Concept Cars

How the Type S concept will shape Acura's future

More than just a one-off show car, the Type S concept will heavily influence the design direction of Acura's entire portfolio.

The Type S concept will heavily influence the future design of Acura's entire portfolio.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

The Acura Type S concept is more than just a one-off show car built to woo the well-heeled attendees of last weekend's Quail Motorsports Gathering and Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. The Type S points the way forward for a whole new lineup of performance-minded Acuras, and gives us a clear look at the brand's future design direction, as well.

"We've been evolving the brand into more youthful, more energetic designs," Jon Ikeda, Acura's vice president, said at the Type S concept's premiere last week. "Everyone at Acura is aligned around performance. This is the time for Type S."

From Precision to Type S

The 2016 Precision concept was essentially the precursor to Acura as we know it today. "The Precision concept was, 'We need to set a new direction for Acura,'" Dave Marek, the brand's executive creative director, told Roadshow last week. Transforming that image to Type S was simply "morphing it into a more believable package."

Marek said, "If we did another Precision concept that's just more sporty, that doesn't get us anywhere." That's why the Type S concept takes the shape of a more conventional midsize sedan, and in fact, closely previews the design of the next-generation TLX.

"The full model change of the TLX [is] coming next year," Ikeda confirmed, and a Type S variant will be offered. "We'll have two Type S models coming in the next two years," he said, and we'll bet our bottom dollar the second one is a version of either the RDX or MDX crossovers.

"The next time you see a Type S, it should be a real car," Marek said.

Production details

Many of the concept car's design elements will make their way to every product in the Acura portfolio. "The body surfacing will be [applied to] all Acuras," Marek said. "It's the next [version of] every sedan we do -- even the SUVs. They should all look like Type S's and work backwards."

To that end, look for things like the "chicane" daytime running lights and taillight signatures to make their way to all future Acuras. Larger-scale elements like the longer dash-to-axle ratio and wider stance will be part of the brand's design philosophy. Marek even hopes the three-dimensional headlights will find their way to production, though he notes "the aero guys are going to freak out" about doing a nonlens headlight cluster.

Acura's design boss wants this 3D headlight cluster to come to production as is.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Of course, some elements will be reserved specifically for Type S models. Up front, the open diamond mesh grille is "a Type S exclusive," according to the concept's chief designer, Ben Davidson. "We'll have quad exhaust on Type S [models]," Marek said. The company is also looking at bringing the concept car's carbon trim to production, or setting Type S variants apart with piano black exterior bits.

As for how this svelte sedan will transform into an SUV, Marek said he believes it won't be that difficult. "The grille can kind of morph into a SUV size," he said. "The lighting and the grille [are] the identity."

Overall, Marek says the Type S concept will let Acuras products become more emotional. "If we can get even a base model to feel like that, I feel like Acura can say we're a performance brand -- and we are. The feel of it should always feel like, 'That's a cool-looking car.'"

That design emotion is also "what's missing on our CUVs," Marek said. Speaking specifically of the redesigned RDX, Marek said he "wanted it to be a little too far in terms of surfacing" in order to make it stand out. "We needed it to be relevant." It's a bit of overstyling that's apparently worked in Acura's favor -- through July of this year, the RDX is up 6.1% compared with 2018, and is the brand's strongest-selling vehicle.

Marek says the Type S grille can easily "morph" for a crossover application.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Alongside A-Spec

Right now, Acura offers sporty-looking A-Spec trims of nearly all its models. These versions have blacked-out exterior elements and more aggressive wheel-and-tire packages, but don't actually offer any performance hardware upgrades. When Type S versions launch, Acura thinks these two lines can easily coexist.

"We want [A-Spec] to be a Type S without the drivetrain," Marek said. "I still think the Type S should go a little step up exteriorwise. In my mind, the Type S wheel should be a plus-one on A-Spec." Inside, Marek said he thinks Acura can differentiate the two trims with materials and colors, but really, the exterior styling is the biggest place to differentiate the two.

Still, Acura has been happy with what its A-Spec line has done thus far. "We got the performance image up on these vehicles," Ikeda said.

Quad exhaust tips will be a part of the production Type S package.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

A real boost of performance

The Type S will answer "a lot of the questions people asked us when we initially came out with the A-Spec," according to Ikeda. And while we don't know exactly what's in store for these new models, Ikeda promises "a real performance upgrade, whether it's brakes or handling or the engine."

At the 2018 Detroit Auto Show, Acura made mention of a twin-turbocharged V6 engine that is said to be destined for Type S models. It's unclear if this is a de-electrified version of the twin-turbo V6 used in the Acura NSX or a new engine entirely, but regardless, it'll surely offer a healthy boost in performance over the naturally aspirated, 3.5-liter V6 currently used in the brand's range-topping models.

"Acura will pursue a unique powertrain strategy that underscores the brand's rightful place as the performance division of Honda," the company's North American CEO, Toshiaki Mikoshiba, said in January 2018. And with the Type S concept pointing the way forward in terms of design, we've certainly got quite a lot whetting our appetites.

The first application of these design cues will be on the next-generation TLX, which arrives in 2020.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

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