Posted Dec 29th 2011 8:15PM
Las Vegas, NV - As far as new model introductions go, it was certainly a strange one. The invitation from Acura revealed nothing about which cars would, in fact, be making their debut, although we knew there would be two all-new models.
No photography would be allowed at this presentation, no press kits would be distributed and the information shared was to be subject to a strict embargo.
By applying deductive reasoning, I determined that a top-secret style affair could only apply to one car, which had been rumored to be in the pipeline for at least four years: the next version of the legendary NSX. Of course, there was another car set to be revealed as well, but once the NSX became the star candidate, all other scenarios seemed far less interesting.
Move past the jump to learn a little about Acura in the past, and even more about what it has planned for the future.
Although the Acura brand first gained a foothold in North America 25 years ago with the Legend luxury sedan and the Integra sport sedan, the car that really propelled the calliper logo into the spotlight was the NSX, which was sold in Japan under the Honda banner.
At the time of its introduction in 1990, Honda was in the midst of an incredibly successful run as engine supplier to the McLaren Formula One team. The relationship began in 1988 and resulted in drivers Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost winning 15 of 16 races that season, a success rate that has never been equaled in Grand Prix racing.
The McLaren-Honda captured the World Drivers' and Manufacturers' Championships that year, the following year, the year after that and then again in 1991 - four seasons, four displays of complete domination, all four powered by Honda engines.
The objective behind the first NSX was to take that hard-earned reputation for performance and bring it to the masses - well, at least those among the masses who could afford a reasonably priced super-car.
Incorporating knowledge gathered from the Honda racing program, the NSX boasted the first production engine with titanium connecting rods (again, for less weight and increased strength), and the first with an electronic variable valve timing and lift system - the now-famous VTEC. The NSX also featured the first mass-produced aluminum monocoque body, a lightweight, stiff and strong basis for a car that needed to set new standards in driving dynamics.
While it may be a coincidence, the NSX was discontinued in 2005 and Honda soon thereafter began running its own dismal Formula One team, a project that was ultimately abandoned just two seasons later.
Back in 2008, a V10-powered Honda super-car was seen testing at the Nurburgring. This car was intended to be the successor to the NSX, but with more emphasis on fuel efficiency and emissions, combined with a poor outlook for the global economy, the car never made it to production.
Now, as we approach a new year, there are rumors that Honda may be returning to grand prix racing as engine supplier to the McLaren Formula One team and we have some (admittedly murky) news on a new Acura NSX. This time around, though, the super-car will reportedly combine world-class performance with stellar environmental friendliness.
"The new Acura sports car will be the point of the spear that is the Acura DNA," the presentation began, "You will walk out of this room knowing that there's no question it's an NSX." With that, the covers were pulled off a car that was, true to their word, unmistakably a super-car and, without question, an Acura.
The car is low-slung and distinctly mean looking. In terms of proportion, it bears more than a passing resemblance to the Audi R8 and Lamborghini Gallardo. The rear quarter panel, for example, is classic Audi with a very slight overhang behind the rear wheels. The side skirts are similar to those found on the Aston Martin Virage. And the very thin side mirror braces also reveal influence from Aston Martin and other exclusive brands.
For those who are followers of superhero movies, the new NSX is also very clearly related to the car that Tony Stark drives in the forthcoming Avengers movie (pictured), due to be released this summer. The front end of the in-person prototype seems to feature more air intake surface area, but the dimensions and the overall feel are essentially the same.
One point worth emphasizing: The next NSX is a very wide car, even for a super-car - this fact alone speaks to the very exciting potential of the vehicle from a handling perspective.
Understandably, the executives at Acura were not keen on revealing too much about the inner workings of their next super-car, but another round of connecting the dots served to accomplish much. At the most recent Tokyo Motor Show, journalists sampled the next generation of the Acura Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system, dubbed Sport-Hybrid SH-AWD.
This development takes one of the most under rated all-wheel drive systems in the world and applies some green thinking in the form of two electric motors, one each to drive the rear wheels. These motors give the system its torque vectoring capability; one motor can over-accelerate the outer rear wheel to aid in cornering.
In Japan, the system was fitted to a Honda Accord mule, which was also equipped with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and a 3.5-litre V6 gasoline engine to drive the front wheels - a true, next-generation hybrid, then.
The first production car to use this combination of technologies will likely be the next-generation Acura RL luxury sedan which will reportedly make its debut at the 2012 New York Auto Show, with the new Acura NSX, likely, then following suit. For the much-anticipated super-car, though, one thing is certain: The gasoline engine will be mid-mounted, giving the NSX the chance at even sharper driving dynamics.
If the next Acura NSX is as good as its promise, the next chapter for Acura is going to be very exciting indeed.
News Source: Evergeek Media