LOS ANGELES -- In the heated luxury-car wars, horsepower is king. Or is it?
In a reversal of years of performance-based product development, Acura sees fuel economy as a way to differentiate itself from other luxury marques.
"Hitting the 2016 CAFE requirements is going to be hard," said John Watts, senior manager of Acura product planning. "We are betting more in the fuel economy direction.
"Although we are in a horsepower war, we feel that fuel economy is the way to go ... while striking a balance to meet the needs of the market."
Granted, Acura won't walk away from high-performance vehicles. But would most luxury sedan owners be offended by a powertrain tuned for a 0-to-60 run of 6.4 seconds, as opposed to 5.8 seconds, if the end result were three more miles per gallon?
It likely doesn't help Acura's performance credibility that parent Honda Motor Co. axed its V-8 and rear-wheel-drive development programs. That might force the brand to look at other ways of standing out.
"We are not following the same approach to the market," Watts said. "After we come out of this economy, things are going to be significantly different in customer behavior and what customers are looking for."
Watts said the luxury customer of the future won't just focus on horsepower as the key feature.
Watts sees Acura taking a lead position in other areas, such as user-friendly technology.
Acura also is studying hybrid versions of its vehicles.
"It's a logical direction," Watts said.
Wags may wonder about the genuineness of Acura's fuel economy mission as the brand rolls out a V-6 version of the redesigned TSX, which previously came only as a four-cylinder.
But with the new TL sedan becoming larger and more expensive, the TSX V-6 holds a place on the Acura pricing ladder for returning TL owners who cannot afford the new model.