Acura is in the middle of a major product changeover, reflecting plans to challenge second-tier luxury rivals Audi, Buick, Infiniti and Volvo rather than Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus.
Acura has launched the ILX compact sedan and redesigned the RDX compact crossover. It will redesign the RL flagship this fall and make changes to the MDX crossover and TL mid-sized sedan in 2013.
Acura will lead the technology revolution for Honda Motor as the new Earth Dreams engine family is installed in all future vehicles. Also, Acura is moving toward increased use of seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions in addition to its basic six-speed automatic. More models also will get hybrid versions.
ILX: Acura returned to the entry-luxury sedan segment this spring. But already criticism that the base 2.0-liter engine is underpowered may lead to a mid-cycle swap-out for the 2.4-liter, 181-hp Earth Dreams engine, or an automatic transmission for the 200-hp 2.4-liter from the Civic Si. Company sources say, in response to rumors on the Internet, that there are no plans for a coupe variant.
TSX: Within Acura there is talk that the TSX will go away after its normal model cycle ends next year. But don't be surprised if limited production continues, because the TSX's V-6 version doesn't cannibalize the ILX's four-cylinder offerings.
TL: A redesign comes next spring, still sharing the Accord's underpinnings. Because the TL is too close in footprint to the RL, expect a shorter wheelbase and overall length, moving it closer to the soon-to-depart TSX. The big change will be addition of the Earth Dreams engine, a 3.5-liter V-6 with 310 hp and 265 pounds-feet of torque. This is 30 more hp and 11 more pounds-feet than the outgoing 3.5-liter engine in the TL. A hybrid version will also be available, sharing the same parts as the Honda Accord Hybrid and with a fuel economy rating of around 45 mpg.
RL: A redesign comes in fall, and the Earth Dreams V-6 from the base TL is the base engine. It will be teamed with a front-wheel-drive transmission and a four-wheel-steering system. The base model is expected to weigh under 4,000 pounds thanks to extensive use of aluminum and high-strength steel.
The RL will have an optional 3.5-liter direct-injection V-6 engine with variable valve timing, combined with Honda Motor's Sport Hybrid All-Wheel Drive system. The improved engine puts out more than 370 hp, using a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The redesigned car is about the same length as the current RL, but with a wheelbase two inches longer. Both the track and vehicle width will increase by about two inches.
RDX: The crossover was redesigned this spring. The big change: A V-6 replaced the turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
ZDX: Sales are sliding for the MDX variant, but since it costs relatively little to produce it alongside the MDX, it might remain in the lineup as a special-order vehicle until the next MDX arrives.
MDX: The mid-sized crossover is scheduled for a redesign next fall and will stay on the Pilot/Odyssey platform. Don't expect much change in size, but definitely look for a dialing back of the "beak" grille. It will get the same Earth Dreams 310-hp V-6 engine as the TL.
NSX: By 2014, Honda will hand-build the Acura sports car on a small-scale assembly line at the company's r&d facility in Ohio. The NSX will be as much about technology as performance. Instead of a monster engine, it will have a compact, direct-injection V-6 teamed with a lithium ion battery pack. The "Sport Hybrid All-Wheel Drive" system uses two integrated drive units at the rear wheels connected to a motor-generator that delivers power.
The NSX will be developed at Honda r&d in Ohio.