There’s a bit of this $157,000 sports car in every car they build.
Back in the 1980’s Honda was on a mission: to define the cars of the future. The brand had long been known for highly reliable cars that were small, boxy and not necessarily fun or luxurious.
But deep in Honda’s development labs, and in the brand’s DNA, the cars that Americans had come to love started with a focus on performance and attention to detail.
Aching to bring this aspect to the customer, Honda introduced the world to a new brand: Acura. Created to produce and test performance cars and to introduce the world to a new luxury brand, Acura would compete with Mercedes-Benz and Porsche on world-famous race tracks and in the luxury rows of auto shows.
The Acura NSX: Born to Compete on the World Stage
The ultimate performance car in the line up was the NSX, a 6-cylinder sports car that was highly tuned to compete against the world’s best sports cars. Even though it had a smaller engine, it was finely tuned and built completely of aluminum, lighter and more agile to compete against Ferrari, but more reliable and at a much lower price.
The NSX—which stands for “New Sports eXperience”— is not just a super car, it’s the inspiration board for all Acuras in the lineup, from the entry-level ILX to the MDX Hybrid SUV. That’s because Acura takes all it learns in its research and testing facility in East Liberty, Ohio, and applies that knowledge and technology across the entire lineup. So when you buy an Acura, you’re getting a bit of the NSX under the hood, too.
A Legacy Re-defined in the Modern and World-Class NSX
The NSX was hugely popular with sports car and racing enthusiasts for years, but development plateaued and for a while in the early 2000’s, NSX took a break. But needing to return return to its roots, five years ago Acura jumpstarted the NSX model to reinvigorate the brand. The reinvented NSX would be produced—by hand!— in a new factory in East Liberty where the models are designed and engineered.
All that knowledge doesn’t have to travel too far; 99% of Acuras are made in US. Some of the intelligence that is inspired by the NSX includes the “precision cockpit” design that puts all controls at the driver’s fingertips while keeping the driver’s eyes on the road.
The 2019 Acura ILX: Your Starter Performance Car
Everyone has to start somewhere right? And for performance driving fans, the ILX is a great place. The price of this luxury car starts at just over $25,000 and ticks up to about $31,000 fully loaded. Acura has packed it with safety and tech features, like the Acura Watch active safety suite, which includes collision mitigation, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise and lane departure mitigation.
The ILX is a smallish four door sedan, similar to the BMW 3 series or the Lexus IS. But for its small size, it’s roomy and comfortable. The new ILX includes design details such as new sculpted exterior lines, jewel headlights, fog lights, new tail lights and a spoiler on the trunk. The A Spec version takes the design to a sportier place with 18” wheels, dark rims and a signature red leather interior.
The ILX also gives you a little rumble in sport mode; put it in sport and you can hear and feel the engine as you accelerate on the highway and cruise over country roads. Pop the paddle shifters into gear for even more control and a sportier experience. In normal mode the ILX was sublime, easy to drive and capable. But if you’re feeling a little frisky, sport mode is there to accommodate.
NSX in the MDX: Yes, the Super Car Leaves an Imprint on This SUV, too!
This was the most surprising thing I learned about the NSX: it’s a hybrid all wheel drive. Yes! OK, it’s clearly not about getting better fuel economy in a supercar. And it’s definitely not the car you want to take to pick up the kid from school when snow turns your roads into a slushy, icy mess.
NSX’s engineers actually use these technologies to get better performance out of the car on the track: The NSX has 3 hybrid motors that are designed to add more power to the wheels. And the AWD lets each wheel use that power to respond to the curves in the road to get through each tight corner as fast as possible.
This technology is what Acura uses to build the larger hybrid engine in the MDX that gets better fuel economy and AWD that is completely capable on those snowy, messy days or even better, trekking across gravely, muddy hills and gullies (as every good SUV should!).
Acura ILX: The Gateway Car?
Acura calls the ILX the gateway to Acura because it’s accessible in both price and design. But I’d argue that the NSX is the real gateway: creating desire and developing driving dynamics that are deployed across the lineup, so every time you get behind the wheel of an Acura your experience is infused with a bit of the NSX, too.
Disclosure: I was Acura’s guest for a test drive of the NSX and the ILX; travel and accommodations were provided. All opinions are my own.