Forgotten Acura SUV: The SLX

Odometer (Legend):  529,013

529013

Odometer (ILX):  70,563

70563

Congrats, Dad, on hitting 111,111 miles today in your 2010 Hyundai Sonata!  You’ve taught me well.  Err, vice versa.

dad_odometer

Those of you who follow automotive industry news have already learned about some strategic business & operational changes at Acura headquarters these days. A new business unit, headed by Erik Berkman from Honda R&D, was formed with the intent of focusing on making improvements to the sedan lineup.  Then just a week or so ago, Acura’s Sales & Marketing efforts were further differentiated from the parent Honda company with Mike Accavitti at the helm of the Acura side.

The company’s SUV lineup – 3-row MDX (new for 2014 model year) and 2-row RDX (new for 2013 model year) have been undisputed home runs from a sales perspective.  In fact, SUV sales now account for greater than 60% of the Acuras that are making their way into buyers’ garages.

It wasn’t always that way.  Back in the mid-1990’s, Acura was first and foremost a sedan automaker.  But SUV market was picking up speed, and fast.  Acura made a bold move and did something that would get them into that market with urgency:  It rebadged an already-existing SUV as one of its own.  The Isuzu Trooper was a long-time favorite of outdoors enthusiasts, so Acura made its own version.

Have you ever even heard of the Acura SLX?  Probably not.  In 1996, Acura sold 108,008 vehicles.  Only 2,565 of those were SLX models.  Isn’t it interesting how the tables have turned in the last 18 years and the Acura SUV lineup has overtaken the sedans as the breadwinners?  I present to you, the Fall/Winter 1995 cover of Acura Driver magazine:

fall_winter_1995_acura_driver_magazine

SLX was touted as “The Most Civilized Way to Leave Civilization.”

slx_ad

And how about these taglines?

“Designed for Drivers with a Well-Developed Sense of Adventure – And an Equally Well-Developed Sense of Taste.”

“Tough Enough to Go from Paris to Dakar.  Elegant Enough for Those Who’d Prefer Simply to Stay in Paris.”

SLX was far from a star performer on the sales floor, but it got Acura’s foot into the SUV door and paved the way for today’s MDX crossover.  Despite getting a slight cosmetic refresh in 1998, SLX sales declined all the way until the MDX came onto the scene in 2000.  That first 1996 SLX was powered by a 190-horsepower, 3.2 liter DOHC V6 engine.  The automatic transmission featured a winter mode that would start in 3rd gear to lessen wheelspin on slippery surfaces.  Shift-on-the-fly 4-wheel-drive was an innovative feature for its time.

The SLX wasn’t the only child of the Honda-Isuzu relationship.  You might also remember the Isuzu Passport / Honda Rodeo twins.  In all, the SLX shared its truck-like platform with a total of 8 other vehicles in that first generation:

  • Acura SLX
  • Chevrolet Trooper
  • Isuzu Bighorn
  • Holden Jackaroo
  • Holden Monterey
  • Honda Horizon
  • Opel Monterey
  • Subaru Bighorn
  • Vauxhall Monterey

Unlike the Trooper, though, the SLX only came with an automatic transmission and only came with one engine choice — the 3.2 liter from 1996-1997, and the 3.5 liter from 1998-1999.  The SLX was branded as “Not Acceptable” by Consumer Reports for its first two model years due to a high rollover tendency.

I recently snagged some original factory literature on the SLX and I was amused at some of the advertising for this vehicle.

SAFARI-SIZED MOONROOF:  Whether you’re appreciating the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan or the spectacular granite faces of Yosemite, the expansive, power-operated moonroof of the SLX affords both front and rear passengers a breathtaking panoramic view of the great outdoors.

slx_towing_boat

Plush interior.

interior

Also, here in 1996 was when we first saw Acura shifting from the named models (Legend, Vigor) to an alphanumeric nomenclature (RL, TL).  This snippet from that same Fall / Winter 1995 Acura Driver magazine talks about the transition.

acura_new_names

Perhaps my favorite option on the SLX was this one:

multi_meter

Whether you’re heading to the sweltering wastes of Death Valley or exploring the tundra of the Arctic Circle, the SLX can be fully equipped to help you handle any navigational or climactic challenge.  A new electronic multi-meter combines a compass, altimeter, thermometer, and barometer into a single, easy-to-read, liquid-crystal display.

Nowadays those types of gizmos come standard on a Corolla.  Check out those 70/30 split rear doors.

70_30_rear_doors

Only 4 exterior colors to choose from here.  And none of them were particularly exciting.

slx_colors_1996

But the bottom line is:  I want one!  It would be a fun conversation piece if nothing else.  And I want a circular driveway like this to park it in.

ilx_at_steves_driveway

Hope you enjoyed the history lesson!

I got some service reminder coupons in the mail this week.  Every time Acura sends these out, I get 3.

Feeling the love for sure.

IMG_2969

12 Responses to “Forgotten Acura SUV: The SLX”

  1. I remember both the Trooper and Rodeo being badged as Acura’s and Honda’s. I even opened the hood on one or the other and there it said on the inner fender well, “Made by Isuzu”.

    I owned a similar vehicle during that same timeframe, a 1996 Lexus LX450, which was nothing more than a re-badged Toyota Landcruiser. Lexus rushed those things out in 1996 and 1997 before they engineered their own models in 1998. The re-badged Landcruiser I owned ultimately caused me to lose faith in Lexus. Lexus modified the suspension making it much softer in the Lexus version, actually causing it to be unsafe at high speeds. And the convenient storage compartment in the console was changed into the sub-woofer location for the stereo. Just like Acura with the SLX, they did add some exterior cladding to make it look better, but that was about it. It wasn’t as good as the original Landcruiser, but my wife was driving a Lexus.

    Going back a few years further, I owned a 1981 Chevrolet LUV 4wd pickup. Nothing more than an Isuzu P’up. Isuzu starting selling those same trucks under their own name a year or two later. Back even further, remember Opel’s that were sold at your local Buick dealership from about 1969 to 1974? By 1976 the Opels were either not selling well, or were too expensive, and Chevrolet continued to sell cars badged as Opels but they were actually Isuzu’s. Talk about a brand with an identity crisis? What ever happened to that guy in the commercials, Joe isuzu? I think he ended up being a sitcom actor, didn’t he?

    • Duane, I know the vehicle you’re talking about! There’s an LX450 parked my office that I walk past every day. I’ve always kind of admired it because the original Land Cruiser was such a cool ride, how could a Lexus version not be that much better? But I guess as you’ve noted, it wasn’t without its share of faults.

      I never pieced together the connection between the LUV and the P’up but it makes complete sense now. Where is Isuzu now anyway? According to Wikipedia, they’ve been out of the US market for the last 5 years. I doubt we’ll see them back any time soon.

      I had to Google “Joe Isuzu” to even see who you were talking about, but when I found some of the ads on YouTube they looked familiar. Haha!

  2. Acura’s marketing department has pretty much always done a very good job. Same for the SLX.

    • I agree! Personally I wish the marketing group would resurrect some of the old taglines. Like the one with the G2 Legend commute that said, “If Only Your Commute Were Longer.” That is so perfect! Haha

  3. I love everything here. The SLX, the ’90’s Acura marketing, the same mileage on your dads Sanota as on our TSX (111,576 miles as of yesterday -The Santa Fe has taken up 6,078 miles since it has been in our drive way.)

    It’s always fascinating to read about past Acura/ Honda models and how Acura marketed them. I agree they should re use some of the ’90’s tag lines. They’re great! The SLX would be nice to have -just to have.

    I’ve never seen a SLX in person and may never will, but a few people at my school drive Honda Passports. I like the way they look.

    One thing to mention about the SLX, it never used any Honda mechanical parts/ drive trains unfortunately. So it’s a little odd to me Honda allowed a badge of their own on it. Haha. Shows just how much and quickly they wanted Acura in the SUV market.

    • Agreed, there was definitely a sense of urgency for Acura/Honda to get into that market. I can’t believe your family has already put 6k miles on the brand new Santa Fe!

  4. My first car was a 1994 Oldsmobile Achieva S that my sister had already crashed 4 times (not all her fault, but still). The junk yard had offered her $100 but it was still drivable and it was my 17th birthday so she sold it to me for $50.

    My 2nd car, only months later, was a 1996 Acura SLX. It was 2007 and It had under 100,000 miles on it. I bought it from a guy off Craigslist for $3,250. Green and tan with the grey leather interior. Great sound system. Huge moon roof. Heated seats and mirrors, and the mirrors folded in at the push of a button. That thing was a BEAST in the snow (IN 2-WHEEL DRIVE).

    My only complaints were that the 3.2 was a bit sluggish, and the airbag didn’t go off when I was hit head-on by a drunk in the process of getting his 3rd DUI in ’09.

    To this day, my favorite vehicle I’ve ever owned. In hind-sight, the best thing about it was probably the seat height. Your legs went down off of the seat to the pedals instead of straight out in front of you… so comfortable. I’d love to find a black ’98 or ’99 for sale.

    I’d post the pics here if I knew how!

  5. Gordon Ettenson Says:

    Am in need of a 1996 Isuzu Trooper fuel tank. Can’t find one anywhere but believe the SLX tank is the same. Any help appreciated

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