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Acura RLX Sport Hybrid-Super Handling Wheel Drive – Dancer

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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”.

2014 Acura RLX Hybrid F342014 Acura RLX Hybrid R34The 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.2014 Acura RLX Hybrid Cockpit2014 Acura RLX Hybrid Shifter

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.


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Honda Engines – Earth Dreams in Your Future

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EarthDreams LogoIt has long been said that Honda is first and foremost an engine company and everything it does is really just to sell more engines. It sells everything from motor bikes and generators to jet planes with cars in between.  Honda engines can be as small as 25 cubic centimeters used in lawn and garden equipment.  The engines we are interested in are Honda engines powering their cars, minivans and crossover SUVs.  The new evolution of Honda’s car and truck powertrains is “Earth Dreams Technology”.    Earth Dreams includes a range of engines and engine technology, CVT transmissions and hybrid powertrains and EV technology.  It is a comprehensive approach to updating Honda’s automotive powertrains in response to looming United States and global emissions regulations.

Engines for Every Application Focusing on Environmental Friendliness and Fun  The engine line-up goes from 660cc (in foreign markets – N-One and N-Box) to 1.5L, 1.8L, 2.0L, 2.4L and 3.5L.  In the USA, we find these engines in Honda’s lineup from Honda’s Fit (1.5L 4-cylinder) to Accord and from Acura’s ILX to RLX.  Earth Dreams technology improves efficiency with better fuel economy, and lower emissions while still providing fun-to-drive performance.

Three Sport Hybrid Drive Systems  There are three unique extra cost hybrid systems:  one-motor, two-motor and three motor systems.  Honda refers to them as “Sport Hybrid” systems.  The one-motor system uses Intelligent Dual-Clutch Drive (i-DCD) that combines a 1.5L DOHC i-VTEC Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder engine with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.  The two motor system is found in the 2014 Accord Hybrid using a 2.0L DOHC i-VTEC Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder engine with a CVT.  Honda calls this two motor hybrid Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD).  Coming later in the Acura RLX is the Super Handling All Wheel Drive three motor hybrid system.  Honda claims this “unique system achieves both fuel economy and superior driving performance at a whole new level by combining a new V6 3.5L direct-injection engine and a newly-developed 7-speed DCT system with a built-in motor, while enabling free control torque distribution to the right and left rear wheels through the use of two motors installed in the rear.”  From a company only having mild hybrids before, this onslaught of Earth Dreams hybrids in such a short period of time is impressive.

Continuously Variable Transmissions  Coming with the new engines and hybrid systems are new CVT transmissions.  Honda engineers state that the toughest challenge when developing the 2013 Accord was getting the CVT right.  It is used on all 4-cylinder Accords.  The key is to make the CVT feel more like a conventional automatic transmission with noticeable (but smooth) shift points rather than the rubber band feeling that many CVTs provide.  Honda says their new CVTs are 5% more efficient than other CVTs on the market today and 10% more efficient than a 5-speed automatic (who is using those anymore?).

Earth Dreams Electric Vehicle  There is even an EV in the Earth Dreams portfolio found in the Fit EV.

PHEV Accord  We can’t forget the 2014 Accord PHEV introduced earlier in 2013.  This top of the line Accord plug-in hybrid has stretched the technology in the Honda brand lineup by adding an EV system that provides an all-electric range of 13-miles and an MPGe fuel economy rating of 115MPGe.  EPA fuel economy ratings are 47/46/46 (city/highway/combined).  The recently launched Accord Hybrid (not PHEV) gets 50mpg in the city.

Powertrain System Naming Becoming the Rage  Earth Dreams may sound a bit hokey to customers, but Honda is not alone in naming their powertrain technologies.  Ford has EcoBoost.  Toyota has Hybrid Synergy Drive (for its hybrids).  Mazda has Skyactiv.  Nissan has Pure Drive.  Chrysler has Hemi.

 


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Honda Accord Hybrid – 50mpg City – A Halloween Treat

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The new 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid joins the mid-size sedan hybrid wars with a two-motor hybrid that achieves 50mpg in the city (50 city/45 highway/47 combined).  As one of the top selling cars in the USA, the Accord Hybrid has the potential to unseat the present leader Toyota Camry Hybrid (followed by the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Hyundai Sonata Hybrid in sales so far in 2013). Accord’s bragging rights are for city fuel economy – highest in the mid-size class at 50mpg.  Fusion gets 47mpg in the city (and highway).  The best-selling is down on mpg compared with Fusion and Accord – Camry gets 43mpg in the city and 39 on the highway.

2014 Accord Hybrid F34


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AutoPacific’s 2013 Ideal Vehicle Award Results Are In – Cars

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Background of AutoPacific’s IVAs:  AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Awards for 2o13 are given to brands and vehicles that best meet the expectations of their buyers.  The person driving the car does not want it to be bigger or more powerful or have better info/entertainment systems.  Based on the results of over 52,000 respondents, the IVAs are owner-based awards that can serve to give car and truck buyers an idea of how well manufacturers have designed vehicles with their customers in mind.

As you read through the brief descriptions of the winners’ results you will notice some similarities where owners of most vehicles want change. Visibility  Among all cars about 29% of owners want better driver’s seat visibility.  Too often visibility is sacrificed for swoopy styling.  Roominess  About 24% of car owners want more passenger roominess than now.  Of course, some people bought a vehicle that may be smaller than they like so they want something bigger, but many are also reacting because passenger roominess has been sacrificed for style. Power vs Fuel Economy  Even when talking about today’s high gas prices, owners want good power and acceleration.  About 26% want more power and acceleration and only 7% of the respondents would sacrifice power and acceleration for better fuel economy.  Ingress/Egress  Going with the basic package challenges like roof height vs styling and rear seat room vs styling there is also ease of getting in and out.  About 26% of all car owners want their vehicles to be easier to get in and out of.  Info/Entertainment Technology  Design of the info/entertainment technology is one of the most hotly contested areas of vehicle design today.  Some manufacturers have a good handle on this, but 25% of car owners want more info/entertainment technology than they have now.  These folks are offset by 13% who want their info/entertainment technology to be simpler and easier to use.

With that preamble in mind, here are the Ideal Vehicle Award winners for cars  for 2013…


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Women Drivers More Satisfied than Men

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An automotive industry truism is that it is easier to satisfy your grandmother than a young man.  Is this true?  At least the gender portion of the statement is accurate.

Driver satisfaction is a critical measure of vehicle acceptance.  Having a satisfied buyer results in better loyalty, better word-of-mouth, stronger image.  Satisfaction is a central building block of a brand.  AutoPacific has been measuring driver satisfaction since 1993 and it is always instructive to look at the differences between women and men drivers.

In AutoPacific’s annual 2012 Vehicle Satisfaction research, women drivers score 39 rating points higher than men – 674 over 635 in their overall Vehicle Satisfaction score.

Cadillac Tops Satisfaction Among Women While the top four brands in the satisfaction hierarchy are the same – Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Lincoln – the scores given them by women are much higher.  Cadillac up 50 rating points.  Mercedes up 16 rating points.  Lexus up 41 rating points.  Lincoln up 42 rating points.  Interestingly, the rating for Fiat – perhaps the ultimate chick’s car – is at the bottom of the list among women but still higher by 29 rating points than among men.

Infiniti FX - Top in Satisfaction Among Women

Models With Touches of Luxury Score Better With Women In terms of individual vehicles the top twelve satisfying vehicles among women are:  Infiniti FX at 774 (+94 rating points higher than men), Chrysler 300 at 767 (+89 rating points), Lexus ES at 742 (+40), Cadillac SRX (+48), Mercedes C-Class at 735 (+50), Buick Enclave (+57), Honda Crosstour at 729 (+73), Lincoln MKS at 728 (+50), Range Rover Evoque at 728 (+43), Lincoln MKX at 726 (+58), Honda Odyssey at 725 (+40), Lexus RX at 725 (+43).  The lowest vehicle line among women is the Nissan LEAF at 550 rating points.  The highest scoring vehicle among men is the Mercedes-Benz ML practically tied with the Cadillac Escalade.  The lowest vehicle line among men is the Mazda2 at 502.

Women are More Satisfied With a Comfortable Stuff Hauler Women are much more satisfied with Fuel Economy (+8.3%pts), Warranty (+6.9%pts), Collision Avoidance Technology (+6.9%pts), 3rd Row Seat Comfort (+6.8%pts), 2nd Row Seat Comfort (+6.3%pts), Flexible/Changeable Seating (+6.5%pts), Rear Seat Entertainment System (+6.4%pts), Roof Rack (+6.0%pts), Price/Monthly Payments (+6.0%pts), Convertible Top (+6.0%pts).  Many of these attributes are characteristics of vehicle types very popular with women drivers like Sport Utility Vehicles and Minivans.  They want a comfortable vehicle with a good warranty that gets good fuel economy.  They want the interior to be flexible and provide entertainment for their children.  They are more satisfied with an affordable stuff hauler useful with children.


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2014 Honda Accord PHEV – Bring the Bling

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Honda will add a plug-in hybrid version of the Accord for the 2014 model year with launch in the first quarter of 2013.  As part of its Earth Dreams Technology initiative, the PHEV represents the toughest powertrain challenge for the Accord according to Plug-In Hybrid Large Project Leader Yasuyuki Sando.  Later, a pure two-motor hybrid version will be added.


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2013 Accord – Honda Gets its MOJO Back

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The all new 2013 Honda Accord is Honda’s most important vehicle EVER.  That’s right, EVER!  It comes after lackluster reviews of the latest cost-reduced mind-numbing Civic.  It enters the mid-size car product segment where the oldest high volume competitor was launched as a 2011 model in early 2010 (Hyundai Sonata) and each new model is more impressive than the one that came before it… Toyota Camry, Kia Optima, Volkswagen Passat, Nissan Altima, the coming-soon Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu and next year’s Mazda6.  Each new mid-size entry is better, more finessed, more technologically capable and available with a wider range of features than ever before.  The question is “Did Honda bring their ‘A Game’ to the 2013 Accord, or is it another misstep like the Civic?”

Bring their “A Game”?  Wow, did they!  This Accord is a take-no-prisoners attempt by Honda to reclaim leadership in the premium mid-size car class. With this car, Honda appears to have its MOJO back!


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Honda Fit – Most Ideal Economy Car in AutoPacific Research

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AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award (IVA) recognizes the vehicle that best hits the target its buyers demand.  Winning an IVA shows the product planners, engineers and designers of the manufacturer understand what their target customers want and have created the vehicle to best meet their demands.

Fit Edges Scion xD for IVA Win: The 2012 Honda Fit comes closest to the ideal of any Economy Car.  The Fit edges out the second place Scion xD by 32 rating points to win in this class that is getting more and more competitive.   Having eighty-percent or more of owners rating a characteristic ideal is outstanding.  Achieving a score of ninety-percent is even more impressive.  Ninety-percent or more of Fit owners rate its exterior size ideal.  Eighty-percent or more of Fit owners find these additional characteristics ideal:  driver’s seat visibility, passenger roominess, cargo space, exterior styling, tires and wheels, driver’s seat comfort, ride and handling and ease of getting in and out.

A Few Shortfalls – But None Critical. Being an Economy Car, Fit is not expected to be as fully-featured as cars in higher, more expensive classes.  About 33% of Fit owners want better interior lighting than they have now.  About 22% want better interior storage than now.  About 18% want better infotainment technology.

You can find an Autobytel review of this IVA award winner at  http://www.autobytel.com/auto-news/awards/consumer-s-ideal-cars-revealed-in-2012-iva-awards-112116/

For a complete summary of all AutoPacific 2012 Ideal Vehicle Award results contact karin.turner@vehiclevoice.com and title your email “IVA Results”.  A copy of the results will be emailed to you within 48-hours.


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Honda Pilot – Most Ideal Premium Mid-Size XSUV in AutoPacific Research

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AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award (IVA) recognizes the vehicle that best hits the target its buyers demand.  Winning an IVA shows the product planners, engineers and designers of the manufacturer understand what their target customers want and have created the vehicle to best meet their demands.

Pilot Slips By Ford Edge for IVA Win: The 2012 Honda Pilot comes closest to the ideal of any Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV.  The Pilot slips by the second place Ford Edge by 3 rating points to win in a class that has become increasingly competitive.   Having eighty-percent or more of owners rating a characteristic ideal is outstanding.  Achieving a score of ninety-percent is even more impressive.  Ninety-percent or more of Pilot owners rate its driver’s seat comfort, ride and handling and tires ideal.  Eighty-percent or more of Pilot owners find these additional characteristics ideal:  exterior size, interior lighting, driver’s seat visibility, passenger roominess, wheels, interior storage compartments and safety features.

The Honda Pilot was also best in class in AutoPacific’s 2012 Vehicle Satisfaction Award research.

A Few Shortfalls – Some Could Have Been Offset by Selecting Available Options: About 31% of Pilot owners want more infotainment technology than now.  About 27% want better ease of getting in and out.  About 25% of Honda Pilot owners want more cargo space.  About 18% of Pilot owners want more power and acceleration but an equal percentage would trade off power and acceleration for better fuel economy.

You can find an Autobytel review of this IVA award winner at  http://www.autobytel.com/auto-news/awards/ideal-suvs-pickups-rated-by-owners-in-2012-iva-awards-112117/

For a complete summary of all AutoPacific 2012 Ideal Vehicle Award results contact karin.turner@vehiclevoice.com and title your email “IVA Results”.  A copy of the results will be emailed to you within 48-hours.


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Honda CR-V Most Ideal Mid-Size Crossover SUV

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AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award (IVA) recognizes the vehicle that best hits the target its buyers demand.  Winning an IVA shows the product planners, engineers and designers of the manufacturer understand what their target customers want and have created the vehicle to best meet their demands.

Honda CR-V Edges Subaru Forester for IVA Win: The 2012 Honda CR-V comes closest to the ideal of any Mid-Size Crossover SUV.  The CR-V edges out the second place Subaru Forester by 27 rating points to win in its class.   Having eighty-percent or more of owners rating a characteristic ideal is outstanding.  Achieving a score of ninety-percent is even more impressive.  Ninety-percent or more of Honda CR-V owners rate its wheels ideal.  Eighty-percent or more of Honda CR-V owners find these additional characteristics ideal:  exterior size, interior lighting, passenger roominess, cargo space, exterior styling, driver’s seat comfort, ride and handling, tires, ease of getting in and out and safety features.

The Honda CR-V was also best in class in AutoPacific’s 2012 Vehicle Satisfaction Award research.

A Few Shortfalls – Some Could Have Been Offset by Selecting Available Options: About 26% of CR-V owners want better infotainment technology than now.  About 25% want better driver’s seat visibility.  About 24% want more power and acceleration than now.  About 23% want more interior storage compartments than now.

You can find an Autobytel review of this IVA award winner at  http://www.autobytel.com/auto-news/awards/ideal-suvs-pickups-rated-by-owners-in-2012-iva-awards-112117/

For a complete summary of all AutoPacific 2012 Ideal Vehicle Award results contact karin.turner@vehiclevoice.com and title your email “IVA Results”.  A copy of the results will be emailed to you within 48-hours.


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