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Acura, the luxury and performance division of Honda, was established on March 27 of 1986, with a primary focus on marketing upscale and high-performance automobiles, primarily in North America. While distributing its cars in various countries, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Panama, and Kuwait, Acura had plans to enter the Japanese domestic market in the late 2000s. However, these plans were halted due to the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

As the pioneer luxury division created by a Japanese automaker, Acura made its debut alongside the introduction of a JDM Honda dealership sales channel known as Honda Clio, specializing in luxury vehicles. Initially, Acura experienced considerable success in the US, surpassing competitors like BMW and Mercedes-Benz in sales. Despite a decline in sales during the mid-to-late 1990s, the brand underwent a resurge in the early 2000s, driven by significant redesigns and the launch of new models.

The success of Acura's flagship vehicle, the Acura Legend, in the late 1980s spurred other Japanese automakers such as Toyota and Nissan to launch their own luxury brands, Lexus and Infiniti respectively. The debut of the NSX in 1990 provided a dependable and practical alternative to European sports cars and showcased Honda's innovative VTEC variable valve timing system in the North American market. In 1993, the Acura Legend Coupe introduced Acura's first six-speed manual transmission paired with a Type II engine. Later in the 1990s, Acura introduced a Type R version of its compact Acura Integra, featuring enhancement such as a reduced weight, stiffer suspension, and a high-output VTEC engine.

In the early 2000s, Acura expanded its lineup with new models, including its inaugural original SUV, the Acura MDX, and successors for the Integra coupé and sedan, the RSX and TSX, respectively. During this period, the brand also introduced Type-S versions of the RSX, CL, and TL models. The flagship 2005 RL model debuted SH-AWD, a torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system, while the 2007 RDX crossover SUV marked the first North American use of a turbocharged Honda engine. In 2016, a second-generation NSX was launched, featuring a twin-turbocharged mid-engine, a nine-speed dual-clutch transmission, and Sport Hybrid SH-AWD.

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Etymology[]

Spring caliper

Caliper

The name "Acura" comes from the Latin word "acutus", which translates to "to sharpen". By associating the Acura brand with this concept, Acura aims to communicate a sense of precision, engineering, and meticulous craftsmanship in their vehicles. The choice of this name reflects the brand's commitment to delivering high-quality, well-crafted automobiles to stand out for their attention to detail and performance

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The Acura logo was inspired by the spring caliper (pictured on the right), a precision tool used to measure the dimensions of an object. By incorporating the caliper into their logo, Acura wanted to convey the message that the brand pays meticulous attention to detail in the design of manufacturing of their cars. The caliper represents the precision engineering and craftmanship that goes into creating each Acura vehicle, highlighting the brand's commitment to quality, innovation, and excellence in the automobile industry.

History[]

1980s[]

In the 1980s, Honda established the Acura brand around the same time as its Japanese competitors Nissan and Toyota introduced their luxury brands, Infiniti and Lexus respectively. Due to voluntary export restraints imposed by the Japanese government for the U.S. market, Japanese automakers found it more profitable to export higher-priced vehicles to the U.S.

Honda conducted ten years of research before launching the Acura division in North America in 1986, with 60 new dealerships established to support the brand. Acura was positioned as the first Japanese luxury brand and was promoted with the slogan "Acura. Precision Crafted Automobiles".

The initial Acura lineup featured two models: the executive class Acura Legend and the compact class Acura Integra, available in both five-door and three-door hatchback versions. The Acura Legend, developed through a collaboration with UK'S Austin's Rover Group, shared mechanical components with the Rover 800 series. On the other hand, the Acura Integra was an enhanced version of the Honda Quint hatchback.

The success of Acura's models, particularly the Acura Legend, prompted other Japanese automakers to enter the luxury segment. Toyota introduced Lexus as part of the F1 project in 1983, while Nissan launched Infiniti in 1985 by reworking their Japan-only flagship Nissan President. Additionally, Mazda had plans to create a luxury division called Amati in the late 1990s but never brought it to market.

Acura Legend

Acura Legend

Acura's introduction of the Acura Legend in 1986 aimed to compete with models like the Toyota Crown, Nissan Cedric and Nissan Gloria. The positive reception to the Acura Legend influenced competitors like Toyota, Nissan, and Lincoln to develop vehicles targeting the executive car segment. Toyota introduced the Lexus ES, Nissan launched the Infiniti J30, and Ford utilized the Ford Taurus platform for its new sedan, the Lincoln Continental.

In 1987, Acura achieved strong sales numbers, selling 109,000 cars in its first full year, with the Acura Legend sedan accounting for 55,000 of those sales. By 1990, Acura's sales had increased to 138,000 vehicles, with 54,000 being Acura Legends. This performance positioned Acura ahead of luxury brands like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Lexus in terms of sales volume

Lineup in 1980s:[]

All data about acceleration is based on unmodified models' time to reach 60 miles per hour (100 kilometers per hour).

Name Year Generation Power Transmission Top Speed Acceleration Curb Weight
Integra Coupe 1986 First 1,590 cc - 113 bhp (84 kW) 4-speed automatic 186 km/h (116 mph) 11.6 sec 2,392 lbs.(1,085 kg)
Integra Sedan 1986 First 1,950 cc - 113 bhp (84 kW) 4-speed automatic 186 km/h (116 mph) 11.6 sec 2,451 lbs.(1,112 kg)
Legend Sedan 1986 First 2,494 cc - 151 bhp (112 kW) 4-speed automatic 207 km/h (129 mph) 10.2 sec 3,108 lbs.(1,410 kg)
Legend Coupe 1987 First 2,675 cc - 161 bhp (120 kW) 4-speed automatic 211 km/h (131 mph) 9.6 sec 3,124 lbs.(1,417 kg)
Integra Coupe 1987 Second 1,834 cc - 130 bhp (97 kW) 4-speed automatic 203 km/h (126 mph) 10.6 sec 2,683 lbs.(1,217 kg)

1990s[]

In 1990, five years following the launch of the Legend and Integra models, Acura unveiled the NSX, a rear-wheel-drive sports car powered by a midship V6 engine. The NSX, which stands for "New Sports eXperimental," was positioned as the first Japanese car capable of rivaling Ferrari and Porsche. It served as a flagship vehicle for both the Honda and Acura brands, showcasing the introduction of Honda's VTEC technology. Notably, the NSX was the world's initial all-aluminum production car and was often referred to as the "everyday supercar" due to its user-friendliness, quality, and reliability, characteristics uncommon in the supercar market at that time. With the launch of the NSX, Acura introduced the "A-badge," symbolized by a stylized pair of calipers, emphasizing the precision and high standards of Acura vehicles.

Although Acura initially enjoyed success in the market, sales declined in the mid-to-late 1990s. Critics attributed this drop to the introduction of less inspiring designs, essentially rebranded Japanese-spec Hondas like the Acura Vigor in 1992. Furthermore, Acura transitioned to an alphanumeric naming structure during this period, abandoning the Legend, Vigor, and Integra names in favor of the NSX's naming convention. This shift was exemplified by models such as the 1996 3.5 RL, which replaced the popular Legend, leading to the 2.5 TL and 3.2 TL. Many felt that the move to alphanumeric designations made the vehicles less distinctive compared to the previously iconic Legend, Vigor, and Integra models.

Honda, Acura's parent company, also felt the impact of the declining Japanese economy, stemming from the Japanese asset price bubble of the 1990s and 2000s, known in Japan as The Lost Decade. Concurrently, the NSX experienced a decrease in sales as Acura made minimal updates to the original 1990 model. In addition, the Integra sedan was phased out of the Canadian market a year later, replaced by the Acura 1.6 EL, an exclusive model derived from the Honda Civic/Domani. The Integra sedan continued to be sold in the U.S. until 2001 when it was replaced by the RSX, essentially a rebadged left-hand-drive version of the JDM DC5 Honda Integra.

Despite these setbacks, Acura gained popularity in the 1990s among a younger demographic of customers known as "tuner" enthusiasts. Honda's reputation for producing engines that were easy to modify and had high revving capabilities influenced Acura's standing within this group, with the Integra becoming a favored choice for tuning enthusiasts.

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