8 questions with Acura Precision concept designer Michelle Christensen

One of the highlights of the 2016 Detroit Auto Show was the Acura Precision Concept. A design study for future Acura sedans, the car debuts the company's new Precision Crafted Performance mantra and points to a more adventurous and stylish future for Honda's upscale brand.

The car's aggressive outward appearance was created by exterior project leader Michelle Christensen at the company's Torrance, California, design studio, where Christensen also acts as the principal design leader. In Detroit, I sat down with Christensen to discuss the Precision Concept and how it will affect the future of Acura styling.

The Precision Concept is sized like an RLX. Could it be your idea for a replacement for that model?

This car is basically our vision model. Coming off the momentum of the NSX and this Precision Crafted Performance [idea], we really wanted something not just to show the world, but to inspire our studio internally, what we're going to do with the future lineup of sedans. You will see elements of this inspiring all of our future sedans. So, it's not any one model in particular. It's a lot lower and wider than the current RLX for sure. Our Acura exterior mantra is Alluring Modern Edge. And the alluring part is all about proportion. We know that that's extremely important to luxury buyers, so we really pushed our limits with this car to really inspire low and wide proportions, and a nice stance, a nice emphasis on all the wheels, and convey performance through design.

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Acura Precision Concept, 2016 Detroit Auto Show

Acura Precision Concept, 2016 Detroit Auto Show

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The most noticeable aspect of the car is the grille, and it appears that the notorious Acura "beak" will be gone.

I know it was somewhat controversial at some point, but I think everybody started to really recognize it [the 'beak"] as distinctive. I think a lot of people started to relate to it and appreciate it. But once we had this momentum of the Precision Crafted Performance direction, we wanted to go back in and reevaluate. Does everything match Precision Crafted Performance? When we looked at the grille, it didn't match. We wanted something that conveyed more of a performance image. We had the plenum in the front that looks like it's blocking what is normally an air intake. That started the conversation of, OK we need to redo the grille. So, we went through hundreds of proposals and this one seemed every Acura--it's still kind of a pentagon so it's a nod to what we've already established--but it just has a nice clean shape to it and it really conveys performance by letting air in through the grille.

The grille has a pointed three-dimensional shape to it. How hard would it be to put that into production?

I think it depends on the vehicle, especially as you work your way up to the light trucks you would want a less aggressive point to it. But that center line break has always been an Acura characteristic. This car is a little bit more of a caricature of everything. We still want to work that into all of our vehicles, so we are working with engineering to develop the underlying components to help us achieve that on the outside.

It doesn't look like there is room for airflow in this grille. It is pretty much closed with numerous diamond-shaped elements to it.

We want to lure you in so there are all these details up close. All those diamonds are actually opened inside and the vertical slats are open as well. There are also two lower side intakes. Again, it's little bit of a caricature because we really want to inspire the designers internally. So we had a lot of fun with it, and there are a lot of third-read details in there. The intent is to be able to have all of that open for performance.

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