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.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has announced the winners of its 2009 Top Safety Picks. There are 72 winners in 2009; more than double in 2008 and more than 3 times as many as in 2007. Some key factors leading to winning results are better structure to protect from side impacts and increased application of electronic stability control which helps maintain control and minimize rollovers. Additionally, improved headrests are doing a better job protecting against whiplash.
IIHS works for auto insurers and publishes the results of its Top Safety Picks to help consumers select the safest cars and light trucks when they are in the market. AutoPacific’s research shows that safety features and feeling safe while driving are very important when a person selects their vehicle.
Ford Wins 16 Top Safety Picks – almost 25% of Those Awarded
A major result of the 2009 Top Picks was that Ford Motor Company (including Volvo) had 16 of the 72 Top Picks. Several years ago, after Ford acquired Volvo, Ford began adopting Volvo safety strategies in its designs. Several Ford vehicles are derived from the Volvo S80 platform – Lincoln MKS, Ford Taurus, Ford Taurus X, Mercury Sable, Ford Flex, Volvo S80. Using Volvo’s vaunted SIPS (Side Impact Protection System), Ford has been able to make its larger vehicles able to withstand significant blows from the side.
The Ford Fusion with ESC and Mercury Milan with ESC, Lincoln MKZ, Volvo C70, Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX, Volvo XC90, Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner, Ford F-150 also won IIHS Top Safety Picks for 2009.
Honda Comes In Second – Close Behind Ford
Coming in close behind Ford Motor Company products was another company that set an objective to become a safety leader several years ago. American Honda has Top Safety Picks for Acura RL, Acura TL, Acura TSX, Acura MDX, Acura RDX, Honda Accord 4-doors, Honda Civic 4-doors with ESC, Honda Fit, Honda Odyssey, Honda Pilot, Honda CRV, Honda Element and Honda Ridgeline. The Honda Fit is the first Economy (Mini) Car to achieve an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
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The IIHS Press Release Is shown below the fold.
We’ve liked the Fit since it was first imported from Japan for US Sales in April 2006. Conceptually very good, but lacking a sporty look. The second generation of the Fit for US sales gets a lot better looking, as well as some package improvements to make it more compelling. “The goal is to provide entry-level vehicle customers with functionality and refinement that’s a class above,” said Dick Colliver. “Buying a Fit is a choice, not a compromise.” Ah yes. A nod to the aspirational small car.
During the last week of March 2007, 1,254 VehicleVoice panelists responded to an Internet survey concerning their opinion of major automakers in the USA. VehicleVoice asked these questions because the opinion of buyers and their attitudes towards various aspects of a manufacturer’s image are critically important. Managing image and opinion plus understanding what is driving that opinion can influence whether a person will positively consider or reject a brand next time they are in the market.
The key question in the VehicleVoice survey was whether the respondent’s opinion of a manufacturer had changed since this time last year. If their opinion had changed, the panel member was given the chance to explain why their opinion had changed. We received over 5,000 comments concerning these manufacturers. Some were as short one word. Some were as long as a page of 10-point type. Folks really had a lot to say and their comments were fascinating.
Discussion for each of the brands is below the fold.
Club Racer S2000 Arrives Fall 2007
According to John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda, the S2000 CR “is the closest thing you can get to a Honda-built race car with license plate holders and a horn.” Introduced at the 2007 New York International Auto Show, this special S2000 uses the same powertrain (237HP 2.2L I4 and six-speed manual), but has massaged in just about every other area with the simple goal of reducing track times. Though the gearing of the manual is the same, there is a new shorter shift knob for even quicker shifts. About the only cosmetic decisions were the exterior and interior color combinations. The S2000 CR will be a standard trim level for 2008MY.
The aero body kit of the CR is functional and contributes to the overall goal, as well as giving the roadster a take-no-prisoners look, by reducing lift. The front spoiler and large rear wing are the better elements; the nacelles behind driver and passenger leave the impression of mimicking the Pontiac Solstice. The front and rear spoilers were developed to reduce lift, and even the center bulge on the rear spoiler a functional rather than stylistic element. The S2000 CR drops its power softtop and replaces it with an aluminum hardtop, just one of the efforts for reducing weight. Though structural bracing, adding rigidity, takes up the space where the soft top used to stow, the change allows a drop of about 90 pounds.
New vehicles from American Honda have swept the 2006 North American Car and Truck of the Year Awards. The all-new Honda Civic won the Car of the Year Award adn the Ridgeline Sport Utlity Truck won the Truck of the Year Award. The Civic has been on sale since late Fall 2005 and Ridgeline was introduced in Spring 2005. Both are 2006 models.
These awards mimic Car and Truck of the Year Awards by Motor Trend magazine announced earlier.
The new Civic replaces what may be the most lackluster Civic of all time. The Civic had devolved into a typical econobox that sold on the basis of its stellar image and name, not because it was the hiighly desirable Civic of the past. The new Civic corrects that. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific analysts rate the Civic as one of the best small cars on the road today… aspirational, exciting, and fun to drive.
The Ridgeline has not sold up to the expectations that Honda announced when the truck was introduced. Having slightly weird styling and being based on the Odyssey minivan platform, the Ridgeline is a great driving pretend truck. Full of innovative ideas that impressed the Car of the Year judges, Ridgeline deserves to succeed. It has not sold up to expectations likely due to its relatively high price point… substantially higher than “real trucks” like the Ford F-Series and the Chevrolet Silverado.
American Honda may use the early lack of success of the Chrysler Pacifica as a case study. Pacifica was overpriced when it was introduced. People did not know what kind of vehicle it is. The idea that Pacific was a “sports tourer” did not mean anything to anybody. But Chrysler played around with its positioning and Pacifica now sells in respectable volumes.
It’s interesting that Honda’s press release announcing its achievement is pretty matter-of-fact. Ho-hum.
In an sweep of Motor Trend’s 2006 Car and Truck of the Year Awards, Honda has achieved a first. No other manufacturer has won both in the same year. VehicleVoice [(http://www.vehiclevoice.com) & (http:/.vehiclevoice.com)] has been tracking both Honda vehicles since their intro and both are special. The Ridgeline, while not a “real” truck to real trucker, has many innovative features that make traditional pickups and SUTs look like “old-think”. Similarly, the hybrid-looking 2006 Civic sets a new standard for aspirational mainstream small car design.– – – – – –
Torrance, Calif. 12/20/2005 — The 2006 Honda Ridgeline earned Motor Trend magazine’s prestigious 2006 “Truck of the Year” award, American Honda Motor Co., Inc., announced today. The Ridgeline joins the all-new 2006 Honda Civic as this year’s recipient of Motor Trend’s “Car of the year” award, marking the first time ever that a manufacturer has won both honors in the same year.
Since its introduction in March of 2005, the Ridgeline has re-defined the mid-size truck segment through its innovative and exclusive new features. Designed to meet the needs of a growing population of consumers purchasing trucks to support their active, outdoor-oriented lifestyles, the Ridgeline delivers a proportional mix of overall truck capability, towing performance, ruggedness and value in a fun-to-drive vehicle built around Honda’s standards for reliability, safety and performance. The Ridgeline was the first-ever 4-door pickup to receive the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5-star safety rating, the highest safety rating possible, for both frontal and side impact crash test performance. It also had the distinction of achieving the best rollover resistance rating of any pickup ever tested by NHTSA. All Ridgeline models are equipped with a long list of standard comfort and convenience features, including the most comprehensive list of standard safety equipment in its class.