Can Acura be saved from itself?

In 2018, 158,983 Acuras were sold in the United States. That may not sound like many, but it was actually a 2.5 percent increase in comparison to 2017. We’ll be honest, Acura has a negative image to shake.

Back in the day, Acura produced some absolutely spellbinding vehicles. The Type-R Integra of two decades ago offered low cost and high performance. Before that, the Acura NSX was an unlikely candidate for supercar of the 1990s. Then modern Acura happened. We got years and years of dull cars. What exactly happened? Can Acura recover?

Read on, and discover where Acura’s future lies.

The decline

Acura’s last cool car was the Integra RSX Type-S. This machine came with the esteemed K20A2 engine, which boasted 200 horsepower. Not bad for a smaller car, and it was popular among the JDM crowd. Then it all went downhill.

For a decade after this, we didn’t get a single interesting Acura. The closest we came was the Advanced Sports Car Concept. One concept in a decade is not enough to sustain a marque. We got uninspired car after uninspired car. Cars like the Acura TSX, MDX, and CSX. These are the kind of cars that you buy if you don’t care about cars. No serious fan of cars is going to drive a CSX and love it.

GabboT/Flickr

The true nadir of Acura designs came with the TLX Concept in 2014. It wasn’t that this car was egregiously ugly. Far from it. It was just plain boring. It is early 21st century Acura condensed into one car. It cribbed designs from other Asian manufacturers and took away any of their wow factor.

Things had to change. Just a few years later, they finally did.

(Re)birth of the cool

Jumpcut to 2016. After years of boring Acura models, we finally got something that turned heads again. The Acura NSX of 2016 truly honored its 90s ancestor. It packed a twin-turbo V6 paired with an electric motor and featured an awesome dual-clutch transmission. It could hit 60 mph in under three seconds and produced 573 horsepower.

It’s no exaggeration to say that this restored auto journalists’ hope in Acura. We’d seen Honda in Europe producing awesome cars for years and suddenly we got one this side of the pond. Even though we’ve not been getting incredible cars after the NSX, there are some signs of life.

Like a parent feeling let down, I’m not angry with Acura but disappointed.

A couple of months back, we got the Type S concept, which would revive a brand long thought to be dead in the water. The last Type S was in 2008, but if the new concept is anything to go by, we’ll be getting a new one in the future.

The concept has a 286 horsepower V6, Brembo brakes, and a six-speed manual transmission. All looks rosy, but Acura’s future may depend on whether we actually get this car. If it languishes in production hell for years, the sweet memories of the NSX aren’t going to be enough to keep them alive.

How Acura can be saved

Like a parent feeling let down, I’m not angry with Acura but disappointed. They used to be better and they still can be, but they need to do a couple of things.

First and foremost is to bring back the Type-R and Type S badges. In Europe and elsewhere, the Honda Civic Type R is remembered fondly as one of the best hot hatches of the last decade. There’s no reason why Acura can’t replicate that success. The NSX should be revitalized and kept as a stablemate for these high-performance models.

Finally, they should bring in some new designers. Stop copying what’s popular now: plan for the future and make awesome cars. It’s possible that Acura will one day be cool again. If they don’t make these changes, they never will be.

A deeper dive — Related reading from the 101:

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Acura may have a dull image to shake, but we’d take an Acura over one of these any day.