Acura’s entry premium compact car is being updated for the 2016 model year. The 2016 Acura ILX is what Acura terms its “Gateway Model” – the entry to the Acura lineup. The strategy for the 2016 Acura ILX is much like Honda implemented for its CR-V compact crossover SUV. Honda termed that a Major Mid-Cycle Change. Similarly, ILX has been freshened and given a better powertrain than before.
Mild Styling Changes The 2016 Acura ILX looks basically the same as the 2015 model. It is a compact sedan with pleasant, slightly sporty styling. For 2016, the car gets a new more aggressive front end appearance with LED accent lights and LED headlamps. All Acuras will have LED front lights from now on. The grille is tougher looking and the “parrot’s beak” has been toned down somewhat. The tall lamps are upgraded and more distinctive than before. In the industry, this is called a front and rear six – think of it as a face and butt lift.
The interior gets minor updates with upgraded seat material and contrasting stitching on the steering wheel, shift knob and parking brake handle.
Upgraded Powertrain with Only One Choice The news, however, is under the skin. The only engine/transmission choice now is a 2.4L direct injection 4-cylinder with 201-horsepower mated to an 8-speed dual clutch transmission. If this sounds familiar it should because it is basically the same 4-cylinder used in the mid-market TLX. Since 2016 Acura ILX is now made at Honda’s Marysville, OH plant alongside the TLX this communization makes sense.
No Manual Transmission – YEA! The enthusiasts among you may be asking where the manual transmission formerly with the 2.4L went? It was dropped in favor of the fast-shifting dual clutch transmission and the fact that no one was buying them. Gone also is the hybrid model, also for lack of interest. AutoPacific’s research confirms that this is the right direction to go. Consideration for manual transmissions is very low and hybrid consideration continues to drop as gasoline prices in the USA fall.
Technology and Stuff Recognizing that a premium brand has to deliver more refinement, Acura has increased the sound deadening in the ILX to make the car much quieter than now. Also, following the CR-V strategy with HondaSense, AcuraWatch suite of advanced safety and driver assist features is available on the car for the first time. This feature suite includes adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation, collision mitigation braking system, upgraded rear camera. Once again, we are seeing a manufacturer “democratize” its technology taking stuff formerly available on upper level models and making them available on lower line products.
It goes like this… Honda invites you to an event that is held locally to review a vehicle that is not scheduled for a meaningful change for a couple of years. What’s up? Well, enough that Honda can make a pretty big deal out of it. The top selling sport utility vehicle is Honda’s CR-V crossover SUV. The 2015 Honda CR-V looks pretty much like the 2014. Same profile. Same doors. Same window openings. What’s the big deal? The front end looks more butch, more SUV-like. It has really cool running lights below the headlamps. Likewise, the rear end looks stronger. The effect is that the CR-V looks a little bigger even though it isn’t. Ah, the story is pretty much beneath the skin. Honda calls it a MAJOR minor model change. Clever.
Engineering Story – Earth Dreams Powertrain This is an engineering story. The 2015 Honda CR-V gets a new engine – an Earth Dreams direct injection 2.4L 4-cylinder engine with 185-horsepower (same output as 2014). Torque is up by 18 lb-ft or 11% to improve driving feel especially at lower speeds. New transmission – now a CVT to achieve better fuel economy. The new engine and transmission combination substantially improves fuel economy for both 2WD and 4WD versions – highway fuel economy up about 10% better for both leading Honda to claim class leading fuel economy for the 2015 Honda CR-V.
Finesse and Value In addition to better performance, Honda has finessed the vehicle giving it a quieter cabin making it more pleasant to drive. The instrument panel has been upgraded as has the center console. For buyers coming down from larger, more heavily equipped SUVs the 2015 Honda CR-V will not disappoint. Honda has added a slew of standard and available features that will make tech savvy customers feel warm and fuzzy. There are a couple of new features standard like rear air conditioning vents on the rear of the console and a sliding driver’s side sun visor. The big news is in the high volume EX model where $1,400 worth of equipment has been added for only a $200 price increase including: heated front seats, Honda Lane Watch, display audio, smart key start, 10-way power driver’s seat.
New Touring Model Has Available Honda Sensing System At the top of the trim lines is a new Touring model that checks most of the features boxes. This is where the Honda Sensing system comes into play. Honda Sensing is a safety system developed by Honda R&D that combines several technologies to help drivers avoid crashes. This collision avoidance system includes: adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking and Honda Lane Watch. John Turley, Honda R&D Americas principal engineer says, “Honda Sensing is a stepping stone to a fully autonomous car. With a couple more big overlays of technology, Honda can have a self driving car by 2020. One of those technologies is longer range radar and inter-car communications that can provide warnings up to 1500 meters around the car up from about 250 today.” The government and car makers are working to develop regulations and standards that will help cars of the future connect with each other seamlessly.
The 2014 Honda CR-V is the highest scoring Mid-Size Crossover SUV in AutoPacific’s 2014 Ideal Vehicle Award research. The CR-V designers, planners and engineers clearly understood their target buyer and developed a vehicle that meets their requirements. The 2014 Honda CR-V beat out an impressive group of mid-size crossovers including the Subaru Forester, Jeep Cherokee, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, and the Toyota RAV4.
2014 Honda CR-V owners are satisfied with their vehicle and do not want a great deal of change. Of the fifteen categories in the Ideal Vehicle questionnaire, the 2014 CR-V led in four categories and was within three percentage points of three other categories.
The top five highest ratings by CR-V owners are: same exterior size, same wheels, same tires, same ease of getting in and out of the vehicle, and the same exterior styling,
No vehicle is perfect and CR-V owners did want several things changed. Owners would like more power and acceleration, better driver seat visibility, and a more relaxed drivers seat. CR-V owners would also like a new information and entertainment system. Seventeen percent would like a more advanced system and eighteen percent would like a simpler system.
The 2014 Honda Odyssey is the highest rated Minivan in AutoPacific’s 2014 Ideal Vehicle Award research. The Odyssey designers did a great job giving the consumers what they want. In fact, the Odyssey has won AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award in four of the last six years and AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award in three of those years. The Odyssey is at the top against an impressive fleet of minivans including the Chrysler Town & Country, Toyota Sienna, Ford Transit Connect, Dodge Grand Caravan, Nissan Quest, and the Mazda5.
2014 Honda Odyssey owners are satisfied with their vehicle and do not want much change. Of the fifteen categories in the Ideal Vehicle survey, the 2014 Honda Odyssey led in one category and was within three percentage points of seven more.
The top five highest ratings by 2014 Honda Odyssey owners are: same wheels, same exterior size, same tires, same ride/handling, and same interior lighting.
There were several things Odyssey owners would like changed. Owners would like more interior storage, more power and acceleration, more safety features, and better driver visibility. Owners would also like a new information and entertainment system. While 54% of Odyssey owners want the same info/entertainment system. The remainder were pretty evenly divided on whether they wanted a more sophisticated system or a simpler one – twenty-two percent would like a more advanced system while twenty-four percent would like a simpler system.
On Monday June 16, 2014, AutoPacific announced its 18th annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSA), identifying the most satisfying 2014 model year vehicles on the market. Other automotive awards provide information on defects – things gone wrong. AutoPacific’s research looks at the issue of vehicle ownership in a totally different way – how satisfied a new vehicle is to its owner. While it’s important to know how well a vehicle is screwed together, it is even more important to learn how well buyers and drivers feel about their vehicle.
The AutoPacific 2014 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards objectively measure owner satisfaction with 50 separate attributes ranging from interior comfort and convenience to fuel economy and performance. “Vehicles that score highest in the Vehicle Satisfaction Awards are delivering value and satisfaction across a wide range of attributes,” says George Peterson, president of AutoPacific. “The winners perform well in 50 separate categories that objectively measure the ownership experience.” An industry benchmark for measuring how satisfied an owner is with his/her new vehicle, AutoPacific’s VSA are based on the results of responses from over 92,000 new vehicle owners.
For 2014, the most satisfying brands are Lincoln, Top Premium Brand and GMC, Top Popular Brand. The vehicle – car or truck – registering highest overall satisfaction is the new-for-2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class that also wins AutoPacific’s second President’s Award for achieving the highest VSA score ever. The truck with the highest overall satisfaction score is the new BMW X5 Premium Luxury Crossover SUV.
“With the launch of each new car and truck, carmakers try to improve the product and increase the satisfaction of their buyers,” explains Peterson. “By surveying a substantial number of owners who have purchased a new 2014 model year vehicle, The AutoPacific’s 2014 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards provide an objective measurement of how well the makers are doing. More than one-third of new vehicle buyers are positively influenced by objective awards based on owner ratings when deciding on a new car or truck.”
The awards in 2014 are much more diverse than they have been in previous years, with no single brand dominating the results. Multiple top-ranked award winners are: Chevrolet with four winners; Lincoln with three winners; Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Kia, and GMC with two winners each.
The brands that improved their relative ranking positions in 2014 compared with 2013 are: GMC moving from 17th to 8th position; Lincoln moving from 6th position to 1st position; Ford moving from 25th to 19th; Chevrolet moving from 21st to 16th. Brands with the largest drop in position were Volkswagen moving from 16th to 28th position and Jaguar dropping from 7th to 17th.
From a manufacturer perspective, General Motors was tops with seven wins and Ford had four wins.
“AutoPacific 2014 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards help vehicle buyers sort through an increasingly complicated selection of brands and models. For the 2014 model year, there are 274 models and 32 brands from which to choose a new vehicle. The VSA clearly shows the buyers which vehicles are at the top of the class they are considering,” says Peterson.
Top 2014 model year performers are:
PRESIDENT’S AWARD FOR HIGHEST VSA SCORE EVER: Mercedes-Benz S-Class
HIGHEST SATISFACTION PREMIUM BRAND: Lincoln
HIGHEST SATISFACTION POPULAR BRAND: GMC
2014 PASSENGER CAR WINNERS:
|Premium Luxury Car
Executive Luxury Car
Aspirational Luxury Car
Luxury Mid-Size Car
Premium Compact Car
BMW 3-Series GT
Lincoln MKZ Hybrid
2014 LIGHT TRUCK WINNERS:
|Heavy Duty Pickup
Light Duty Pickup
Premium Luxury Crossover SUV
Luxury Crossover SUV
Large Crossover SUV
Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV
Mid-Size Crossover SUV
Compact Crossover SUV
|Ford F-Series Super Duty
Jeep Grand Cherokee
2001 Honda Insight
2nd Generation Honda Insight Fails The Honda Insight began life as a hardcore hybrid with futuristic styling. It was so revolutionary, different looking and so purpose-built it never sold in satisfactory volumes. The first Insight was a pure commuter car with extremely slippery aerodynamics. There was no rear seat and the body tapered off into a teardrop shape. The rear wheels were covered bodywork to improve aerodynamics. The Insight actually beat the Toyota Prius hybrid to the market, but once the Prius launched, the Insight was blown into the weeds. The Prius was more practical, had better performance and got competitive fuel economy. No wonder the Insight failed. After a hiatus, Honda launched the second generation Insight in 2009 as a 2010 model vehicle. While the 2nd generation Insight was a better attempt, its sales peaked at 21,000 units in 2009 and 2010 before dropping to below 5,000 units in 2013. A key aspect of the Insight is how poorly it fared in AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award research. The Insight was always in the bottom ten of the ratings out of more than 200 vehicles sold in the USA. Low sales and poor satisfaction do not make for a viable business case. The car simply did not meet buyers’ expectations and Honda dealers had a hard time moving them.
Has the 2014 Auto Show Season been a bust so far? Well, with the exception of the all new Ford F-150, there has not been much to justify all the fabricated hoopla at either the North American International Auto Show in Detroit or the Chicago Auto Show. You can almost count the significant new news on one hand. In order of importance to the United States market and their manufacturers here are the most significant: Ford F-150, Chrysler 200, Honda Fit, Hyundai Genesis, Mercedes C-Class in Detroit and the Subaru Legacy in Chicago. OK, that is six significant entries. Others that might have made the list are the GMC Canyon mid-size pickup and the Lexus RC-F coupe. The Detroit Show ended up focusing on performance models or concepts like the production-ready Subaru WRX STI, Toyota FT-1 super car, Chevrolet Corvette ZO6 variant, BMW M3 sedan and M4 coupe, Cadillac ATS coupe. The only other vehicles of note at the Chicago Show were the 2015 Lincoln Navigator with new front and rear styling and the Mercedes GLA compact crossover SUV.
Satisfied With Acceleration If you are a lucky enough to own a Jaguar XJ, you likely are extremely satisfied with the power and acceleration of your car. In AutoPacific‘s new car and light truck research, 100% of XJ owners are extremely satisfied. Overall, 51% of new car and light truck buyers are extremely satisfied with the power and acceleration of their vehicle. About 86% of sports car owners are extremely satisfied. About 71% of sporty car owners and 70% of aspirational luxury cars are extremely satisfied. At the other end of the spectrum are owners of hybrids and small cars. Only 37% of hybrid owners are extremely satisfied with power and acceleration compared with 40% of small car owners. This might be expected since these products are biased toward maximum fuel economy usually at the expense of spirited driving.
Prius Plug In Hybrid Owners Least Satisfied with Power and Acceleration
Toyota Prius owners are least satisfied no matter which Prius is owned. Only 19% of Prius Plug-In Hybrid owners are extremely satisfied with the power and acceleration of their vehicle. Only 20% of Prius c owners are extremely satisfied. Only 24% of Prius v owners are extremely satisfied and only 27% of the Prius are extremely satisfied. Other Toyotas in the bottom twenty include the Matrix (21%), Lexus CT200h (29%) and Scion xD (30%). Ten of the bottom twenty are hybrids in addition to the seven models from Toyota are: Hyundai Sonata Hybrid (24%), Honda CRZ (26%) and Honda Insight (27%). Four economy cars are among the lowest rated: Honda Fit (25%), Nissan Versa (25%), Mazda 2 (27%), Ford Fiesta (28%), Kia Rio (29%) and Hyundai Accent (30%). Completing the bottom 20 are: Mazda CX5, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Mitsubishi Outlander and Jeep Patriot.
How Important is Power and Acceleration? Of course, one of the key questions is how important power and acceleration is to these owners. Overall, 39% of owners say power and acceleration is extremely important to them. So the industry is overachieving slightly having 51% of owners extremely satisfied. Among hybrid owners, only 23% say power and acceleration is extremely important (compared with 37% satisfied). Among small car owners, power and acceleration is important only to 28% (compared with 40% satisfied).
Early in its life, Acura was a brilliant attempt to establish an upscale Japanese brand that was a smart buying decision. The Acura Legend and Acura Integra carried the brand at first with the Legend being a very rational buying desicion vs. a Mercedes 300 or BMW 525.
Unfortunately, Acura lost its way when it went further upscale and changed from using names for its vehicles to alphanumeric nomenclature. This was a move that Honda insiders once admitted cost $1.5 billion in lost sales revenue and damaged the Acura image immeasurably. At the same time the third generation of the Acura range topper was launched replacing the well-liked Legend. This was the RL. It had boring style, was heavy, slow and expensive. It had completely abandoned the Legend’s Unique Selling Proposition. Wags called it the “Ruined Legend”.
The RL never caught on except with buyers heavily engaged in technology. Adding the Super Handling All Wheel Drive System as an optional drive package helped handling, but was very heavy. The engine did not have the oomph to handle all the weight. RL sales slumped into the range of hundreds per month – an unsustainable level.
Now we come to the introduction of the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid in Spring, 2014. The front wheel drive RLX was launched in early 2013 as a 2014 model. The RLX is arguably better styled than the RL it replaces. However, it is still a very heavy car (3,933 lbs base) and with its standard 310-horsepower 3.5L V6 it is a lot of weight to push around. The solution? Add a Sport Hybrid model as the new top-of-the-line RLX – the Sport Hybrid system adds 350-lbs to the weight of the car, but the power of the hybrid powertrain more than offsets the weight gain..
Officially, the hybrid is a mouthful – Sport Hybrid – Super Handling All Wheel Drive. The hybrid absolutely transforms the car.
With one of the most technologically advanced powertrains in the industry, the RLX hybrid puts out a combined 377 horsepower. Impressive. We won’t go into the details of the technology much beyond the fact that it has Honda’s Earth Dreams Three Motor Hybrid System combining the RLX’ 310-horsepower 3.5L V6 with one 47-horsepower and two 36-horsepower rear electric motors. The resulting 377-horsepower combined with the 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission makes the car into a dancer.
Think of Disney’s Fantasia. The front drive RLX can be the dancing hippos in tutus. The Sport Hybrid with SH-AWD plus DCT in sport mode becomes a completely different car. A star. The transmission downshifts in the blink of an eye anticipating what you want it to do. Fantastic!
The Sport Hybrid adds equipment not available on the front wheel drive car: larger front brakes, electric air conditioning, power distribution monitor added to the 8-inch color display, head-up display, Chestnut wood trim, premium audio system with 14 speakers, electronic gear selector, unique wheels, smoked chrome plating for grill.
The front wheel drive base car gets 20/31/24 (City/Highway/Combined) mpg with a city range of 370 miles and highway range of 575 miles from its 18.5 gallon fuel tank. The hybrid is rated at 28/32/30 mpg giving city range of 425 mile and highway range of 475 miles from its 15.1 gallon tank. While the hybrid does get much better city fuel economy, its smaller fuel tank hurts its maximum range. Clearly the hybrid in the RLX is about technology and performance, not maximum range.
While Acura has not released pricing the the hybrid, the 2014 RLX with the top of the line Advance Package is priced at $60,450, $12,000 higher than the base RLX. Given this price range it’s reasonable to expect a price of between $65,000 and $70,000 for the RLX Sport Hybrid. Given the dynamic improvement the hybrid system gives the car, this may be worth every penny.