DETROIT — At the Detroit auto show, Acura broke news on three new models crucial to the brand’s growth: the NSX hybrid supercar, a prototype of the next MDX mid-size crossover SUV, and its flagship sedan, the RLX.
These new products come at an important time for the luxury division of Honda. After peaking in 2005 with 210,000 vehicles sold, Acura’s 2011 sales plummeted to just 123,000. The company says sales rebounded 26.7% in 2012 and it hopes to continue this growth with a refreshed product line in 2013.
Here’s a look at what was on display:
Good news for those tracking the progress of Acura’s upcoming NSX hybrid supercar: It has an interior.
Acura showed off the latest iteration of the NSX concept Tuesday at the Detroit auto show. For the first time in the concept’s auto show lifespan, it was displayed with a hint at what the production car’s interior will look like when it comes to market around 2015.
The exterior has also evolved to reflect the realities of a real sports car rather than a concept. A close look reveals functional air intakes and outlets and a revised grille with less of the metallic beak that dominated the original concept’s face.
Jon Ikeda, chief designer at the Acura Design Studio in Los Angeles, said that in the case of the NSX, he welcomes these changes necessitated by the shift from a concept car to a production model.
“What’s interesting about working on supercars, is that those kinds of things don’t tend to make the vehicle look worse,” Ikeda said in an interview. “They make the car look very purposeful and exciting, exotic. You don’t see things like that on a sedan or an SUV.”
In addition to the changes to the exterior, Acura provided a look at what the interior could look like. The design focuses on simplicity, and Acura says it minimizes interior clutter. A high center console separates driver from passenger, and it’s trimmed in a thick strip of carbon fiber that flows up into the dashboard.
A close look at the console shows buttons for the transmission (paddle shifters are on the steering wheel) sitting just below a large screen nestled within the dash. The rest of the cabin is trimmed in additional carbon fiber and an expanse of leather.
Acura hasn’t disclosed specifics for the drivetrain of the NSX, saying only that it will have a mid-mounted, direct-injection V-6 engine that’s paired with three electric motors: one integrated with the engine and one each moving the front wheels. Thus, the car will effectively be all-wheel drive, and power will flow through a dual-clutch transmission.
Pricing for the NSX hasn’t been announced, but expect it to fall well past the $100,000 mark. The car will be built in Ohio when production starts, probably sometime in 2015.
Likely coming to market this summer or fall, the MDX prototype is a production-ready look at the company’s mid-size crossover SUV.
Although Acura didn’t display this prototype’s interior, the company did say that consumer demand in warm climates (ahem) means a front-wheel-drive model will be offered for the first time, as well as one with all-wheel drive. It will be powered by an “all-new” direct-injected V-6 engine. Horsepower and torque ratings haven’t been announced.
The front of the MDX prototype bears a close resemblance to the RLX flagship sedan that Acura launched at November’s Los Angeles Auto Show.
This flagship sedan from Acura will officially go on sale March 15. Acura announced Tuesday that its starting price will be $49,345, including destination. Options on the RLX can push that price to $61,345.
The RLX is powered by a 310 horsepower, direct-injected V-6 and is front-wheel drive.
Acura says that later in 2013, it will launch a more powerful, all-wheel-drive version of the RLX. This model will have 370 horsepower and the company expects it will have fuel-economy ratings of 30 mpg in both the city and on the highway.