Honda’s Acura division will create a new version of its former NSX supercar, and officials hope it will symbolize what the brand aspires to be.
The sports car will be small, high-tech and eco-friendly, they say. That would be a change of direction from the Acura Advance Sports Car Concept that appeared at major auto shows four years ago, a V-10-powered beast.
Honda’s U.S. top brass gave a background briefing here on the new NSX, which rolls out at the Detroit auto show next month, and they explained goals for the luxury brand, which has had a bumpy sales record in recent years.
They say Honda is putting new emphasis on Acura and will sharpen its identity. They plan to create more models unique to Acura, rather than models adapted as Acuras from Hondas sold in Europe or other markets as in the past.
The goal is to refine the Acura image to lure more of the upscale elite of Gen Y, just hitting their 30s and ready for their first upscale car:
To do so, Acura plans to stress sustainability and affordability, not just features and horsepower.
“That doesn’t mean we won’t create high-performance vehicles,” says Jeff Conrad, sales vice president, “but the way we do it will be unique to Acura.”
The new NSX — a mid-engine two-seater — will be the symbolic “halo car” for the new brand philosophy. It will be a V-6 gas-electric hybrid to polish its green credentials, but multiple electric motors will be configured to enhance the performance of the all-wheel-drive system. They will be independently controlled by the car’s computer and be able, for example, to send more power to the outside wheels in tight turns to make the car even more maneuverable.
The all-wheel-drive system “allows the driver to go beyond what he could do for himself,” says Gary Evert, a division leader on the research team.
Acura wouldn’t allow photos pending the NSX’s Detroit debut, but make no mistake: It’s sleek, swoopy and sexy.
It’s a successor to the fabled $90,000 NSX original built from 1990 to 2005. That’s the 2005 version in the photo, above. It proved a Japanese maker could build a world-class, 175-miles-per-hour sports car to rival the best from Europe.
Since the NSX and other top-end models will be out of reach for most younger buyers, Acura also is creating a new entry sedan, the ILX, to rival other luxury brand starter cars, such as BMW’s 1 Series. It will offer a 2- or 2.4-liter gas engine and a hybrid version and be aimed to lure new luxury buyers, “getting them in early and feeding them through the lineup,” says Vicki Poponi, assistant vice president.
At the top end of the lineup, Acura is redesigning its aging RL flagship sedan with more space inside, especially in the back seat. Today’s modest model is smaller than rival luxury flagships and similar to Acura’s midlevel TL.
The new RL will clearly stand out in a way that leaves no question about what Acura considers its top-of-the-line, says John Mendel, Honda’s executive vice president in the U.S.