Forgotten Acura SUV: The SLX
Odometer (Legend): 529,013
Odometer (ILX): 70,563
Congrats, Dad, on hitting 111,111 miles today in your 2010 Hyundai Sonata! You’ve taught me well. Err, vice versa.
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:
SLX was touted as “The Most Civilized Way to Leave Civilization.”
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.
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.
Perhaps my favorite option on the SLX was this one:
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.
Only 4 exterior colors to choose from here. And none of them were particularly exciting.
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.
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.