Archive for the ‘Acura’ Category


The 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show opened today with a slew of introductions. I’ll try and go through as many as I can with some color commentary:

Art Center College of Design always has some excellent concepts that the automotive design students present.  This Hybrid Sports Bicycle (HSB) caught my eye. The concept design and body fabrication was done by Tomas Bubilek and the chassis design and fabrication was done by Michael R. Bowser.

Concept Hybrid Sports Bicycle presented by Art Center College of Design students.

I also liked this Mazda concept 3-D mock up:

Mazda Design Concept

Acura: Honda’s luxury brand has a lot of work to do to regain sales that its lost over the past decade by not focusing on a brand image and just phoning in the cars and going a little off the range with the famous Acura Beak aluminum grille.  Acura introduced a new flagship, the 2014 RLX. No, it’s not rear drive, and in some ways it seems like a face lifted all-wheel drive RL, but it does look better. I’m simply not impressed. Maybe it drives well.

2014 Acura RLX – Front. I do like the all-LED headlights.

Rear taillight detail for the 2014 Acura RLX. I like the light show in the rear too, if not the overall look of the tail.

The interior of the 2014 Acura RLX, the brand’s flagship.

Audi: Audi really had nothing new to show the world at the LA show, so instead we were graced with the announcement that Audi would sell the A6, A7, A8 and Q5 with a 3.0L V6 TDI engine. The clean diesel power plant will likely sell well given the significant increase in fuel economy over the gasoline analogs.  This lovely A8L TDI should get 24 mpg city and 36 highway — stunning numbers given the heft of Audi’s flagship.  The diesel engine is rated at 240 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque and powers all four wheels through an 8-speed ZF automatic.  Audi says it will do 0-60 in 6.4 seconds.

The 2014 Audi A8L TDI

This A8 had the rear seat package that makes for a very comfortable passenger. Check out the controls for the passenger!

The driver of this 2014 Audi A8L TDI is in the lap of luxury. Audi still sets the bar high for luxury interiors.

Bentley: If you want something a bit more rarefied than an Audi, the Volkswagen Group owns Bentley too. Not much new for LA, but we got another iteration of the company’s Continental GT. This is the “Speed” version with Bentley’s 6.0L twin turbo W12 engine making 616 ponies with 590 lb-ft of gut-wrenching torque to go from zero to 60 in 4 seconds flat and top out at 212 mpg. It’s at least $225,000.

2013 Bentley Continental GT Speed.

If you have a bit more money to burn, Bentley also showed the 2013 Mulsanne. It’s sort of the old school Bentley using a thoroughly updated 6.7L V8 making a healthy 505 hp and a stunning 752 lb-ft of torque. It is all channeled thorough the ZF 8-speed automatic used in several other VW Group products.  You get the feeling of a locomotive when you’re behind the wheel because the Mulsanne weights in at 5,700 lbs. Yikes! But if you can afford the $296,000 (before options), who cares?

2013 Bentley Mulsanne. Check out those Gatling Gun headlights!

You may not mind being stuck in LA traffic if you are sitting behind this wheel. Beautiful real wood and top quality switchgear.

BMW: Our friends from Munich showed off the latest iteration of their upcoming i3 electric car. The i3 Concept Coupe is really just the standard i3 less two doors and some length. Still, it looks nice. I’d love to know what the final production version will look like when it shows up sometime in 2014.

BMW i3 Concept Coupe, front.

BMW i3 Concept Coupe side, from the rear.

If you’re not as interested in the i3, BMW dragged out the i8 Concept that was last seen a year ago in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. So just to tease you again, here are some pictures. It won’t look quite this amazing and flamboyant when it finally shows up for sale, sometime after the i3 goes on sale.

BMW i8 Concept Hybrid.

The i8 Concept Hybrid certainly has the futuristic interior to match the great exterior.

How about a BMW you can actually buy? This 2013 Gran Coupe is certainly a looker, particular in this expensive matte finish:

This lovely 2013 BMW 650i Gran Coupe starts at $87,395. The Frozen Bronze Metallic paint is a $3,500 option.

The Gran Coupe has one of BMW’s most sumptuous and well-crafted interiors. You won’t (and shouldn’t) find any cheap plastics inside here.

BMW likes to show off expensive cars, and this auto show is no different. How about the M6 and M5 in the background? If six digit prices offend you, avert your eyes.

The price of the 2013 BMW M6 starts with a six digit number.

Buick: It was kind of lonely at the Buick booth. I mean, LA is not very friendly to Buick. There aren’t many Buick dealers and the brand hasn’t sold well here in decades.  GM’s wants its near-luxury marque to appeal to a budget-minded Lexus customer.  That’s a tough hill to climb, given the years of neglect and the 25 years Lexus has been honing its luxury credentials.

However, to entice younger buyers, Buick is introducing a small crossover called the Encore.  Opel sells a version of it called the Mokka in Europe and, like the Mokka,  the Encore is imported from GM’s South Korean subsidiary.

2013 Buick Encore

2013 Buick Encore – from the rear.

The interior of the Encore is nice, but built to a price. I mean, this is a car in the $20,000 range, so you can’t expect top quality plastics. GM did go to great lengths to make the colors pleasing and the dash is distinct, if not a stand-out.

Space isn’t bad for a little CUV. I’m not sure if a young family with no kids and a dog will want this of if empty-nest retired baby boomers will go for it. Time will tell.

Cadillac: Another GM division that’s got fresh product is Cadillac.  The all-important, all-new rear-drive ATS was introduced earlier this year to much fanfare and pretty good reviews. The ATS’ stated target is the BMW 328i and it’s the first time Cadillac has real skin in this game.  While the press is slobbering all over the ATS, I’m not impressed by the interior. The plastics feel cheap, the wood looks fake (even if it is real) and the shiny digital center console with the “Cadillac User Experience” (CUE) featured prominently only looks good when it’s turned on and the sun isn’t shining on it.  The hepatic touch-control feedback is overrated and feels clumsy. Certainly not something I’d like to futz with while driving. Maybe I’ll enjoy the driving experience.

2013 Cadillac ATS

The cockpit of the 2013 Cadillac ATS with CUE. This one looks better without the wood inserts.

The rear seat of the ATS isn’t any worse than the BMW 328i or the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Chevrolet: Not to be left out, GM’s mainstream division, Chevrolet, has new product too. First, the “big deal” is the 2014 Impala. It’s basically the Chevy version of the Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac XTS. It’s big and it looks it. No more rental fleet for this Impala, right? Time will tell.

The 2014 Chevy Impala. Big. New. But I just don’t care, sorry, guys.

Chevy picked LA to show off its new 2014 Spark EV.  The Spark is the smallest car Chevy’s ever sold. It’s a product of GM South Korea (a.k.a. Daewoo). It’s better than the Aveo, but still a bit too rental for me. The EV is a big deal because California requires all the major manufacturers to sell zero emissions vehicles by a certain date. I think the first two markets for the Spark EV will be California and Florida. What it has going for it is price. It’s cheap, as far as EVs go – below $25,000 after a federal tax credit.  The electric motor is good for 120 hp and a whopping 400 lb-ft of torque. The Spark EV is quick too – GM says zero to 60 is 8 seconds.  But the big news is the fast charging system. The Combo DC Fast-Charge system promises to deliver an 80% charge in just 20 minutes.  We haven’t seen range figures yet, but the magic target is usually 100 miles per charge.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

The 20 kWh lithium-ion battery pack adds a whopping 560 lbs to the Spark. But that weight on the floor should make for a great low center of gravity and add to stability.

The 2014 Spark EV is a bit spartan, but interior parts painted in the exterior color ads some visual interest. It’s not bad for the price point, but there are lots of hard plastics.

This 2013 Corvette ZR-1 is always a crowd-pleaser with its striking good looks, carbon fiber bits and a 6.2L LS9 V8 supercharged engine producing 638 hp and 604 lb-ft of torque. It can go from zero to 60 in 3.4 seconds and its top speed is 205 mph. Take that, Viper! A bargain at a base MSRP of $112,600.

2013 Corvette (C6) ZR-1 from its sexy rear.

The front end of the 2013 Corvette ZR-1. Next year, the all-new C7 (7th Gen) Corvette will be introduced to the world.

Prepare to yawn.  Here is the 2013 Malibu. It should be a contender in the large mid-size family sedan segment, doing battle with the likes of the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata; however, I think the Malibu will continue to find its place in the rental fleets.

Here it is: The all-new 2013 Chevy Malibu.

The best viewing angle for the 2013 ‘Bu is definitely from its rear.

It’s the best interior of any Malibu in the past 40 years, but that might be damning with faint praise.

Chevy recycled some concept cars too. Both the Code 130R and Tru 140S appeared nearly a year ago at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit last January. Nice to see them in the flesh, but they are old news. What remains to be seen is if GM will do anything with these concepts. Of particular interst is the small rear-drive platform for the Code 130R.

Chevy Code 130R Concept. Love the paint.

Chevy Tru 140S Concept

More to follow…..


When you visit your Acura dealer (if you can find one) to test the new Acura ILX, just don’t say any word that starts with an I and ends with an A. They are very sensitive about past history.

2013 Acura ILX 5-speed Automatic in Silver Moon

An example of the most-stolen 1994 Acura Integra. Love the headlights!

It’s been six long years since Acura offered an entry level vehicle based on the Honda Civic. The Acura Integra (damn, there’s that I-word) and its successor, the RSX, achieved almost mythical status as an entry level sports luxury coupe (and sedan) with exemplary front-drive handling characteristics. In fact, in the latest Insurance Industry statistics, the 1994 Acura Integra holds the esteemed number eight position on the most stolen list. It was that popular!

Enthusiasts are still wounded over the unceremonious demise of the Integra/RSX’s. The Acura brand found itself in crisis after a widely-panned styling gamble and mixed messages about its place in the crowded luxury car field.  Customers stayed away in droves and Acura fell off many shopping lists.

After the devastating 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and the equally crushing criticism of the ninth generation Civic, Honda was a company in crisis, battered into a corner, bruised and bleeding. The 2012 Civic, introduced shortly after the earthquake, is an all-important model for Honda. It was widely-panned for its lack of inspirational design and warmed-over technology.

The styling of the Acura ZDX never caught on and its price (base $47,015, loaded with the Technology and Advanced Package, $57,565) scared off many buyers.

The NSX was Acura’s halo car for 15 years. This beautiful 2005 model still looked fresh; but Acura simply dropped the ball on its successor. We won’t see a new NSX for another two or three years.

Acura, Honda’s luxury division, was also in trouble. Its flagship RL sedan, introduced in 2005 with a mild refresh in 2009, flopped from day one. The odd BMW X6-like and expensive ZDX SUV remains unknown to most consumers. The beloved and the sublime NSX sports car wore Acura’s halo for its 15 year run; but Acura never planned for its replacement and it disappeared from showrooms in 2005. In short, Acura, the first Japanese luxury brand introduced in the United States, has been adrift in brand wilderness for a while now.

The 2012 Acura TL is a very nice Honda Accord

The 2012 Acura MDX is very popular. It’s based on the Honda Pilot

Before the new ILX, Acura relied on two models to keep the ship afloat. The TL is a dressed-up Honda Accord stuffed with extra luxury touches and the option of a trick “super-handling” all-wheel drive system. The MDX, a traditional luxury SUV also bristling with technology and luxury features, is based on the Honda Pilot and has been a solid seller since its introduction.

Starting at just $25,900, the ILX, the smallest Acura, is an excellent upgrade to its Honda Civic cousin. The base ILX 5-Speed Automatic is outfitted with Honda’s 2.0L i-VTEC four making 150 hp and 140 lb-ft of torque – an upgrade over the Civic’s 1.8L mill. Honda’s ubiquitous 5-speed automatic transmission with Sequential SportsShift is the only transmission. I doubt it will set the performance world on fire; but it will likely be the volume leader. It was also the only model that wasn’t available to drive at the Acura ILX All Access Ride & Drive Event I attended in a parking lot across from the Staples Center.

The Acura ILX All Access Ride & Drive Event was held in a parking lot across from Staples Center. In this picture, both Hybrid and 6MT models await drivers for the cross-town drive portion of the event.

The Acura magic wand also means that the cheap, nasty, hard plastic interior panels and surfaces that offended drivers of the Civic have been banished in favor of upgraded softer and textured materials that feel and look upscale. In addition, a heavy dollop of soundproofing isolates the cabin from outside road noise.

The interior of the 2013 Acura ILX is a much more inviting place than its Honda Civic cousin. Hard plastic surfaces have been banished in favor of soft-touch and textured materials.

The 2012 Audi A3 Sportsback doesn’t come to mind when I think about the 2013 Acura ILX. Sorry, Acura.

Acura would like us to believe that the sole competitor to the new ILX is the Audi A3 Sportsback.  Really? The A3 is more expensive and its excellent German engineering coupled with superb, class-leading interior craftsmanship don’t spring to my mind when I look at the ILX – not to mention that the A3 is a wagon and the ILX is only available as a sedan.

The 2012 Buick Verano is a nice small, upscale near-luxury sedan – exactly what I equate with the 2013 Acura ILX.

To me, the closest competition in price and luxury features would be the new Buick Verano. But Acura doesn’t want its customers to associate Buick with Acura.  Buick is an “old man’s” car, right? Well, yes, sort of, but Buick is desperately trying to change that image and Acura is desperately avoiding any suggestion that it’s anything other than a sporty youth-oriented brand.

My first drive was the ILX 6MT featuring the entertaining drivetrain lifted directly out of the Civic Si. It features a 2.4L naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine making 201 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque married to Honda’s exemplary close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission.

The 2013 Acura ILX MT6. It uses the excellent powertrain from the 2012 Honda Civic Si. The sweet 2.4L four cylinder engine is only offered with the 6-speed manual transmission. This will severely limit sales as most people want an automatic. It will, however, satisfy some enthusiasts.

We had our safety rules for the closed course portion of the Acura ILX All Access Event. This was the starting point, from inside a tent.

Honda estimates that the 6MT model with standard Premium Package ($29,200) will account for only 5% of ILX sales. If Acura dropped the 5-speed Sequential SportsShift automatic from the TSX (which uses the same 2.4L engine) into the sporty ILX it may get more sales from drivers wanting a bit more than 150 ponies under the hood. I’m not holding my breath.

I had forgotten just how excellent the Civic Si was and I was happily reminded with the ILX 6MT. Honda’s close-ratio row-it-yourself 6-speed gearbox is polished perfection. Our ten minute on-road course took us on the surface streets around Staples Center. The clutch was so creamy, linear and easy that you could drive it on a daily basis in LA with little distress to your clutch foot. The car never bucked on gear uptakes and I didn’t stall it once.

The food in the lounge/food tent was pretty good. Overall it was a nice setup.

The slalom course included lane change, an NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) test and potholes.

The little steering wheel felt just right in my hands and the electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion power steering provided sufficient feedback and on-center accuracy. It cuts a tight turning circle too. The happy revs, variable-ratio EPS and well-sprung and dampened 4-wheel independent suspension chassis meshed effortlessly for lighthearted entertainment if not blistering speed. It even performed well in our off-street mini-slalom/NVH course.

My second drive was the ILX Hybrid that comes standard with the Premium Package. If you believe the EPA estimates, the Hybrid should get around 38 mpg, no matter where you drive. Assuming normal driving, you’re likely to get closer to 35 mpg. The extra weight on the ILX accounts for the reduction in fuel economy from the Civic Hybrid which is rated at 44 mpg.

The Hybrid’s drivetrain is identical to the drivetrain in the Civic Hybrid: A 1.5L four-cylinder 110 hp gas engine coupled with Honda’s Eco Assist system which includes a 23 hp permanent magnet electric motor sandwiched between the engine and the continuously-variable transmission. The new-generation Civic/ILX Hybrids use a 20 Kw lithium-ion battery pack.

As long as the green ball in the middle of the dash display stays green and grows, the car is happy. Any sudden moves on the accelerator are greeted with disapproval from both the shrinking, yellowing ball display and the whining CVT. It’s not going to win any races, but the people who buy this car don’t care.

2013 Acura ILX Hybrid in Silver Moon

The ILX Hybrid with the Technology Package and shipping is a whopping $35,295. The Civic Hybrid with all the goodies is about $6,500 cheaper. I’m not sure Hybrid buyers will drop the extra dough for the Acura upgrade and extra features.

The ILX Premium Package is a must-have and it’s standard on all but the base ILX. It includes perforated, heated, 8-way power leather-trimmed sports seats, a multi-view rear camera and dual-zone automatic climate control – goodies you’ll never find on Honda Civic. At 6’1”, I was able to find a comfortable seating position in the ILX – something that never happened with the Civic.

The ILX 6MT interior, with the Premium Package, shows the nice sports, power perforated leather seats. Cup holders are large and should suit American tastes.

The Technology Package is the top trim level for all ILX and encompasses all the tech-geek features we have come to expect from Acura: Acura’s excellent satellite-linked navigation with Real-Time Traffic and Weather; An Acura/ELS sound system with more speakers (10 not 7), more watts (415 not 360) and a 15 GB media storage hard drive good for storing up to 3,500 songs. Acura’s voice recognition system is better than others.

Acura steps things up in the Tech Package with a Pandora internet radio interface, USB audio cord and Bluetooth 2.0 streaming audio as well as hands-free mobile phone functions. The big new feature is the SMS text message function which reads incoming texts aloud and lets you verbally respond from a list of pre-programmed responses: “I’m running late, the 405 is a parking lot” or “Call me you idiot, I’m driving.”

The Technology Package trim level adds a terrific sound system, navigation, text-to-voice and many other goodies. Notice the red pushbutton start in the lower left corner. It’s standard on every ILX.

All this great technology and yet HomeLink, the decades-old nifty feature that allows you to control gates and garage doors with a built-in interface, is nowhere to be found. Not even as a dealer accessory. I just shake my head.

A keyless entry and pushbutton ignition system is standard across the ILX range. The key fob is small and slim – something I wish every manufacturer would adopt. If you have a keyless system, why does the fob have to be big? A big fob may work well when lost inside a woman’s purse, but doesn’t do wonders in pants pockets.

The brushed chrome “beak” of the new ILX gives it a nice edge and I think the new sheet metal is handsome. If only the Honda Civic looked this good!

The ILX carries the latest softened version of Acura’s bold front beak/blade look. I rather like the handsome, if conservative looks and think it’s a good entry-level product for Acura. If you yearned for a Honda Civic with better styling, respectable interior plastics, a longer warranty and a host of luxury features, look no further than the ILX.  If you were looking for another Integra, check out the ILX 6MT. It’s not the “I-word” and it’s not a coupe, but it’s sure an impressive upgrade to the Civic Si sedan.