Acura holds the distinction of being the first Japanese automotive luxury brand. The creation of Acura coincided with the introduction of a JDM Honda dealership sales channel, called Honda Clio, which sold luxury vehicles, joining previously established Honda Verno, followed by Honda Primo the following year. In its first few years of existence, Acura was among the best-selling luxury marques in the US. Though sales were down in the mid-to-late 1990s, the brand experienced a revival in the early 2000s, due to drastic redesigns and the introductions of new models.
In the late 1980s, the success of the company's first flagship vehicle, the Legend, inspired fellow Japanese automakers Toyota and Nissan to launch their own luxury brands, Lexus and Infiniti, respectively. The 1990 launch of the NSX, a mid-engine exotic sports car, offered a reliable and practical alternative to exotic European sports cars, and introduced Honda's VTEC variable valve timing system to the North American market. The 1993 Legend coupé featured Honda's first use of a six-speed manual transmission, mated to a Type II engine. In the late 1990s, Acura produced a Type R version of its compact Integra coupé, which featured a reduced curb weight, a stiffer and lower suspension, and a high-output VTEC engine.
In the early 2000s, Acura introduced new models, including the company's first all-original SUV, the MDX, and two models which replaced the Integra coupé and sedan, the RSX and TSX, respectively. Type-S versions of the RSX, CL, and TL were added to the brand's lineup during that decade. Acura's 2005 RL flagship introduced SH-AWD, a torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system. The 2007 RDX, a crossover SUV, featured the first North American use of a turbocharged Honda engine. In the 2010s, Acura debuted more new models, including the ILX, TLX, and RLX, the latter of which introduced Acura's Jewel Eye LED headlights. A second generation NSX was launched in 2016 and features a twin-turbocharged mid-engine, a nine-speed dual-clutch transmission, and Sport Hybrid SH-AWD.
The brand was created around the same time as Japanese rivals Nissan and Toyota developed their Infiniti and Lexus premium brands. The Japanese government imposed voluntary export restraints for the U.S. market, so it was more profitable for Japanese automakers to export more expensive cars to the U.S.
Following a decade of research, Honda opened 60 new dealerships in North America by 1986, to support its Acura automobile division. Acura was the first Japanese luxury brand, introduced under the slogan, "Acura. Precision Crafted Automobiles." Its initial offering consisted of two models: the executive class Legend and the compact class Integra, available as a five-door and three-door hatchback. The Legend was the result of Project XX, a joint venture Honda entered into with the UK's Austin Rover Group. It was mechanically related to the Rover 800 series, while the Integra was an improvement of the Honda Quint hatchback.