It’s rare when two same class heavyweights are introduced concurrently. Both the 2009 Nissan Maxima and 2009 Acura TL were launched this summer and both are very nice entry luxury entries. The cars are very similar, but the positioning of each is very different.
2009 Nissan Maxima
2009 Acura TL
Side view of Acura TL and Nissan Maxima are spookily similar.
The Maxima, a derivative of the front wheel drive Nissan Altima and assembled at Nissan’s huge car/truck plant in Smyrna, Tennessee is the range topper for Nissan cars in the USA. The Acura TL is front wheel drive with optional SH-AWD – “Super Handling All Wheel Drive”. The TL is the middle of the Acura car lineup and Acura’s highest volume vehicle and is assembled alongside the Honda Accord in Marysville, Ohio.
You might think that a better comparison would be the Acura against Infiniti with the TL lining up against the Infiniti G37 sedan. But the G37 sedan is based on a rear wheel drive platform. The TL vs. the Maxima is a more real product-to-product comparison.
In the 2008 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards’ crowded Luxury Crossover SUV Segment, the BMW
X3 bested tough competition to rise to the top. With a well-established Reputation, good Handling, and highly rated Safety Features, the X3 impressed owners, who also rated Overall Quality very high, along with All Weather Traction and Feeling of Safety While Driving.
’s RDX was in the top rank of Luxury Crossover SUVs in the 2008 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards. Owners gave high marks to its Innovative Technology and Audio System. Driver’s Seat Visibility also scored very high, as did Handling. With a 240-horsepower, turbocharged engine, the RDX also scored very well in the Power and Acceleration department.
Enclave owners placed the vehicle in the top rank of the Luxury Crossover SUV Segment in AutoPacific’s 2008 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards. Buick touts “Quiet Tuning” as one of Enclave’s strengths, and it received high ratings for Quietness Inside the Vehicle and Ride. High Safety Features scores also bolstered the Enclave’s victory.
Cadillac Top Brand, Mercedes-Benz S-Class Top Car, Toyota Sequoia Top Truck and Top Vehicle
Tustin, California, May 29, 2008 – A study released today by noted automotive consulting firm AutoPacific, Inc
. summarizes the results of its 2008 model year vehicle satisfaction research. AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award (VSA) is an industry benchmark for objectively measuring how satisfied an owner is with their new passenger car or light truck.
In a year that promises to be the toughest in a decade, owner-based awards like AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award will help customers make their purchase decisions.
The brand with the highest satisfaction rating is Cadillac. The vehicle – car or truck – registering highest overall satisfaction in 2008 is the new-for-2008 Toyota Sequoia Large Sport Utility Vehicle. The passenger car with the highest overall satisfaction score is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
There are twenty-eight Vehicle Satisfaction Award categories. At the manufacturer level, multiple top ranked award winners include: General Motors
(eleven categories), Toyota (nine categories), Ford (six categories), Volkswagen
(four categories), Honda
(three categories) and Hyundai
“Cadillac wins the Vehicle Satisfaction Award as the top brand in a close race. Strong satisfaction performance by Cadillac cars and trucks has Cadillac winning over other leading luxury marques including Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW says AutoPacific president George Peterson. “Top ranked finishes by Cadillac’s Escalade, CTS and DTS helped cement their industry topping position.”
Peterson continues, “Vehicles that are all new received top rankings in several categories: Cadillac CTS, Honda Accord, Mitsubishi Lancer, Scion xD, Toyota Sequoia, Audi Q7, Buick Enclave, Hyundai Veracruz, GMC Acadia, Saturn Vue and Nissan Rogue. These new-for-2008 vehicles were strongly rated by their owners showing that the industry continues to improve as new vehicles are added to the hotly contested American car and light truck markets.”
From a vehicle type perspective, Traditional Sport Utility Vehicles received the highest ratings as a class closely followed by Crossover Sport Utility Vehicles. Peterson says, “Clearly, SUVs continue to be one of the most popular and satisfying vehicle types available in the USA today. Even with skyrocketing gas prices, SUVs are attractive and Crossover SUVs fill the bill for most SUV buyers with better fuel economy.” Cars scored slightly below industry average followed by minivans and pickup trucks.
The singularly underperforming Acura RL Executive Luxury Car receives a facelift for the 2009 model year. Shown for the first time at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show, the RL becomes more distinctive and less anodyne, but arguably at the cost of good taste.
The new front end style certainly will be controversial but there may never be enough of this iteration of the RL to burn too many eyeballs. The fresh rear style is a mild re-do designed not to offend, but certainly does not turn heads.
RL’s Problem isn’t Styling So Much… It’s the Overall Concept – V6 SH-AWD Instead of RWD V8
The problem with this generation RL is not its styling, which has been bland and invisible at best, but with the overall concept of the car. Honda, adamantly refusing to build a rear wheel drive sedan to match its important competitors, resorted to Super Handling All Wheel Drive that resulted in a whopping weight increase sapping power from its V6 engine. The RL feels slow and cumbersome and, frankly, is pretty small for a car in this class. Owners want a larger trunk and larger rear seat that this minor freshening for 2009 cannot correct.
The photos speak for themselves. Carrying cues adopted on the MD-X with an overdone grille, RL tries to look contemporary but our guess is that it will continue to languish in the high four digit or low five digit sales range in the USA.
This isn’t to say Honda did not apply a list of minor detail updates to the car, but I’ll let their press release shown below the fold summarize those.
• • • • •
According to AutoPacific’s annual survey of new car and light truck acquirers, the BMW 3-Series, Acura MDX, Lexus RX, Honda Accord, and Infiniti QX56 attract the most tech savvy buyers. Tech savvy consumers made up approximately 5% of the new car buying population in 2007, up from just 2% in 2006. As Gen Y matures and enters the new vehicle market in greater numbers, AutoPacific expects these numbers to continue their growth. Tech savvy car buyers were defined utilizing a collection of data filters from AutoPacific’s Research Suite® database.
AutoPacific Take on Acura MDX Win – Crossover SUVs have gained enough traction in recent years to pass traditional SUVs in sales. A vehicle that definitely isn’t losing any traction with owners is the all-new second generation Acura MDX. Owners’ strong ratings for the MDX feeling safe while driving plus traction in all weather conditions helps the MDX achieve its win in the Luxury Crossover SUV class. Clearly, Acura’s Super Handling AWD system added to owners feeling of confidence and helped secure a win in this year’s Motorist Choice Awards®. Drivers also applauded seat comfort, cargo space, their quality interior controls and Acura’s innovative technology.
IntelliChoice take on Acura MDX win – The Acura MDX made a strong showing the AutoPacific analysis and that, combined with its above average performance in the IntelliChoice study, propelled the MDX to the top of the list. The Acura MDX boasts strong retained value and low repair costs.
AutoPacific Take on Toyota Avalon Win – Can you over-inflate a Camry? The Toyota Avalon leads the Large Car class in this year’s Motorist Choice Awards®. Owners rate the reputation of the 2007 Avalon, the Toyota brand and the overall quality of the vehicle as significant contributors to the win. In addition, Avalon owners perceive it to be fuel-efficient with a top rated ride.
IntelliChoice take on Toyota Avalon win – The Toyota Avalon is an IntelliChoice 2007 BOVY winner. The Avalon not only has the best retained value, but also has the lowest fuel and maintenance costs within the Large Car class
Acura’s NSX Replacement Still in Development
Acura’s auto show focus for 2007 is on its future, specifically its more distant future. The company followed up the Advanced Sedan Concept, shown in LA, with the Advanced Sports Car Concept in Detroit at the 2007 North American International Auto Show. Though Acura described the Sports Car Concept as “show-stopping” and as having been “created to take exotic sports car styling to a new level,” it is in reality no more innovative than its name.
Honda‘s design facility in Torrance, California, has developed much of Acura‘s current lineup, including the TL, MDX, and RDX. And as Acura moves forward to become a global brand instead of only a North American one, Honda opens an Acura advance design studio in Pasadena, California, in 2007. It was that team that brought us the Advanced Sedan Concept at this November’s Los Angeles Auto Show, and the studio that will be responsible for Acura’s future design. The Advanced Sedan Concept is the first look at some of the studio’s thinking.
ASC: A Controversial and Amateurish Cartoon of an Acura Flagship
The Advanced Sedan Concept is a possible direction for “the biggest and baddest luxury/performance sedan we could possibly” build, according to head of the new Advanced Design Studio Dave Marek. No specifications were given for this pure design study, which did not have a finished interior or running gear, but its proportions indicated a possible front engine, rear-wheel-drive layout. As a dream of a car that maybe twelve years from now could rival Bentley or Maybach for presence as well as performance, a rear-drive orientation is the one expected by those buyers.
Though the most controversial design execution at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the Acura ASC lacks maturity needed for a range-topping flagship. Even though it hints at an urgently needed rear-wheel-drive V8-powered platform that could propel Acura into the top tier of luxury brands along with Lexus and Infiniti, the design cues are amateurish at best. The grille is almost cartoonish. Perhaps Acura designers have overcompensated for past milquetoast efforts here.
In fact, this concept could be qualified to appear in the VehicleVoice “What Were They Thinking?” category.
IIHS released the results of its 2007 Safety Pick Awards on November 20. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific feel that these results are important to communicate to our readers. Along with other awards for quality, satisfaction and performance, safety awards can and should be among the information sources a buyer uses when deciding which new vehicle to buy. After all, the Internet gives us almost perfect information.
While we do appreciate the safety value of electronic stability control, it will take years for the entire fleet to be equipped with ESC. For IIHS to eliminate all vehicles lacking ESC eliminates many otherwise safe vehicles from their analysis. This is too simplistic an approach.
2007 TOP SAFETY PICK award winners: award criteria are tougher; SUVs eligible for first time
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announces 13 vehicles that earn TOP SAFETY PICK awards for 2007. Winners include 4 cars, 7 SUVs, and 2 minivans. This award recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, and rear crashes based on ratings in Institute tests. Winners also have to be equipped with electronic stability control (ESC).
Audi A6 manufactured in Dec. 2006 and later
Subaru Legacy equipped with optional electronic stability control
Mercedes M class
Subaru B9 Tribeca
Subaru Forester equipped with optional electronic stability control