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Honda's luxury division first appeared in 1986, issuing the compact Integra and larger Legend. Honda itself had been selling cars in the U.S. since 1969. Essentially, Acuras adapted Honda underpinnings, but maintained a classier aura-and of course, higher prices. At the time, other Japanese automakers had not yet initiated a luxury or near-luxury brand in the U.S. market. But Lexus and Infiniti brands, developed by Toyota and Nissan, respectively, reached dealerships in 1990.
For 1991, Acura launched its all-aluminum NSX supercar, with a $60,000 sticker. Ready to challenge more costly contenders from Ferrari and Porsche, as well as Chevrolet's Corvette ZR-1, the NSX coupe lasted into 2005. Acura is rumored to be planning production of a revived model, somewhere around 2014-15. In fact, an NSX concept was created for display at Detroit's North American International Auto Show, in January 2012.
Acura's Legend was gone after 1995, replaced for 1996 by a new RL sedan, which remains today as the company's flagship family-sized sedan. Integras lingered into 2001, before giving way to the RSX sport coupe. Despite its sporty nature, the compact RSX faded away after just five seasons, leaving Acura with no small-size passenger sedan in its lineup.
Meanwhile, a series of two- and three-letter model designations emerged, led by TL-soon to become the most popular model, which debuted for 1996. Today's V6-powered TL continues as the premium brand's bread-and-butter model, available with either front-drive or Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD).
Acura seriously entered the expanding SUV arena in 2001 with the midsize MDX with three-row seating, but that wasn't the first sport-utility to wear an Acura badge. That honor goes to the SLX of 1996-99, which was actually a derivative of an Isuzu model and failed to attract many Acura customers. For 2007, Acura released a smaller crossover SUV, the turbo-powered RDX.
Like most manufacturers, Acura has launched a few models that didn't quite make the grade, including the Vigor sedan that emerged in 1992 but hung on through only three seasons.
Introduced in 1997, Acura's CL coupe lasted through two generations before disappearing after 2003. New for 2004 and markedly more successful was a TSX sport sedan, smaller than the TL and "entry-level" priced, tempting another breed of customers with its agility and more sporting nature. A TSX Sport Wagon soon joined the sedan.
As the second decade of the 21st century opened, Acura entered another phase of the crossover SUV market with its shapely ZDX. Though stylishly eye-catching, the fastback-profiled ZDX proved less practical than some rivals, due to a tapering roofline that hindered interior headroom-a failing experienced by several competitive models as well.
Acura's 2012 lineup includes six models: three passenger cars (TSX, TL, and RL) and three crossover SUVs (MDX, RDX, and ZDX). Priced more attractively than some near-luxury brands, and backed by Honda's overall reputation for reliability, Acura has made significant strides toward establishing a tangible niche for itself through its first quarter-century of premium-automobile life.