The 2022 Acura MDX introduces a new platform to the Acura and Honda lineup called the Global Light Truck Platform, and it's currently exclusive to the MDX. The new 2021 Acura TLX is also built on a totally new platform that isn’t shared with any other Honda or Acura. Going further back, when the redesigned 2019 RDX debuted, Acura said that model was built on “a new-from-the-ground-up, Acura-exclusive platform."
That’s three totally-new and Acura-exclusive platforms in a short time period, and it got us thinking. What is Acura up to here?
Most manufacturers these days are increasingly going in the exact opposite direction. Volkswagen’s MQB architecture underpins everything from the hot hatch GTI to the gigantic Atlas. Toyota’s TNGA platform has multiple sizes/versions, but Toyota still considers them related and will tell you that TNGA is the basis of cars from the Corolla on up to the Highlander, plus the Lexus UX and ES. You can find similar stories all across the industry, in both luxury and non-luxury brands. Acura, on the other hand, appears to be taking a totally different approach.
To get some clarity on strategy, we reached out to Acura. The answers are multifaceted, but Acura says it's spending money where it pays dividends for performance — but there's also more sharing between models than it might look like on the surface.
“The definition of what constitutes a 'common platform' varies by automaker,” Acura exclusively told Autoblog during a wide-ranging e-mail interview involving the input of numerous engineers and product planners. “For us, the most fundamental value is to maintain the same carry points throughout production and enable us to produce different vehicles in the same manufacturing environment.”
“The TLX is different in that it has a bespoke platform that is not shared with any other Acura or Honda vehicle,” Acura says. “This approach was adopted to meet the high dynamic targets [for the Type S], and unique powertrain [the 3.0T V6] and drivetrain applications [SH-AWD] that required a different platform from the Accord.”
Acura says the same for the RDX, but it also revealed that its crossover “is based on a common platform that underpins other vehicles, including the CR-V.” This “common platform” is modified for use in the RDX and “is engineered much differently to fulfill the unique performance requirements set for RDX and the Acura brand.”
Additionally, Acura noted that while many of its cars are on different platforms, “there are some similar construction materials and methods (high strength steel, high-performance adhesive, roller hemming for the panoramic roof, etc.)” that it uses across its lineup.
Acura’s small range also allows it to have as much differentiation as it does. Unlike Mercedes-Benz’s or BMW’s massive product ranges, Acura has just four volume-sellers — ILX, TLX, RDX and MDX. “This allows us to focus our resources on engineering each Acura model for the specific needs of our customers. A prime example of this would be the cast aluminum damper housings and double wishbone suspension at the front of the new ‘21 TLX and ’22 MDX. Those contribute to and/or capitalize on the very rigid chassis that each has.”
Acura wants its cars to drive and feel like Acuras, not glorified Hondas. To do that, it’s investing in a key area that contributes to improved driving performance — the chassis. After spending time in the new TLX and MDX, it's clear the investment pays off in the way those cars drive.
Unlike the TLX, though, the new structure underneath the MDX — the Global Light Truck Platform — will see duty in several Hondas as well. When the next-generation Pilot, Passport and Ridgeline arrive, expect them to use a version of the new Global Light Truck Platform.
That’s the kind of platform sharing we’re accustomed to seeing throughout the industry. There’s still plenty of engineering work going into making Acuras meaningfully different than Hondas, but don’t think efficiencies aren’t being taken advantage of where they could be. Looking to the future, Acura has the ILX to revamp next. That will undoubtedly borrow from the Civic, as it has before, but it’s yet to be seen how much differentiation Acura will aim to achieve.
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