Acura dealers: A V-8 engine is on the way

awebb@crain.com

LOS ANGELES — Acura dealers say they have been told that Acura will offer a V-8 engine option within 18 months.

"It's confirmed," says Dave Conant, principal owner of the multibrand Conant Auto Retail Group in Cerritos, Calif., which includes one Acura dealership.

Dealers say an eight-cylinder is a must for Acura to compete against luxury brands such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

"To elevate the brand, they've got to have" a flagship sedan with an eight-cylinder engine, says Mark McKellop, general manager of Acura of Mission Viejo in suburban Los Angeles. The store is part of the Conant group.

Honda has long talked about making Acura a top-tier luxury brand. At a dealers' meeting in April, Acura "put the stake in the ground" and made it official, says Jeff Conrad, vice president of the Acura division at American Honda Motor Co.

But Conrad would not confirm that a V-8 is coming. Instead, he said Acura looks "pretty smart" for not having big engines in times of high fuel prices.

A new, large luxury sedan, due out in 2011 or 2012, may be fitted with a V-8. But Acura's 18-month pledge to its retailers at the April meeting suggests the engine may be available sooner.

"Dealers have been led to believe the next RL would have a V-8," says John Hawkins, president of Great Metro Autogroup in suburban Los Angeles. Great Metro includes one Acura dealership.

A redesigned RL is due in 2010, dealers say. A reskinned RL went on sale this summer with a 300-hp, 3.7-liter, V-6, the most powerful engine ever for an Acura sedan. c

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