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Honda Regains Mojo While Acura Seems Lost

Perhaps I’m just being a worrywart, but I’m a little concerned about where Honda’s luxury brand stands. With such an impressive, new lineup, Honda seems to be getting its mojo back while Acura seems overshadowed as of late. This makes me wonder: How relevant is Acura?

When I reflect on the history of Honda, the 1990s stands out as a decade of timeless designs and mechanical simplicity. They were efficient, reliable, and fulfilled the needs of the masses. Although the term “luxury” may have been used in marketing materials to describe some Honda models, that moniker was better reserved for the Acura brand.

Though I’ve been a big fan of Honda products for many years, the Acura brand comes to mind far less often. As a youngster, when I dreamt of what kind of car I would drive one day, brands like Infiniti, Lexus, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Cadillac came to mind. I was aware of Acura, but I always interpreted the brand as being more luxurious than a Honda, but not as luxurious as those other brands.

Honda Runs Out of Steam

Something happened to Honda in the 2000s. I didn’t care for their styling direction and the cars seemed to be losing some of the qualities that made them so appealing in the past. They were losing their identity and excitement and seemed to be turning into “just another emotionless lineup of vehicles”. My first new Honda - a 2006 Accord - was perfectly reliable, but somewhat bland. My second new Honda - a 2007 Ridgeline - proved to be the most useful vehicle I’d ever owned even though I had trouble telling which direction it was supposed to be going when looking at it from the side.

I had a few more Hondas after that which were all very reliable and efficient, but they weren’t the most exciting things to look at or drive. Some recent lowlights include the 2008 Accord and 2012 Civic. Sure, they sold well enough, but I could tell something was not quite right at Honda. They seemed to be frozen in time while other manufactures were gaining on styling, features, and reliability.

Honda's Resurgence

Fortunately, Honda seems to have finally awakened from their decade of slumber. The last couple of years, in particular, have been very exciting. In 2015, Honda delivered an all-new Pilot with features previously only found within the Acura brand. That same year also brought us the impressive, all-new, 10th generation Honda Civic - by far the most luxurious and best-performing Civic to date. In 2016, an all-new Honda Ridgeline made a return after a two-year absence. Next up was an all-new, feature-packed CR-V. This year, the hot new Civic Si went on sale followed shortly by Honda’s highest-performing model yet - the Civic Type R. Honda didn’t stop there. An all-new Odyssey went on sale with technology and styling that make driving a minivan much less embarrassing. Honda’s latest announcement is the all-new Accord with more standard power, greater efficiency, and some of the most bold styling yet from Honda.

In case you didn’t notice, Honda has been on a roll the last couple of years with all-new designs and cutting-edge safety features and technology. With so many impressive new designs and features coming from the Honda brand, I can’t help but ask, “So, Acura… What have YOU been up too lately?”

And, Then There's Acura

Acura has the ILX, which is basically a fancy Civic; the TLX, which is a fancy Accord; the RLX; the RDX, which is a fancy CR-V, the MDX, which is a fancy Pilot, and the NSX, an impressive, but totally impractical vehicle which most of us will never be able to afford, anyway. Now that Honda have really stepped up the game with styling, features, and performance lately, it becomes more difficult to justify the purchase of an Acura over a Honda. Come on, Acura - show us what you’ve got!


Pierre Haavik (not verified)    October 12, 2017 - 3:16PM

Be of good cheer. Just like it took some years for Honda to turn around it will take Acura some years to develop new powertrains, platforms and designs. In 2-3 years you will see the results and Acura will no longer be upscale Honda but stand on its own feet with their own unique vehicles. Exciting times ahead.

Marc Stern    October 12, 2017 - 3:27PM

I was talking with a friend the other day and the subject came around to his leased RDX and the Honda CR-V that his wife drives. He was wondering if he should re-up on an RDX lease when the time came next year. I let him carry raving about the way the RDX takes on snow up here in New England and the overall handling of the RDX on the dry roads and so I suggested that if he was that happy with the RDX that he should do the new lease. He asked my for my opinion, as well -- for some reason he thinks 32 years of auto evaluations qualifies me as some sort of expert; guess it does --and I told him frankly that the RDX, compared to the CR-V his wife drives, is like comparing apples to oranges. Now it is true the CR-V is a competent all-wheeler, depending on whether the buyer springs for the AWD system. If it remains FWD, it's just another faceless FWD crossover that has somewhat limited headroom, even for a height-challenged driver like me. I also didn't like the short seat cushions and side bolstering as they just didn't match my lower torso. My 6-foot-5 friend averred that when he was in his wife's car, the roof was a bit to close to the top of his head, even with the seat adjusted all the way down. And, he felt that for the money he is paying every month for the CR-V it would have been nice to be a little classier, like his RDX. I happen to agree the RDX is a more refined vehicle that handles dry roads quite nicely. The tranny is resposive and the standard AWD system is tops in lousy weather. As for the ILX, really, have you put any time behind the wheel or are you reading someone's review of it and putting it in your own words as your own review. Your view of the Honda/Acura line seems, at best limited to Accord, and a rewrite of someone else's account of the Civic. I know Civic quite well. I was around to drive the first generation and it set the handling marks for a generation of compact cars 40 years ago. I have driven just about every new generation of Honda either writing or selling them online where I also did our dealership's writeups and they relied on my auto writing ability and I agree they are competent vehicles, but, I would also match the Acura TLX against Civic. Look, I could go on and on, but, may I suggest that you revisit your thinking and experience before you rave about vehicles. Please don't think I am the heavy here, as I am not. I hope my words will help you to repoint and your writing skills.

Parks McCants    October 12, 2017 - 6:39PM

In reply to by Marc Stern

I was recently afforded a visual preview of the 2018 RLX while driving Interstate 5 in northern California, it was stunning!. Acura is well into the reinvention of the lineup as demonstrated through not only the soon to be released RLX, but the Precision Performance Concept Car inspired recent refresh of the Acura MDX, and the market launch of the MDX Sport Hybrid -- the most powerful and fuel efficient midsize SUV presently available to north America. As demonstrated by Acura at the 2016 L.A. Auto Show, the maker's new cabin architecture, and standard equipped, near autonomous active safety and accident avoidance features, will drive Acura to the next level in financially attainable quality and comfort. The Acura lineup is and will remain a relative premium car and light truck value. As stated by Peter, the next two model years will be exciting for the Acura brand.

Michael Lee (not verified)    October 13, 2017 - 10:37AM

To me you can feel the quality of a Honda when you drive behind the wheel compared to any other Japanese brand it almost feels like a German car. The Honda brand has always been conservative. Comparing Toyota and Lexus I would take an Acura over the Lexus, Hondas especially Acuras have a lot of Road feel compared to Lexus, feels like you're driving air even with all the new electronic power steering Acura still feels good specially with their super handling torque vectoring all-wheel, paired with their turbo VTEC engine & super-strong chassis, Its free Smiles all day! Never really noticed a lot of door Gap either on an Acura compared to a Lexus. Honda is the Japanese BMW.

Steven (not verified)    October 16, 2017 - 8:28PM

Acura is a dying brand. When they killed off the Legend that hurt them and also their refusal to do a V8 ran all their customers to Lexus. Acura is the story of what could have been. They could of been in the position of Lexus right now had they made the right decisions. I give Hyundai credit for doing RWD and V8s something Acura was afraid to do. The RLX is a dead vehicle. If it wasnt for the MDX and RDX i dont think Acura would exist and i really dont feel sorry for them as a brand and a formal loyal customer. When you fail to bring new products to the table and keep up with the competition this is what you get.

Scott Brown (not verified)    October 20, 2017 - 8:16AM

I think the NSX is amazing. Compared to a Ford GT, a car that will be available to a few hundred buyers, if they have writing talent and 500k! The NSX is a more capable all around supercar, for half the price. Thats the high point. The low point must be the TLX. It fails in comparison to everything. But especially when compared to the Honda Accord. TLX's push button shift setup is simply awful. The last v6 2017 Accord LX i drove was far better in sportiness and luxury feel than the TLX. Acura simply must get their mainstream product right.3 to 5 thousand. NSX sales a year wont fix lack luster basic offerings.

RyanS (not verified)    October 24, 2019 - 11:53AM

The issues IMO are less that they're a classy version of a honda and more that they've done nothing to actually make them better. Case in point the ILX is exactly what i want instead of my civic except for one major detail, it's on the 9th gen platform instead of 10th gen. 100% would have got the ILX if it was a dressed up 10th gen but still had vtech and a DCT. but nope, it's 9th gen so therefore smaller so therefore a worse purchase. The issue though is honda doesn't care because they're still getting the profits either way.