Posts Tagged ‘premium’

SCOTTSDALE, AZ: So before we get all down and dirty on Acura’s latest venture in providing an entry-level luxury vehicle (sounds almost oxymoronic) to the North American and even the fastest-growing market in China, market. Let’s deal with some tasty bites of information.

1. Acura’s newest model, the ILX, slots in below the Acura TSX and is loosely based on the Honda Civic platform.

2. Three models are offered, including a base 150 hp 2.0L 4-cyl, a 201 hp 2.4L –and a 38 mpg combined Hybrid.

3. Pricing for the base ILX starts at $29,790 and tops out at $32,900. The ILX 2.4L is priced at $29,990 and the Hybrid at $34,990 to start.

Acura Canada has some interesting sales projections for this model and believe that the bulk of their numbers will be made with the 150-hp 2.0-litre when coupled with a five-speed automatic. The ‘drivers’ out there will be attracted immediately to the 201-hp 2.4-liter with a six-speed manual. And then there is the Hybrid which uses the Civic hybrid’s power train – but with a slightly jumpier throttle. Sales numbers? Well, Acura Canada are being quietly optimistic; the addition of the ILX will take Acura’s overall vehicle sales to more than 20,000 – 5,000 of those numbers being directly attributed to the ILX.

Photos: David Taylor

I had the opportunity of driving all three vehicles on the terrific US Army Engineers-designed roads sweeping through the hills/mountains outside Scottsdale, Arizona. Initial thoughts? A Hybrid with CVT is not a great choice for roads where the incline changes quickly and often suddenly. As a commuter vehicle involving in-town and highway driving, fine. The 2.4L with MT was a fun ride. The vehicle responded very well – whatever it was asked to perform. The downside is that it’s only available with standard transmission. Acura may have missed the mark with this decision. As an entry level sedan for a luxury brand, the 2.0 does not miss the mark, either. We were advised that the ILX has class-leading safety performance and is expected to achieve industry leading safety ratings from both National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

While the similarities to the 2012 Civic are, perhaps a little obvious, at this point, we cannot comment on this vehicle as it relates to the anticipated Civic ‘refresher’ expected later this year. We may well be dealing with a chicken and egg situation.

Regardless. the suspension and floor are vintage Civic.  Acura stylists have stretched the hood – perhaps to match the ILX’s premium aspirations? Stylists also worked at moving back the A-pillars 7.9 inches and the windshield base only  3.9 inches, necessitating deeply curved glass.

The Civic’s traditional front overhang has been stretched slightly while the rear was chopped – a little abruptly, creating odd visual proportions when the car is viewed in profile. Acura engineers and stylists refer to the exterior design concept as ‘aero-fused dynamics’. To use their words, “Cabin and body feel like they are pulled back, creating an impression that the rear is firmly planted.” Right.

The interior is comfortable and familiar buttons are positioned on the console – in fact, it appears that the audio and climate controls are from the TL.

In the ‘boiler room’ the 2.0-litre is bigger than the 2012 Civic’s engine and the 2.4 is the same as the Civic Si’s. Acura’s engineers and stylists have worked hard to provide a car that is quite quiet in the cabin at highway speed. The ILX achieves its targets by being quieter and feels more substantial, especially with its deluxe Acura interior, though there us some road noise from the standard all-season tires – especially when imperfections on the blacktop were hit. The electric-assist steering is almost typically light and drivers will not struggle to place the vehicles longer nose in its best driving position while the aforementioned tires and suspension keep it there. Getting back to the chicken and egg premise, this ‘driving feel’ is something that all Civics should have – including the Si.








Will the Acura ILX succeed?

Acura is introducing a luxury, albeit entry level vehicle to the market with a starting price point under $30,000. That is a good thing. Considering the level of finish inside and out and compared to their direct competition, they may well have a winner on their hands – especially with the 2.4L when compared to the BMW 3-series or even the less expensive Buick Verano.

Acura sees the ILX as a true luxury gateway model. And maybe that’s not a bad way of looking at things. Other premium manufacturers have almost stepped back from the compact segment in recent years. Acura has a huge opportunity to make premium compacts a mainstream category.

The Acura ILX offers luxury for less and is certain to also deliver brand qualities like reliability and durability. And, customers have a choice, too; not just one model fits all.

We’ll pay attention to the monthly sales numbers and see if they, Acura Canada are being, like Acura owners, aspirational.

2013 Acura RDX at The Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona

With Acura’s introduction of the 2013 RDX, it would be safe to say that the Japanese manufacturer’s latest and improved version of their popular entry-level crossover SUV will be a consistent performer. In every meaning of the phrase. In fact, at a recent unveiling inScottsdale,Arizona, company spokespeople went out of their way to tell the world that they are very optimistic about the 2013 model. In fact, they anticipate selling 4,500 vehicles which represents 500 more than the RDX’s previous best sales numbers back in 2008, two years after its introduction to the buying public in 2006.

And there is much to suggest that this target could well be achieved – easily. Think of the all new Honda CR-V but with more power, features and cache. Truthfully, what’s not to like in this 2013 RDX package – especially if you have never been exposed to the slightly more spirited 2012 model with its turbo-charged four cylinder engine? A feature which some drivers seemed to prefer – but were often vocal in their complaints since many felt it lacked some of the expected refinement associated with a premium brand. But if you were only using it to shuttle your kids to school and sundry practices on city roads, it likely never really had any negative impact.

Available in dealerships across the country at the beginning of April 2013, the MSRP for the 2013 will start at CAD $40,990 and the model with the Technology Package which we test drove on terrific roads north and east of Phoenix through seemingly endless scrub lands, desert and mountains, for CAD $43,900. It should be noted that for 2013, Acura has added significant additional features worth about $3,400 and some major engineering refinements – yet the price is only around $500 more than 2012.

So, as stated, it’s safe to say that the 2013 RDX has managed to significantly up its game with all new looks, increased comfort and new technology. The RDX features a new 3.5L V-6 engine with 33 more horsepower than the outgoing model, mated to a new 6-speed automatic transmission and a new, all-wheel-drive system.  Alexandre Roger, VP of Acura Canada enthuses, “It’s more powerful, roomier, quieter and has improved fuel efficiency. In short, it’s everything we know customers in the luxury SUV market expect – and more.”

Interestingly enough, the 2013 RDX with a bigger, more powerful engine also manages, according to the manufacturers, to achieve superior fuel economy than before. While we road-tested the vehicle over the better part of a day, we were not looking for numbers that would cause excitement in the hypermiling community. We were driving. Often hard. Especially when the opportunity presented itself on the spirited jaunt onArizona’s Hwy. 87 into Payson. Here, the vehicle felt most comfortable and that gas consumption willing, might have cruised forever. The 2013 model is also significantly quieter and smoother (some might say too much so) than previous iterations thanks to a longer wheelbase and all-new Amplitude Reactive Dampers and a new motion adaptive electronic power steering system. No compromise in the audio level of conversation in this luxury; most occupants will likely appreciate the new interior design with increased utility, rich interior materials and the generous use of noise insulation throughout.

Standard features on the RDX include leather seating surfaces, heated power front seats, a power moon roof and a 360-watt audio system. New technologies such as an SMS text messaging function (which this writer has difficulty comprehending given many provinces new distracted driving laws), a keyless access system with the convenience of pushbutton start, an active noise control system and the most welcome addition of a rear view camera system with three unique viewing angles are also standard on all RDX models. This latter feature is also now standard on all levels of the all new Honda CR-V.

The RDX tech package adds Acura navigation system with (bi-lingual) voice recognition; a hard disk drive (HDD) system with 60 GB of storage capacity; GPS-linked solar-sensing, dual-zone automatic climate control system; power rear tailgate; and an Acura/ELS surround premium sound system with 10 speakers, DVD-audio, multi-format CD player, AM/FM tuner and XM radio.

The 2013 RDX is then, in its competitive category with Audi Q5, MB GLK and Infiniti EX35 and BMW X1, in pretty good company. With its expected Acura-styling, room and highway driving comfort and handling, the future should auger well. Acura hopes to appeal to more women drivers – without producing an overtly feminine vehicle – whatever that might be. Will they succeed? We’ll leave that to the buying public at large. However, nothing has been done to deliberately alienate any demographic with the introduction of this safe – in all respects, CUV.