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25 Years of Acura

By Automotive Staff | March 31, 2011
Happy birthday, Acura! Twenty-five years after Acura opened its doors to customers in the U.S. on March 27, 1986, the brand provides more than 100,000 units of extra sales to Honda. That’s far off the pace of the pre-recession 2005 and 2006 sales performances of more than 200,000 units sold, but still a respectable performance for a second-tier luxury brand in the U.S. Acura launched in 1986 with two models: the V-6 powered Legend and the four-cylinder Integra. Both immediately proved popular and in 1987 — Acura’s first full year on the market — sales surpassed 100,000 units. Acura’s popularity increased until 1990, when Lexus and Infiniti arrived in North America. That year marked the first (slight) decline in sales, but it was also the first year in which the NSX was sold. While Acura started its new battle against Japanese competitors from Toyota and Nissan, the brand also had Ferrari in its sights with the NSX supercar and its aluminum monocoque body and VTEC technology. Just as Lexus forced Mercedes-Benz to up its game with flagship luxury sedans, the NSX made Ferrari take notice. The NSX served as a halo car for Acura, which let the car linger relatively unchanged well into the 2000s. In 1991, the midsize Vigor sedan hit the market, expanding the Acura lineup beyond the Legend, Integra, and NSX. Powered by a longitudinally-mounted five-cylinder engine, the Vigor was sold for five calendar years, according to Acura, before being replaced in 1995 by the more conventional TL. The TL wasn’t the only alphanumeric addition in 1995; 200 units of the SLX were sold that year, too. For at least the first decade of Acura’s existence, the Integra was integral to its success, but also limited its growth. If Acura was to compete at the same level as first-tier brands like Mercedes-Benz, it could be a problem that the best-selling model is often an inexpensive, sporty hatchback. The early 2000s were good to Acura. The Vigor-replacing TL was a hit, even if the Legend replacement — the RL slowly lost market relevance. The MDX and TL continued to carry Acura forward, but Acura began to fill other segments, as well. The TSX arrived in the 2004 model year as Acura’s entry-level sedan with a higher level of refinement than the Integra or RSX. The RDX sporty compact crossover was introduced in 2007 and the boldly-styled ZDX crossover launched late in 2009. Calendar year 2011's biggest Acura news — besides the brand’s 25th anniversary — is the refreshed TL. The TSX now has a wagon body style for the 2011 model year, and a sub-TSX vehicle is on the way, hoping to ride the wave of efficient premium vehicles as gas prices rise. Full press release below. 03/29/2011 - TORRANCE, Calif. On March 27, 2011 the Acura Division of American Honda Motor *** Inc. will celebrate its first 25 years of operation in the United States, while simultaneously heralding the arrival of a restyled TL performance luxury sedan and the new TSX Sport Wagon— the division's 13th product nameplate. Acura was the first Japanese luxury-performance nameplate in the world when it launched in 1986, with cars engineered to challenge the leading European luxury brands of the day. This bold move by Honda, to form an entirely new upscale division, drew global interest by the media and other automakers alike. Acura dealerships opened their doors a quarter-century ago on March 27, 1986 with two distinct models: the Legend luxury sedan and the sporty Integra that was available in 3- and 5-door hatchback variations. Success was immediate, and by its second year, Acura was the best-selling luxury-performance import nameplate in the United States. Over the years, the Acura lineup continued to expand with the addition of the groundbreaking NSX sports car, which featured the first mass-produced aluminum monocoque body for a production vehicle along with the first application of variable valve timing and lift with its innovative new VTEC® valvetrain system. Throughout the 90s, Acura solidified its position as a luxury and technological leader with the introduction of the 3.5RL sedan, which was the first mass-production vehicle to feature an in-dash satellite-linked navigation system, and the 2.2CL coupe, the first luxury car from an import nameplate to be designed, engineered and assembled entirely in the United States*. In 1996 Acura debuted the first-generation 2.5TL and 3.2TL slotted in the lineup below the 3.5RL. A second-generation 3.2TL arrived in 1999, establishing itself as a mid-size performance luxury sedan that set the benchmark for its class. It was followed by the 2001 MDX, which was simultaneously named North American Truck of the Year and Motor Trend Sport Utility of the Year. A year later the RSX sports coupe debuts as a 2002 model year vehicle, replacing the Integra. The 2004 model year brought an all-new third-generation TL that offered features such as Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink® and DVD-Audio (with 500-times higher resolution than traditional CD audio) to the luxury ranks. Also for 2004, Acura launched the sleek TSX, designed and targeted especially for Gen X buyers. The TSX completed a trio of dedicated sedan nameplates for the first time in Acura history. Acura soon debuted an all-new second-generation 2005 RL sedan. Strong and sophisticated, the Acura flagship turned heads with the most powerful Acura engine ever— 300 hp from a normally aspirated 3.5 liter V-6. It also included innovative Super Handling All-Wheel Drive™ (SH-AWD®), a new Zagat Survey® feature for the navigation system plus a host of amenities that prompted Edmunds.com to call it "a smart choice for value-conscious luxury sedan shoppers." Giving Acura clients a broader range of SUVs to choose from, for 2007 Acura introduced the all-new 5-passenger RDX with futuristic technology, high performance and supreme utility all wrapped into a "right-sized" package. Of particular interest was Acura's first-ever use of a turbocharged engine. In motorsports, for 2007 Acura debuted three teams in American Le Mans Series competition. At the famed 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race, Acura engines powered vehicles to First, Second and Fourth places in the competitive LMP2 class. Styled from start to finish in the U.S., the innovative new ZDX four-door sport coupe instantly commanded attention at its launch in late 2009. Its new "2+Freedom" design concept defined it as a completely different type of personal luxury vehicle— perfect for freedom and escape for two adults and their cargo. Also in 2009, Acura became the first car company to receive Top Safety Pick honors from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for its entire vehicle lineup, as well as the only luxury brand to receive Five-Star crash safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for all vehicle models. That same year, Acura also won the first of two consecutive Auto Lease Guide (ALG) Residual Value Awards for Best Luxury Brand. Additional safety honors arrived in 2010, when the entire range of Acura vehicles again earned the highest score possible on IIHS frontal offset, side impact and rear crash protection tests**. As well, Acura was again the only luxury brand to receive Five-Star crash safety ratings from the NHTSA for its entire vehicle lineup**. Finally, the Acura ZDX crowned a stellar year by being named as a finalist for Esquire's "Car of the Year" award. The magazine called it "the most gorgeous, thrilling, undeniably American Japanese ride of 2010." In 2011, Acura began its 25th Anniversary year by winning the 2011 ALG Residual Value Award for Best Near Luxury Car. The division also unveiled the all-new 2011 TSX Sport Wagon with its optimal blend of performance and utility. In addition, a newly refined 2012 TL debuted at the Chicago Auto Show. The 2012 TL features new front and rear styling with improved aerodynamics, a new Sequential SportShift 6-speed automatic transmission and new multi-clutch torque converter that team to improve acceleration performance along with fuel economy. "The Acura TL is now even more refined and aggressive," said Jeff Conrad, vice president of Acura sales." Already known for its great performance, the enhanced TL has a sophisticated new look and an all-new 6-speed automatic transmission that will take performance to the next level." Today, Acura offers a world-class lineup of cars and light trucks, and continues to lead the luxury arena with innovative features such as Super Handling All-Wheel Drive™, AcuraLink® Real-Time Traffic and Weather™, Acura/ELS Surround® Premium Audio System, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), a blind spot information (BSI) system and Collision Mitigating Braking System™ (CMBS™). Acura offers a full line of technologically advanced performance luxury vehicles through a network of 270 dealers within the United States. The 2011 Acura lineup features six distinctive models including the RL luxury performance sedan, the TL performance luxury sedan, the TSX sports sedan and all-new Sport Wagon, the turbocharged RDX luxury crossover SUV, the award-winning MDX luxury sport utility vehicle and the ZDX four-door sports coupe. For more information about Acura vehicles, please visit www.acura.com. *Using domestically and globally sourced parts **Applies to pre 2011 NCAP testing; NHTSA 5-Star safety rating does not apply to 2011 model year vehicles via Honda / Acura courtesy of Motor Trend Staff
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4 comments
Edmonton Chrysler
Edmonton Chrysler

I admire Acura for being so enduring. My uncle has two Acura 2004 models and they had been his reliable cars until he retired a couple of years ago. In my own assessment, Acura accomplished two things, first, the touch of luxury, second, efficiency. I'm sure that the 2011 model is on my uncle's wish list.

Vancouver Dodge
Vancouver Dodge

Twenty five years is a long time. Although Acura still has a long way to go, compared to other old automaker brands, at least it's been continuing to strive all these years. All the best to Acura!

thompson425
thompson425

Wow I had no idea that Acura had so much to offer www.newtruepatriots.com

myop123
myop123

Wow, what an extensive post about Acura's birthday. Drive on Acura, drive on!

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