Consumers and auto industry experts do not typically think of Acura when asked about eco-friendly vehicles. The luxury brand hopes to change this perception thanks to hybrid concepts presented at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Acura highlighted the potential for high-performance hybrid vehicles with the ILX Concept sedan and the NSX Concept. The automaker also presented the traditional RDX SUV, creating a stark contrast between the brand’s past and future.
The Acura ILX Concept is the opening salvo for the entire ILX lineup slated for production by the end of the upcoming spring. This lineup ranges from a 2.0-liter entry model and a high-powered 2.4-liter version to a gas-electric hybrid that is unique to the brand. Acura announced that ILX models will be produced in Greensburg, Indiana with help from Honda Manufacturing of Indiana. The ILX Concept allows Acura to test the waters of a hybrid car while reaching out to young professionals and brand loyalists.
The cornerstone of the NSX Concept is the Sport Hybrid Super Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). The NSX Concept features a two-motor drive system as well as a VTEC V6 engine that provide sufficient power for traditional consumers. Acura couples the powerful engine with a continuously variable transmission and electric motor that extend vehicle range. This hybrid drive system ensures smooth turns no matter the weather with precise torque control on the front wheels.
Acura’s announcements about the 2013 RDX SUV and the production version of the NSX show an automaker at the crossroads. The 2013 RDX SUV has an estimated fuel economy rating of 20 MPG city and 28 MPG highway, which is slightly better than the current slate of SUVs. This minor advancement in fuel economy shows that Acura is still catering to traditionalists rather than eco-conscious consumers. The upcoming NSX sedan offers a glimpse of hope for Acura as a forward-thinking brand. The NSX will use the Sport Hybrid SH-AWD by 2015 with production slated for an Ohio facility owned by parent company Honda. The future of Acura depends largely on whether the automaker follows the traditional path of the RDX SUV or the fuel-efficient path of the ILX and NSX Concepts.