One of the things that is in short supply nowadays is the vehicle design study.
Sure, there are plenty of studies being taken all the time in studios and at design schools.
But how often does a major automobile manufacturer show the world the direction that they want to take their vehicles, to show what is essentially a unified collection of cues that the design team fully intends to deploy on production cars going forward?
In some cases, not at all.
Although Acura has been around since 1986—and realize that Lexus and Infiniti didn’t appear in the U.S. market until 1989—it is still the challenger brand.
While the NSX—the original of 1990 and the 2017 model that is being produced at the Performance Manufacturing Center in Marysville, Ohio—is certainly a bold statement of purpose and conceivably intent, the design of that vehicle was executed for that vehicle.
So Dave Marek, Acura global creative director, and his team decided that they needed to create a definition, a pattern, an automotive variant of adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine, and to encapsulate it into a car. But, Marek says, they didn’t just want to do this for their own internal edification. They wanted to create a statement, to plant the proverbial flag in the ground, to say: “THIS is the design direction that Acura is taking.”
Which gave rise to the Acura Precision Concept. And the Acura Precision Concept is an expression of what Marek calls “Precision Crafted Performance.”
And Marek managed to get the green light to create a full-size model of the Acura Precision Concept—exterior and interior fully executed—that would be taken off the design patio and taken to the auto show circuit, for all the world to see.
One unusual aspect of this car is that while it has a long hood (dash-to-axle ratio), absence of a B-pillar and a fastback roofline, something that one might ordinarily consider to be the cues of a coupe, it is a sedan. Marek explains, “We’re serious about this. I wanted to do a sedan because this is how we want our cars to look.”
That’s as in "really look."
Marek continues, “Coupes are a given in a show car. This is more of a road map for us.” A roadmap riding on 22s.
He wants the car to be the “North Star” for the design team.
Marek acknowledges that the sedans in the Acura showroom “need a shot in the arm.” And while he points out that the SUVs—the MDX and RDX—are doing well, they could use a booster, too.
Marek says of the car’s exterior execution, “We want to do the sharp lines and have some agileness or sportiness to it by leaning it out.” While the transition surfaces aren’t, he says, “voluptuous per se,” he says they have “some section so they don’t feel flat, but precise.” Marek adds, “We could have done it flat and edgy.”
(The car is more F-35 Lighting II than F-117 fighter.)
Marek says, “The NSX has surface, but it is also edgy. It feels more sharp to me.”
Michelle Christensen is principal exterior designer for the vehicle. She also happened to have that role for the NSX. And the interior design for the APC was headed up by John Norman, who also worked the interior for the NSX.
Speaking of the interior, there is a blend of the technical, the performance and the comfortable. As in (1) a curved center screen that’s operated with a touch pad suspended on the center stack; (2) there is a compact steering wheel with paddle shifters and a driver heads-up display; (3) the floating rear seats (the door rocker transitions to the interior side sill which then transforms to a cantilever for the rear seats) are lounge-chair like in execution.
Marek, who joined Honda R&D in 1987 and who has been to more auto shows and concours than he can probably remember or would be willing to admit, says, “A show car is a show car. You can guess at the parts that won’t make it.” Flights of fancy end up bumping up against physics and finances—and not necessarily in that order.
But of the Acura Precision Concept, he says, “I literally didn’t want to do a car we weren’t capable of doing.”
Based on the NSX—as well as the company’s manufacturing prowess—it is a pretty good bet that there’s probably far more do-able on the sedan than one might otherwise imagine.