1996 - 1999 Acura SLX
Introduced in 1986 as a luxury vehicle division of Honda, Acura enjoyed a strong start in market acceptance in the U.S. The Legend, the Integra, and the NSX, helped the brand build a name for itself after only five years on the market. However, Acura began to struggle in the mid-1990s, when sales dropped in part to its less inspiring designs and the switch to an alphanumeric nomenclature that saw the popular Legend renamed the 3.5 RL. It was then that Acura decided to offer a crossover and created the SLX.
Launched in 1995 for the 1996 model year, the SLX was aimed at the midsize crossover market, which was picking up speed thanks to models like the Chevrolet Blazer and Ford Bronco II in the late 1980s and the Ford Explorer in the early 1990s. But, unlike Chevy and Ford, Acura wanted a more upscale people hauler. It’s worth noting that there were no mainstream luxury SUVs other than the Range Rover until 1995, when Lexus launched the LX 450 that was based on the J80-generation Toyota Land Cruiser.
The problem was that Honda’s mid-size SUVs at the time, the Passport in the U.S. and the Horizon in Japan, were badged engineered versions of the Isuzu Rodeo and Trooper, respectively, and Acura needed a model that would get them into that market fast. As a result, the brand’s first SUV was in fact a lightly upgraded and rebadged Isuzu Trooper.
It would soon become clear that the decision to rebadge the Trooper was not exactly inspired...
The SLX was sold in the U.S. for only four model years between 1996 in 1999. Despite receiving a redesigned front end and a new engine in 1998, the SLX was axed in 1999 following poor sales and bad press from Consumer Reports, which rated the crossover as "Not Acceptable" due to its high roll-over tendency. It was replaced by the MDX, which shared a platform with the Honda Pilot, in 2000. Far more successful than the SLX, the MDX is already in its third generation as of 2016.
Continue reading to learn more about the Acura SLX.