Changes At Honda: CVTs, Engines, And A New Strategy At Acura

By Blake Z. Rong | July 31, 2012
Honda is planning some sweeping changes to improve its fuel efficiency across its lineup, and in a rare move for the company, it's going to introduce a continuously-variable transmission into its upcoming cars. The CVT has always been a point of contention among drivers: its gearless mechanism is more efficient and lighter than traditional automatics, but its buzziness and drivetrain characteristics suck the interest out of piloting a vehicle. When Honda introduces the CVT into its 2013 Accord, it claims that it will be more responsive and lively than most CVTs on the market today. Honda last dabbled with a CVT on its first hybrid, the groundbreaking 1999 Insight, and has one on the current model as well. But the Accord is bigger news for Honda in terms of volume and mass acceptance, so this CVT is quite the gamble for Honda's product planners and engineers. In terms of engines, expect plenty of the advanced fuel injection technology known as "direct injection." Honda has always been stubborn with what technology it implements into its drivetrains thanks to a "not invented here" mentality, but there's a reason why most other companies have adopted direct injection: a potential 10-percent increase in fuel economy. Pretty compelling stuff. What's more compelling is that even the base four-cylinder engines in Honda's stable will get the good stuff: expect dual overhead cams, VTEC variable valve timing, and direct injection on a sharp drivetrain only Honda can wring out.
It's what the company calls, misty-eyed, "Earth Dreams." And it'll debut in the Accord first, while trickling down to, say, a much-needed and revised Civic. There's even a rumor that Honda could bring a 1.6-liter diesel here, but that news should be taken with a healthy grain of bath salts. Meanwhile on the aspirational front, Acura is taking some time to revamp its strategy as well. Instead of taking on established full-line, super-luxury brands like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Lexus, it's going to play soundly in the entry-level luxury segment: Volvo, Buick, Infiniti, and even Audi, to an extent. The teeny ILX and taller RDX are signs of this "my first luxury car" ideal. But on the other end of the spectrum, expect a new MDX to arrive in the fall of 2013, keeping the same Odyssey-sized dimensions as the current one. The TL and RLX are slated for redesigns—most dramatically in the latter, which Acura will use to fight the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Those German targets are hard to resist. But the TSX? It could be on the chopping block, at least in four-cylinder guise, lest it cannibalizes sales of the ILX. We like to think that it won't, as it's still a strong seller here—but Honda has made stranger decisions in the past. Plus, that pesky yen gets in the way. As befitting a luxury company, all of the technology will go to Acura first: it will implement all of Honda's Earth Dreams engine technology into its slowly revising lineup. Seven-speed transmissions are the norm, so Acura will get dual-clutch automatics for its lineup. (It should be noted that Acura isn't only keeping its manual transmissions for now, it's also doing something as bizarre as retaining a manual-only model for its highest-performing ILX.) And as befitting the RLX and hyper-flagship NSX, expect lots of hybrid drivetrains and electric motors to take advantage of a new generation of Super Handling All-Wheel Drive. The two companies will definitely be ones to watch among consumers and Honda fans alike. Source: Automotive News

Sorry, I am not buying this stuff from a company with a legacy of false promises. I am still waiting for my diesel TSX. I moved from Acura to Audi and while reliability is worse, technology is far, far better. Acura is realistically chasing KIA right now.