Buzzworthy: TOV's Future Product Crystal Ball
Date: May 04, 2005 08:20
Last Update: 7 July, 2005
We obtain information regarding future products from a variety of sources throughout the year. Generally we sift through everything as it comes in and report on the stuff that holds some credibility. And then there's other stuff we make up. Once again, we thought we'd provide a snapshot of some recent developments and where the rumors and projections stand at the moment.
'07 MDX - The only thing of potential interest that I've (very recently) heard about the MDX is that there are rumors of diesel-powered test mules wearing '05 MDX bodies on the road as you read this. Now that doesn't necessarily mean that the MDX will be fitted with a diesel - they could simply be using it as a platform for testing the powertrain for something else. Otherwise, we imagine that the MDX redesign will follow the philosophy of the '05 Odyssey redesign, which was "DON'T Screw Anything Up". In other words, expect it to be fortified with more power (though more torque might even serve it better), a stiffer chassis, which would lead to a better ride, improved handling, less interior noise, etc... There could be a trick or two up Acura's sleeve, but Takeo Fukui has recently stated that hybrid SUV's are not in the "3-year plan". Assuming that to be the case, then aside from the Diesel, Acura can possibly focus on expanding its reach into the "sport" side of the equation, potentially offering SH-AWD and a more sport-oriented suspension as part of a sport package or something, but all of this falls into the speculative category.
'07 RDX - The RDX Concept made its debut at the 2005 Detroit Auto Show. The production version should be appearing in showrooms sometime early in 2006 (NOTE: we've just heard that the date may now be June '06), and it wouldn't surprise us if Acura debuts the production version at one of the domestic autoshows (Detroit, Chicago, or New York) next year. The folks at Motor Trend swear on a stack of bibles that it will be powered by a 2.2L turbocharged motor producing around 260hp. I'm personally a little skeptical about that information, but the rumor just won't go away and MT's sources are supposedly "airtight". I'm not a huge fan of current turbos, but a move like this would definitely provide a bit of a spark for the Acura lineup. There's been a lot of talk in the industry over the past few years of next generation turbocharged petrol motors utilizing variable geometry turbines and high pressure direct injection systems similar to the advanced technology found in modern turbodiesel motors. Thanks to the opposing forces of the ever surging cost of oil and the seemingly insatiable appetites of car buyers for power, the industry has been working hard to overcome some of the obstacles (higher exhaust gas temperatures, operating speeds) involved in applying this technology to petrol engines. The combination of variable geometry turbines, direct injection systems, and advanced fuel management strategies results in superb power, torque, economy, and emissions characteristics. Considering all of this, and the fact that Honda's own common-rail turbodiesel effort has been very well received, it could be reasoned that Honda would seek to recover some of their R&D investment on the turbodiesel by applying some of the knowledge gained from that development effort towards petrol motors that they can sell in their largest marketplace. Having said all that, if the RDX doesn't end up with a turbocharger, expect to see a 3.0 or 3.2L V6 under the hood.
UPDATE: We've very recently heard that the plans for the turbo 2.2 or 2.4 have been scrapped for the time being. Apparently there were some quality concerns about the available turbochargers and possibly some NVH issues as well. The J-series V6 is a virtual lock for the RDX now.
RL - Here's what we already know about the '06 RL. As per (Honda CEO) Takeo Fukui's remarks at the Detroit Auto Show, the 2006 RL will be fitted with Honda's Collision Mitigation Brake System (CMBS). Other than that we don't expect to see much else for the '06 model, though we would really love to see Acura offer a factory option wheel/tire upgrade package, and perhaps even a sportier suspension tune along with it. Now, let's look at the bigger picture and beyond model year 2006 for a moment. The 2005 RL is selling much better than past RLs, but is it selling as well as Acura had hoped? Perhaps not. Acura projected sales of 20000 models annually, and in general their past projections have been fairly conservative. But in the case of the RL, the year to date total for calendar year 2005 stands at just under 5500 units after 4 months, so at this rate it appears they will fall short of projections in the first year. Generally that's not a good sign. It's not a disasterous result, but what's going on? By any measure, the RL is quite a superb car, but it's in a very competitive segment with a lot of appealing vehicles, many of which are all-new for model year 2005 or 2006. So it may be a tad early to say at this point, but it would seem that Acura may feel some pressure to do something more extensive than normal with the car when the time for an MMC (mid-cycle model change, or minor model change) comes. But if you think about it, there's not a whole lot that they can do to the car itself even if it is decided that changes are necessary. By virtue of the platform chosen by Honda for the RL, there are precious few options for the product planners to address much of anything with the car. Perhaps the most logical enhancement would be to fit Honda's IMA system to the car to boost performance and economy. This would make it Honda's first AWD high-performance hybrid vehicle, and one of the priciest on the market. But an IMA system would add weight, cost, and further reduce cargo area, and the car doesn't really have much wiggle room in these areas to begin with. Otherwise, it's not likely that there's any meaningful amount of additional power or torque that could be added to the car without extensive re-engineering of the package (there's not much that will fit besides the transverse V6 that is already found in the RL). To reduce costs, a 2WD version of the RL could be offered, but the platform virtually dictates that it would have to be FWD, and that doesn't make a lot of sense. Perhaps the only remaining option would be to add more gadgets, such as laser (or radar) cruise control, lane departure warning system, nightvision, in-car entertainment systems, etc... But it's my opinion that adding these sorts of options will not increase sales. It will be interesting to see how the RL matures over the next few years.
'06 Acura RSX - We hear that there is no redesign scheduled for the RSX. So it could soldier on as-is for quite some time or it could suddenly disappear if it's determined to be a drag on the brand. We don't really expect that to happen any sooner than model year 2007.
TL - The TL's MMC should happen in MY07, so perhaps then we will see the SH-AWD system offered as well as a bit of a power boost, perhaps to around 300hp. It would also be a shame if it's not offered with the 6-speed transmission and high-performance tire option. Changes for 2006 are expected to be minor. There are some rumors of an enhancement to the 6MT transmission, but we can't discuss the nature of them yet and it's not clear if these enhancements will appear in model year 2006 or later.
TSX - Sales for the TSX continue to be very strong. No doubt about it, this has been a wonderful surprise for Acura. For 2006 all that we've heard is that there are minor things going on and the motor will be seeing a slight increase in power. We've heard that many times before from Honda and the word "slight" seems to equate to 10-15hp. Since the Accord models are both being bumped by 10hp, the TSX should be similar. If you recall, the TSX was introduced early in 2003 as a 2004 model, so we thought there was a chance of an MMC happening for the '06 Model. But we may not see much of an MMC of it at all, as latest rumors peg the replacement of the TSX to appear in model year 2008 (in order to pull it even with the European and JDM Accord model cycles). We created some waves recently by speculating in our model release matrix that we might see a turbocharged version of the TSX for the '07 model. To clarify, that is a purely speculative position, and this projection is entirely contingent upon whether or not the RDX will actually get a turbocharged motor. In other words, if the RDX doesn't end up getting the turbocharger, that significantly reduces the chances of the TSX seeing one. And even so, the 2007 date is probably wildly optimistic. If an all-new TSX is ready to go for MY 2008, it wouldn't make much sense to offer a turbo in the '07 model. So I've revised the model matrix to reflect that. Also circulating in the rumor mill is that a TSX coupe and convertible are in the works. We give the coupe a stronger chance than the convertible, but in any case we don't expect to see either of them to appear before the model change.
UPDATE: With the new information of the RDX's powerplant, the chances of seeing a turbocharged TSX in the next few years now seem even slimmer.
'06 Honda Accord - 2006 is the year of the Accord's MMC (minor model change). The current generation Accord has generated a bit of criticism for some of its styling elements, and as we first reported over a year ago, the 2006 Accord will be the recipient of extensive revisions to the vehicle, particularly the rear of it. The sedan is said to be getting LED taillamps. We have even seen some low quality photos of a vehicle that is very likely a lightly disguised 2006 Accord. As the photos show, the Accord's styling was pulled more in line with the current "corporate" look of American Honda. The rear lights bear a resemblance to both the upcoming Civic Coupe and the new for '05 Odyssey. Mechanically, both Accord motors will get a 10hp bump, up to 170hp for the 2.4L and 250hp for the V6. UPDATE This is big news for some of you - we have just heard that the '06 V6 sedan will finally be offered with a 6-speed manual transmission.
'06 Honda Civic - Honda has already tipped their hand a fair bit on the upcoming 2006 Civic Si. We already know that it will feature at least 200hp, a 6MT, and a limited slip differential. We also know that it will retain a strut setup up front, though the rear suspension is said to be slightly revised. We're expecting 17" wheels to be standard on the Si, and we've also heard that 215/45-17s are the tire size (same as '05 RSX-S, as we predicted). But a really good piece of news that we've recently heard is that it will also be offered with high performance "summer" tires, as an alternative to the standard "performance" all-season radials. Honda really means business with this car. As for the rest of the Civic line, base models will get a new 1.8L 140hp SOHC i-VTEC motor. Automatic climate control will be offered in upper models (including Si), and for the first time, you will be able to order a Civic equipped with navigation (EX and Si models). Hopefully the Civic will catch up with some of its competitors in the audio department and come standard with MP3/WMA playback capabilities in addition to offering an "aux-in" jack for those with portable MP3 players. Finally, not to be forgotten, the new Civic line will again include a Hybrid model as well. This year it seems as though a CVT will be the only transmission offered for the Hybrid model. Details of both the new R18 and IMA engines were released on July 5, so check the news section.
'07 CR-V - The CR-V is due to be replaced for MY2007. Will it share key underpinnings with the Acura RD-X? Perhaps. Will it match the rumored 200+hp of the upcoming RAV4? Perhaps. Anything new for 2006? Not that we've heard.
Element - The biggest news for '06 is that body colored cladding will be available for certain colors and models of the '06 Element. It's also not clear whether the motor (which is shared with the Accord 2.4) will also benefit from the 10hp increase that the '06 Accord is getting. It would also be nice if the Element would also benefit from the same 5AT that was fitted to the CR-V for its 2005 freshening, but it's not a huge loss if it doesn't make it.
'07 Jazz/Fit - We don't know a lot about the Jazz/Fit or whatever it will be called when it arrives here next year, but this new model will slot in beneath the Civic and be priced to attract more entry level shoppers into the Honda fold. The good news is that the presence of this model frees up the Civic to stretch more upmarket.
Odyssey - Just to state the obvious, Honda needs to offer IMA in the Odyssey soon. They also need to make the power liftgate standard on EX and above models. 17" wheels and tires (not runflat) should be standard on EX models as well. But no word yet on what we WILL see for the '06 model except that the DVD rear entertainment system will now be fitted standard on Touring models. We hope that Honda will also offer it once again in EX (cloth) models.
'06 Pilot - The Pilot has enjoyed strong sales and Honda intends to keep things going with a fairly major freshening this fall. First of all, to improve freeway fuel economy, Takeo Fukui announced several months ago in Detroit that the Pilot's motor will be fitted with Honda's cylinder cut technology (VCM). Secondly, the exterior styling is said to have been revised so that it shares more of a family resemblance with its newest sibling, the 2006 Ridgeline. And finally, we've heard from dealers that a more affordable, slightly more thrifty 2WD model is on its way as well.
'06 S2000 - The S2000 lives on for another year, and for 2006 there are some very light revisions including restyled wheels, an outside temperature gauge, standard headrest speakers, and we heard from one source that daytime running lights will become standard as well.
As always, if you have any information that you would like to share with us, please submit a news item here (you can choose your level of anonymity) or e-mail me directly (check my profile for my e-mail address).
Last edited by JeffX on
July 07, 2005 10:41