Acura Mulls a Full All-Wheel Drive Strategy

Honda’s premium brand looks to the future.

Acura NSX
The NSX is the first performance Acura in a decade.

When you think of premium and luxury cars, brands such as Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti and Lexus may come to mind. Acura is up there too, but its models are more often compared with Buick, Lincoln and Hyundai. Its not that Acura lacks product — what it lacks is excitement and any sort of edge that might entice customers to consider the brand.

Acura All-Wheel Drive

Acura excitement is on the way and will appear in 2016 when the NSX returns, a model sold as a Honda in some markets. The newest NSX will be built in Marysville, Ohio, and will offer standard all-wheel drive and be augmented by an electric motor. Its a model that parent Honda hopes will begin a much-needed transformation for the staid Acura brand.

The NSX alone won’t do that, however. What may make a difference for Acura is to offer all-wheel drive only vehicles, something it now offers only on half its product line. The rest of the line is front-wheel drive, something luxury buyers typically avoid.

Will #Acura switch to all-wheel drive only & enjoy the same level of success as #Subaru?(Click to Tweet)

Eyeing Subaru

Word that Acura might make the shift was reported by Automotive News on Tuesday and picked up by other outlets. Its a move that Acura has been studying, particularly as observed in the success another Japanese manufacturer, Subaru, has had in elevating its own brand.

In the 1990s, Subaru switched to an all-wheel drive-only format and has benefited from that move tremendously, particularly over the past six years. The company does sell one rear-wheel drive model, the BRZ, a newer product resulting from its partnership with Toyota.

About all-wheel drive Koichi Fukuo, Acura’s top global executive told Automotive News, “I think that’s the way we should go.” The move would coincide with the release of Acura’s next generation all-wheel drive technology, but the process could take several years to complete as the company overhauled its entire product line over the past three years.

Performance Considerations

Acura is also considering more powerful engines to help stoke sales. The company won’t match BMW and Mercedes-Benz by offering V-8 and larger engines nor would they move to rear-wheel drive. Audi has also had much success with its all-wheel drive models with 90 percent of its sales AWD — the rest are composed of front-wheel drive models.

The advantage of all-wheel drive means that so equipped Acuras would benefit from improved acceleration, stability and offer better handling. All-wheel drive is desired as it systematically offsets torque understeer — what causes a car to pull to one side when full engine power is delivered. It is an uncomfortable and even an unnerving feeling, one that prompts ardent luxury car buyers to look elsewhere for superior handling.

Acura NSX Returns

Acura has been working diligently on changing the brand’s direction and may be ready to present the all-new NSX at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this Jan. When the NSX does arrive it will be the first performance model from Acura in a decade. It will also offer a glaring contrast to what Acura currently sells: three restrained sedans and a pair of crossover utility vehicles.

See AlsoHot Car: 2016 Acura NSX Prototype Laps Mid-Ohio

Photos courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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