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  1. Analysis
July 26, 2021

Honda’s future model plans for Acura

Would Acura still exist without the USA? Debuting in 1986 well before Lexus, Honda's luxury division has never gone global, a tiny presence in China notwithstanding. What will the parent firm do next with this brand?

By Glenn Brooks

What a contrast: Acura delivered 3,516 vehicles to its Chinese market dealers in the first half of 2021 – down 27.5% year-on-year – compared to 88,384 (+58%) in the US. The total for China is locally-built examples only but imports are almost non-existent.

It’s hard to know what Honda sees happening to Acura in the world’s largest market for vehicle sales. Perhaps the company is happy to play the long game, intending to reinvent the division as EV-only later in the 2020s. The trouble with that is such vehicles are already mainstream and Acura gets lost amongst all the other existing or fledgling luxury make alternatives.

Cars

A successor for the ILX – one of the brand’s few cars – should use the same platform as the the Civic and Accord. It had been due out in the third quarter of 2020 for North America’s 2021 model year but has been delayed until the 2022 model year. There should also be a Type S variant for the first time.

The latest TLX, a sedan, was announced in May 2020. The Type S concept, a preview,  premiered at Monterey Week in August 2019. It seems unlikely that Honda will bother to replace the China-specific TLX-L, a lengthened version of the old-shape model which was dropped earlier in 2021.

The standard engine in the North American region for this 4,943 mm long sedan is a 2.0-litre turbo. This has 66 more horsepower and nearly 100 lb ft more torque than produced by the previous shape model’s non-turbo 2.4-litre base engine. Outputs are 272 horsepower and 280 lb ft of torque (SAE Net). Front-wheel drive is standard and AWD optional.

A 3.0-litre V6 turbo is also available, having just joined the line-up under the hood of the Type S (see image above). This sports variant also has standard all-wheel drive. The turbo V6 replaced the old shape car’s naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6. The transmission for both four- and six-cylinder engines is Honda’s own ten-speed automatic.

An American Honda factory in Marysville manufactures the TLX, with its engines also built in Ohio at the Anna powertrain plant. Two further US sites produce other key components. The automatic transmission comes from the company’s Tallapoosa plant (Georgia), and the so-called SH-AWD all-wheel drive system’s front power takeoff unit and rear differential are made at Honda’s Russells Point factory in Ohio.

The first cars reached buyers in the USA from late September 2020, new for the 2021 model year. A facelift is due for MY2024 and a TLX successor in CY2026. That vehicle will likely be an EV.

SUVs & crossovers

There’s not much in it when it comes to Acura’s two China-made models, the H1 wholesale deliveries total for the CDX being 1,772 and 1,744 for the RDX.

Non-hybrid versions of the Civic-based crossover, a rival for the Audi Q3, Mercedes GLA and BMW X1, entered production in June 2016, following its world premiere two months previously at the Beijing motor show. The CDX Hybrid followed two years later.

GHAC (Guangqi Honda Automobile Co., Ltd.) is the joint venture which manufactures and distributes Acura vehicles in China. In Chinese, Guangqi is short for Guangzhou Automobile. The CDX was the first Acura vehicle to be made locally.

The second generation CDX, which is due to debut in just over a year’s time, is expected to use the same architecture.

There should be a facelift for the 2DU series RDX in the coming months. The current model, new for North America’s 2019 model year, uses the same platform as the tenth generation Civic and Accord.

This V6 which powered the second generation model was replaced by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo mated to a Honda ten-speed automatic gearbox. Outputs are 272 horsepower and 280 lb ft of torque.

This 4,745 mm long SUV was developed in the US. It is manufactured in Ohio, as is its 2.0-litre engine and there is also build in China. American Honda sees the competitors as being the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Volvo XC60.

The RDX had only minor changes for North America’s 2020 model year. Amongst the news for the 2021 model year was the addition of the PMC variant.

After the facelift due for MY2022, and provided Honda retains a six-year manufacturing cadence, the third generation should appear for the 2025 model year.

A preview of the fourth generation MDX (‘MDX Prototype’) was revealed in the US in October 2020. The production model premiered two months later with the first deliveries taking place in February for the 2022 model year (there was no 2021 MDX). Rivals include the Volvo XC90, Range Rover Sport and BMW X5.

The largest Acura SUV, a six- or seven-seater, is both wider and lower, as well as being 5,039 mm long, while for the first time, there is a more powerful Type S variant (from next month). This has a 355 hp and 354 lb ft 3.0-litre turbocharged V6, while other MDXs are powered by a 290 hp and 267 lb ft non-turbo 3.5-litre V6. The gearbox gained an extra ratio compared to the former MDX’s nine-speed automatic transmission. There is no successor for the MDX Sport Hybrid which was part of the third generation range.

American Honda manufactures the big SUV at the East Liberty plant, with both V6s engines made at the Anna powertrain facility which is also in Ohio. The ten-speed gearbox is built at Honda’s Tallapoosa factory in Georgia. We can expect a facelift for the 2025 model year and a replacement – which might be electric-only – in CY2026/2027.

Electric

Production of electric Acuras built by American Honda will eventually happen but probably not until mid-decade. Before then, General Motors will manufacture one and supply it for dealers in the US, Canada and probably Mexico too.

There is no model name yet for the GM-made E-SUV but we do know the production location, which will be the Spring Hill plant in Tennessee. The platform is BEV3, the date of introduction will be calendar 2024 and the model should share many components with the Cadillac Lyriq.

Reports for many other manufacturers’ future models are grouped in the OEM product strategy summaries section of Just Auto. That includes Acura models not detailed in this report.

Future platform intelligence

More detail on past, current and forthcoming models can be found in PLDB, the future vehicles database which is part of GlobalData’s Automotive Intelligence Center.

This is the second of two features examining Honda Motor’s current and future models. A look at what’s coming for the Honda brand globally was the first.

SAIC will be the next OEM to have its plans for forthcoming models examined.

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