While the Acura is a Japanese brand, Honda’s luxury division, it is not available in Japan itself – mainly due to the economic crisis of 2007-2008 that hit Japan hard. It was introduced in America in 1986 and has been a key player in the luxury sedan market ever since. Acura is available in China, Hong Kong, Mexico, Canada, Ukraine and was also once on the Russian car bazaar.
The logo is a caliper, a measuring tool, and can be read both as a stylized H or an A, for Honda or Acura. As is with any carmaker, Acura has seen both hits and misses over its 33-year legacy – so let’s count five of its best offerings and five of its biggest fails.
10 Best: 1997 Acura Integra Type-R
Launched in 1986, the Acura Integra Type-R has been long lauded for being one of the best front-wheel-drive cars ever. And while 1986 model was great, the 1997 Acura Integra Type-R took the spotlight with its sporty and muscular looks and that colossal giant wing in the rear.
Its front-drive chassis handing was so great that it made the best car lists many times. A performance-oriented vehicle, the 1997 Integra jetted 195 horses, and yet only 300 models were produced for this year. This also retained its price value over the years, since the rarity added to the price tag.
9 Worst: 1995-1999 Acura SLX
The failure of the SLX was not so much in the fact that it was a bad car. The failure lay in a lawsuit and a subsequent decline in sales. The Acura SLX was a rebadged Isuzu Trooper made available in the US in only select variants with higher engine displacements and power. Sadly, Consumer Reports ran roughshod over an article, calling the Trooper an unsafe vehicle with rollover ratings falling into the “Not Acceptable” range.
Acura SLX sales began a freefall. Later though, it was found that the article was incorrect and had several false statements in it – but the damage to both Isuzu and Acura SLX had been done. Isuzu withdrew passenger vehicles from the US, and SLX was replaced with the MDX in 2001.
8 Best: 2011-2014 Acura TSX Sport Wagon
The Sport Wagon existed for a single generation but made an impression on buyers and fans alike. If you keep aside the name, this was more of a city car with a 2.4-liter inline-four engine mated to an automatic transmission, so jetting 201 horses.
Technically, it was a badge-engineered Honda Tourer Station Wagon. Of course, being an Acura, it also came feature loaded with a great sound system and iPod integration as well. At the time, its only competitor was the BMW 3 Series Touring. However, the Takata airbag recall did affect all of its models, inconveniencing the buyers a bit.
7 Worst: 2004-2008 Acura TL
If you ever wondered why the steering in your 2004-2008 Acura TL was a dud, it is because it was. Other than transmission complaints that made a 2004 recall happen to change the oil cooler piping, Honda had to increase transmission warranty in the Acura TL (and other models) to seven years / 100,000 miles for dop.
Of course, the warranty was a result of a class-action lawsuit. Then another recall had to be made for 2004-2008 cars, this time when the power steering began to fail. The reason was high temperatures under the hood corroded the power steering hose, causing it to crack and leak fluid. This, from a luxury car.
6 Best: 2016 Acura RDX
When the MDX began to grow in size, and consequentially in price, the RDX became Acura’s compact crossover SUV, albeit with a luxury tag. Since it has been a rather affordable Acura, its economy has been its USP.
The design revamps of 2016 also increased its appeal as did the upgraded 3.5-liter V6 engine that manages a cool 279 horses. Speed, efficiency, and style – now what more can you ask for in a car, that is an Acura? With amazing safety and reliability ratings, its no wonder than the Acura RDX has become the Marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D cars. Sales have been on the rise since 2009.
5 Worst: 2015 Acura TLX
The Acura TLX is a compact executive sedan or an entry-level luxury sedan that Acura floated in 2014. Sadly though, it seems they forgot to put in transmission or at least a transmission that worked. Of course, there is a recall out.
The 2015 Acura TLX has an issue where the transmission wire harness connections may have insufficient crimps – this translates to the fact that the transmission may decide to shift to neutral when it likes. Of course, despite the recall, other problems with the transmission still exist, so there is a class action lawsuit for this very expensive lemon.
4 Best: 2014 Acura RLX
Just a little behind supercar status, the Acura RLX is a full-size luxury sedan that marries world-class comfort with performance. It carries a 3.5-liter V6 engine as well, which makes an amazing 310 horses. This is paired with the six-speed automatic transmission with paddles, to let the driver better control the car and have more say in the transmission.
The car manages top speeds of 135mph and goes 0-60mph in 6.3 seconds – making it all about luxury, but retaining the fun aspect of an exhilarating drive as well. The JDM version of this car is the Honda Legend, and as the nameplate says, the performance is legendary.
3 Worst: 2009-2013 Acura ZDX
Many joked that the ZDX stood for “zero demand expected”. While the ZDX was built on the MDX platform, the sportier design took away crucial elements for the car. The slashed hatchback rear affected the rear-headroom space, reducing it to what would suit a child. Cargo space was reduced for just a hand-baggage nook.
These may seem like trivial issues, but when you pay for luxury, you expect it. This may be the reason why only 6,000 of these sold between 2009 and 2013, with only 361 selling in 2013. According to Acura, this was supposed to blur the distinction between coupe, sedan, and sport utility vehicle – all it did was blur the sales.
2 Best: 2017 Acura NSX
The Acura NSX does not come cheap and has a six-figure price tag most cannot afford. But one look at its performance, and you’d know why this car is so pricey. The mid-mounted 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 roars out 573 horses.
Mate this to an all-wheel-drive and a nine-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and you just got yourself a street-legal supercar with the best of Japanese technology, so move aside Supra. It looks sleek and brims with power, and there is world-class technology in every press of a button inside the car. The entertainment is so premium you may never want to leave the car.
1 Worst: 2010 Acura TL
Other than being affected by the Takata airbag recall, there have been a significant number of complaints against a sluggish transmission. The paddle-shifting has only five ratios and was unresponsive to boot.
The 2010 Acura TL has nothing over a Buick – with the insides being far noisier than what you would expect from a luxury car. It understeers, and the chassis seems a bit unbalanced. People expect a luxury car to respond to small inputs, but the Acura TL does not even respond to firm commands. All in all, an average car, in a good-looking and expensive package. There are better Acuras out there…