Why Acura Broke Away from Honda’s Best Seller

They may be "sisters," but they're distinctly different

Why Acura Broke Away from Honda’s Best Seller

Honda Acura

Not to date myself, but I still remember when the Acura brand was first introduced in Canada. For the longest time it was just Honda, and Acura was introduced as their luxury brand.

The Honda Civic is such a popular car – it’s almost a rite of passage! During my time, almost everyone’s first car was either a Honda Civic or Chevrolet Cavalier. In fact, the Honda Civic has been Canada’s best-selling vehicle for 17 years.

The Acura brand then produced the 1.6EL and followed by the CSX, so closely modelled after the Civic that it was commonly thought to be just pricier versions. Often, at our auto repair shop when we’re pricing out parts for our clients for their Acura 1.6EL or CSX, we have to ask for the Honda Civic part equivalent as there’s no listing for the Acura in the parts catalogue.

For many, the Acura product was seen as riding on the coat-tails of the Honda Civic’s success. When Acura announced that they were dropping the CSX and introducing the ILX, it definitely piqued my interest – it’s a big gamble, to walk away from Canada’s best-selling car. At the same time, it made sense if Acura was to attract customers from other luxury brands… time to break the stigma of being just an expensive Honda.

2015 Acura ILX profile

I had the opportunity to speak with Ricky Mak, Product Planner with Acura Canada. Indeed, the Acura ILX was intended to be a completely different product than the Honda Civic. Ricky conceded that the Civic was a strong brand, but noted that Acura wanted to take their entry level car to the “next level”. The interior of the ILX has quality finish consistent with the Acura brand. Standard features include ‘Smart Entry’ (keyless), moonroof, and HID headlamp bulbs.

2015 Acura ILX centre console

We reminisced being part of a generation of car owners, decking out and modifying the Honda Civic, Prelude or Acura Integra. One of the targeted segments that the Acura ILX is trying to reach are young couples who want driving performance, but don’t have the time to tune the car. The reality is that we’ve had to grow up and with the demands of career and family, there just isn’t as much time for tinkering with the car!

2015 Acura ILX rear

I road tested the 2015 Acura ILX Dynamic (2.4L iVTEC engine, 6 speed manual transmission) and when compared to the 2015 Honda Civic, its handling felt responsive and the ILX had a smoother ride (in part due to its amplitude reactive damper).  I was happy to see that the ILX has a more traditional instrument cluster (sorry Honda, I’m just too old school for the fancy digital gauges!) and despite being a small sedan, it had enough trunk space for my Costco run. Now personally, THAT is a test that any potential vehicle on my "to buy" list must pass.

2015 Acura ILX Instrument Panel   

  2015 Acura ILX trunk

As for what’s next, Ricky tells me his team is already planning products 3 years out. As for the near future, the 2016 ILX borrows from the TLX’s 2.4L direct-injected engine. What does that mean? It should feel like it has more "umph" compared to the TLX because the same engine is working in a lighter weight car!

Only time will tell if Acura made the right move. Given what Acura wanted to accomplish with its entry-level luxury sedan, I personally think they made a good choice.

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The Great Canadian Bucket List: Toronto Travel

Robin Esrock Hits All The Great Ones

The Great Canadian Bucket List: Toronto Travel

Toronto Bucket List

I admit I don’t usually go to "touristy" things in my own city unless I have out-of-town guests. In fact, most of the time my guests will know more factual things about my city than I do – though I usually know the best route to get there and where to find parking!

I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario and it wasn’t until recently (I’m in my 30s now) that I went to Casa Loma. And only because I heard that Robin Esrock was visiting Casa Loma as part of his Toronto Bucket List search with Ford Canada. Robin is a best-selling author, resides in Vancouver British Columbia, and is well-known for his adventurous travels. He’s written The Great Canadian Bucket List books.

So I figure this guy might know a thing or two about travel, tourism, and bucket lists. I was intrigued as to what experiences would make it onto Toronto’s Bucket List.

St Lawrence Market

We started off our tour at the St. Lawrence Market in downtown Toronto. This market has roots going back to 1803 with producers of Southern Ontario selling their seasonal produce. I grabbed a Lobster Roll at Buster’s Sea Cove – it was so good! If you love seafood, I definitely recommend it!

Buster's Cove Lobster Roll

Next, my driving partner Michael Cusden and I took the 2015 Ford CMax Hybrid to the Toronto Archives. This building holds all the records created by the City of Toronto government and its previous municipalities. Talk about being rich in history!

Toronto Archives

The Toronto Archives currently has an exhibit about food beverage production in Toronto. This free exhibit is on until August 31, 2015.

Toronto Archives Food Exhibit

At the Toronto Archives, Robin spoke with us about some of his travels that he’s chronicled in The Great Canadian Bucket List.

Robin Esrock Bucket List

Did you know that you can be part of the prestigious Sour Toe Cocktail Club in Yukon? All you have to do is drink this cocktail… which happens to have a severed human toe in it. Easy peasy, ya? You guys go right ahead. Let me know how well you do with that!

Sour Toe Cocktail

Another memorable bucket list item that Robin talks about is the cold sauna in British Columbia. He describes a beautiful resort owned by the Swarovski family and showcases $10 Million in Swarovski crystals. I’m just about to add this one to my personal bucket list when Robin goes on to tell us about the cold sauna located in the resort where the temperature drops to -110C and you’re wearing nothing but your bathing suit! They do provide you with gloves and slippers. Robin also provides details in an insert in his book about how humans freeze to death – such helpful information.

Sparkling Hill

Next, we took a short walk to Casa Loma. Robin Esrock tells us that there are a few things he looks for when determining if an experience will make it to his bucket list. Is it do-able for most folks? Is it unique? And does it make a great story?

Casa Loma

I found out a few interesting things about Casa Loma. It was built in 1911 by Sir Henry Pellatt, an impressive businessman and incredible romantic. His story is one filled with glamour, affluence, love, and multiple tragedies. Specifically about Casa Loma:

  • There are secret passageways in the home – one of which leads to the wine cellar! Now that is a fantastic reason to have a secret passageway in any home… right to the liquor stockpile!

Casa Loma Secret Passageway     Casa Loma Wine Cellar

  • Many movies have been filmed at Casa Loma. When I stood in the library I could see the scene in my mind from X-Men - this was the home of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.

Casa Loma library

  • The shower in Sir Henry Pellatt’s bathroom had 6 taps that controlled 3 levels of pipes…  an impressive state-of-the-art full-body shower!

Casa Loma shower

  • The most expensive item in Casa Loma is the rug in Lady Pellatt’s room.

Casa Loma rug

  • The stained glass ceiling in the Conservatory is beautiful.

Casa Loma conservatory

  • The Casa Loma has an 800-ft tunnel which led to Pellatt’s stable and carriage house. Currently there is an exhibit of Toronto’s “darker” days which show the history of Prohibition, The Great Toronto Fire, The Plague, and other painful events. Going through some of the pictures really brings to mind how blessed we are to live in the age that we do.

Casa Loma Dark Side

  • The carriage house displays some antique cars, one of which is a 1914 Ford Model T. This legend has a 4-cylinder engine, 20 horsepower and a 2-speed transmission. Fast forward to the 2015 Ford Mustang that Robin Esrock was driving on his cross-Canada tour: 4-cylinder engine, 310 horsepower and a 6-speed transmission. We’ve come a long way with cars in just 100 years!

Casa Loma Model T     2015 Ford Mustang Ecoboost

So, the Casa Loma made it Toronto’s Bucket List. Definitely unique, a great story, and certainly accessible. Want to know what bucket list items are in your backyard? I definitely recommend The Great Canadian Bucket List book – I had no idea Canada had so many experiences waiting for us!

Ford Mustang hood open

Want more Canadian travel ideas? Here’s 14 Great Canadian Family Escapes to try. If you’re heading to the East Coast, check out these Super Fun Things You Need To Do In Nova Scotia!