Japanese Legend: Acura– History & Interesting Facts

What do you know about Acura? It’s an American brand. No, not really! It has a large market in North America yet doesn’t originate there. It’s a luxurious car that I’ve dreamt of acquiring my own. Yes, you are! You’ll experience the utmost comfort and luxury once you enter its production.

Indeed, Acura doesn’t have the panache of falling into the same category of luxury brands as Mercedes-Benz or BMW. In other words, it can not compete with these big names, nor does it have a rock-solid reputation for superb build quality like Lexus. But we need to pause for a minute, or maybe more, to understand the concept behind this inspiring brand.  

Throughout history, Japanese cars have advanced with precision-crafted performance. And it’s our perception; it’s what the company has come to be known for. Or actually, what Acura means in English.

History of Acura

Acura is made of passion blinded by the hustle and start-up mentality. 


At a time when Cadillac and Ford dominated the luxury vehicles market in the United States, Acura was introduced as a luxury lineup by Honda in 1986. It was the first luxury car brand to come out of Japan. The two models after that were available in coupe.

Acura Legend was the first Honda car powered by a V6 engine. At the same time, Integra was designed to be a lightweight sportscar with a high-speed internal combustion engine. Also, Integra was available in three and five-hatchback versions. Both cars performed very well in the American market. Still, the Legender was higher— 50,000 units sold annually over the next few years.

However, during this time, export restraints upon Japan were imposed on any cars destined for the USA. As a result, the Asian government allowed companies to generate only $1.6 million in exports annually. But in the mid-1980s, Japan planned to expand its potential profits in the USA by building more luxury cars.

Within a couple of months, Honda opened several dealerships throughout North America. Finally, they were ready to release its long-waiting new vehicles, Legend and Integra, initially manufactured as a Sedan. These two cars, the Integra and classic Legend Coupe, reaped some accolades later when they were voted on the 10 Best List by Car and Driver. Additionally, the Legend Coupe won the Import Car of the Year vote by Motor Trend. Also, the same coupe was selected as one of the world’s 10 best cars by Road and Track.  

When the first models were sold, doubt remained among competitors and the general media. On the first day of opening dealerships, Clifford Schmillen, an executive vice president for Acura, was interviewed on NBC’s Today Show with the then-president of Volvo North America. Unfortunately, the second leader underestimated the value of Acura. “With all due respect to the tremendous quality of low-priced Japanese automobiles,” a Volvo representative said. 

Not only that, but he also continued that he didn’t think Acura would be able to enter the US luxury market! But it was in the presence of Schmillen, who seemed unflappable despite this harsh statement. Schmillen’s replay was inspiring; listen to this: “We weren’t even in the market 15 years ago, and we’ve come from nothing to half a million. We think we can continue to keep that trend going!”

By the end of 1986, Acura sold 52,869 units and expanded to open 150 new dealerships. This unexpected success prompted other Japanese automakers to produce their luxury cars. So, we have seen the years after Toyota took advantage of its outstanding technical talents and announced Lexus, followed by Nissan, which gifted the industry with Infiniti.


Sales remained higher than expected. Acura sold 109,470 vehicles. Yes, it was double the previous year’s sales. Acura also exceeded the performance of giant European luxury, including Volvo! The company finally silenced all the bitter critics and proved it could be part of a luxury scene. 

That happened because of the brilliant marketing team capable of launching aggressive campaigns that look and feel distinctive and separate from Honda. Honda was unafraid to put itself in the same category as the top-notch European brands. 

Quickly, it became a significant player in the US luxury market, highlighting the concept of owning a luxury and powerful car. “Precision Crafted Performance” was Acura’s slogan, supported by the background of the Honda Formula One team and the luxury furnishing of Acura. 

At the end of the same year, Acura became more and more successful in building its credentials with an award-winning design of sedans and coupes. In addition, Acuras won the comparison test, proving the brand’s strength to respond to hostile critics. This success didn’t compare with what happened in 1987 when both Nissan and Toyota announced their plans to launch their luxury divisions. 

The Japanese brand continued collecting accolades to make waves in the market by topping JD Power’s Customer Satisfaction Index Survey, and the Legend Coupe took a higher rank on the Car and Drive’s 10 Best lists. The sales continued to jump.


If you live around Canton, you’ve heard about Acura’s NSX sports car before. It was the first all-aluminium production vehicle powered by a V6 engine and equipped with Honda’s new VTEC technology. Initially debuted at the 1989 Chicago Show, it was impressive at all levels. The company was competing in the luxury market using the tri-product approach. 

Acura never sat still with what it had made. Instead, the company wanted to celebrate its success by redesigning Integra after redefining new segments in the early 1990s. The Integra became larger, backed by a more powerful engine and optimum interior with a luxurious touch. As a result, it stood as a leader in the USA and luxury performance market for a while, thanks to its more reined handling and best ride experience.  


A year later, the company released a more powerful Legend model offering in sedan and coupe. A vehicle like this took the market by storm. It solidified the brand’s place in the luxury market. It cemented its lead as the best-selling luxury import car in the United States. Acura maintained its position for six consecutive years. All designs came to build upon the company’s “Precision Crafted Performance” motto.

During the 1990s, Acura continued producing excellent generations and editions of Integra, meeting their high-profile customers’ satisfaction. In addition, the Japanese brand released other compact sedan models; meanwhile, the company gained a tuner-friendly reputation, captivating customers who would like to have bespoke fittings. Still, at the end of 1994, the Japanese brand was ready to make it again by redesigning the model of the Vigor, a sporty yet luxurious sedan.

Also, the company introduced a new edition of Integra, which won Car and Driver 10 Best. It proved that the Japanese company was ready to penetrate the sporty coupe market.  


Acura decided to replace the Legend with the RL. It leveraged the company as a high-end brand, presenting many innovative features, including the first touch screen. In 1996 the company had already created its magic screen. Not to mention, a satellite-linked navigation system was embedded in this masterpiece. A few months later, we heard about a new Acura model, the SLX, the ultra-luxury sports vehicle.  

Even drivers looking for a speed car to participate in motorsport competitions turned their focus to Acura after reaping several victories at Daytona Sebring and more. When the company celebrated its 10th anniversary, a new challenge emerged. Nissan and Toyota stablished a new luxurious lineup.  

Besides European players, the brand needed to adjust its products and pricing to adapt to the market change and meet the new competitors’ standards. But the American economy was acting outside, facing a dramatic recession. As a result, the Yen gained unexpected strength against the dollar. So, the Japanese automakers’ price advantage was about to vanish. It was not just An American diploma; the worldwide economy introduced a downturn.

The luxury market had taken hold, leaving all manufacturers with catastrophic sales. Acura’s production began to contract, indeed. First, it seemed well prepared and kept its rank as a significant force in the luxury marketplace with its core production. Then, the issue emerged and Acura couldn’t stand longer than that.

Unfortunately, Acura sales began to decline as Honda experienced tough financial times due to the collapse of a Japanese asset bubble. Acura responded to these circumstances of yen value fluctuations in a stylish manner. It came up with assembling some of its cars in the United States. 

It was a revolutionary model in manufacturing during the 1990s, making it the first import luxury brand to do it. With the proper tactic, the campy presented its first designed, engineered and assembled car in the USA at the end of 1997. It was a 2.2CL coupe quickly followed by 3.0CL supported by a V6 engine.  


Then, the company focused more on rebranding its models and changed its naming conventions. For example, Legend turned out to be 3.5 RL. The sales began to recover and climb again.


Many things turned around thanks to the new model, Acura 3.2 TL. Indeed, Acura has changed luxury cars forever. And it realised that it was time to take a significant step by expanding its product lineup. More than half of all Acura vehicles became domestically assembled in the USA. Therefore, another good move by Acura is to keep itself as a competitor to the leaders! 

Even though the company was a technological leadership, its often-waigaya meetings where wild ideas were born didn’t stop. So, they ended the radical concepts by compiling the 1992 Integra GS-R, 1997 CL and the 1999 TL under the VTEC® category.

Today, all Acura engines fall into the same category. Also, a new idea came to life, such as its top-notch navigating systems. A high-end technology was embedded in the ’96 RL to improve its successive generations. This GPS blazed the world and quickly became the class leader. 

The brand was about to enter a new decade with a solid innovation reputation and connect to the tech-savvy public who were yarning to obtain the trendiest vehicle and technology. After announcing their impressive model, TL, wholly designed, assembled and developed in the USA, Acura presented a redesigned CL coupe, which boasted a vast collection of standard and non-standard features. Even critics gave the CL coupe much praise. 


The new Acura models were an immediate hit. The public and press were obsessed with testing its performance. Then, the Japanese brand announced a new sports car, Type S, with a 260 horsepower V-6 engine and advanced suspension system. 


Acura released another prestigious model, MDX, the first crossover SUV, offering three rows of seating. If you want to know why the company has this reputation for innovation, you should look at this car. But the car didn’t come a long way as expected, and the RSX coupe soon replaced it. However, MDX remained appealing for car turners for a while. It was designed and assembled in Alliston, Ontario, by Honda of Canada Manufacturing.

During this time, SUV models included some transmission issues. Hence, the company introduced a new, improved version, thanks to its high-end V6 engine 270hp and other technological features— a six-disc DVD audio system. Furthermore, suppose you want to trace the legendary cars produced by Acura. In that case, CL, introduced in 1997, presented a new era in the Japanese carmaker’s history, because it set the foundation for future Acura models, utterly engineered and assembled in the United States. 

After that, the company announced RDX, a luxury crossover SUV. These perfectly crafted functions, which combined high-tech with driving pleasure, appealed to customers as the company sold 170,469 units, a dramatic record unlike any previous year. 


The company offered Type-S editions for the TL and CL with powerful engines and sport-tailored suspensions. 

Specially CL Type-S has an impressive 6-speed manual transmission featuring a limited-slip differential. In addition, the system was equipped with a bunch that helped the car to close the front-drive versus rear-drive gap.

The American economy faced another short-lived downturn, but Acura was more resilient than to be affected, and it remained strong thanks to the assembling strategy in the United States.  


Acura debuted the affordable TSX sedan with several technological adjustments, and it was an introduction to Gen X. The all-new TL generation was something out of the world by featuring more luxuries than the original version.

The car featured DVD-Audio (DVD-A), HandsFreeLink®, Bluetooth®, Surround® Premium Audio System, and 10-speaker Acura/ELS Surround®. Acura put a new standard of technological innovation. The Japanese brand delivers a sleek concept with broad appeal in the market.


The company released its sophisticated and strong model, the 2005 RL, run by Acura’s most aggressive power and acceleration ever made. 

If you want to know, the most crucial moment in Acura’s history was adding this sophisticated handling all-wheel drive system (SH-AWD®) to its second generation of Acura RL. The standard handling all-wheel system can only transfer power from the front to the rear. However, the handling can also transfer power between the rear wheels in this car!

This system was embedded in the compact crossover SUV, as well. But the TL and the TSX brought the best sales to the company. The superb vehicle had a high-tech navigation system, a full AcuraLink® suit, a Zagat Survey® feature, and other ultra-luxury amenities.  


The all-new model RDX was released with a host of futuristic technology delivering idyllic performance, all warped into an excellent package at the Sport Utility Vehicle scene. RDX was also backed with the first machining production of a turbocharged engine and 18-inch alloy tires and wheels. The same year, Acura presented the American Le Mans, a sporty series, sent to three teams to compete in international races such as 12 Hours of Sebring, winning first, second and fourth places in the LMP2 class.


Acura delivered a new safety feature to its beloved clients by investing in Top Safety Pick as a result of cooperation with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Thanks to this technology, the company was rewarded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) after receiving Five-Star safety ratings. 

Then, the brand received the highest score possible on safety standards thanks to its frontal-offset system after all its models passed the rear crash and side and side impact protection tests. Acura became the only luxury brand to receive this highest rating in crash safety across all its models. Additionally, the company was granted ALG’s Residual Value Award title for Best Luxury Brand.


Acura unveiled its new coupe car, the four-door ZDX, the first North American built in the sports car industry. Then, the company released another vehicle, the Acura ARX-01, focusing on speed more than luxury. It’s a four-door sports coupe with an unparalleled driver experience. Indeed, driver involvement always appears critical to the Acura formula. 

In the same year, about three-quarters of the auto produced by Acura were developed and assembled in North America, which helped the company to remain competitive. Not to forget that the company received a new title after winning ALG’s Residual Value Award for Best Luxury Brand again. It was a stellar year for Japanese precision. 


While Acura celebrated its 25th anniversary, a new plan was afoot to expand its market share and reach other segments. So, it was time for ad placement in one of the blockbuster movie series by Marvel, starting with the box office smash and superhero Iron Man. 

Acura designed its new models by bringing the forefront of pop culture. Then, Acura models appeared in multiple films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Finally, the company made what it was in it for, capturing the attention of all moviegoers. 

The same year, Acura won Best Near Luxury Car by the ALG Residual Value Award. Also, Acura’s engineers were busy building an all-new edition of TSX by placing advancements to reflect performance and utility, and it was presented to the public at the Chicago Auto Show.


Acura released its new edition, Honda Civic, inspired by the ILX’s compact luxury model. This model developed three unique powertrains to appeal to young buyers eager to enter the luxury segment. ILX aimed to attract customers whose sense of prestige comes with being ahead, not from traditional symbols. 

Powered by a 2.0-litre inline 4-cylinder engine integrated with a 5-speed automatic transmission and a 2.4-litre inline 4-cylinder mated to a slick-shifting 6-speed manual transmission, ILX was a miracle. The engine also has a fuel-sipping 1.5-litre inline 4-cylinder hybrid mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).

Acura was committed to precision from the early moment of the foundation of this brand. They wanted to create an exhilarating experience supported by cutting-edge technology, not just performance-crafted excellence. ILX was a dignified testimony of that.  

Also, the company enhanced its strength by redlining a new model of TL with a fresh look, advanced technology and upgraded performance. This lineup became the most extensive in the Japanese division’s history. At the end of the year, Acura released the second version of RDX, its compact luxury SUV. This decision was made after the first generation received universal acclaim. The second generation was met with the same level of praise.

The RDX 5-passenger crossover satisfied the curiosity of the American market. However, Acura itself was never content with its perfection. It didn’t have enough concepts in its principles. So, Acura’s engineers developed a new model released the following year. The market reaction was groundbreaking as the sales climbed significantly in the first 26 months after releasing the car, and it remains the top choice for customers who want a luxury SUV.


The company decided to replace RL with the RLX, putting in a new standard of all-wheel drive and steering system. Acura wanted to make their owners’ lives better. So it searched for anything that helped in its endeavours and place in this car, such as Super Handling All-Wheel Drive™ to improve control and agility, a Collision Mitigation Braking System™ (CMBS™) to improve safety, and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) to enhance blind spot information.  

Also, you can see other advanced technology, such as Bluetooth®, mobile telephone integration, HandsFreeLink®, and a satellite-connected navigation system that offers real-time traffic tracking along with AcuraLink Real-Time Weather™. RL also introduced a high-tech feature by displaying image maps that gave the driver insightful information about his route. The Performance Manufacturing Centre (PMC) in Marysville, Ohio, was constructed in the same year.

Acura set out to create the most advanced manufacturing facility ever seen so that they could test and develop cutting-edge technologies. As a result, this place witnessed the birth of craftsmanship, the next generation of NSX. Aura was wondering what else they could offer to the market! Nothing! They made it all the better. But it wasn’t sufficient for Acura’s management. So in May 2013, the company unveiled the third generation of MDX, a 7-passenger luxury performance SUV.


The company introduced a new generation of NSX after spending over 20 years of passion and devotion to surprise the market. So it seemed that through secret night meetings by Honda engineers dedicated to defining what Aurca’s sportscar should look like, they came up with this 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 edition. 

Also, it has become one of Acura’s cars powered by an electric motor, or three. Honda’s premium brand was obsessed with speedy models, so this inspiring engine produced 573 hp and 476 lb-ft of torque. The exterior looked rough, with a lightweight aluminium chassis and solid steel.


Only a few people could believe that the luxurious division of Honda could still be relatively popular in America after all these years. 2021 was the beginning of a new era, presenting a new edition of TLX, Type S. It embraces the latest innovations of Acura, including a turbocharged 3-litre V6 equipped with an SH-AWD system. 

The car also features a double-wishbone front suspension with a 10-speed dual-clutch transmission. Again, I see Honda made history again with this masterpiece. This year witnessed a jump in selling through, with under 183,000 units sold globally in 2021 only.


It seems weird to talk about what the company will come up with after more than 14 years, but it’s Japan! The company announced its long-term plan by emphasising that it will never be too old for future trends because they are young at heart! Furthermore, they claimed that the next version of ZDX would be revolutionary in achieving a future with no emissions.

From Acura’s production debuted, luxury benchmarks never automatically carry a European nameplate; it might be a Japanese brand.  

Throughout the years, Acura has attained success by offering what its customers are yarning, producing bold yet comfortable and relatively competitive price luxury cars. Acura is found mainly in its uncompromising dedication to superior quality and technologically advanced high performance. 

The brand always represents numerous safety features and state-of-the-art design by breaking the rules and building what no one offers. So, if you’re still considering buying a luxury car, you should look at this revolutionary brand. 

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