January 15, 2018 an epic day for American Honda Motors, Acura Division in Detroit

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The 3rd generation Acura RDX captivates one’s imagination from every angle.

January 15, 2018, will mark a day in Honda history when two innovative, segment topping, benchmark-setting vehicles were presented to the world press from Detroit, Michigan –still, the epicenter of North America’s auto industry. Honda, America’s #5 automaker comes to N.A.I.A.S (North American International Auto Show) with two showstoppers — the reinvented 3rd generation Honda Insight and Acura Divisions 2019 RDX SUV, the first ground-up reinvention of Acura’s best selling compact SUV in the better part of a decade. I wouldn’t throw my 2017 Acura RDX in the crusher.

The Insight journey began in 1999 as America’s first hybrid electric car

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Shades of Civic Hybrid

I still see first generation Honda Insights from time to time running the streets of North America, tinny by today’s standards, the initial Insight offering was a 2-place 3 door hatchback that averaged over 60 MPG highway. Very cool looking. in a quirky, fender skirt sort of way. The original subcompact Honda Insight fell to the side of the road in sales due to Toyota’s introduction of the larger Prius, the best selling gasoline/electric hybrid in history.

After a brief market hiatus, a second generation Insight returned to the market in 2010 as a larger 4-door hatchback with underwhelming performance drive dynamics. Yet, In my several interviews with Insight owners, I’ve yet to meet one that didn’t praise their Insight. In rolls a much improved, larger scale 5-passenger sedan, featuring Accord Hybrid, Clarity PHEV, 2nd generation 2-electric motor Honda hybrid gasoline/electric hybrid technology. As of this writing, Honda’s expanded a bit on the date of arrival, as well as specifications for this Prius slayer. However, that’s about it. I’ll keep you posted.

Moving on: The 3rd generation Acura RDX is visually captivating

As promised by our friends at Acura, 2019 RDX is a show stopper that most definitely lives up to its pre-reveal hype. Without question, the most advanced future-forward SUV design to come out of Acura’s Los Angeles based design studio, the manufactured in Ohio 3rd generation RDX presents the maker’s near future design directive for Honda’s premium brand. When released to markets in midyear 2018, RDX will return sport-driving dynamics to the very popular 2-row crossover segment.

New for 2019 is the first mainstream integration of Acura’s Precision Cockpit Concept design architecture; a much improved up-trim interior, full-length glass roof, available 2nd generation SH-AWD (smart-handling-all-wheel-drive) greater structural rigidity, a new turbocharged high-torque engine, 10-speed transmission, available 3-D ELS sound/ entertainment interface, and more. Read my Detroit Car Show recap here.

My congratulations go out to Acura’s G.M. Jon Ikada, the Acura engineering and design team, as well as Acura P.R., for a job, well done. In other news, Acura tells us that the V6 is not dead in their future lineup. Look for a turbocharged, high output V6 to premiere in the 2019 RDX. Also, Acura vows to resurrect an S-Type for the sport-driving enthusiast, while expanding the A-Spec trim packaging to all Acura car and light truck offerings.

What’s new for Acura in 2019 and beyond

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2019 Acura RDX optimizes “Precision Crafted Performance”

In a recent Torque News article titled “5 improvements Acura owners want in the near future,” I discussed the current state of Honda’s premium car Division, and what will be required in the near future to elevate Acura to its rightful position in the premium car and light truck segment.

Setting the record straight: In speaking with Acura owners, while the majority praise the mark for producing an overall outstanding vehicle, many point to Acura’s outdated tech-side as sub-par, needing work, and glitchy at times. Or, more specifically, the navigation voice-command needs some work. Fit and finish are at times inconsistent. And unfortunately, for a very few, the initially problematic ZF 9-speed automatic transmission remains prone to intermittent glitches, and in worse case scenario, failure! It does happen.

Today Acura MDX and RDX remain best sellers in their respective SUV segments. Affordable, premium, and fun to drive, Acura remains the go-to brand for consumers looking for understated elegance, precision, and sport-like drive and ride dynamics. When looking to pricepoint, Acura holds the advantage in the SUV and midsize premium sedan segment. What does the future look like for Honda’s premium brand?

In response to this Acura-owner want and wish list, I’ve received some very poignant responses. Read that article here.

Moving on to what’s new for Acura in 2019

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2018 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid

The evolution of Acura will continue with the prototype introduction of the all-new RDX compact SUV. This will be the first offering to feature Acura’s Precision Concept Cockpit design. Losing the 2-screen center stack dash layout, 2019 RDX will instead feature a centered floating touchscreen, with a redesigned, and much larger i-MID. I first experienced the Precision Cockpit at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2016. We’ll be reporting details here on January, 15, from Detroit.

To date, Acura presents a much refreshed 2018 MDX, MDX Sport Hybrid, and, TLX-A-Spec. All feature Acura’s outstanding pentagon diamond precision grill and SH-AWD options. In the case of MDX Sport Hybrid, NSX, and RLX — we discover hybrid electric torque vectoring SH-AWD. (smart handling all-wheel-drive.) Acura’s quest for Precision Performance began with the 2nd generation NSX super-car — an unparalleled performance value for the money.

I look to Acura for great things in 2018 and beyond. I’ve met the design team, engineers, and top management, they’re passionate, dedicated, and have the resources at hand to dominate. Good things take time. In the meantime, I like driving Acura. It’s very cool in its own understated, precision directed elegance, and posh! I tame the streets of Los Angeles in RLX.

This week in Honda News Insight and Ridgeline come under the spotlight

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Insight Shades of Civic Hybrid. Photo Attributes American Honda 2017.

This first week of 2018 is a bit slow as to breaking Honda News. Here it is Tuesday, and American Honda has yet to publish year end sales data for the 5th largest U.S. car brand. Japanese owned, but mostly made in Canada, Mexico and the U.S., production related news, will most likely come on Wednesday, with yet another record year for America’s #5 car brand.

Factoid: Honda integrates more U.S. sourced parts into their new car lineup than Fiat Chrysler, GM or Ford. If you drive Accord, Civic or CR-V, your car or light truck is more likely than not, built in North America. Here’s where the news comes in to play: Last month American Honda Motors teased not only the redesigned Acura RDX compact crossover, but a made in Ohio 3rd generation Honda Insight Hybrid. This marks the remake of the first hybrid gasoline/ electric car made available to North American buyers back in 1999, light years ago by automotive design and development standards.

Yet here we are, once again returning back to the future — with a Civic sized Insight that Honda tells us will be manufactured in the U.S, rolling down the same production line as Honda CR-V — that plants an idea or two for the future of CR-V. Electrified? Certainly! Read my Torque News take on Honda’s latest and greatest mainstream hybrid car here.

I anticipate an entry trim price point just south of $30,000. What do you think? Will Honda get it right this time — market timing that is, Insight was and remains a great compact hybrid.

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2019 Acura RDX crossover Prototype. Photo attributions Acura Division 2017

Honda’s luxury car Division is scheduled for a new offering or two. That reinvention will begin with the introduction of a ground-up RDX compact crossover redesign for 2019.

As shared at the top of my first week of 2018 rant, 2 weeks earlier, Acura leaked a Pre-Detroit Show reveal of Acura RDX; the one and only compact, CR-V derived crossover in the maker’s North American lineup. I like RDX, in-fact, It’s my favorite personal daily driver. But, it could use a makeover, more specifically on the electronic, connectivity, integrated navigation side of the equation.

In short, RDX electronics don’t work perfectly, something that Acura owners insist on!  Looking to the reveal photo, 2019 RDX comes to market with a futuristic, low drag coefficient look. I see RDX taking on Lexus, it’s that cool!

However, I’m afraid that Acura’s mechanically bulletproof V6 will go the way of 2018 Honda Accord. In its place will most likely sit a high output, fuel efficient 2.0L direct injected, turbocharged 4 cylinder gasoline engine, paired to a segmented CVT or 8-speed duel clutched transmission. Yes there will be an all-wheel-drive offering. Will it be electrified, smart ?

Hang in there Honda fans: We should know more after Acura shares a detail or two in Detroit on January 15, 2018. Read my take on the all new Acura RDX here.

Acura TLX Sedan Comes Out Swinging with Precision Performance Design Upgrade

 

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Refreshed 2018 Acura TLX to Make World Debut * Image Attributes Acura Division 2017

Judging by Acura’s latest ‘teaser image’ of the 2018 TLX premium midsize performance sedan, the Precision Performance inspired design upgrade should not only elevate lagging TLX sales, but take the maker to the forefront of a very competitive, German dominated segment — where frankly, for many well heeled buyers’ price point is secondary to cutting edge good looks and reasonable road performance.

Already a great car by most discerning buyer’s standards

I count myself fortunate to have gained much seat time behind the wheel of Acura’s upper trim level sedans and SUVs. While arguably, a bit visually understated when compared to the likes of Audi, BMW, and Lexus, every one of Acura’s offerings makes up for conservative looks, with exceptional road handling, cabin comfort, reasonable MSRP, and top of segment fuel efficiency and safety.

Where Acura continues to trail the competition is in engine power output, and body style. Me, I personally like Acura style, but I’m not 40 something, and captivated by the rather futurist styling of Lexus, or the German in-your-face historically correct performance sedans of Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Acura in direct comparison trends towards “boxy,” on the SUV side of the mark, and Honda-like on the performance sedan side of the big “A. That’s all about to change.”

With the advent of NSX hybrid supercar, and the presentation of Acura’s Precision Performance Concept, comes a major change of direction in Acura lineup-wide body language. Gone is the Acura Beak, and by most accounts, it won’t be missed. In its stead, as featured most recently in the 2017 Acura MDX refresh is a diamond mesh 3-D grill design, featuring Acura’s unique moniker, front and center. Read my latest take on Acura MDX sport hybrid here.

We further note a seamless integration of updated L.E.D. headlamp and running light details. And, as seen in recent spy-shot photos, a round to organic, side panel body line, expressing improved engine performance and torque vectoring road handling to come.

Hybrid, new center dash static screen, and expanded active safety features

Perhaps! As of this posting, Acura’s not saying. But truthfully, I wouldn’t be surprised to find a turbocharged 1.5 or 2 liter 4 cylinder gasoline engine rolling down the production line, linked to a new proprietor Acura transmission, or two.

Look for the world debut of Acura’s next advent at the New York International Auto Show in April.

 

North America Production Civic Type-R Debuts in Los Angeles

2017 Civic Type R (European Version)

According to Honda News, Honda tuner fans were afforded the opportunity to view the 10th generation world-compact-car platformed 2017 Civic Type-R, Sunday at 2017 Auto Con in Los Angeles, California. This marks the U.S. debut of the first Honda to ever dawn the Type-R badge, and the first turbocharged 2.0 liter i-VTEC gasoline engine featured in a factory street legal, out of the box, “hot-hatch.”

Next up is the New York International Auto Show in April, where Honda will showcase Civic Type- R and a trio of Clarity electrified offerings. We’re also confident that Acura will have a strong showing, but as of this posting Acura’s keeping their hand close to the vest. Read my latest Clarity adventure here.

While the AWD, FWD debate continues…

Personally, I like the idea of minimizing dead and moving weight, drive line components, and, drive train related drag through FWD when hitting the race skids. Honda Civic in its modified version continues to perform well in Autocross, off-road rally and G.T. track racing world-wide. At the heart of every Honda Civic race car is a front drive differential. Type-R performance will be impressive.

2017 Civic Type R

In the case of the over-the-top 306 horsepower Type-R, motivation comes from a 2.0 Liter 1-VTEC engine, close throw 6 speed manual transmission, and limited slip front wheel drive. The production offering is very close in specifications to the record setting European version, with an uptick in creature comforts, cab accouterments, and E.P.A. compliant safety features. You may find my latest take on Civic Type-R here, including estimated MSRP and specifications.

As for me, I’m looking forward to some Civic Type-R seat time in late Spring 2017, just around the corner. And look forward to putting Honda’s most powerful production Civic through its paces.

2017 MDX Sport Hybrid SUV:  This week we’ll head north and discover what electrification does to take the #1 selling premium SUV in the U.S. up to the next level in fuel efficient, electric-torque driven performance.

Acura injects ‘Precision Performance’ throughout the 2017 linup

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New Acura NSX in Nouvelle Blue

 

Despite the market arrival of 2017 Acura NSX, North America’s only gasoline/electric hybrid supercar, car sales were a bit flat for Honda’s luxury division as consumers opted for crossover/SUV offerings. No worries!

Acura’s MDX and RDX premium SUV variants remain the #1 and #2  best-selling vehicles in Acura’s lineup, and the best-selling premium SUVs available to North America. For 2017 Acura will present a 1 engine, (3 liter V6 motivated) 7 speed duel clutch shifted smart handling all-wheel-drive MDX — the only 3-row midsize hybrid SUV available in North America.

Read today’s Acura-Torque News article here. What does the future hold for Acura’s sedan offerings? Good question. I look to Acura Precision Concept, first revealed to the automotive press at the New York International Car Show early in 2016. Stunning! is the short description here — as one views Acura’s unique slant on a near future drive and ride experience centering around the driver.

Looking to “Acura Precision Concept’s” body design one notes a coupe-like sculpted 4-door sedan inspired by the reinvented second generation NSX supercar with a twist or two. At first look, due to invisible rear door handles, I truly believed the concept a two door coupe. Completing the futuristic yet very doable concept is Acura’s patented diamond grill design, centered 3-D-like- monogram and 22 inch machine cut alloy wheels. Awesome!

While viewing Precision Concept’s interior one discovers Acura’s near autonomous driver centered cockpit and office lounge-like passenger seating, precision integrated soft and hard molded surfaces, eye pleasing color combinations, and a control center akin to that of a modern private jet. What’s not to like?Acura_Precission_Concept

2017 MDX Hybrid arrival slated for Spring 2017

I’ve driven NSX and RDX. Both share a hybrid system similar to the one that will set MDX far a part from am ever-growing field of premium 3-row SUVs. The icing on the cake for me and others that prefer a light truck based drive and ride platform is greater horsepower,(+35) and much improved city fuel efficiency.(+7) At the end of the day while not the highest output SUV in the 3-row segment. MDX will be the most fuel-efficient, best road handling, and least expensive premium midsize 3-row in North America.

As to Acura’s car side: With Honda’s 10th generation Civic comes the opportunity to essential reinvent Acura’s portal sedan ILX. And, with that reinvention will inevitably come turbocharging to Acura’s car lineup. The manufactured in Japan RLX will remain unchanged.

As to TLX: Looking to the timeline we’re a mere 3 years into TLX. And, although with sales not as brisk as originally anticipated, 3,000 + TLX sedans drove off  the lot per month in 2016. I don’t anticipate a major TLX redo prior to model year 2018.

 

2017 Honda Ridgeline only IIHS Top Safety Pick + pickup truck to date

 

 

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In the case of the reinvented Honda Ridgeline Pickup, its latest well earned industry accolade is a ‘one of a kind.’ According to Honda-Torque News and others, 2017 Honda Ridgeline is the first pickup in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) history to receive the highest available crash safety rating.

As for me, I like the 2nd generation Ridgeline for cabin comfort, decent road handling and control, as well as a measurable off-road, all-terrain capability — when equipped with all-wheel-drive, and Honda’s exclusive push button electronic engaged variable traction drive mode.

As I recall from my time behind the wheel of Honda’s most surprising offering, available in front and all-wheel-drive equipped models.  Read my latest Ridgeline drive review here.

What do NSX, Accord and Civic have in common?

Some how I missed it! Back on December 8, Honda announced the addition of two epic Indycar drivers to the Rolex 25 Hour Acura NSX GT-3 Car. My good buddy Graham Rahal joins Ryan-Hunter Reay teams up with Michael Shank Racing and Honda Performance Development behind the wheel of the all new factory NSX platformed NSX GT-3 car similar to Acura’s choice for the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge Race Series. Take a moment to read my Honda-Torque News update here.

I took a hot-lap or two with Graham earlier in 2016 — damn near lost my lunch, thank you Graham.

In other Honda racing updates: We find rising racing star Shea Holbrook, and team driver Jason Fichter expanding their Honda Accord team efforts for 2017 with the edition of PWC winner Tom O’Gorman and a H.P.D partnered 2017 Civic Si to Shea Racing. With 3 cars on the track in 2017, Shea Racing will be a team to recon with.

Shea_Racing_2016_Thunderhill 25 hour

I further look forward to reporting on RealTime Racing as they take on the GT class in 2 HPD equipped and Acura factory co-built NSX GT-3 cars. Reportedly approaching 600+ horsepower, rear-wheel drive and track sticky contenders, 2017 should be a winning year for P.D. Cunningham and the RealTime Racing Team.

 

2017 Acura RDX Advance may be maker’s best kept performance secret

When Acura installs their rendition of Honda’s near mechanically bulletproof VTEC V6, in a 2 row CUV the size of a Honda CR-V, great things happen! You won’t discover much if any acceleration or torque lag behind the wheel of Acura RDX. And yet RDX remains well balanced.

Also, thanks to optional AWD (all-wheel-drive) very road sticky. While not a torque vectoring super handling all wheel drive like this car, 2017 Acura RDX takes Honda’s time proven all-wheel-drive AWD with Intelligent Control System ™, to the next level in performance, by sending torque from primary front wheel drive to rear wheels when it’s most needed.

In this system up to 50%  of the generated torque is dedicated to the rear wheels when slippage is detected — it’s seamless, and very effective on slick, muddy or icy road surfaces.

The beauty here is when driving RDX, there’s virtually no torque steer noted by the driver when pushing the ‘pedal to the metal.’ In essence, RDX ‘feels” like a live rear axle performance car, without the rear wheel “burnout!” It’s a beautiful thing! And I do love that V6 exhaust growl, as well as the engines interaction with what some in the industry will consider out dated, the 6 speed automatic transmission, with standard equipped sequential steering wheel mounted paddle shifting.acura_rdx_dash

As noted by my fellow automotive journalist, while 2017 Acura RDX is not the most powerful or sophisticated 9 luxury) offering in the luxury segment, when weighing the total package that is RDX, this crossover is effectively a drive and ride purchase value.

O.K., where’s the wood and the bling?

Granted, Acura’s held the path with RDX as to their philosophy of “precision driven performance,” and understated elegance. The style is there, but it’s Acura styling, a bit plastic rich, and either you’ll like the front end (grill) design, or you won’t. For me it’s not a deal breaker. But then again, I’m not buying or leasing RDX. Did I mention how much we enjoyed RDX in Phoenix?

I appreciate the light and bright confines of what is arguably the most comfortable interior in the segment. What truly stands out for me is the touch and ‘feel’ of the 10 way power adjusted driver’s seat, the sweeping curve of the soft-touch dash, the uncluttered 2 dial, i-MID instrument cluster, and the historically correct placement of the stick shift.

Plush, but not posh, that’s Acura. If I have but one gripe here, it’s that Acura retains the dual screen center stack layout for 2017. And, this kills me — manual knobs for climate control, fan speed, mode selection and ?

As with most vehicles on the market today, there exists more than a bit of redundancy in the overlapping of sometimes less than intuitive smart-wheel-controls, touch screen interface, voice command, and manually manipulated directives — as  to mechanical and electronic conveniences and personal electronic connectivity — ‘beam me up Scotty, now!”2017_acura_rdx_lights

It all works well enough with exception of “smart phone” pairing. I don’t know, there may be a glitch in my personal hard drive.

What’s frustrating for me as a Honda aficionado, Last weeks run in the all new 2017 Ridgeline Black Edition was seamless — Acura has the technology to take its lineup to the next level of personal electronics connectivity.

Very comfortable, reasonably quiet, keyless entry, ignition, power liftgate and more

Our 2017 Acura Advanced AWD came fully equipped, and then some. Stacked on top of what is arguably the most comprehensive trim-level-option in the segment, were 18 inch black alloy rims, color matched roof rails, cargo bars, running boards, rear bumper applique, light door sills, and a waterproof cargo tray — making for a near sinister looking RDX package with a total price as equipped of $47, 094 + prep, licence, registration, applicable sales tax and optional extended warranty, etc.

On the convenience and ease of access side, I found Acura RDX very accommodating, especially in the second row. Even at 6 foot 5 inches tall, I discovered a very comfortable 40/60 split rear bench with ample shoulder, head and legroom. Acura claims that 5 adults and their luggage can travel in comfort in RDX. After spending a week in the seat, sure, why not?acura_rdx_interior

Room with a view

Thanks to a slightly elevated seating position, view to the front is good, as is ease of conversation while in motion. Thanks to electronic active noise control and amble road noise and vibration abatement, conversation between the front and rear row passenger occurs in normal tones. While not a s quiet as MDX, it’s close.

Great sound system, decent ride quality, ease of operation

Acura’s ELS 9 speaker premium sound system is one of the best in the industry. And with 4-wheel independent suspension, hydraulic dampers, and electronic assisted steering, driving and riding in Acura’s compact 2 row crossover is pleasurable.

You need not purchase a top of the line trim level RDX to enjoy premium quality, passive and many of the active safety features presented in the Acura Advance. With a beginning MSRP of $35,570, Acura RDX gives the European entries a run for the dollar.

Next generation RDX scheduled for 2018

With big changes on the horizon slated for Acura’s second best-selling SUV, crossover, It would be just a bit counterproductive for me  to make a change suggestion of two. Throwing caution to the wind, I‘d like to see RDX styling go the way of 2017 MDX, I have little doubt that it will.2017_acura_rdx_advance

The precision diamond grill would look great on RDX. Also, RDX is in dire need of an updated center stack, single static screen display. Furthermore, what can we do to improve “voice command,” navigation, and “seamless” cellphone/vehicle pairing?
And while I’m at it, is there any particular reason  Acura couldn’t offer an air-suspension option for RDX? This would  be great for mild off-road use. Dare we talk hybrid? O.K., I’ll leave that question for a future article. For me, my week in the seat ended with a nod and a smile. I thoroughly enjoyed my RDX experience. But then again, who doesn’t appreciated value priced quality and drive performance?

Takata Airbag News: Fed directs 300,000 Honda owners to ‘park it’ until it’s repaired

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Your 2000 Accord may hold a funky, potentially deadline airbag system.

Although the occasion of “death from airbag” is rare, it does happen, and in the view of Honda Motor Company and the U.S. Federal National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) once is too often.

Saturday’s Honda News found yet another Takata airbag related warning from the U.S. federal government. According to the source 300,000 high risk turn of the century Honda drivers, those specifically living in wet, hot and humid area’s, have failed to heed Honda’s Takata Airbag recall — a process that’s been in place since 2008, and on hyper drive for the past 24 months. Read the full story here.

8 million Takata airbag systems replaced or repaired in 2015

While that’s a big number, its been estimated by the Fed that 20% of all cars on the road today in the U.S., that’s 50+ million cars and light trucks, have in the past or now carry a defective, possibly life threatening airbag unit.

Why take a chance? The repair, while an inconvenience is free to you the car owner,  And in the long run, could save yours or the next owner’s life in a collision. Also, the day will come (soon) that if your vehicle is not recall compliant, it won’t be transferable at time of sale or trade in.

The models identified by NHTSA include: 2001-2002 Honda Civic, 2001-2002 Honda Accord, 2002-2003 Acura TL, 2002 Honda CR-V, 2002 Honda Odyssey, 2003 Acura CL, 2003 Honda Pilot.

 

 

Honda and Acura racing dominates Pikes Peak and PWC in June

 

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2017 Acura NSX EV Concept

In recapping Honda and Acura news for June 2016, besides the market roll out of several 2017 Honda and Acura car, light truck and crossover models, RACING was the buzz in Honda news.

Coming off of an unprecedented winning streak for Honda powered Indycar, the co-sponsor and safety arm of the 100th running of the Broadmoor Pikes Peak Hill Climb classic came to the annual race to the clouds with three 2017 Acura NSX supercar variants. Catch my latest Acura racing article here.

From what I read

One 4-motor electric and torque monster modified NSX platform racer running in “Electric Modified,” one near stock NSX running in “Time Attack 2,” and the third? I can’t find any news on it. Here’s my read on Pikes Peak.

The short story here is that 2017 Acura NSX in its first official competition of any kind, drove away with a first place finish in its class, as did the all electric modified NSX.

Getting real with Realtime Racing

In other news we find our friends at “RealTime Racing” taking the podium in Pirelli World Challenge round 12 and 13 at Road America in owner Peter Cunningham’s home state of Wisconsin.

With driver of the #43 TLX-GT car Ryan Eversley taking 1st place in both races and Peter #42

taking 2nd and 4th place respectively, Acura, Honda Performance Development and RealTime Racing just ran their best race in 2 years. Love it!  Catch my latest article on Acura racing here. Wishing you a safe and sane 4th of July weekend.