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2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid review notes

Interesting gadgets, but kind of a snoozer

11/05/2015

ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: If you examine parts of the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD in isolation, it’s awfully hard to argue against it. It’s overwhelmingly quiet. The seats fit me perfectly, providing just the right amount of firm support. The hybrid powertrain packs surprising low-end punch. Loved the anodized starter button -- a real nice touch, I guess. Maybe you like those fancy headlights. Good stereo, too.

But when you put it all together, you’re left with a car that feels no greater than the sum of its parts. It’s not that the package is particularly incoherent; it’s that it’s boring. I suspect that’s not quite the techno-luxury-for-the-smart-set image Acura was gunning for.

Part of the problem is that there while there’s tons of tech, it doesn’t feel particularly well-integrated -- at least not for a car that’s ostensibly aimed at the big luxury players. Take the cluster stacked screens on the center console. It’s functional enough, but it looks and feels clunky. I’d say it’s Honda-like, but even Honda is moving toward big, crisp touchscreens. Compare it to what Volvo’s doing with the XC90. It's no contest. 

2017 Acura NSX first drive

The rebirth of slick

10/26/2015

There aren’t many cars more anticipated than the new Acura NSX. Saying the old car had just a cult following would be doing a disservice to its rabid and massive fan base. Fanboys—still teenagers with posters on their walls when the last NSX bowed--expected a mid engine, expected pure, expected a simple but legendary successor.

The car we ended up getting, though, was a lot different from what the company originally planned. About halfway through the new NSX’s development, Acura engineers decided to change everything.

Acura initially showed the new NSX at the 2012 Detroit auto show—ages ago in car years. At that point, it was basically just a styling exercise, not quite green-lit for production. “It was more yellow-lit,” according to powertrain development leader Keiichi Watanabe. It was a hit, so development ensued. The NSX was always slated as a hybrid, but in 2013, the naturally aspirated V6 became a twin-turbo V6 and the transverse layout went longitudinal, nearly necessitating a clean-sheet design.

2016 Acura MDX

2016 Acura MDX drive review

Leader & follower

09/24/2015

If you’re the type of vacationer who prefers his waters salty and lukewarm, the cramp-inducing chill of Michigan’s freshwater Grand Traverse bays may not suit your summer-trip fantasies.

The West Bay and adjacent Leelanau Peninsula happen to be the site of my family’s annual summer retreat, and Acura’s three-row MDX crossover handled transportation duties this year. Not just its top-seller, the MDX is also Acura’s best vehicle and a clear contender for the most livable three-row crossover on the market today. Two adults, two kids and a dog, plus a week’s worth of luggage, disappeared into our silver MDX with room to spare, and the combination of freeway and two-lanes we took netted 26 mpg average with nary a thought toward hypermiling. Power from the V6 is exceptionally smooth, and overall road manners are far sportier than crossover naysayers would like you to believe.

The wife and I aren’t screen junkies, but midway through a five-hour freeway slog, a quick showing of “Wall-E” kept our wee beasties from mutiny. It’s expensive, but Acura’s widescreen rear-entertainment system offers good picture quality, easy-to-use wireless headphones and a screen that doesn’t interfere with rear visibility.

2016 Acura RDX with Advance Package review and test drive

2016 Acura RDX drive review

Most improved player?

07/22/2015

The 2016 Acura RDX received a full-face makeover for the new model year, and frankly, it needed it. Though the last one didn’t get the brand's unfortunate full-beak nose treatment, it suffered from plain-Jane looks even in a segment not known for exciting styling.

Acura updated the appearance and added its cool Jewel Eye headlights along with LED taillights with light piping, all of which does a good bit to spruce up the front and rear fascias. The bumper gets a few extra character lines, and the fog lights have mesh inserts and a protruding border. The back is the same -- more character lines, everything looks a little sharper and the rear reflectors are a little deeper, with cooler-looking surrounds.

Overall, the visual still won’t blow you away, but Acura found a good balance between too much beak and not enough flair.

Power still comes from Honda’s 3.5-liter SOHC VTEC V6. It now makes 279 hp and 252 lb-ft, up a few ticks from last year. The EPA says it gets 19 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway. A six-speed automatic handles gear changes and sends power to all four corners.

The MDX with the Advance package includes a lane-keeping assist system, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, remote engine start and front and rear parking sensors.

2015 Acura MDX SH-AWD Advance review notes

03/03/2015

ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: As Acura is busy rebuilding its sedan portfolio with the new TLX and updated ILX, its SUV/crossover lineup continues to hum away smoothly with brisk sales of the smaller RDX and the three-row MDX. The RDX didn’t really catch on until Acura debuted the second-generation model a couple of years ago replacing the first version that wasn’t ideally suited for the mass market with a peaky turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a chassis that was sprung much too stiffly. But Acura seemingly got things right with the MDX from the beginning.

It never been perfect (because nothing ever is), but the MDX consistently been at the top or near the top of the luxury three-row crossover segment in my opinion overall. With this third-generation model that launched for the 2014 model year, Acura right-sized it, tried to remedy some interior complaints, and began offering a front-wheel drive model as a more affordable alternative for customers who didn’t necessarily need the SH-AWD system.

2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD review notes

02/12/2015

EXECUTIVE EDITOR RORY CARROLL: You have to credit Acura for being independent. While some now celebrate dearly departed Saab’s steadfast adherence to quirkiness, Acura is playing the quirk-card pretty hard and for their trouble, receiving levels of interest and enthusiasm that would have made the pre-GM Saab reconsider everything. So, maybe quirk alone doesn’t do it.

But, going to rear-wheel drive and building cars that leave the Germans in a smoldering pile just off to the side of the Nurburgring doesn’t do it either. So what do any of us know about how to succeed at building luxury cars? Maybe you really do need to be a luxury brand that just happens to build cars.

Like a lot of Acuras, the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD is a car that doesn’t seem to be built with the aim of competing with a car from another manufacturer. There are other all-wheel-drive sedans on the market. There are other hybrid luxury sedans on the market. There are even a couple of other all-wheel-drive, hybrid luxury sedans on the market. But among them, the closest analogue to the RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD is probably the Infiniti Q50 Hybrid with all-wheel drive, but that car is around $20K cheaper than this one. It’s another Acura that seems like it came into being in a vacuum, totally unpolluted by considerations of what the other automakers are up to.

The 2016 Acura ILX is on sale now.

2016 Acura ILX drive review

02/10/2015

What is it?

Acura has performed an extensive midcycle update to its ILX gateway model packing in a new drivetrain, styling, features and a sportier A-Spec model.

Previously, the ILX offered a 2.0-liter I4 with 150 hp and 140 lb-ft of torque as a base engine, which was mated to five-speed automatic transmission. Those looking for more power had the option of a 2.4-liter I4 with 201 hp and six-speed manual drivetrain combination. For 2016, the direct-injected 2.4-liter I4 from the TLX is transplanted into the ILX making 201 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque and serves as the sole engine option now and is bolted to Acura’s in-house developed eight-speed dual-clutch sequential manual. Some may notice the ILX engine is down 5 hp compared to the TLX, which is because of exhaust system differences.

Chassis improvements come in the form of additional body bracing that ups torsional rigidity by 12 percent, updated shock absorbers and springs, firmer suspension bushings, thicker rear antiroll bar, retuned steering system for a more direct response and upsized brakes all around.

For the right buyer, the four-cylinder TLX is a lovely little sports sedan, and, unlike its V6 brother, it makes a strong value case for itself at $36K.

2015 Acura TLX I-4 review notes

01/22/2015

ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: We had an Acura TLX SH-AWD Advance tester in the office a few months ago, which was underwhelming from a performance standpoint. The direct-injected V6 was plenty strong with 290 hp, but in corners, there was much to be desired. The car felt heavy and not so responsive to steering inputs. And then there were the all-season Goodyear Eagle LS-2 tires that certainly didn’t help matters. The rest of the car was fine, with a nicely trimmed interior that was comfortable, a smooth, well-damped ride, and styling that didn’t excite or totally bore you to tears. It was a solid all-around vehicle that just fails to deliver the level of handling performance that Acura is trying to sell you on through its ad campaigns.

However, there is a TLX in the lineup that is a little more exciting. You would normally think it’s the range-topping model with the powerful V6, but it’s actually the TLX with a direct-injected four-cylinder and front-wheel drive, which with Honda’s history makes sense. The Integra Type R, Honda Civic Si, Honda Prelude and Honda CRX were all front-wheel-drive vehicles. All of those cars never featured jaw-dropping power, but instead were lightweight and agile specimens that possessed a distinct feeling from behind the wheel. There’s connectivity you feel when you push those cars. You know exactly when the front tires are reaching their limits and you know if you throw the car into a corner hard enough that the back end will come around in most cases. The TSX (which is one of my favorite affordable sedans) was the only car to have that old-school Honda/Acura performance feel in recent years in the Acura lineup.

A color-coded cutaway of the Acura TLX body shell shows the range of materials -- from various high-strength steels to magnesium -- employed to increase rigidity while reducing weight.

We drive the 2015 Acura TLX (again)

All about Acura's tech-laden mid-sizer

09/05/2014

The 2015 Acura TLX is a brand-new midsizer intended to replace the automaker’s now-discontinued TL and TSX sedans. To Acura’s credit, it readily admits that the TLX is more TL than TSX in that it prioritizes smooth luxury over crisp sportiness -- something our first drive of the sedan last month seemed to confirm.

But there's simply too much going on under the skin of the TLX to take in one drive review, so we're glad Acura offered us another opportunity to take the wheel. This time, we traded the windy, hilly roads of Virginia for the windy, somewhat less hilly roads of northern Michigan -- and even managed to tuck the TLX's 6-foot, 8-inch program manager into the back seat for an informal on-the-road question-and-answer session.

The TLX replaces TSX and TL in the Acura lineup

2015 Acura TLX first drive (for real this time)

07/31/2014

(Editors Note: Some of you were tipped off to this article last Friday only to get an error when trying to click through. We screwed up and published it before it was supposed to go live; when we took it down the link no longer worked, leading you to an error message. We apologize for the tease, and we'll do our best to make sure it doesn't happen again.)

What Is It?

The list of carmakers that claim they’re going after -- the BMW 3-Series - and Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4 and Lexus IS -- has been long and occasionally laughable over the years. Sometimes the comparison is warranted, sometimes not. In the case of the new Acura TLX it’s somewhere in between. The TLX is closest in feel and performance to the Lexus IS, but exhibits elements of all its competitors in one way or another. The new “entry premium” sedan fills the space previously held by two Acuras that are no longer offered: the semi-sportish TSX and mostly luxury TL. It is in many ways a composite of the two. It sits on the same Global Mid-Size Platform that underpins the new Accord, but it shares only the Accord’s floor stampings. Everything above the floorpan, “…everything you can see,” according to Acura chief Mike Accavitti, is new and unique.

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The image the company sent to future owners who have made deposits is a lightly photoshopped sketch that Britain's Autocar magazine published in March of this year.

TVR makes progress on new Cosworth V8, teases owners with Autocar's sketch

12/29/2015

TVR, the boutique British automaker run aground in 2006 after purchase by a Russian oligarch, is back with plenty of deposits on an undisclosed coupe and a teaser image photoshopped from an Autocar magazine sketch. The fledgeling car company is at work on a new coupe powered by a Cosworth V8 with an expected output of 450 to 500 hp, though it won't be until 2018 that customers will be able to take delivery of the cars. The factory has to be built first, even though the first year's allocation is already sold out.

TVR Chairman Les Edgar gave the future owners of the new coupe a progress report, stating that the company is running at least one engineering mule that has been operating on roads, and that they've recently fired up one of the Cosworth V8s.

Watch F1 cars rip up a mountain in Japan

12/29/2015

Two ex-Formula One cars plus one mountain road equals an epic video shot in Japan by Motor Head Magazine.

It's not too often you see open-wheel cars on public roads -- the Stallone vehicle "Driven" notwithstanding -- but something about it makes the cars look even better than when they're on the racetrack. After the F1 cars have a go, they're followed by some drifters who are nearly as impressive.

The camerawork is also great, so check out more of Motor Head's stuff here.

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