At the 2016 Detroit auto show, Acura rolled out its fantastical Precision concept car, previewing its future exterior design themes in an extreme form. The concept had an interior, but it was just as crazy as the exterior. At the 2016 Los Angeles auto show, Acura is showing something more production-ready (and, frankly, more relevant): the Acura Precision Concept, a vastly toned-down version of the concept car’s design with Acura’s new touchpad-based interface.
The seat buck includes some hardware lifted from the NSX sports car, including the steering wheel, the drive-mode selector knob, and the same insanely comfortable seats. The dual-layer dashboard design was previewed by the concept car but is rendered this time in more producible proportions and covered in black stitched leather. In front of the driver is a 12.3-inch screen that contains primary gauges and other driver-oriented content; on top of the dashboard is another 12.3-inch dual-zone wide infotainment screen.
The big news here is Acura’s new interface for the latter display, which is controlled by a slightly concave tray of switchgear nestled into a soft open-pore wood tray with a padded leather wrist rest beneath the center stack. The largest portion of the tray, measuring about three inches by two inches, is a slightly sunken touchpad that uses “absolute positioning” to align actions on the touchpad with those in the larger (left side) section of the screen. Touching it lightly with one finger navigates the screen, while pressing it makes a selection or an adjustment. To the right of the touchpad is smaller sunken section that controls the right side of the screen, on which a different app—say, for weather, notifications, or audio—can be viewed. Three hard buttons across the top include a “back” function, a home menu, and a button to switch between apps on the larger versus smaller sections of the screen. Sadly, no audio volume knob is in sight. Yet.
We spent a fair amount of time poking around the system with the folks who designed it and found that it works fairly intuitively, certainly more effectively than Lexus’s clumsy Remote Touch interface. Other trick features of the Precision Cockpit include graphics and colors that change according to the chosen drive mode—white for Snow, blue for Comfort, Red for Sport, and Orange for Sport Plus. The display ahead of the driver uses what Acura calls a 3D engine to support a dynamic layout that shows other cars, objects, pedestrians, cyclists, and more. When autonomous driving becomes a thing in Acuras, it will be able to recognize other vehicles being driven in autonomous modes via vehicle-to-vehicle communications.
As Acura attempts to rejuvenate its image, we expect the company to take risks like this. At first blush, this ergonomic rethink appears to work pretty well and to set Acura apart from the crowd. We’ve certainly seen worse systems come out in recent years, and we look forward to seeing this one installed in a real car. When might that be? That’s anyone’s guess; all Acura said is that it will– appear sometime in the next few years.