With a storied history of performance and luxury, Acura is more informally known as Honda’s luxury division, akin to Nissan’s Infiniti and Toyota’s Lexus. With other huge names to compete with such as Mercedez-Benz, Audi, and BMW, the luxury market is not cut for the faint of heart. Still, Acura continues to compete in the market, and thanks to its second-generation NSX, Acura has found itself in the spotlight once again.
While some of its newer offerings have fallen short of its more well-established rivals, Acura continues to strive for safety as its main selling point over advanced features and luxury. In fact, in 2009, Acura received 5-star crash ratings across its entire lineup, making it the first manufacturer to do so. With a smorgasbord of safety offerings, you’ll also have access to Acura’s famous SH-AWD (SH for super handling) and P-AWS systems, which both allow for better, more precise, and safer handling for Acura’s lineup.
Japanese luxury rivals Lexus and Infiniti have kept Acura on its toes throughout the decades, and it’s not uncommon for the three brands to play a bit of leapfrog as far as sales rankings are concerned. Infiniti has strong sedans and Lexus strong SUVs, which means Acura needs to constantly be innovative, and stick to their guns. This competition has brought us some of the best cars and advancements in safety the world has ever seen, and it is showing no signs of stopping.
Acura vehicles are assembled at Honda manufacturing facilities located in Marysville and East Liberty, Ohio, as well as Lincoln, Alabama.
Acura is first and foremost a luxury brand, but its target market isn’t necessarily the same as other luxury brands. For example, Acuras are generally more affordable than their German counterparts such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi, which generally market their vehicles to older generations, executives, and the business world. While it is true they have fewer advanced high-tech features and are less developed with the cutting edge of luxury in mind, Acura is mainly interested in the younger crowd and double income couples. By offering a mix of affordability, luxury, safety, and a great list of standard equipment that would otherwise be optional from other brands, Acura has seemingly been accomplishing its goal despite this stiff competition from Germany.
While Acura’s first two models, the Legend and Integra, founded the basis for what the company would be, we have seen Acura move away from the sedan market and into the SUV and crossover world since the mid-2000s. As time has passed and technology has improved, vehicles have gotten more expensive. Since most Acura models come standard with features like large touchscreen displays, powered and heated front seats, sunroofs, blind spot monitoring, automated lift gates, and leather seats, the average price of an Acura vehicle has gone up as well.
On average, you can expect to pay around $35,000 for an Acura vehicle. Obviously, depending on the model, trim level, and optional extras, you may see this price rise quite a bit, but buyers can actually find themselves in the driver’s seat for under $30,000 which is pretty impressive for a luxury brand. While larger SUV offerings will see pricing raise to an average of just under $50,000, Acura’s SUV lineup is really the bread and butter of their offerings, and customer satisfaction is much higher on these vehicles. Assuming you steer clear of the supercar Acura NSX, you won’t be paying exorbitant sums of money for a proper luxury vehicle.
Since safety is the main focus of the Acura brand, it should come as no surprise that since the mid to late 2000s, Acura has been a superstar in the eyes of the IIHS and NHTSA. Not only does the brand as a whole consistently return good safety ratings from the IIHS, most model years see multiple Acura vehicles finding themselves being crowned IIHS top safety picks. The Acura lineup as a whole has been profoundly safe since the advent of the modern age and that is very unlikely to change.
In 2009, Acura received a 5-star rating on every vehicle in their lineup from the IIHS and safety has been a primary focus of the brand since then. The few model years leading up to this accomplishment would be as far back as we could really recommend, though, since the IIHS did not test its vehicles as rigorously in the past as they do now – not to mention we are on an entirely different standard of safety compared to cars more than 12-15 years old. With the advancement of crumple zone technology and Acura’s own ACE body structure, modern vehicles are much safer than their older counterparts.
For the sake of an example, take the Acura MDX. In 2007, it was awarded the IIHS Top Safety Pick, and since 2007 there have been exactly two model years in which the MDX did not receive this accolade, yet still received good ratings all around. With that sort of track record, there’s no denying that Acura as a brand is just about as safe as they come.
Acura offers a plethora of safety equipment on its vehicles, both optional and standard (depending on the model). Safety equipment includes, but is not limited to, laser-assisted adaptive cruise control, a collision mitigation braking system that applies brake pressure before the human brain has time to register an accident could occur, lane keep assist and road departure mitigation systems, blind spot assist, and Acura’s ACE Body Structure. The idea behind ACE is simple: design the vehicle in such a way that when an accident occurs, the car will absorb the damage and energy in such a way that it is diverted around the passenger cabin into the rest of the vehicle.
The 2016 model year was when Acura introduced its AcuraWatch package which includes the adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation, lane keep assist, road departure mitigation and forward collision warning systems mentioned earlier. If advanced safety features are what you’re looking for in a vehicle, then Acuras made for or after the 2016 model year will have what you need.
Another safety feature that Acura likes to make note of is its Jewel Eye headlights, which have been on Acura vehicles since late 2012/13. Jewel Eye headlights, according to Acura, mimic natural sunlight using an array of five square high-efficiency, low power LED lamps per headlight. Acura claims that thanks to these low profile LEDs, which should last significantly longer than their traditional counterparts, drivers will experience more vivid colors, greater visibility, and less eye fatigue while driving at night. However, whether or not this system actually works must be quite subjective, because the IIHS now rates headlights on vehicles and has given Acura the rating of ‘Acceptable’ and not ‘Good’ on all of its vehicles. Perhaps there’s something worth reworking in their formula after all.
In addition to all of the features listed above are two very important systems to the Acura brand: SH-AWD and P-AWS.
SH-AWD, is Acura’s take on the traditional all-wheel-drive setup. In addition to all four wheels being powered at all times, SH-AWD is capable of splitting available torque between the front and rear wheels up to a 70/30 split in either direction. The system is also capable of sending 100% of rear power to either of the rear wheels, which greatly improves turning ability. While traditional all-wheel drive would be able to relocate power to a wheel after a loss of traction, SH-AWD is constantly reacting to road surfaces, turns, and driving dynamics.
For example, under acceleration, power is sent to the rear wheels to take advantage of rear traction as weight shifts to the back. On a right curve, the system would send power to the rear left wheel and allow the right wheel to spin freely, helping the car rotate more into the curve. Acura’s all-wheel-drive also allows the vehicle to send power to the wheel with the most traction in the event it encounters a low traction area.
On the other hand, Precision All-Wheel Steer is Acura’s idea for making a safer front-wheel-drive vehicle. While we saw early four-wheel steering technologies fade in the late 2000s with the economic downturn, a few companies have been offering this feature since the early 2010s in what’s shaping up to be a market-wide resurgence. Acura’s tech allows the rear wheels toe in or out a maximum of 2 degrees to allow for better maneuvering at various speeds.
In a simple corner, for instance, the rear wheels would automatically turn in the opposite direction of the front wheels to allowing for more precise cornering. In a parking lot situation, P-AWS allows the vehicle to turn sharper and be more maneuverable whereas at highway speeds, the rear wheels will simply turn the same direction as the front ones, allowing for easier lane changes, or getting over when you’re about to miss your exit. Finally, under braking pressure, the rear wheels will toe slightly inward so that the car’s straight-ahead stability is increased.
P-AWS is helpful in FWD models that suffer from understeer; where a sharp turn under power would normally send you understeering into a retaining wall, we’re now seeing four-wheel steering giving a little bit more capability to these FWD cars in somewhat dangerous turns. When shopping for modern Acura models, you’ll likely notice options for both P-AWS and SH-AWD, depending on the trim level.
Consumers report that unintuitive infotainment systems and transmission failures are the leading causes of customer dissatisfaction. Fuel economy is quite average compared to other luxury brands, but it seems that counterintuitive interior features and instruments are a huge turn-off for buyers of this brand.
According to Consumer Affairs, Acura has a 2.5-star rating out of 5. After combing through reviews, it appears as though most of the issues that people have with Acura are related to dealership experiences and features that simply don’t work. Complaints of safety features such as lane keep assist and blind spot monitoring going out without warning are not uncommon, nor are reports of clunky transmissions and rough shifting. Owners also report issues with the electrical systems, specifically citing Bluetooth and phone connectivity issues.
While most consumers that deal with Acura at a corporate or customer service level report that the representatives they spoke with were professional, tactful, and knowledgeable, there are plenty of reports essentially saying that Acura does not stand by its product in the event of some sort of manufacturer defect. Acura owners have shifted to feeling alienated in the past decade instead of welcomed, which is not resulting in good service reports and satisfaction surveys for Honda’s brainchild.
The search for pre-owned vehicles can be laborious and intimidating if you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for, but one of the most important first things to look at when considering any brand is dependability. While Honda is arguably one of the most reliable car manufacturers in the world, Acura, oddly enough, is the lowest-ranked Japanese nameplate out there in terms of reliability. Thanks to information from TrueDelta, we found out what issues plague the Acura brand more often than not.
Now, it’s worth noting that repair frequency with Acuras across the range of models and even through the years has not been suspect or cause for alarm. Any given year has no more than a moderate amount of repair trips per 100 vehicles and repair frequency for most models and model years is actually moderately low. It is not a given or even very likely that an Acura car will end up in the shop, but according to the data, owners will likely be paying under $500 for repairs on older models while most newer model year owners report that their repairs cost under $100 on average.
In older Acura models such as the Acura TL, TSX, and even early iterations of the MDX and RDX, the problems tend to mostly be related to the engine, suspension, and electrical and A/C systems. Most owners reported that repairs for these issues were under $500. As we move into the 2010s, electrical and A/C issues become much more common while some nameplates experience transmission issues. There were also quite a few repairs for body and trim issues during this time. Again, owners report that costs usually run under $500, but repairs seem to be getting cheaper.
In Acura’s late 2010s models, the main issues appear to be with the transmission, electrical and A/C systems, and brakes. The majority of owners of these vehicles report paying fewer than $100 per repair trip, which is a pretty remarkable track record considering the number of things that can go wrong with a car.
Acura has been involved in motorsport in the form of autocross via the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America), largely thanks to the initial success of the Integra. However, it was in 1991 with the introduction of the NSX that things really started developing for Acura in the racing world. Thanks to a partnership with Comptech racing and Spice engineering, the NSX-powered Acura racecar won the Camel Lights championship in its inaugural year as well as the following two, class wins in the first two years it raced the 24 Hours of Daytona, and a class win at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1993.
For the next decade or so, the NSX would experience many wins in the racing world before being joined in lower divisions by the Acura Integra, which also did quite well for itself. The NSX program essentially lost its ability to be as competitive as it once had been in the inaugural years and was retired in 1998 only to be brought back in 2001 and retired again. In the lower divisions, the Integra, and later TSX, were performing very admirably and bringing success to the Acura racing division.
In 2007, Acura debuted three LMP2 Le Mans cars at the 12 Hours of Sebring which were based on pre-built chassis and an American-made Acura V8. Acura took first place in the LMP2 class as well as second, third, and sixth overall; a notable accomplishment as they beat many more well-established teams in doing so, including Porsche. In 2009, Acura produced its first LMP1 car, which was plagued with mechanical issues and forced to retire the following year.
Acura would not return to motorsport until 2013 when it unofficially entered an ILX at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, which would be forced to retire after mechanical issues. The ILX would return the following year to win its class and finish eighth overall.
Of course, ever since the reintroduction of the NSX, Acura has been throwing that car at about as many races as they possibly can. There’s even a factory GT3 NSX racecar that can be purchased by serious racing teams!
Officially founded on March 27, 1985, Acura finds itself among some of the youngest and newest car manufacturers around. Of course, Acura originally stemmed from Honda, which started out by producing motorcycles in 1955 before introducing its first cars in 1963. While Honda was interested in producing Kei cars for the Japanese market, Acura was started with luxury as the focus and failure completely off the table as an option, which meant engineers had to show up to the plate with a game plan ready. To assist with this, Honda opened 60 new North American dealerships in 1986 to market their new Acura line. With the infrastructure ready for them, it was up to Acura to produce cars that the world would surely notice.
Acura’s first cars, the Integra and Legend, were both huge successes and in fact, led to the introduction of Lexus and Infiniti after Toyota and Nissan took note of Acura’s market dominance. By Acura’s first full year of sales in 1987, they were producing just over 100k units, and by 1990, they were outselling even Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and BMW. 1990 was a doubly important year, as it was also the year that Acura got to introduce their newest brainchild to the world: The Acura NSX.
The NSX was both the best and worst thing that ever happened to Acura. On one side, they birthed this beautiful supercar that could compete with Ferrari and Porsche (the first Japanese car to be able to make this claim, mind you) and introduced Honda’s new (now legendary) VTEC technology to the North American market (side note: VTEC had been around in some form or another since 1983 with the Honda CBR400, and existed on other cars sold outside of the U.S. in the years preceding the NSX). Acura enjoyed a strong start in the market and saw great sales during the first few years while the NSX was king. On the other hand, sales went into decline after the introduction of the NSX because basically, Acura became complacent. Their vehicles weren’t refreshed or redesigned as thoroughly or appealingly as past iterations, or were simply rebadged JDM Hondas with nothing terribly special about them. Furthermore, with the introduction of the NSX, Acura saw itself move away from traditional naming schemes in favor of an alphanumeric dominance with their model names.
In fact, many in the automotive community feel that it was Acura’s dropping of names like Legend, Vigor, and Integra in favor of the RL and TL nameplates that wrecked sales figures for Acura in the 90s. It is argued that these names are much more anonymous and less recognizable than the names that came before which inspired cult-like followings and superfans, and the more business-like badges were simply less appealing and much more forgettable. In fact, Lincoln is currently in the process of getting away from this naming scheme right now.
Acura experienced a bit of a renaissance in the early 2000s when the TL became the focus of its efforts. Critics adored the TL not because it was better in any one area than its competition, but because it was an all-around solid car. The MDX was also released during this time, which Acura claims to be the world’s first true three-row crossover SUV. It sold astonishingly well, even going so far as to win the Motor Trend 2001 Sport/Utility of the Year award; thanks to one other car, Acura regained the spotlight – if only for a brief moment.
Since its introduction, the Acura Integra was one of the most prized Japanese cars on the market, and, not wanting to leave buyers hanging or running off to another manufacturer, Acura released the RSX in 2001, aka the new generation of the Integra. It was very much a hit in the tuner community, but despite sales success, Acura nixed the RSX at the end of 2006. While this seemed like a terrible move to most onlookers, Acura cited a desire to move up in the luxury market as its main reason for booting the RSX, claiming they could not market a car driven mostly by teenagers if they wanted to be taken seriously in the luxury realm.
With this departure from the tuner scene, we started to see more serious luxury options cropping up from Acura, and we began to be reminded of Lincoln by Acura’s offerings. The cars became more serious and more composed while Acura was still very much a part of the professional racing world since the introduction of the first NSX. They burned rubber and gasoline on the track, but on the streets, they preferred a much more sophisticated ride with more modest power offerings. Acura’s cars are generally not slow, but they’re not necessarily quick either and are lacking in true performance variants such as Mercedes’ AMG and BMW’s M-power lineup.
In 2005, Acura debuted one of its most notable features (still to this day) on the flagship Acura RL: their SH-AWD system. Perhaps one of the most iconic badges to ever been associated with the Acura brand, SH-AWD brought precise handling and much safer vehicles to roadways the world over.
Over the next few years into the late 2000s, we started to see Acura shift towards safety as their apparent focus, and in 2009, their goal was achieved. The entire 2009 Acura lineup received 5-star crash ratings from the IIHS, and ever since then, Acura has been boldly striving towards luxury and safety as their number one mission.
Also in 2009, Acura unveiled the Acura ZDX. Marketed as a four-door coupe, the ZDX was commonly thought to be based on the Honda Crosstour. While the shape and general design language is extremely similar, the ZDX was actually based on the MDX chassis. The ZDX was not terribly popular at all and sold fewer than 6,200 units during the entire time it was on sale, but we’d like to think that the ZDX was a very important stepping stone and learning opportunity for Acura to learn what consumers wanted out of a crossover vehicle.
In 2012, Acura introduced the ILX, which was essentially a very dressed up Honda Civic. The cars actually shared powerplant options, including the 1.5L hybrid mill and the 2.4L VTEC Si engine. While the ILX and the Civic have much in common, the ILX didn’t come anywhere even remotely close to the sales figures of the Civic in spectacular fashion – not that it was ever intended to. Remember those teenagers Acura didn’t want to sell cars to? Well, those teenagers had grown up at this point in time, and the ILX was Acura’s way of saying, “heeeeeyyyy, remember us?”
Shortly thereafter, the P-AWS system was introduced to the Acura lineup, making for safer FWD versions of their vehicles that didn’t benefit from SH-AWD systems.
In 2015, Acura replaced the outgoing TL and TSX models with the new TLX. Acura went through a bit of a simplification phase here where they reduced their lineup to just a few models. Basically, if you wanted an Acura car, there was a subcompact option, a regular sedan, and a long sedan. Alternatively, you could buy an SUV or a slightly larger SUV; so really, not a lot to choose from. That’s all assuming you didn’t turn up to the Acura showroom to drool over the second generation of the NSX.
While all this was going on, Acura also started offering something called A-Spec trim, which is essentially an appearance package with very subtle sporty additions. The vehicles really don’t benefit much from the A-Spec package as far as performance is concerned outside of minor adjustments to shocks and underpinnings; they are made to look just a bit sharper and more athletic for the sake of curb appeal. For example, the A-Spec package on an Acura ILX adds 18-inch noise-reducing wheels, fog lights, a spoiler and side sills, perforated Alcantara seating surfaces, aluminum pedals, and red detail lighting for the gauge cluster. All of that costs $2,000, and as most would probably guess, doesn’t get the best reviews online.
Buyers could also get the A-Spec package on the Acura TLX, which adds even more nifty features without anything of actual consequence as far as performance is concerned. Acura also has plans to expand the A-Spec badge to its SUV lineup in the late 2010s. Apparently, it actually sells pretty well despite doing nothing other than making the car look and handle almost not-even-noticeably sportier. More power to you, Acura.
In addition to the A-Spec package, Acura announced in January 2018 that it will be bringing back the Type-S designation for its core models; a badge that hasn’t been seen since it was on the back of the Acura TL in 2008. Type-S variants typically feature more track-focused suspension and handling, a more powerful engine, and some sort of interior and exterior effects package. Basically, everything the A-Spec package should have been.
Acura has also commented that it will be utilizing a new turbocharged V6 mill (which they probably learned a thing or two about thanks to the NSX) in Type-S packages, so we know they actually mean business with this one. Fans and critics alike have been after Acura in the twenty-teens for not being as sporty or capable as they used to be, and it seems as though the Japanese automaker is finally listening, which means we have some very capable cars to look forward to as we enter the 2020s.
If the NSX is any indication of performance, the Type-S badge could bring some much-needed attention back to Acura cars. Seriously, can you imagine an Acura sedan with a turbocharged V6? If Acura can take the hype generated by the performance of the NSX and channel it into their whole lineup, people are probably going to change their tune about Acura’s capabilities in the coming years.
In 1990, Acura dealerships in the U.S. received their fifth consecutive first place rating in the J.D. Power and Associates’ annual Customer Satisfaction index. Since then, it seems as though Acura’s dealers have suffered a loss in quality; or at least, in uniform quality. There are plenty of reviews online about horrible dealer experiences, which was touched on briefly in the customer satisfaction section.
There are currently about 250 Acura dealers in the U.S. and if you live in a major metropolitan area, there’s a good chance there will be at least one, if not two franchises. Since dealership experiences are highly subjective and ratings can be skewed by bad reviews or experiences, our official advice is to do your research before bringing your Acura vehicle to a certified dealer. It seems as though these experiences can be hit or miss, but it seems as though actual customer satisfaction is respectable while some potential customers have reported walking away due to unsavory treatment at the hands of salespeople.
Locate an Acura dealer near you here.
As with moth makes, Acura’s financial services offer a relatively normal spread of programs and offers, and as one might assume, their services don’t necessarily stand out or differentiate greatly from rivals and competitors. That said, we’re going to gloss over a few special incentives and interesting points as far as dealer financing is concerned.
For starters, Acura offers a $500 savings toward any new vehicle that is financed through Acura financial services for any college graduates looking to get into a new luxury vehicle. Applicants must have a good credit history, proof of employment, and must have graduated within the previous two years or coming six months to qualify for this offer.
For those in the military, Acura will raise their offer to $750 towards a new Acura vehicle. Applicants must be active U.S. military service members (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, National Guard, Coast Guard and Active Reserve) or their spouses, U.S. Military Ready Reserve and Retirees or their spouses, or veterans or their spouses so long as the service member separated from active service within the last year.
For customers considering a lease, Acura financial services has a few incentives on offer. If a driver goes over on their lease mileage, half of their overage miles can be forgiven by leasing a new Acura vehicle, up to 7,500 miles. If a driver does not use all of their miles, their unused mileage can be rolled over into a new lease, up to 15,000 miles. Finally, Acura offers up to 1,000 additional miles for drivers that went over the limit on a previous lease.
Finally, Acura financial services offers the Acura Care Maintenance program that allows customers to prepay for scheduled maintenance upon purchasing the vehicle, or at any point during ownership. The Acura care Maintenance ensures that a customer’s vehicle will be adequately serviced at regular intervals by dealer technicians, and all regular maintenance will be covered. This plan could remove a lot of the stress from taking a vehicle to the dealership for service and if buyers have the means, they are very much encouraged to enroll so that they never have to worry about whether or not their car is up to spec and running as smoothly and safely as possible.
– Acura distinguishes itself as the first and oldest Japanese luxury brand. It was not until Honda established the Acura brand that Lexus spawned from Toyota, and Infiniti from Nissan. Apparently, Subaru never felt the need to enter that race.
– The Acura logo is meant to symbolize a caliper for measuring thickness as well as both a stylized letter A and the letter H, but the original logo did not contain the small crossbar between the two pillars. Soichiro Honda never approved that original logo and ordered for the 5000 already created badges to be destroyed and the 309 badges that had already been applied to vehicles removed.
– The JDM Honda Legend is actually a rebadged Acura RLX, and it is the only Acura sold in Japan.
– Acura has had a partnership with Marvel Studios since 2010, and its vehicles have appeared in the Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers films.
– While the Audi A8 claims to have had the first all-aluminum body in the car world, it was released 4 whole years after the true king, the 1990 Acura NSX, which featured an all-aluminum monocoque body.
– Consumers noticed a marked decline in quality after the 2000s when Acura began using American-sourced transmissions, which became one of their most common issues. Before that point, the Japanese-produced vehicles were largely regarded as bulletproof.
– The Acura Integra was widely regarded as one of the most popular and easiest cars to work on in the tuner scene among amateur mechanics.
– The Acura TSX was on Car and Driver’s Top Ten list for four consecutive years.
– Acura switched from named models to lettered-designations in order to compete with brands like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi – a move that is widely regarded as a mistake by critics and automotive journalists.
– The second-gen Acura NSX features the lowest center of gravity in its class thanks to a ridiculously-low-mounted engine and compact gearbox.