11/19/2019 | 5 MINUTE READ

2020 Acura RDX A-Spec

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Too much about racing. Not enough about driving.

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Acura IMSA race car

Meyer Shank Racing NSX GT3 Evo, winner of the GTD Team Championship (Images: Acura)

I recently had the opportunity to participate in an interview with Jon Ikeda for “Autoline This Week,” a program that airs on many PBS stations around the U.S. Ikeda is Vice President and Brand Officer, Acura Brand Office. Said more simply, he’s the guy in charge. Ikeda used to be the chief designer at Honda R&D in Torrance. And that can’t be said more simply.

Ikeda, after receiving a degree from Art Center, was offered a position at General Motors in design. Prior to making a move to Detroit for the GM job, he’d been contacted by a friend who’d gone to Honda who asked Ikeda if he’d go to Japan for a few days to check out what Honda designers were up to. While on what was to be a short trip, Ikeda had the opportunity to see an F1 race at Suzuka. He is a BIG racing fan. It occurred to him, he recalled, that if the people at Honda were behind the engines that were powering both Ayton Senna and Alain Prost, they clearly had something. And what they were also to have, obviously, were the talents of Jon Ikeda, who decided that he’d join Honda. Rather than moving to Michigan, he moved to Japan, where he stayed for six years before returning to Honda’s operations in Torrance, California, in 1995, where he’s been since. And he still loves racing.

This week the LA Auto Show is opening. And Acura will have a stand there. As the company notes in its press release regarding its exhibit:

“Acura will put performance center stage at the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show with a celebration of its dominant 2019 IMSA racing season, including a gathering of championship racers from Acura Team Penske and Meyer Shank Racing, and a display that will include examples of the championship-winning ARX-05 Daytona Prototype and NSX GT3 Evo and race cars. . . .Other highlights of the Acura performance story include displays of the 2020 NSX in Indy Yellow Pearl and the stunning Acura Type S Concept, which sets the stage for the return of Acura Type S performance variants to the Acura line-up after a decade hiatus.”

Clearly, the folks at Acura are almost racing obsessed.

In the space that Acura is competing in, the premium segment of the market, there are some very strong brands. This strength is predicated on people in the market having an understanding—or at least a perception—of what these brands represent, which then goes to the characteristics of the vehicles that they provide.

To broadly brush the Germans—Mercedes, Audi, BMW—it is about engineering. Lexus is about comfort and quality. Infiniti is about style.

And Acura is about. . . .

Well, its tagline is “Precision Crafted Performance.”

I’m not so sure that’s really doing the brand any favors.

2020 Acura RDX

 

Yes, I understand that it is important to differentiate one’s brand from the others. But I don’t understand how this whole performance meme is meant to move sheet metal, precision crafted though it may be.

Earlier this week, Kyle Busch won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. In a Camry. Toyota has won the manufacturer’s title in NASCAR three times in four years (including 2019). Because of drivers’ wins in Camrys.

Does anyone buy a Camry because of that?

Or consider that Lewis Hamilton, at the U.S. Grand Prix earlier this month, piloted a Mercedes to his sixth Formula One world championship title.

How many GLC sales is that likely to provoke?

At this point you may be wondering whether you’ve stumbled onto some critique in Advertising Age or something.

But while driving the 2020 Acura RDX—and know that the “A Spec” means the racy trim package—it struck me that this is a vehicle that has characteristics and features that those who are interested in a superb driving experience would find to check plenty of boxes—even if those people don’t have the foggiest notion of what IMSA racing is about.

For example, there is “Super Handling All-Wheel Drive,” which sounds like something out of an anime film. What this means is that there is the ability for the vehicle—automatically—to send as much as 70% of the vehicle’s torque to the rear wheels (thus the AWD part) but, importantly, it can then divert that rear torque proportionately to the wheel that needs it the most, up to 100% to either (which results in the Super Handling, because the vehicle is more likely to continue going in the direction intended, not somewhere else).

If you live in a place like Detroit, where we got 8 inches of snow one day, and you’re going to appreciate that.

Yes, if you put the accelerator pedal to the floor on a stretch of dry pavement the system is also going to keep the car going forward as it is being propelled, but how often does that happen? Probably not as much as snow, rain and/or ice.

Acura RDX interior

 

Then there is the ELS Audio system in the RDX. Every purveyor of premium vehicles has its system. “ELS” is named for Elliot Scheiner, an engineer/producer who has worked with the Eagles, Eric Clapton, Phish, Paul McCartney, Sting and Steely Dan—just to name a few. And having had the opportunity to meet and talk with Scheiner, I can tell you that he just didn’t sell his name to Acura but made sure that the system met his standards.

If you happen to be in slow-moving traffic, odds are some good tunes are going to make your experience a more pleasant one than a set of paddle shifters nine and three on the steering wheel.

The front seats in the RDX are bolstered and upholstered to facilitate spirited driving. They are also simply supportive and comfortable.

And although you’re not likely to ever see it, there is the structure of the RDX, that includes a double-ring rear body/frame structure, and an inner and outer front door ring produced with ultra-high strength steel (a world’s first), both of which contribute to both safety and reduced NVH in significant ways. Safe, solid, quiet. Sort of what one would be looking for in a daily driver.

Acura RDX structure

You won’t see this structure. But you will experience it.

The world that most of us drive in doesn’t include racing. Outside of merging onto a freeway or passing someone on a two-lane Up North, performance isn’t a concern, especially if we’re behind the wheel of a crossover and have the kids in the back.

Acura has plenty of valuable characteristics that I’m afraid get overlooked by those who would really appreciate them because they know what world they live in, and Daytona Prototypes aren’t a part of it.

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