A new two-part series looking at the future model plans of Honda Motor Company begins with a sneak-peak at what the firm is said to be planning for its luxury division into the 2020s. 

Cars

Now more than six years old, Acura’s smallest sedan has only about another 18 months of production remaining. The ILX, which shares much with the previous generation Civic, is sold mainly in North America and is manufactured in the US. While this was Acura’s first hybrid vehicle, the 1.5-litre+electric motor hybrid powertrain was discontinued at the end of American Honda’s 2014 model year due to poor sales.

After just over two and a half years, Honda facelifted the car and gave it more power but sales still didn’t rise too sharply. It was a surprise when the ILX had a second facelift, this taking place for the 2019 model year. The sole engine is now a 201hp (204PS) 2.4-litre four-cylinder unit linked to a dual-clutch eight-speed automatic gearbox. 

The ILX successor should use the same platform as the tenth generations of the Civic and Accord. It is due out in the third quarter of 2020 for North America’s 2021 model year.

The TLX is another slow seller for Acura but Honda isn’t giving up on this Accord-sized sedan: there was a facelift for the 2018 model year plus the addition of a long-wheelbase car for the Chinese market. Details of the replacement models are available to view in PLDB (see the link at the bottom of this article).

The RLX is the rarest of Acura sedans with just 1,715 sold in the US for the year to date. As with the Lexus GS, even though the car’s engineering is first rate, buyers have largely ignored it over the last almost six years. Build takes place in Japan and cars began reaching dealers in the US, the first market, in March 2013.

A facelifted model was seen for the first time at California’s Monterey Automotive Week in August 2017. It also gained a ten-speed automatic transmission for the 2018 model year. The RLX will likely be discontinued in 2020. No replacement is expected. The same applies to the petrol-electric RLX Sport Hybrid.

The contraction of the segment where the Mercedes S-Class and Lexus LS compete only underlines Honda’s reluctance to ever launch an Acura sedan of the same size. While such a model was strongly rumoured in the mid 2010s, those plans were put on ice and seem highly unlikely to be revived. Instead, Honda may look again at the idea of adding a 5+m long SUV above the 4,984mm long MDX. Even then, such a model would more than likely be a slightly lengthened MDX rather than something aimed at the segment’s giants such as the BMW X7 and next Mercedes GLS.

SUVs & crossovers

The RDX is the brand’s latest SUV and even though it’s still new, Acura hasn’t (yet?) released a hybrid variant. Of course this isn’t to say that a petrol-electric powertrain won’t be added in 2019, more that American Honda sees accurately that its premium division’s customers aren’t much interested in hybrids. Even though the USA is far and away the model’s number one market, the latest RDX is for the first time manufactured not just there but in China too. For this reason, a hybrid or PHEV shouldn’t be ruled out.

New for the 2019 model year, the RDX, which is 4,745mm long and therefore a rival for the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60, BMW X3 and Mercedes GLC, uses the same platform as the Civic and Accord. A major change was the V6 of the old model having been dropped in favour of a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. This is mated to Honda’s own ten-speed automatic gearbox. As for the model’s life cycle, there should be a facelift in 2021 and replacement in 2024.

The current, third generation of the MDX, Acura’s largest SUV, has been in production since May 2013. It is built solely in the US. Honda sees the main rival as the Lexus RX and as there is also an MDX Hybrid, this is accurate, even though the RX petrol and petrol-electric are a lot more popular.

While the US and Canada have always been the vehicle’s main markets, Honda also exports this SUV to China. A facelifted model was in showrooms from mid-2017 and there won’t be any further changes.

The fourth generation MDX is expected to be revealed and go on sale in the US, its largest potential market, in late 2019. Its architecture will almost certainly be the same as the underpinnings of the Civic, Accord and RDX. The life cycle will likely last for six years, with production to take place at two US plants: East Liberty (Ohio) and Lincoln (Alabama).

Honda will likely replace the MDX Sport Hybrid with a direct successor and may add a PHEV too.

As noted in the cars section above, the dimensions should remain just shy of 5 metres, while an extended wheelbase ‘MDX-L’ which could have its own model name might be added to the Acura range in 2020 or 2021.

Recent reports for many other manufacturers’ future models are grouped in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.

Future product program intelligence

More detail on past, current and forthcoming models as well as additional Acura vehicles which are not in the feature above can be found in PLDB, the future vehicles database which is part of QUBE.