Acura unveils 3 concept cars in Detroit
NSX, ILX and RDX provide a glimpse of how the Japanese automaker means to re-establish its place in the luxury market.
Acura NSX Concept
Over the past 25 years, Acura has developed from "a more posh Honda" to its own stand-alone brand known for quality, luxury and reliability. But over the past couple of years, the brand has faltered. At the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Acura unveiled three concepts aimed at a range of consumers and meant to re-establish its place in the increasingly crowded luxury market.
The most buzz has been generated by the all-new NSX concept, a resurrection of the much-beloved 1990s model often referred to as the "everyday supercar." However, the all-new ILX and next-generation RDX concepts merit attention, too. They are the models you'll see the most of on the road and, if all goes as Acura hopes, will be the catalyst for Acura's return to glory.
TOP STORIES FROM THE DETROIT AUTO SHOW:
Acura ILX Concept
What is it? Acura's new "gateway" sedan, aimed at bringing a younger audience into the luxury fold.
What's hot? The ILX will have a lengthy list of standard features and option packages, but the biggest news is that it will include Acura's first hybrid powertrain. The 1.5-liter gas-electric powertrain will be accompanied by an inline 2.0-liter standard engine and a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder performance model. Expect to see much discussion about the ILX's sleek styling and the fact that it's being built here in the United States.
What's not? The 4-door ILX is based on the latest-generation Honda Civic, which has received a lukewarm reception at best. Using that as the building block for such an all-important new flagship is odd.
How much and when? Rumors abound, but Acura has not yet set a price. It would be nice to know, because the ILX is scheduled to arrive this spring.
MSN Autos' verdict: The ILX merits careful watching: The powertrain and technology options are interesting enough, and the looks are appealing. At the right price, it could become ubiquitous and put other luxury brands on notice that they need to appeal to the lower end of the market or be left behind.
Acura RDX Prototype
What is it? The redesigned RDX crossover SUV, which Acura says will give fans of the previous generation more of what they want, especially in the efficiency and performance departments.
What's hot? The standard 3.5-liter V6 engine in the 2013 RDX is rated at 273 horsepower — 33 ponies more than the previous model — yet it reportedly will deliver fuel efficiency of 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway, which would catapult it to the head of the class for gas-powered crossovers. The RDX has more elegant, aerodynamic body lines and will be available with all-wheel and front-wheel drive.
What's not? Say what you want about the old beak — it made the RDX stand out. The new body lines may be more elegant, but the new RDX threatens to be a little too much like other models in its class.
How much and when? The 2013 RDX will arrive sometime this spring, but we have no official pricing from Acura yet.
MSN Autos' verdict: The larger engine, longer wheelbase and wider stance suggest the 2013 RDX will offer much better performance. If the engine and chassis upgrades deliver, combined with Acura's well-equipped interiors, the RDX could be the standout crossover of its generation.
Acura NSX Concept
What is it? The return of one of the most beloved badges from the past 20 years. Acura's halo car stays true to its "performance through engineering efficiency."
What's hot? The name "NSX" alone is enough to make us giddy, as are the sweeping lines. The light, mid-mounted VTEC V6 engine and the new Sports Hybrid (that's right, it's a hybrid) Drive system, which aims to provide the ultimate in all-wheel-drive handling, are intriguing.
What's not? NSX purists are likely to note the following words: "hybrid," "dual-clutch transmission" and "all-wheel drive" and say that the car sounds interesting but it's no NSX. Price is going to be an issue as well: If it's deemed too expensive, the NSX may lose the last of its defenders while failing to entice the extreme high-end customers who were unlikely to look its way in the first place.
How much and when? We don't know how much the NSX will cost. At this point Acura says it's aiming to offer the new NSX to customers within the next three years. With actor Robert Downey Jr. driving a concept NSX in this summer's "The Avengers," look for that debut to be sooner rather than later, in an attempt to capitalize on the exposure.
MSN Autos' verdict: It really is too early to tell what the new NSX will be. If it is priced right, it could be the kind of "shot heard around the world" that the original was back in 1990. Even if it is, it still has a lot of history to live up to, and many will never accept this car as the successor to the still-great original. The new NSX will have to defy all expectations to justify its existence; how cool would it be if it did?
James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side as Senior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trendand European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.
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Sports Hybrid. By using electric motors, one could (! not necesarily though) find better application of power from a stand still. A problem all ICE systems have is that an engines full torque is not available at low revs. Rev the engine and 'feathering the clutch' until fully engaged means a lot of wasted energy and excessive wear on the clutch. If the benefits of using an electric system don't outweigh (literally) the use of a ICE-only system with as much low-end torque, than the electric system should prove better.
Additionally the electric system is far easier to move around its components for balance and center-of-gravity.
Is the engine direct-injected? Turbo (for improved torque)?