Date: December 12, 2011 01:25
Following the raftload of information coming from Honda out of the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show, Acura hosted a select group of media for an unprecedented Strategic Briefing Session in Las Vegas on Friday December 2, 2011. We were privileged enough to have been invited to this session. Going into the briefing, we were expecting to see the new concept for the "Super Sports" model that Acura and Honda have been developing, and also the "sub-TSX" model. Acura not only showed those to us, but they opened up even further on their future plans. I can say that for the first time in a long while, we came away from an Acura briefing feeling very optimistic about the future.
During this Strategic Briefing Session, Acura shared much of their product strategy going forward. "Smart Luxury" continues to be the mantra, but suddenly, in the context of the new vehicles in the pipeline it makes a lot more sense. The model strategy is centered around a 3-sedan lineup running in parallel with a dual-CUV offering. In contrast to the 3 current Acura sedans, the new lineup of sedans will (finally) have more clearly defined differences in size and class.
New Flagship (Legend?)- late 2012
At the top of the sedan lineup is an all-new flagship. Acura says it will define "smart luxury" because it will offer best in class rear legroom, but will be sized smaller on the outside to many of it's "flagship" competitors. Vicki Poponi, Assistant Vice President, Product Planning put it this way: "Think about 7-series cabin space, with the agility of a 5-series vehicle."
What we found notable was the fact that Acura referred to it as the "successor to the RL". We have heard for a few years that Acura might possibly be reviving the "Legend" nameplate with this model, but if that's what they are truly planning, there was no mention of it at this meeting.
Several images of this new flagship were projected on the screen during the meeting, and it bears a fairly strong resemblance to the current RL, but the styling is wrapped around what appears to be a scaled up package. It's a conservative and clean design, not offensive but not particularly striking, either. It looks a little more muscular than the current model, and the wheelbase appears to stretch a little longer within the length of the vehicle, which improves the overhangs somewhat, but there are still moderate overhangs at each end. The C-pillar is punctuated by a Hoffmeister kink, which may turn into a new family trait (see ILX below). One new design element that stood out was exhaust finishers that were integrated within the lower rear bumper. Also, like the NSX flagship, this new flagship featured an array of LED elements for the front headlights - there appeared to be around 10 elements (stacked in 2 rows of 5) per headlamp.
The new flagship will feature the electric SH-AWD system that Honda announced a couple weeks ago, promising V8 performance and "better than inline-4 cylinder" fuel efficiency. Acura will be introducing this car at the 2012 New York Auto Show and it will hit showrooms later in 2012.
RDX - mid 2012
Acura also gave us a teaser of the next-generation RDX, showing several images of redesigned crossover, and also sharing some of the changes that are in store. Again, quoting Vicki Poponi: "The all-new RDX will have a V6 engine that delivers more hp than our current 4-cylinder turbo, yet, it's also much more fuel efficient, which addresses some of the factors that led customers really to pass on the RDX. We expect RDX to offer best-in-class fuel economy in this segment. The all-wheel-drive system is also new, replacing the SH-AWD with a lighter weight system that provides performance and the safety benefits that the customers really want, without really adding all the extra weight of that very heavy system, and also the cost which hit both the pocketbook of the customer and also the fuel economy."
From the photos we were shown, the RDX bears a much stronger resemblance to the MDX, which (in our humble opinion) is a good thing. The roofline now more closely matches the MDX, especially in the C-pillar area, and like the MDX, the greenhouse is rimmed with a thin strip of chrome. The front of the new RDX has a slightly bulkier look than the current RDX, and the "chinless" look is a thing of the past. Apart from the (toned down) power plenum grill, there is considerably less brightwork in the front of the RDX than the MDX - and the RDX's lower trapezoidal openings in the bumper also serve as the foglight openings. From the photos we saw, the rear of the vehicle has a bit more of a "flat" look, mostly due to the hatchback being pretty much flush with the rear bumper. Look for the new RDX in showrooms later this spring or early summer.
Alongside the flagship, a new "super sports car" shares the role as the range topper for Acura. Acura didn't officially call it the NSX during their presentation, but everybody we spoke with following the presentation said it was indeed the NSX successor. I took that as good news. UPDATE: In their press release released this morning, Acura is calling it the "NSX Concept". Some text below is updated to reflect that.
Acura showed us the actual NSX Concept which will be revealed in Detroit next month. Unfortunately there was no photography allowed, but I can tell you that this will be one of the biggest reveals for Acura in recent history. Basically this is the car that was spied on the "Avengers" set late in the Summer, but it's clearly been further developed and it's also in hard-top form. Finished in a sliver paint, the concept is absolutely stunning, and carries on the NSX tradition of a mid-engine, rear-wheel drive layout. The design is muscular, futuristic, and sharp, and vaguely similar to the Audi R8.
Compared to the "Avengers" car, the front end on this concept actually has working LED headlights - there are 5 "squircle" projectors embedded within each headlight housing. The rear bumper is also virtually identical to the "Avengers" car but with a real roof and backlight and more "production-looking" taillights, the overall visage is considerably different. Like the "flagship", the exhaust finishers are integrated into the bumper. A really cool (but not necessarily original) styling element is the "flying buttress" C-pillars. The C-pillars feature a "pass-through" which appears to be designed to channel air smoothly around the cockpit and over the rear of the vehicle. It's like an elongated version of the flying buttress seen on the Ferrari 599 - the NSX has a much faster angle on the backlight, which naturally lengthens the C-pillar. The gap between the C-pillar and the glass is fairly narrow, however. For the record, this concept wore Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires in 255/35ZR19 size up front, and 275/30ZR20s in the rear.
Acura wouldn't tell us anything about the engine or powertrain, but off the record they were quick to tell us that the announced Electric SH-AWD system with 3.5L DI V6 was clearly not potent enough for this car. It should be noted that THAT powertrain, with its 7-speed dual clutch gearbox and 3 electric motors, develops a peak output in the neighborhood of 400hp. Obviously with the MR layout, Honda has to engineer a very specific setup for this car, and we're assuming it will essentially be a reversed layout compared to the FF-oriented design which was revealed previously.
We are hopeful that it will receive a very special high output, high revving gasoline engine that is fitting of the NSX heritage, while leveraging the electric motors and onboard battery to deliver on the "smart luxury" promise of excellent fuel economy. Acura told us that they would be releasing more information and details about this car at the upcoming Detroit Auto Show.
Acura ILX (long-rumored "Sub-TSX" model)
It feels like it's been an eternity since we first heard about it, but Acura finally revealed this long-rumored "Sub-TSX" model. First, Acura projected some photos of the ILX up on the screen and to be honest, it really didn't look that great in photos. It's a good thing they eventually showed us the car in the sheetmetal because it looks much better in person. The key design element that stood out to me was a pronounced crease starting in the doors and curving up over the rear wheelwell. I'm assuming it was intended to lend the car an image of strength, but I felt that it comes across as a little bit overdone. Also notable (and possibly a little overdone) is a Hoffmeister kink in the C-pillar. Otherwise, it's a good looking vehicle, with finishing details that give it a nice European (yeah, mostly Audi) look and feel. The ILX features a relatively long nose and a stubby rear deck and a high beltline. The front doors are fairly long - almost like a coupe, while the rear doors appear considerably shorter. The taillights are clearly Acura shapes, but for some reason when I was looking at the rear of the car I kept getting a little bit of an Audi A5 vibe. The general proportions probably reminded me most of the previous generation Mazda 3. The prototype had appropriately sized wheels which filled up the fenderwells very nicely. While our assumption is that this car is based upon the Civic platform, Acura never mentioned it, and from the styling and proportions there is essentially no hint that this car is related to the Civic. Acura announced the basic powertrain specs, confirming the rumors that it would be offered in hybrid form (1.5L IMA). Additionally, for those seeking an automatic transmission, the ILX will be offered in a 2.0L 4-cyl flavor (for now we're operating on the assumption that the engine will be an R20), and for the more sporting-minded, a 6-speed manual will be offered, paired with a 2.4L 4-cylinder. Beyond these basic specs, Acura would not comment on power levels or anything of that nature. We're expecting this car to hit showrooms in late spring or early summer of 2012.
Future of the TSX
There have been rumors that the TSX would be going away once the ILX is introduced. And depending upon how you look at it, those rumors could be considered true. Now that Acura has stated the "clearly defined" 3-sedan strategy, one of the 4 models has to go. While it wasn't directly confirmed that the TSX would be eliminated, we were told that something would obviously be slotted somewhere in-between the new ILX and "flagship" sedan. Will it be the TSX or the TL? It seems like it will come down to semantics, as whichever vehicle eventually fills that middle slot will be something different from both current TL and TSX models.
Acura has been getting beat up online (here, and elsewhere) for quite some time, and for now it seems like their response is measured and strong. If they follow through on their plans and deliver on their promises, the future of Acura appears much less cloudy than it did even a month ago.
Last edited by JeffX on
December 12, 2011 13:04