It’s going to be a big year for Acura, the Japanese maker set to mark its 30th anniversary in March with the launch of the reborn NSX supercar.
When the original Legend and Integra models came to market in 1986, there were plenty of skeptics who doubted a Japanese maker could deliver a true luxury car to rival dominant European and American brands. Today, there are three Japanese luxury marques, including Lexus and Infiniti. But Acura, among them, has been struggling to redefine itself and regain the momentum it had in its early years.
And that’s where the Acura Precision Concept comes into play. Making its debut at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the concept allows Acura to “dream big,” says Jon Ikeda, the former designer now heading the maker’s U.S. sales operations.
Low, wide and sensually sculpted, with slit-like headlights and a yawning, “diamond pentagon” grille, the Acura Precision Concept features plenty of fantasy elements we’re not likely to see again. But there are other key details set to reshape the next generation of Acura products and, the maker hopes, redefine what it stands for.
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It certainly can use the help. While it did post a sales gain last year, Acura just doesn’t have the momentum of key rival Lexus, in part due to a lackluster design. That’s especially true on the passenger car side where recent models, such as the RDX and ILX, haven’t delivered up to expectations. The maker’s sales sheet is largely dominated by its crossover-utility models, such as the MDX and smaller RDX.
Turning Acura around is “one of the highest goals for global Honda,” said the maker’s CEO, Takahiro Hachigo, who turned out for the Detroit Auto Show unveiling.
The NSX will help, placing a much-needed performance halo around Acura. But it needs to show that the supercar is more than just a novelty, but rather represents what the entire brand is capable of. And that’s where the Acura Precision Concept comes in.
It is long, low and sensual, and standing around the show stand one quickly sees how visitors are drawn to sweep their fingers across its metallic red surfaces.
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The show car features plenty of high-tech gear and gadgets, including the curved central video display that can provide driver data as well as entertainment. A smaller display, not much bigger than an iPhone 6-Plus, rides above the steering wheel, with most critical driver information presented via a Head-Up Display.
Acura designers clearly sweated all the details. Even the so-called CHMSL, the high-mounted brake light, has become a sculpted design element.
The question posed to Acura executives was how to take in all the individual features and design cues; what is fantasy and what is likely to reappear in production form.
That depends upon your timeframe, contends Jon Ikeda, the former advanced designer who recently took over as head of U.S. sales. “Some things are way out, some closer,” he said, adding that, “We’ve got to dream big.”
Designer Marek was pressed a bit harder. And he pointed to several key elements that we’ll be seeing in upcoming Acura models:
- That diamond pentagon grille is first and foremost;
- But the list also includes the Precision Concept’s distinctive lighting scheme;
- Future Acura products will boast more sculpted body panels, and
- They will get bigger wheels and tires and bolder fenders to emphasize power and performance.
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The new look isn’t likely to take long to take from concept to customer, several Acura insiders hinted. The Precision Concept’s cues should begin influencing the next wave of Acura products to come to market.