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2004 new car guide, model guide, new car reviews, by brand


Acura, a line of performance and luxury vehicles derived from Honda of Japan, presents a diverse menu of models in the 2004 mix.

Leading the line is Acura's elegant full-size flagship 3.5RL sedan, which gains gear and cabin fixtures for 2004 to become the first luxury sedan listing the XM satellite radio service as well as a DVD-based navigation system as standard equipment. Acura's TL mid-size sedan shows a make-over this year with dramatic restyling outside, new high-tech equipment in the plush cabin and a major boost in power below the hood from a new version of the 3.2-liter V6 engine.

Coupe variations of the TL sedan under the CL label fade away in 2004 but Acura adds to the lineup a new compact-class sports sedan called TSX. Built on the chassis underpinning European issues of Honda's Accord, TSX has a leather-lined cockpit and forceful power out of a twin-cam 2.4-liter in-line-four engine with aluminum block and heads and Honda's remarkable variable timing valvetrain to produce a robust 200 hp.

Another ripper from Acura is the race-bred RSX hatchback coupe for the compact class. Acura pitches RSX in two flavors with a base edition and the high-performance Type-S. In addition, even Acura's plush sport-utility vehicle aligns toward performance, as its name -- MDX -- means Multi-Dimensional Cross-Trainer in the image of a toned athlete accomplished in various sports. This year's MDX comes with a drive-by-wire throttle plus Acura's Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) anti-skid controller tuned to integrate with a standard four-wheel-drive (4WD) system.

Acura RL
2004 Acura RL

Acura's full-size flagship sedan matches European machines with sophisticated yet understated exterior styling. Inside the spacious passenger compartment, luxurious appointments range from leather-clad bucket seats in front of a bench for three to rich hardwood trimmings and high-tech electronic controls.

The editions of 2004 gain cabin equipment, such as a premium audio system (the Acura/Bose Music System with in-dash CD changer for six discs) and power lumbar support in the driver's plush bucket seat. In addition, the XM satellite radio service and Acura's navigation system with voice recognition feature score as standard gear.

New brushed metal and chrome accents decorate the cabin with a wood-pattern shifter knob applied plus burled camphor wood trimming the instrument panel and a dashboard video screen of the navigation system.

For power, the RL employs a single-cam 3.5-liter aluminum V6 that nets 225 hp. Sport-tuned suspension elements are included, plus big disc brakes and computer linkage to an anti-lock brake system (ABS).

Additional standard safety equipment includes four air bags, with dual-stage inflation for the front passenger-side air bag and a smart side air bag that can figure out the size and position of the seat occupant before deciding to deploy the device. Acura's VSA anti-skid system is also included.

Acura TL
2004 Acura TL

In the class of mid-size near-luxury sedans, Acura's TL takes on airs of European cars, although price points seem downright domestic. The editions of 2004 represent a significant upgrade with fresh exterior styling evident.

Beneath the revamped skin there's a fortified structure with increased torsional rigidity and additional soundproofing around the passenger compartment with new acoustic front windshield glass and more plush appointments in the five-place cockpit. The new gear includes twin zone and dual modes for the automatic climate control system and the Acura/ELS Premium Surround Sound System with DVD-based audio kit, a six-disc CD changer and eight speakers. Xenon high intensity discharge (HID) headlights are also aboard, plus a power-operated glass moonroof and the cabin is trimmed in brushed aluminum accents with perforated leather seats.

Honda's 60-degree V6 engine in the TL displaces 3.2 liters with overhead camshafts and high-tech controls. Horsepower increases from 225 to 270 and there's more useful torque too as directed to a close-ratio six-speed manual shifter or electronic automatic five-speed outfitted with Honda's Sequential SportShift override for clutch-less manual shifts.

Safety gear ranges from multiple air bags with standard side curtain-style air bags to Acura's VSA with traction control system (TCS).

Acura TSX
2004 Acura TSX

Acura's new sports sedan fits in the compact class and comes with a forceful four-cylinder engine that runs up to 200 hp and links to a sporty six-speed manual stick or five-speed Sequential SportShift automatic. It's fun to drive but has the practical advantage of a four-door format and seats for five in a plush cockpit.

Yes, the chassis comes from the European version of Honda's Accord and the wedge-shaped body of TSX carries many of that Accord's fixtures including the basic sheetmetal, headlamps and taillights plus flank mirrors and door handles. Yet the prow holds Acura's five-sided grille with xenon HID lamps installed as well as expanded air intakes in the lower fascia.

And the cabin gets the luxurious treatment of an Acura with bolstered sport bucket seats clad in perforated leather, a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel rigged with tabs to operate the stereo and cruise control, plus a twin-zone automatic climate system, power moonroof, keyless entry and premium audio gear.

Front buckets have concealed heat elements inside, by the way, and a voice-recognition system is on the list of options for controlling navigation, ventilation and audio equipment. Engine is the Honda 2.4-liter four-in-line tied to the advanced i-VTEC system with computer-controlled intelligence for regulating camshaft phasing to boost performance and fuel economy. An elevated 10.5:1 compression ratio pushes output to 200 hp for extra kicks.

Acura's VSA stability system is included, as are 17-inch alloy wheels with P215/50R17 all-season performance tires.

Read our Review: Acura TSX                                           

Acura RSX
2004 Acura RSX

Acura's price-leader, a compact-class hatchback coupe, emerged in 2002 on Honda's global compact platform as successor to the original coupe, Integra. It continues in 2004 with two different issues as the base RSX and high-performance Type-S edition. Both stock a twin-cam 2.0-liter four-in-line engine that comes with Acura's i-VTEC system.

The RSX base version makes 160 hp and links to a standard five-speed manual transmission or optional five-speed Sequential SportShift automatic. Type-S goes further through tuning to push output to 200 hp and manage the power through a six-speed manual. Type-S also has track-tuned suspension settings with firmer springs and dampers plus larger front vented disc brakes.

With hatchback styling, the two-door cockpit provides seats for two up front and two more on a folding back bench. Standards range from automatic climate system and keyless entry to power controls for mirrors, windows and door locks, a power moonroof and premium audio with in-dash CD deck.

Perforated leather covers seats on Type-S but is optional on the base model.

Acura MDX
2004 Acura MDX

Substantial upgrades worked on Acura's luxury sport-utility wagon last year and carry over to 2004. Acura makes the MDX as a refined luxury vehicle that provides cushy appointments and fancy features, yet the three rows of flexible seats permit different uses as a workhorse hauler and the strong engine allows it tow a boat and trailer, while sophisticated mechanical equipment enable the wagon to roll comfortably on pavement as well as dirt or dispel the inherent danger of roads made slick by spring showers or the snows of winter.

A front-mounted engine directs its muscle to the front wheels with an electronic device on tap to channel some of that power to the rear wheels when front ones slip. Factor in the relatively short (106.3 inches) wheelbase and a broad wheel track to create a stable stance. And isolate the independent suspension system on subframes, add variable-power rack and pinion steering and disc brakes for all corners with ABS and electronic brake force distribution (EBD). The result: Uncommon agility for a wagon.

Up to 260 hp flows from the aluminum six-pack engine through a five-speed automatic transmission. A drive-by-wire throttle eliminates a mechanical connector between engine and accelerator.

The spacious cabin piles on leather and wood trimmings to set up a luxurious atmosphere. Two bucket seats occupy the front row on either side of a floor console. A three-person bench split in 60/40 sections stands in the second row, but two third-row seats divided 50/50 are also included. Second-row seats drop forward and third-row seatbacks fold into the floor for a quick and relatively effortless disappearing act to make room for more cargo. With all second and third seatbacks down, the vehicle ends up with a flat-floored cargo area that encompasses more than 80 cubic feet of storage space.   


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