For a time from late in the last decade through the first half of this one, it seemed like a second generation Acura NSX would become the automotive equivalent of Duke Nukem Forever. Starting in 2003, every few years Honda would reveal a new concept that seemed to preview a new supercar but for some reason or other, the project just never came to fruition. At least not until the spring of 2016 when Honda’s newly christened Performance Manufacturing Center in Marysville, Ohio started turning out a handful of cars per day.
Cadillac -The Standard of the World. Built Ford Tough. Mercedes-Benz -The Best or Nothing. BMW – The Ultimate Driving Machine. Audi – Truth in Engineering. Well maybe not so much on that last one, but you get my point. Successful automotive brands have an image associated with them that may or may not be entirely accurate, but that’s what marketing is all about. Honda’s premium Acura brand has always struggled with trying to determine what it’s image should be, no matter how good its products have been and they have typically been very good. The latest stab at remaking the brand image image is the 2017 MDX SUV which I just spent a week with.
As Honda Motor Company’s premium Acura brand comes up on its 30th anniversary next year, it continues to have a bit of an identity crisis not dramatically different from that suffered by Lincoln. Honda has never really had a clear idea about what the brand was supposed to represent, in fact when it debuted in 1986, there wasn’t even a logo. While a stylized pair of calipers have long since represented the “A,” Acura remains as indistinct as ever. Following the launch of the new midsize TLX sedan, last year, the entry ILX got a mid-cycle revamp earlier this year. Does it finally have the character it deserves?
It’s been nearly three decades since Honda became the first Japanese automaker to launch a separate premium brand. The original Acura Integra and Legend hit the streets four years before the first Lexus and Infiniti dealers opened their doors for business. Yet, despite that head start, Acura has never quite managed to define itself as a brand. I recently spent a week with the all-new 2015 TLX sedan to see if it provides any additional clarity.
After what seems like about 63 concept versions of a second-generation NSX since 2007, Acura will finally reveal the definitive production model at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on January 12, 2015. The following day, at the Honda press conference, the company will show the final concept version of the new fuel cell car that will go on sale in early 2016. American Honda executive vice president John Mendel declared that 2015 would be the “Year of Honda.”
Over the next 12 months, Honda will launch the new NSX, begin deliveries of the HondaJet executive jet, return to Formula One racing with McLaren and start production of a new downsized turbocharged engine at the Anna, Ohio engine plant. This winter, Honda will also launch the new subcompact crossover HR-V followed by an all-new Pilot in the spring.
For enthusiasts, the big news is the production NSX with an all-new engine and a three-motor hybrid system. The three motor layout was announced at the 2013 Detroit show with two motors on the front axle for all-wheel-drive and a third motor integrated with the new V6 engine at the back. In a teaser video to be released by Honda today, we get our first hint of what the NSX will sound like and it’s clear that this is no Prius.
Honda hasn’t yet revealed details about the displacement or configuration of the new Ohio-built engine or which cars it will be installed in. It will be part of the first turbocharged member of the Earth Dreams family of direct-injected engines and will of course use Honda’s VTEC variable valve timing system.