Acura recalibrates with new ILX sedan, redesigned RDX
Photo credit: ACURA
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DETROIT -- American Honda's Acura division will launch a new entry-luxury sport sedan and a redesigned RDX crossover this spring as part of an ambitious effort to revive its luxury image.
The ILX sedan, which will replace the slightly larger TSX in the lineup, arrives in dealerships alongside the new RDX.
The combination of the two new products, plus the ability to manufacture at full capacity after recovering from last year's earthquake in Japan and flooding in Thailand, means Acura sales are projected to increase from about 123,000 units in 2011 to 180,000 this year, said American Honda CEO Tetsuo Iwamura.
Honda is revamping the Acura lineup over the next 18 months in a bid to jump-start the division's lagging sales.
After years of trying to push Acura into the front ranks with Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus, Honda officials say they will settle for offering midlevel premium vehicles that favor fuel economy over performance.
The ILX will share underpinnings with the Honda Civic. It is not the first time Honda has based an Acura on the Civic. The successful Integra and RSX of the '90s and early '00s were both Civic derivatives, and no one thought less of them.
Why was the ILX downsized? The outgoing TSX was based on the European Honda Accord platform, and its footprint crowded the TL sedan, which also was about the same size as the flagship RL. Having three sedans so close in size but with a $20,000 price spread was a problem for the brand. More differentiation was needed -- hence the ILX.
The deletion of the TSX, though, will not happen immediately upon the launch of the ILX, said Vicki Poponi, American Honda assistant vice president of product planning.
While admitting the TSX "is the car that gets squeezed," Poponi said that, "We can't dump it right away. We'll see how they work together."
Acura design chief Jon Ikeda said the introduction of the ILX means Acura is "in process of reshaping the hierarchy of the entire Acura sedan lineup."
Iwamura was upbeat about Acura's sales prospects for this year.
"If we do 180,000 units, that will be a success. We are much more ambitious for the future. Last year, we struggled a lot with production [due to the earthquake and tsunami], but this year we can go full speed," Iwamura said.
The ILX, unveiled in concept form at the auto show here, will offer a choice of two four-cylinder engines -- a 2.0-liter or 2.4-liter -- or a hybrid combined with a 1.5-liter four-banger.
Among standard features on the ILX: keyless locks, push-button start, Pandora radio and front, side and side-curtain airbags.
The ILX will be built exclusively at Honda's new Greensburg, Ind., plant, boosting Honda's U.S. manufacturing base and further shielding it from the strong yen. The outgoing TSX was built in Sayama, Japan.
Photo credit: ACURA
RDX: Longer wheelbase, wider track
The redesigned RDX crossover also will feature a longer wheelbase and wider track.
The RDX's previous big weakness -- a peaky turbo-four engine -- has been replaced with a 273-hp 3.5-liter V-6 that has 33 more horsepower than the outgoing model.
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