Acura

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"In the mid 1980s, the U.S. government and the Big Three were running scared from Japanese automakers, who were crushing them with low-priced, efficient vehicles and methods of mass production that made Detroit-based industry look almost quaint. The feds responded by placing restrictions on the number of cars Japanese companies could sell per brand. But Honda was one chess move ahead of them, and in 1986 started its Acura luxury line, to almost instant success. Its first cars, the large Legend sedan and sporty Integra, were immediate hits that put traditional Western automakers on notice. By 1990, Acura was outselling BMW, Mercedes, and the newly-launched Lexus brand in the U.S. In the early '90s Acura released a bona fide supercar, called the NSX, that put Ferraris of the time to shame in terms of build quality, performance, and livability.

But that golden era has passed. These days, Acura, whose lineup now consists of eight unique models, finds itself struggling to maintain position in a crowded and competitive luxury market. They're occupying a bit of a grey area between affordability and upscale. Their unremarkable naming strategy confuses buyers, and they've steadfastily resisted demands to make eight-cylinder engine versions of their flagship cars. That said, they're still producing quality vehicles, even if they're often little more than souped-up Hondas. For example, the TSX sedan is actually sold as the Accord in Japan. Though it gets a little bit more juice than the Western Accord, with a 280-horsepower V6, the illusion that you're driving anything but an Accord is pretty thin. For anybody needing a little more space, a TSX Sport Wagon is available, though only with the 201-horsepower inline 4-cylinder engine. Acura's proprietary SH-AWD (Super-Handling All Wheel Drive) becomes available on the TL sedan. The current Acura flagship, the RLX, is totally revamped for 2014 and offers hope for the future. However, the ILX sedan, Acura's newest car, despite featuring three different powertrains (including a hybrid capable of 39 mpg in the city), as well as an entry-level package of luxury amenities, highlights Acura's problems. It's based off the Civic platform, and can feel at times like a budget car in luxury clothing.

The RDX, Acura's best-selling SUV, plays the same dress-up game with Honda's popular CR-V. It's available with a 273-horsepower V6 and either FWD or AWD. Acura's flagship SUV, the MDX offers more space and a full suite of self-driving technologies. Rounding out the lineup is Acura's most unique offering, one of the most unique vehicles on the road, the 300-horsepower SH-AWD ZDX, a four-door sports coupe. But apparently uniqueness doesn't sell. Light sales have Acura ceasing production on the radical-looking wedge."
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