturers, Acura lost some of the ground it had gained by being a first mover. In those tough economic times, Honda, through Acura did something unheard of. They brought assembly to the United States. Another industry innovation that many car makers have.
The models of the 1990's included the aforementioned Legend, Integra, NSX. Between the entry level Integra and flagship Legend, the Acura Vigor was introduced. When it was time to update the Vigor, Acura decided to also shift the style of naming cars. The Vigor became the TL, the Legend became the RL, and the Integra would become the RSX. At the tail end of the decade, the CL was also introduced.
The New Millennium
Acura continued to update their line and give new names, but also break into new categories in the line. A full size SUV, the SLX, was a modest success. A new category of car was invented, a cross between an SUV and a Car. Considered more sporting than a minivan, the aptly named crossover style of car found form in Acura as the MDX. This luxury crossover shares the same platform as the Accord and TL
In the middle of the new decade, Acura introduced what would become two of their most well received models, the TSX - a luxurious styling of its cousin the Accord, and the 3rd generation Acura TL. Both were among the brand's best selling models, receiving many accolades from top automotive magazines.
Combining the advantages of the MDX crossover with the new trend in cars known as the 4 door coup, the ZDX. This was the first Acura design entirely created in manufacturer's American studio at Torrance.
The current line up of Acuras include the ILX, TLX, RLX, RDX, MDX.
Arguably the ILX is a return to form. Based on the Honda Civic, the ILX echoes the Acura's RSX and Integra. Available with a traditional 4 cylinder engine, and an optional hybrid powerplant. The option of a gasoline and battery powered engine is Acura's first foray into hybrids.
The TLX, offered in both 4 and 6 cylinder configurations combines both the TSX and TL lines. A step up from the the ILX, but not quite full size luxury.
The RLX is of the same lineage as the Acura Legend that started the company. This flagship features four wheel steering.
The RDX is the entry level vehicle for Acura's crossover line. Smaller than the MDX, the RDX has gone through two generations.
The MDX is the latest iteration of Acura's full size crossover. Three generations of development has garnered sales greater than its nearest competitors
The story of Acura is full of trials and triumphs. Honda created an unheard of market despite the critics. The individual models each pushed forward automotive technology. And the business practices of Acura, like assembling vehicles in the United States brought forth new opportunities for other manufacturers. Acura will continue to create and innovate the automotive world for years to come.