Sales have begun to rebound for American Honda Motor Co.'s luxury brand, and a product renaissance in 2012 -- complete with a big entry into hybrid powertrains -- could provide a further boost.
Acura's two crossovers will be redesigned. And while the RL flagship won't have the rear-drive V-8 version -- those plans were killed in 2009 -- it will be significantly re-engineered. Subsequent model years will see other major redesigns and other lineup changes.
Acura also will take a step back from its polarizing "keen edge" design philosophy. An early hint of a more refined look can be seen in the 2012 TL midcycle change. The angular front "beak" was replaced by a more traditional grille.
RSX: An entry-luxury sedan will come in the spring of 2013, to compete with the Lexus CT 200h and BMW front-drive cars. The RSX is based on the Honda Civic platform and will be powered by a 210-hp version of the Civic Si's four-cylinder engine. After the failure of the Canadian-market CSX, Acura knows it can't just deliver a warmed-over Civic. This model will be larger and have more differentiated sheet metal.
RSX coupe: Plans call for a midcycle addition that arrives in the spring of 2015. Dealers have asked for a convertible hardtop.
TSX: There is talk within Acura that the TSX will go away after its cycle ends in 2013. Four low-volume sedans that are close in size may not be a healthy business plan.
TL: The Honda Accord-based mid-sized sedan got a major fascia change this year, meaning a redesign won't come until the fall of 2013. Because it is too close in size to the RL, expect a shorter wheelbase and less overall length.
At launch, Honda's large-car hybrid system will be available as an option on the base V-6. The V-6 will be lighter and will include a new cylinder deactivation system and stop-start ignition. The 3.7-liter V-6 may come down in displacement to 3.5 liters.
RL: Look for a re-engineering of the all-wheel-drive RL in late 2012 as a 2013 model. Pride will not let Acura get rid of its flagship -- which is on an expensive stand-alone architecture -- even though Honda is looking to kill the vehicle in Japan, where it is called the Legend.
RDX: After a six-year cycle, the small crossover will be redesigned for the summer of 2012. It will be offered in both front- and all-wheel drive. The twitchy turbo-four version goes away, replaced by a standard 2.5-liter inline-four engine on the base model, and a hybrid-four as an option. There won't be a V-6 because the Civic platform that underpins the RDX can't accommodate it. A midcycle addition of a seven-speed sequential transmission is possible.
ZDX: It was new for the 2010 model year, so no changes are planned for now.
MDX: A redesign is scheduled for the fall of 2012. A running change will include a hybrid version to augment the base V-6 engine. For fuel economy, the base 300-hp 3.7-liter engine may be replaced with a new 270-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. The MDX mostly missed out on the keen edge design era and will stay with more restrained luxury styling.
NSX: Honda Motor President Takanobu Ito says a new version of the Ferrari-fighter is in the works. He should know; he was an engineer on the original. But killing the sports car in 2009, after misfires on two concepts, means it will likely be 2014 before one hits the road.