Last week, I gave my five best pieces of advice when it comes to buying a car, especially when you are buying a car on a budget. Near the end of the article, I teased that my train of thought had been sparked because my brother was car shopping with the budget of $5,000, and had found a neat car.
As the header gave away to any Honda-philes out there, the car he found was a 1992 Acura Vigor. Coming in under budget by well over half, this running, smoggable, registered car, checked all the right boxes. As soon as he showed me the car, and had decided to buy it, I wanted to get my hands on it. As the car started its life in 1992, the year before I did, it gave an insight into what was cutting-edge when I was barely a thought in my family’s mind, and how far we have or haven’t come since then.
Time Travel: The Vigor in 1992
If you don’t know of, or remember the Acura Vigor, it is no surprise. While available more widely outside of America, in the US market, the Vigor was only sold from 1992 until 1994, as Acura’s flagship model. Sales numbers of 32,584 further ensure that the Vigor is a rare sight today. However, those 32,584 customers received quite the package, as the Vigor was supposed to be Acura’s competitor to such vehicles as the Lexus ES300.
While it may seem odd that what is essentially a stretched Honda Accord—in looks and in function—would compete with such a car, on paper, the comparison is fair. Power came from a unique powerplant, the all-aluminum 2.5L G-series Honda 5-cylinder engine. This engine was longitudinally mounted, despite powering the front wheels. This was done to ensure a more balanced weight over the front and rear wheels.
Also in the quest of weight dynamics, the 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic gearbox was positioned behind the engine, towards the driver, using a driveshaft to deliver power to the front through a limited-slip differential. The LSD, combined with the better weight distribution, ensures that the Vigor uses the most of its 176hp and 170lb-ft of torque, delivering adequate performance: while drivers won’t feel slow, they won’t feel like many stoplight drags.
The interior of the Vigor was equipped to compete as well. Featuring both an in-dash cassette player, as well as a trunk-mounted CD player, the self-balancing audio system would have been quite an enticing feature in the early 1990’s. Modernity was ensured—and the future, introduced—to new purchasers with things like automatic windows, automatic locks, and the fancy stereo. A traditional leather interior with power-operated seats sealed the package, creating a comfortable cabin.
Snap Back: The Vigor Now
For the 35,000 or so people, all of the above was obviously enticing in the early 90’s. Now, 24 years later, the question of how well these systems have aged—both in function and in appeal—is a serious consideration for anyone looking at one. With any used car, I like to play a little game called ‘What Doesn’t Work’. Sometimes, this game can go on for a long, LONG, time. Luckily, the Vigor’s list is pleasantly short after 151,399.2 miles:
1. The radio does not work at all. That being said, the automatic antenna still works about half of the time.
2. The integrity of the leather is fading.
3. Second gear is a little tired.
With a seat cover, a wireless speaker, and some careful shifting, all of these problems become even more minor than they were to begin with. All of the other electronics—most 90’s car Achilles Heel—work perfectly, including all of the windows and the sunroof. On top of that, the engine still pulls strong and runs smoothly, keeping pace with modern traffic with ease.
As a car, this example works as it was sold from the factory. Most of the ‘extras’—radio, locks, windows, AC—which usually break or deteriorate in older cars, all work perfectly as well. These devices all also feel very modern, in large part due to the fact that most things such as locks and window switch technology doesn’t change all that much.
If the radio worked, I have a feeling my impressions would be slightly altered. Not only is the cassette player a blast from the past, the enormous trunk-located CD player serves to remind just how far we have come.
The 90’s-era steering, with all of its expected dead zones and squishy responsiveness, is another reminder of the technological progress. While the steering requires more inputs than modern drivers may expect, once habits are adjusted, the Vigor’s steering actually proves itself a capable companion, with a smooth-shifting gear action to match.
Unfortunately (to some), Acura’s suspension priorities persist to this day, and any curvy B-road antics drivers dream of will remain dreams. Soaking up bumps with no issues, the Vigor prioritizes cruising comfort over cornering abilities. The leather seats, soft plastics, and leather door inserts further this ‘comfort cruiser’ persona.
One odd decision by Acura does impact driver comfort negatively, and that is the placement of three buttons. The buttons in question—the fog lights, the defroster, and the cruise control—are all located out of sight, and presumably out of mind. Located behind the steering wheel, I only noticed they existed from the passenger’s seat.
After 24 years and over 150,000 miles, the fact that Acura’s design priorities of comfort and ease come to the forefront, only goes to show the quality of their product. While some things like the leather driver’s seat and radio head unit have fallen into disrepair, many more devices still function. Much more importantly—especially when the car comes in under-budget—the mechanicals are strong, the car is registerable, and it isn’t completely awful.
Think I am wrong? You may be right (detailed mechanics inspection incoming!), but let me know down below so you can say, “I told you so” if something goes wrong. Like the article and share it with your friends if you enjoyed reading it.
I recently recieved a degree in History from the University of Nevada, Reno.