Acura – Automobile Magazine http://www.automobilemag.com No Boring Cars! | Reviews, Auto Shows, Lifestyle Wed, 23 Aug 2017 10:05:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Acura ARX-05 DPi Race Car Arrives at The Quail http://www.automobilemag.com/news/acura-arx-05-dpi-race-car-arrives-at-the-quail/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/acura-arx-05-dpi-race-car-arrives-at-the-quail/#respond Fri, 18 Aug 2017 18:30:47 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1183659 Acura held the public unveiling of its new ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) IMSA-spec race car during the 2017 Monterey Car Week, rolling the car out at The Quail. For everyone in attendance ahead of Sunday’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, it was an exciting moment not just for Acura but also for the renowned Team...

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Acura held the public unveiling of its new ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) IMSA-spec race car during the 2017 Monterey Car Week, rolling the car out at The Quail. For everyone in attendance ahead of Sunday’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, it was an exciting moment not just for Acura but also for the renowned Team Penske and, perhaps most importantly, fans of American sports-car racing.

“Remember when we were here in Monterey two years ago?” Acura vice president and general manager John Ikeda asked Automobile at an exclusive preview event held the night before the car’s public debut. “We had a couple of NSX [road car] prototypes running around. The road car was still in development. And now we have the NSX on sale and NSX GT3 race cars winning this year in the IMSA WeatherTech Series, and now a DPi car with Team Penske. We are pushing hard on performance.”

Where Acura ultimately lands in the greater automotive landscape—of course driven by how consumers react to its latest moves—remains in question as it steadily attempts to reinvigorate the marque, but there is no doubt the executives who run the company believe in well-performing street cars and the value of motorsports.

On the heels of a quickly improving NSX racing effort, this new DPi entry is slated to contest the entire 2018 IMSA schedule beginning with the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona in late January. The two-car effort will be, as announced previously, run by Roger Penske’s Team Penske operation, which needs no introduction to racing fans—or anyone even marginally aware of the Who’s-Who of American racing.

Beneath the new skin, the car is an ORECA 07 LMP2-class chassis featuring bespoke Acura bodywork and “design features, including Acura’s signature “jewel eye” headlights, powered by the AR35TT twin-turbocharged engine.” This is the Honda Performance Development-created race version of the powerplant based on the production 3.5-liter V-6 found in most of Acura’s production models. Exact horsepower is a moving target in sports-car racing thanks to the Balance of Performance formula, but IMSA’s rules dictate it should come in around 600 hp, give or take.

Team Penske earlier this week announced one of the team’s two ARX-05 entries will be driven by seven-time Formula 1 race winner and 1999 CART IndyCar champion—and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner—Juan Pablo Montoya, who has also won sports-car and NASCAR races, along with sports-car champion Dane Cameron. The second driver pairing will be announced at a later date.

“I’ve never gotten so many calls from drivers [interested in a ride],” Penske joked during the reveal.

Earlier this racing season, rumors swirled that three-time Indy 500 winner and longtime Penske IndyCar driver Helio Castroneves was in line to switch to the sports-car program, but his strong running in the Verizon IndyCar Series this year may have given Penske and the former “Dancing with the Stars” champion second thoughts.

As for the ARX-05, DPi rules require manufacturers to use one of four approved prototype-spec chassis, fitted with IMSA-homologated, manufacturer-designed and branded bodywork and engines. Manufacturers already racing in the DPi category include Cadillac, Mazda, and Nissan.

Honda Performance Development created the ARX-05’s bodywork with input from Acura global creative director Dave Marek—responsible for the company’s road cars and a noted race car design enthusiast—who also drew the prototype’s appealing livery. Compared to other DPis, this car is notable for its aggressive, aero-heavy front end featuring a formula-car-style wing that diverges notably from existing DPi entries.

The car you see here is “80-percent close to what it will look like on the track next season,” Team Penske president Tim Cindric told us at the reveal. In other words, there are a couple of livery modifications in the works (independent of potential sponsor acquisitions and requests), a notable one being a change of the black rear wing to Acura orange—something Roger Penske requested of Marek at the reveal.

The ARX-05 is scheduled to begin testing next week at Road Atlanta—a key reason Penske announced Montoya and Cameron as its first two drivers ahead of the actual car’s unveiling. Beyond that, it will not see action this season ahead of next year’s full-schedule assault—there is no chance of it racing in, say, IMSA’s season-ending Petit Le Mans, also at Road Atlanta, as such a move would require it to be homologated by IMSA by now, and that won’t happen until November.

But the Team Penske crew is fired up, Cindric stressed, to get back into the swing of things, sports-car-racing style, by running something at Petit in October. If it happens, it would make a lot of sense to run a non-Acura-influenced ORECA spec-prototype chassis—just for practice, after all. But we can’t help but imagine a one-off entry with a Team Penske NSX GT3. Either way, for U.S. sports-car racing fans, things continue to heat up.

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2018 Acura RLX Arrives with New Diamond Pentagon Grille http://www.automobilemag.com/news/2018-acura-rlx-debut-monterey-car-week/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/2018-acura-rlx-debut-monterey-car-week/#respond Thu, 10 Aug 2017 14:00:31 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1181531 Acura has dropped the cover on the refreshed 2018 RLX, which will make its public debut at the 2017 Monterey Car Week. You’ll be able to see it in nearby Carmel-By-The Sea at the Concours on the Avenue on August 15 and at The Quail on August 18, if you’ll be in the Monterey area...

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Acura has dropped the cover on the refreshed 2018 RLX, which will make its public debut at the 2017 Monterey Car Week. You’ll be able to see it in nearby Carmel-By-The Sea at the Concours on the Avenue on August 15 and at The Quail on August 18, if you’ll be in the Monterey area for the annual week of vehicular festivities that culminates with the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

Acura’s top of the line sedan features Sport Hybrid Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH SH-AWD) technology that is shared with the NSX supercar and the MDX SH SH-AWD SUV.

The RLX is available in two variants and a 3.5-liter V-6 engine powers both. Acura’s base RLX offers 310 horsepower and comes with Precision All-Wheel Steer. The V-6 is mated to a new 10-speed automatic transmission.

Acura’s RLX Sport Hybrid features a V-6 that delivers a combined 377 horsepower with three electric motors and SH-AWD.

“This redesign of the 2018 Acura RLX is transformational, creating road presence and styling that better reflect underlying performance capabilities of the vehicle,” said Jon Ikeda, Acura vice president and general manager, in a statement.

The RLX gets a new diamond pentagon grille, more sculpted hood, new wheel designs, LED taillights, dual exhaust finishers, and a gloss black rear diffuser.

Standard features include a Krell audio system, surround view camera, parking sensors, LED fog lights, remote engine start, ventilated and heated front seats, heated rear seats, and a heated steering wheel.

Tech goodies include Traffic Jam Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control with Low Speed Follow. Traffic Jam Assist helps keep the sedan in its lane and can follow behind a vehicle detected ahead of it — a must have feature for daily commuters.

AcuraWatch is available and includes a Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, and Road Departure Mitigation.

The 2018 RLX is available in two new premium shades — Brilliant Red Metallic and Majestic Black Pearl and will go on sale in November.

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Acura ARX-05 Prototype Race Car to Debut at The Quail http://www.automobilemag.com/news/acura-arx-05-prototype-race-car-to-debut-at-the-quail/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/acura-arx-05-prototype-race-car-to-debut-at-the-quail/#respond Tue, 08 Aug 2017 18:58:18 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1181232 Acura has announced that next season it will take on Cadillac’s DPi-V.R and Mazda’s Joest Racing programs with its own ARX-05 Daytona Prototype International race car. The upcoming race car is slated to debut at The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering during Monterey Car Week. While the upcoming ARX-05 will bow at The Quail first, it will also show...

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Acura has announced that next season it will take on Cadillac’s DPi-V.R and Mazda’s Joest Racing programs with its own ARX-05 Daytona Prototype International race car.

The upcoming race car is slated to debut at The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering during Monterey Car Week. While the upcoming ARX-05 will bow at The Quail first, it will also show up on the concept lawn at the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.

“Precision crafted performance, for Acura, is at the heart of everything we do. If you’re a performance brand, you have to go racing,” said Jon Ikeda, Acura vice president and general manager.

And based on what we’ve been able to glean from some of the details given in the video below, Acura is aiming to not just take on Cadillac, but dominate the class.

According to Acura’s president of HPD and Acura Motorsports, the V-6 engine used in the new ARX-05 is based on the production 3.5-liter V-6 engine in the NSX, TLX, and MDX. Power, aspiration, or whether or not the ARX-05 will use a hybrid drivetrain, has yet to be stated.

For those looking for greater meaning in the race car’s name, according to the brand, the ARX stands for “Acura Racing eXperimental.” Whereas the “05” designation relays that the ARX is the fifth generation of Acura’s prototype racing platform that began more than 25 years ago.

Acura says the ARX-05 is destined for a multi-year program, and will be administered by Honda Performance Development, the company’s racing arm for both Acura Motorsports and Honda Racing in North America.

With the company’s first partner in this endeavor, Team Penske, which is a long-time Acura racing partner, the team and company hopes that it can restore some of the luster to Acura and Honda’s racing programs after a series of mishaps and failures in Honda’s IndyCar and Formula 1 programs.

The Acura ARX-05 will make its competition debut at the Rolex 24 at Daytona this upcoming January where it will face the ultimate test.

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Catching Up With: Honda Performance Development President Art St. Cyr http://www.automobilemag.com/news/catching-honda-performance-development-president-art-st-cyr/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/catching-honda-performance-development-president-art-st-cyr/#respond Thu, 13 Jul 2017 14:00:35 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1174117 Honda Performance Development President Art St. Cyr took a few minutes to sit down with us at the recent media event for the Acura NSX GT3 race car. Automobile Magazine: What is your career history at HPD? Art St. Cyr: Well, I’ve only been president at HPD! I moved from HRA (Honda R&D) in Ohio about...

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Honda Performance Development President Art St. Cyr took a few minutes to sit down with us at the recent media event for the Acura NSX GT3 race car.

Automobile Magazine: What is your career history at HPD?

Art St. Cyr: Well, I’ve only been president at HPD! I moved from HRA (Honda R&D) in Ohio about five years ago. I was a chief engineer on the Pilot when I got pulled over to American Honda to run product planning and be president of HPD. Then a bit over two years ago, my job focused completely on HPD.

AM: Talk to me about the importance of racing for Honda.

ASC: It’s a bit cliché but our founder, Soichiro Honda, always said that he formed a car company for the purpose of going racing. Honda was always viewed as the underdog. It was the first Japanese company to venture into international motorsports with the Isle of Mann TT race. People looked at Mr. Honda as some kind of interloper! It’s shown that racing is important to not just the personality of the cars themselves but the associates at Honda too. There are so many quotes that are attributed to Mr. Honda: “If Honda doesn’t race then there is no Honda and racing improves the breed.” So racing is very important to the psyche of who we are, but we also use it to develop people, techniques, and parts. The first direct-injection engine in North America was actually in our IndyCar. With the NSX GT3 program, it’s very closely integrated into the marketing of Acura in general and the rebirth of Acura as a performance brand. It’s a proof point of Acura being a performance brand — going racing and racing against the cars we’re selling against in the showrooms. And winning against them.

AM: You’re involved with both sports cars (GT and Prototypes) and Indy Cars. What’s the difference, both from a technical aspect and its importance to Honda.

ASC: We tend to align the IndyCar program with Honda and Acura Motorsports (NSX GT3) with Acura. The IndyCar program is competing at the highest level — the pinnacle program. We do it in IndyCar because it’s not managed racing. It’s about technology — showing our technical prowess. It’s also about being a part of America — the Indy 500. The NSX is our pinnacle product at Acura Motorsports — running it in both Pirelli World Challenge (WC) and the IMSA WeatherTech championship (IMSA). Again, that’s to show that Acura is a performance brand. The stuff we do on the track resonates into our production cars.

AM: You ran HPD engines in the prototype class of IMSA in 2016. What are your thoughts on the new P2-based top-spec category for 2017?

ASC: It’s interesting. It’s the first year. It seems pretty successful but there seems to be one dominant team (Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac). We’re going to let that play out a little bit more before deciding what we’re going to do there.

AM: There has been some controversy regarding a “factory team” running the NSX GT3 entrees in IMSA.

ASC: There’s not really a story. We talked to IMSA and, even before we took this program on, we talked to Audi and Porsche. We’re new and asked the other teams how we should do this. They said that for year one you should come in with a factory program and makes sure you shake everything out. So, that’s always the way that we had thought to do it. It’s not just us. Lexus is out there and Mercedes is out there. There are customer programs out there and we truly are a factory program.

AM: What is Japan’s involved with the NSX GT3 program?

ASC: It was completely handed-off to us. Some of the early planning was actually done by us and then it was handed to Japan. The vehicle they gave back to us wasn’t quite as developed as we were hoping. So we changed the aero, front suspension, rear suspension geometry, interior switch layout, fuel system, etc. They did a great job making the base platform but we had to focus on getting it onto the track. There is no involvement from them right now. It’s 100% HPD along with support from other entities.

AM: Obviously, the NSX road car is a hybrid and the NSX GT3 car is a more traditional race car. What about Formula E or other forms of electric racing for Honda/Acura?

ASC: It’s something we always look at and ask what the future is. We have to look at it from a Honda and Acura Motorsports perspective. Does it make sense to join? What is the strategic purpose? Obviously, the world is going towards electrification. I’m not sure if it makes 100% sense today. Look at Formula E — they’re still switching cars! The one thing that drives people way is range anxiety and here they are propagating that. But I think there is a future for electric. We originally tried to do a hybrid with the NSX but there was no sanctioning body on the planet that was going to let us do that! We tried for 2 years — we lobbied everyone. Some of the sanctioning bodies were up for it but the GT3 category is a customer-based series and there was a concern about the increased costs and adding things on to what they (teams) already had. The NSX is a natural hybrid. Most cars are not.

AM: What are you most proud of at HPD?

ASC: HPD was formed in 1993 with the sole purpose of rebuilding engines for CART. We’ve grown to development engines, chassis, complete programs, etc. We do IndyCar aero kits, engines, etc. We took the NSX GT3 to homologation. We have grown so much. We are now trying to make sure that HPD is more aligned with what American Honda is doing as far as where we spend the money in racing from either a research side, marketing side, promotion side, etc.

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Acura, Team Penske Announce IMSA WeatherTech Championship Prototype Program http://www.automobilemag.com/news/acura-team-penske-announce-imsa-weathertech-championship-prototype-program/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/acura-team-penske-announce-imsa-weathertech-championship-prototype-program/#respond Tue, 11 Jul 2017 20:16:04 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1175064 Confirming one of the worst kept secrets in American racing, Acura Motorsports on Tuesday announced a two-car effort in association with Team Penske. The famous U.S.-based team will campaign a pair of Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) entries, with Acura joining Cadillac, Mazda, and Nissan in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship Prototype class. Testing of...

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Confirming one of the worst kept secrets in American racing, Acura Motorsports on Tuesday announced a two-car effort in association with Team Penske. The famous U.S.-based team will campaign a pair of Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) entries, with Acura joining Cadillac, Mazda, and Nissan in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship Prototype class. Testing of the Acura DPi will begin soon, with the team’s official competition debut scheduled for the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona in January 2018.

A formal unveiling of the Acura ARX-05 DPi race car is slated for August’s Monterey Car Week, ahead of the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The driver lineup will be announced later this year. Recent rumors suggest Team Penske’s Verizon IndyCar Series stalwart Helio Castroneves and the well-known Juan Pablo Montoya could wind up leading the new program’s charge.

Team Penske last competed in IMSA from 2005-’09, winning the LMP2-class championship in the former American Le Mans Series between 2006 and 2008. It also fielded a Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series entry in 2009. Acura Motorsports this year campaigns the NSX GT3 in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona (GTD) category with Michael Shank Racing, winning races at Detroit’s Belle Isle circuit and Watkins Glen International earlier this season.

Penske last competed in IMSA when it ran LMP2 Porsche RS Spyders during the 2008 season, seen here during that year’s season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

The Acura ARX-05 is the latest in a line of endurance prototypes to be fielded by the company dating back to 1991, just five years after the 1986 launch of the Acura brand. Based on the very successful ORECA 07 chassis, the new ARX-05 prototype will feature Acura-specific bodywork and utilize the race-proven, production-based Acura AR35TT twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 engine. The multi-year program will be administered by Honda Performance Development, the racing arm for both Acura Motorsports and Honda Racing in North America.

“This is a monumental day in the brief history of the Daytona Prototype international race car and the much longer history of IMSA,” said IMSA President Scott Atherton. “We are honored that Acura has expanded its commitment to the WeatherTech Championship through the new Acura ARX-05 DPi race car, and pleased to welcome Team Penske back to sports-car competition. This announcement bolsters an already strong and growing Prototype class and only adds to the intrigue and anticipation for next season as we complete an outstanding 2017 WeatherTech Championship.

“The expansion of Acura’s involvement with a DPi entry in conjunction with Team Penske is one of the most significant developments we’ve had. Announcements like this are the ultimate validation of the DPi concept and accelerates the momentum that’s already been established.”

The DPi platform — which made its debut in 2017 — allows for cars in the Prototype class to be powered by a wide range of engines from various automobile manufacturers, and features manufacturer-specific bodywork and styling cues.

Acura’s previous prototype, racing at Sebring in 2015.

Acura is looking to add to its already-impressive sports car legacy. The manufacturer’s sports-car racing accomplishments include the 1991-’93 IMSA Camel Lights manufacturers’ and drivers’ championships; 50 IMSA and American Le Mans Series class or overall race wins (through Watkins Glen 2017); and the 2009 American Le Mans Series manufacturers’, drivers’, and teams’ championships in both the LMP1 and LMP2 classes.

“We are excited to join forces with the Honda Performance Development family and represent the Acura brand with two prototypes starting in 2018,” said Team Penske founder Roger Penske. “Sports-car racing has been an integral part of Team Penske’s heritage, from our first race at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1966 to running the American Le Mans Series in the late 2000s. Reviving a Team Penske sports-car program has always been a goal for us, but to do so required strong and successful partners like Honda and Acura. It’s great to extend our relationship from the dealership to the racetrack and we are excited to come back to IMSA and the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.”

“We had a very spirited competition with Team Penske during our previous ALMS Acura prototype programs, and we are looking forward to working with, instead of against, Team Penske as the ideal partner for our return to the prototype ranks,” said Art St. Cyr, HPD president. “We also had a great deal of success together in CART and IndyCar competition, and Team Penske’s overall record in all forms of racing is unrivaled in our sport.”

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Catching Up With: Acura NSX GT3 Chief Engineer Lee Niffenegger http://www.automobilemag.com/news/acura-nsx-gt3-chief-engineer-lee-niffenegger-interview/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/acura-nsx-gt3-chief-engineer-lee-niffenegger-interview/#respond Mon, 10 Jul 2017 18:13:10 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1174115 While sampling the new Acura NSX GT3 race car, we had the chance to sit down the man behind the new racecar — chief engineer Lee Niffenegger. Automobile Magazine: What is your career history with Honda? Lee Niffenegger: I’ve been with Honda for 20 years. I was Honda R&D for 13 years. I transferred to...

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While sampling the new Acura NSX GT3 race car, we had the chance to sit down the man behind the new racecar — chief engineer Lee Niffenegger.

Automobile Magazine: What is your career history with Honda?

Lee Niffenegger: I’ve been with Honda for 20 years. I was Honda R&D for 13 years. I transferred to HPD in 2010 but I was involved with motorsports from the time I started at Honda. I worked on Super Touring cars and the previous NSX in World Challenge (WC). I also worked on the TLX GT program with RealTime Racing (in WC).

AM: What are your current responsibilities at Honda Performance Development (HPD)?

LN: Pretty much 100% of my time is on the NSX GT3 and has been for about the last 18 to 24 months.

AM: Tell us about the timeline of the NSX GT3

LN: The first race was Daytona 2017. The timeline was dependent on the road car because we had to wait for that development. There was investigation into other categories, not just GT3. We were trying to negotiate some of the road car technology (hybrid all-wheel drive, etc) but it was settled to do GT3, which doesn’t allow some of that technology. The GT3 program started with HRD (Honda Racing Development) in Japan. It was then decided to transfer it over to HPD because of American Honda’s extreme interest and from a brand image aspect.

AM: Where are the cars and engines built?

LN: The engines are built at the Anna (Ohio) plant, near the PMC (Performance Manufacturing Center) in Marysville. They’re built by the same team that builds the road car engines and are 100% stock internally. The race engines do have some external machining because there is no hybrid system due to regulation. They also make changes to mount an alternator, as the road car doesn’t run one. The engines are then sent to us for final prep. The space frames are built at PMC and then modified by J.A.S. Motorsports, our technical partner, just outside Milan, Italy. They also do the final assembly of the car, sort the roll cage, etc.

AM: What are the similarities and differences between the NSX road car and GT3 car?

LN: The steering rack is stock, as well as the headlights, taillights, door handles and engine. All the body panels are carbon fiber, where the road car only has a carbon roof. The race car uses a production engine and turbochargers. The road car’s gas engine has 500 hp. The race car has 10% more power, at most (depending on balance of performance — BoP).

AM: How much does the NSX GT3 weigh?

LN: The minimum homologated weight is 1,240 kg (2,734 lbs) but then there’s the weight from all the stuff each series requires. Minimum weight is 1,285 kg (2,833 lbs) with SRO (WC rules) and IMSA has us, presently, at 1,300 kg (2,866 lbs). The road car weighs 3,803 lbs.

AM: What have been some specific challenges during the development of the car?

LN: To be honest, the biggest challenge was understanding the FIA — what they’re looking for! It was a new path for us to deal with. I think the FIA is used to working with companies who have done it a couple of times. The biggest struggle was simply getting integrated with the FIA’s processes and making them understand that we didn’t understand because we hadn’t done it before. Other than that, it was pretty much just developing a race car.

AM: Modern race cars seem to be less analog and more digital to drive. From your engineering involvement and the driver’s feedback you receive, how does the NSX GT3 drive?

LN: We’re still figuring out what the car likes. The target is to make it a ‘gentleman driver’ car — so a non-pro is able to drive the car. It’s one thing if you have your hot shoe, factory driver in the car. But if you tune the car around one person who likes a certain thing and you make the car only go fast one way and no one else can drive it then, in our opinion, we’ve failed.

AM: How tricky is the car as far as setup for various tracks? Is that something the teams and the drivers struggle with or is it a relatively friendly car to get in the ballpark as far as setup?

LN: We’re honing in on what the car likes for a wide range of tracks. We’ve gotten some of our systems down to where we have enough adjustability with the ABS, TC (traction control), and throttle maps to get our setup window sorted. The car has been getting better and the drivers are happier.

AM: Talk to me about the overall maintenance regime of the car.

LN: The gearbox is an Xtrac and it’s very durable. As far as the engine, we haven’t set our recommended mileage limit yet. The Audi and some of the other naturally aspirated cars have around a 20,000 km (12,427 mi) rebuild schedule and some other cars are as low as 8,000 km (4,971 mi). We’ll be somewhere in the middle, I assume.

AM: As an engineer, you must hate dealing with the BoP politics.

LN: That’s one of my main jobs! Honestly, I don’t hate it. If there wasn’t BoP then it would turn into an arms race — nobody could afford to go racing. I think BoP has gotten a lot more transparent and a lot more data driven. As an engineer, I appreciate that. It’s better than somebody just taking a guess. We can then understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, even if we don’t necessarily agree with it.

AM: Talk to me about the IMSA setup with Acura and the NSX GT3 being somewhat of a factory-entered car.

LN: There are some guys from the HART (Honda of America Racing Team) — 4 guys — that work with Michael Shank Racing. They had the opportunity to get involved with the program. That’s really the (factory) involvement — it’s 4 guys volunteering their time to help out and learn.

AM: What are you most proud with the NSX GT3?

LN: From where we started to where we are now, we’ve made huge strides. Again, there was getting through the FIA (homologation process) — navigating those waters. That was a big accomplishment. The car is not quite where we want it just yet. Part of that is working with the series and part of that is us learning about what the car likes. Unfortunately, we haven’t had the results we’d like to have other than the first race at Daytona (5th place). I remember some of the Audi Sport guys telling me that our result was pretty awesome for our first time out — they expected us to break! We expected to break!

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First Laps: Acura NSX GT3 http://www.automobilemag.com/news/acura-nsx-gt3-race-car-drive-first-laps/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/acura-nsx-gt3-race-car-drive-first-laps/#respond Wed, 21 Jun 2017 11:00:35 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1170337 SOUTH HAVEN, Michigan — The GT3 class is a huge international motor racing success, with 47 models homologated for competition since its creation in 2006, resulting in a wonderfully diverse field ranging from the logical Porsche 911 GT3 R to the refreshingly strange Bentley Continental GT3. Many series and races around the world include a...

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SOUTH HAVEN, Michigan — The GT3 class is a huge international motor racing success, with 47 models homologated for competition since its creation in 2006, resulting in a wonderfully diverse field ranging from the logical Porsche 911 GT3 R to the refreshingly strange Bentley Continental GT3. Many series and races around the world include a GT3 class, which is regulated by the FIA. These include the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Pirelli World Challenge (WC) here in the U.S., the China GT Championship, Blancpain Series, and the 24 Hours of Nurburgring.

Acura is the latest automaker to join the GT3 party, homologating the NSX for the 2017 season. Honda’s luxury brand intended to have a racing version of the second-generation NSX from the get go, a fact that was noted when the NSX concept arrived at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show. Honda Racing Development (HRD) began the GT3 program in Japan, but “it was then decided to transfer it over to HPD (Honda Performance Development), because of American Honda’s extreme interest and from a brand image aspect,” noted NSX GT3 chief engineer, Lee Niffenegger.

The NSX GT3, which first turned a wheel in anger at the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona in January, is a much different animal than the street car, however. For starters, the all-wheel drive and hybrid systems had to be removed as GT3 rules prohibit the use of both. The engine is the same 3.5-liter, twin-turbo V-6 that’s in the road-going NSX, however. It’s virtually stock and built in the same Anna, Ohio plant.

“The (race) engines have some external machining because of relocation (in the chassis), as there’s no hybrid system,” added Niffenegger. “They also make changes to mount an alternator, as the road car doesn’t run one. The engines are then sent to HPD in California for dressing final prep, sensor kits, etc.” The road car’s gas engine develops 500 hp. In race trim, it’s bumped by 10% at best, depending on the current BoP (balance of performance) — GT3 rules allow the adjustment of weight and turbo boost to help equalize competition.

In person, the completed package is rather stunning. The Pirelli World Challenge-spec NSX GT3 I’m about to drive around Gingerman Raceway boasts huge rear wing along with impressive unpainted carbon fiber front and rear splitters. These aero details combine to give the competition version five times the downforce of the street car.

The race car features 18-inch wheels at all four corners instead of 19-inch fronts and 20-inch rears, but these come wearing 315 mm-wide front and 325 mm-wide rear Pirelli slicks. Also adorning the RealTime Racing-entered NSX GT3 is the team’s token orange paint as a highlight in areas such as the side mirrors and front dive plates. A nice touch.

WC driver Ryan Eversley talks me through the controls after I maneuver past the beefy roll cage and into the supportive seat (it’s actually a relatively easy race car to climb into). The seating position is nice and upright and offers excellent forward vision. It was refreshing to be perched in a conventional seating position. Front-engine race cars like the Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage GTE I drove in Portugal earlier this year set the driver far back in the chassis, compromising outward visibility.

The NSX GT3’s steering wheel is overwhelming upon first glance but Eversley calmly briefs me on what I need to know and, more importantly, what I can ignore. The biggest change from other GT race cars I’ve driven is the hand clutch, as the dual-clutch NSX road car wasn’t designed to accommodate a wider, clutch-equipped racing pedal box.

First gear clunks in after I pull the hand clutch with my left pinky finger and then select 1st gear by pulling a shift paddle. Acura set the clutch into auto mode, allowing me to release the hand clutch at a standstill. As I add throttle, the racing clutch begins to automatically engage and the NSX GT3 shakes and bucks off the line. (Acura is still working on the tuning of the auto clutch for use during pit stops in competition.)

Once on the track, that hand clutch isn’t needed and I begin to warm up the tires and brakes, as well as my brain. I know the track well, but not the car. Despite a drop of nearly 1000 pounds compared to the 3,803-pound road version, the NSX GT3 doesn’t feel insanely fast in a straight line, but I quickly gather that the race car has serious pace. Gear ratios are fixed by the FIA, so the power band of the V-6 is very wide to compensate. As such, the powertrain never comes alive, per se, and simply develops plenty of power at all times. The large steel brakes are incredibly strong and confidence inspiring but do take a healthy stab from your left or right foot due to the lack of power assistance.

Acura’s tuning of the Bosch Motorsports ABS braking system is spot-on and I follow an Acura engineer’s advice to use the lock-up limiting feature at will. In other words, push the pedal as hard as I like, any time I like. It’s sound advice that allowed me to push the limits of the NSX GT3 sooner than anticipated. The steering is equally linear and trustworthy, adding to my comfort level. It’s the same electric power steering rack as the road car and Niffenenger told me development took loads of time and effort. It shows.

My second session allowed deeper exploration of the NSX GT3’s dynamics. I was able to tie together some quick laps and play with the handling at a faster pace. Traction out of low-speed corners is magnificent, helped by a well-tuned race-spec traction control system. The mid-engine twitchiness I expected never materialized and I was able to comfortably tighten my line and counter any understeer with a forgiving press of the throttle. The six-speed Xtrac sequential gearbox bangs off shifts like a rifle and any and all inputs from my hands or feet instantly alter the chassis — but not remotely in a nervous way. It’s a very impressive package that’s clearly built by a group of highly skilled racing engineers who understand how to build a top-spec GT car.

Even more remarkable is the fact that Acura developed a GT3 race car that can win races in its first year on the track — not remotely an easy task. The Michael Shank Racing IMSA team had their first visit to the top step of the podium with Acura in Detroit in early June. The NSX GT3 is a race car that allows a pro driver to fully extract the maximum performance potential against the best GT3 cars and drivers but still lets a gentleman racer feel comfortable behind the wheel and turn the lap times needed for a multi-driver endurance series effort to succeed.

For now, the NSX GT3 is a North America-only program. Given the popularity of GT3 racing on a global scale, however, we should see the impressive Acura racer on circuits in more countries in the near future.

 

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All-Electric Next Generation Acura NSX Could Happen http://www.automobilemag.com/news/next-generation-acura-nsx-go-electric/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/next-generation-acura-nsx-go-electric/#respond Sun, 11 Jun 2017 15:00:22 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1167151 A new report hints that the next generation of the Acura NSX could become a full electric vehicle. Honda’s head of research and development, Sekino Yosuke, told Autocar that 1,000-hp four-motor layout in the NSX-based Acura EV Concept that entered last year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb could potentially go into production and that studies are being...

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A new report hints that the next generation of the Acura NSX could become a full electric vehicle. Honda’s head of research and development, Sekino Yosuke, told Autocar that 1,000-hp four-motor layout in the NSX-based Acura EV Concept that entered last year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb could potentially go into production and that studies are being done to do just that.

The Acura EV Concept featured a modified SH-AWD system with an electric motor at each wheel and claims to have four-wheel independent torque allocation, allowing each of the four wheels to accelerate or decelerate at any time. Insiders also told Autocar that the EV Concept can travel around 200 miles on a full charge when driven normally. However, the car’s weight, extra battery systems, and the need for more cooling are the hurdles it faces as it moves towards going into production. Don’t expect an all-electric NSX to show up anytime soon as the current car has been on sale for roughly a year. It will likely take until 2023 for the all-electric NSX to arrive when battery technology has advanced further.

At this year’s Pike’s Peak Hill Climb, Acura will be entering the NSX and two TLX sedans, an A-Spec model and a race-prepped GT with a new transmission, suspension, and twin-turbo V-6, making the latter similar to the car that race in the Pirelli World Challenge.

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Acura Brings NSX, Two TLX to 2017 Pikes Peak Hill Climb http://www.automobilemag.com/news/acura-brings-nsx-two-tlx-2017-pikes-peak-hill-climb/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/acura-brings-nsx-two-tlx-2017-pikes-peak-hill-climb/#respond Fri, 09 Jun 2017 18:19:15 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1167088 For the sixth consecutive year, Acura will participate in the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, bringing a pair of TLXs race cars, as well as a GT3-inspired NSX, to the  95th running of the event. Last year, the NSX nabbed a class victory in its debut. Because of that class victory, this year’s NSX...

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For the sixth consecutive year, Acura will participate in the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, bringing a pair of TLXs race cars, as well as a GT3-inspired NSX, to the  95th running of the event. Last year, the NSX nabbed a class victory in its debut.

Because of that class victory, this year’s NSX isn’t significantly different. Acura has made slight changes to the chassis, decreased the car’s weight, optimized the ECU tune for the hill climb’s singular character (elevation and lack of oxygen), and tweaked the aero, partially through the addition of a bigger rear wing and front splitter. It will be piloted by James Robinson from Honda’s R&D North American powertrain development group.

The first of the two TLX is a highly modified 2018 A-Spec. The car features a 3.5-liter turbocharged V-6 engine sending 500 hp through a limited-slip differential to the front wheels. According to Acura, the engine’s software and tuning, which was done entirely in house at Honda’s North American R&D lab, was, like the NSX, specifically optimized for the hill climb. Piloting the TLX A-Spec will be James’ brother, Nick Robinson, a Pikes Peak veteran that was behind the wheel of the NSX during 2016’s victorious run.

The final entrant is the Acura TLX GT. Based heavily on the Pirelli World Challenge race car that was used from 2014 to 2016, the all-wheel drive race car has been tuned, again like the NSX and TLX A-Spec, for the hill climb’s unique characteristics. Furthermore, the engineers with Honda Performance Development optimized the turbo, suspension, and transmission gearing for better acceleration out of the course’s many turns. Acura’s TLX GT also received new aerodynamic elements including new front fender louvres, revised dive planes, and a larger rear wing for increased downforce. The TLX GT will be piloted by Peter Cunningham, who’s raced with RealTime Racing and Acura since 1992.

Additionally, Acura will be the Official Pace Car sponsor of the hill climb, which will feature the 2018 TLX A-Spec production car and a 2017 MDX for Rookie Orientation throughout the event. The Broadmoor Pikes Peaks International Hill Climb will take place on June 25 and see motorcycles and race cars climb 14,000 feet up the 156-turn, 12.42-mile course.

 

 

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Refreshed 2018 Acura TLX Starts at $33,950 http://www.automobilemag.com/news/refreshed-2018-acura-tlx-starts-33950/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/refreshed-2018-acura-tlx-starts-33950/#respond Thu, 18 May 2017 19:23:16 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/news/refreshed-2018-acura-tlx-starts-33950/ Pricing for the refreshed 2018 Acura TLX starts at $33,950 (including destination) – that’s $1,000 more than the pre-refresh 2017 Acura TLX. The base $33,950 2018 Acura TLX 2.4L is powered by the automaker’s 2.4-liter DOHC i-VTEC I-4 mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission with a torque converter. The engine is rated 206 hp and...

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Pricing for the refreshed 2018 Acura TLX starts at $33,950 (including destination) – that’s $1,000 more than the pre-refresh 2017 Acura TLX.

The base $33,950 2018 Acura TLX 2.4L is powered by the automaker’s 2.4-liter DOHC i-VTEC I-4 mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission with a torque converter. The engine is rated 206 hp and 182 lb-ft of torque.

In addition to the refreshed styling, including standard “Jewel Eye” LED headlights with auto on/off and auto high beam and LED daytime running lights and turn signals, the base TLX features Dark Burl/Acoustic wood interior trim, a revised infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration and Sirius XM 2.0, 10-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels, and the AcuraWatch suite of active safety and driver assist tech. The $37,650 Acura TLX 2.4L with Technology package adds navigation and HD Radio with Digital Traffic.

Front-drive models feature Acura Precision All-Wheel Steer (P-AWS) as standard. The system improves handling by offering independent left- and right-rear-wheel toe angle control.

TLX models with the 3.5-liter V-6 are available with the Acura Super-Handling All Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) with torque-vectoring for better traction and higher handling limits.

Stepping up to the TLX 3.5L brings the price up to $37,150. The 3.5-liter SOHC i-VTEC V-6 is rated 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. TLX sedans with the V-6 engine feature a unique rear fascia with chrome accents and diffuser above dual exhaust tips. The $40,850 2018 Acura TLX 3.5L with Technology package adds navigation and HD Radio with Digital Traffic, different seats with contrast stitching and piping, power driver’s seat thigh extender, and chrome exterior side trim.

The new-for-2018 Acura TLX 2.5L A-Spec model costs $43,750. The new A-Spec trim adds a body kit and spoiler as well as sportier interior bits including larger seat bolsters, round LED fog lights, five-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, red gauge cluster lighting and red LED ambient light piping, a wireless charging pad, and vented front seats. A-Spec models also feature unique suspension and steering tuning.

The top-spec $44,700 Acura TLX 3.5L with Advance package adds more content to the 3.5L with Technology package. Standard features include Surround View Camera System, trapezoidal LED foglights, front and rear parking sensors, body-colored rear decklid spoiler, 15-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels, power folding side mirrors, heated steering wheel and heated rear seats, white LED ambient light piping, wireless charging pad, and vented front seats.

SH-AWD is available on all V-6 models for $2,000.

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