The Acura and Honda brands are two names that have long-been associated with aftermarket products and the SEMA Show, and for obvious reasons. Young enthusiasts in Southern California and beyond picked Honda as the company of choice because of theirsimple and lightweight, and relatively affordable models like the Civic an Integra, through the entire 90s. They sparked a tuner revolution that has been likened to the muscle car heyday of Detroit.
Even though the market has somewhat moved on to newer models like the Nissan Scion and 350Z Honda, tC and Acura models still hold their particular at SEMA. No place is that more evident than at the official Honda/Acura “booth” – which is more like a stage with the Los Angeles Auto Show having its scattering newest vehicles. The two most significant vehicles there have been the A-SPEC Acura RL and the concept version from the Honda Ridgeline truck. Another cars, such as the RealTime Racing Acura TSX driven by Pierre Kleinubing in the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge circuit, also populated the Honda stand.
Much more about them later, let’s first take a look at the A-SPEC RL. Like theTSX and RSX, and TL before it, the redesigned RL looks to up the ante against performance-minded luxury brands in the United States. Though Acura will not be going in terms of AMG or BMW’s M division, these are offering buyers the chance to make their cars a bit more road-capable. Though one wonders the number of people will actually opt for performance goodies with an RL, Acura sure thinks there’s a large enough group of buyers available willing to shell out $5,500 for that full A-SPEC package plus dealer installation.
Acura RL A-SPEC
So, what does $5,500 get you? Mostly handling goodies and look-good parts. Not to belittle the A-SPEC package in any respect. The RL already has 300hp as it is. The “track-tuned” suspension package lowers the auto by about ¾ of the inch and should enhance the SH-AWD assisted handling. Special 18-inch alloy wheels come covered with Michelin Pilot Sport tires. An understated and tasteful underbody kit and decklid lip spoiler round out the RL A-SPEC. For the critics who declare that Acura’s A-SPEC packages are frequently overpriced compared to true aftermarket parts, take into consideration this: exactly how big of any aftermarket will be there to get a large luxury sedan which includes absolutely no track record of performance in their past (not counting the Legend, obviously)?
Also in the Honda stand was the Comptech TSX. It features a supercharger for the 2.4L four-cylinder TSX engine along with a cold air intake and a stainless header and exhaust system. The outcome: an increase of 40hp, from 200 to 240. Comptech springs, a rear sway bar, and 18-inch tires improve an already well-tuned handling package. Sign. Me. Up.
Finally, Acura possessed a heavily modified NSX customized by Super Street Magazine and XMODS RC Racing. Offered as a first prize in the 2004 XMODS XRL National Tournament, this NSX features over $30,000 in mods from Volk, Rotora and Taitec and more.
Honda Ridgeline Concept
One vehicle of great interest to the tuner world is Honda’s first truck. Officially named Ridgeline, this new 4WD 4-door is likely to be depending on a variant of the MDX/Pilot/Odyssey platform and will be powered by Honda’s 3.5L V6. Though not just a direct shot at the full-size truck market, it will be interesting to see all the aftermarket accessories that will be developed for the Ridgeline. The production version of the Ridgeline will debut at the 2005 North American International Auto Show in January.
The most interesting thing I noticed at SEMA, in regards to Honda, was lacking Honda models dominating the show floor. Yes, they had their presence – although the market appears to have moved on the “next big thing(s).” New Mustangs were everywhere, as were Chrysler 300s (with gull wing doors) and Dodge Magnums. There has been talk for quite some time the latest generation of Honda Acura and Civic RSX has not quite impressed hell-bent tuners like older models have. Should they even want to., it will be interesting to see what Honda does to recapture and try some that momentum.