From the boxy, gas-guzzling full-sized pickups-with-cabins of old, to the new generation of chunky, car-based crossovers, the "utility vehicle" is here to stay. The least auto manufacturers can do in that case is design models that are more visually dynamic than four-wheeled cargo crates or short, bloated station wagons. With the SUV-X concept, Acura attempts to take that next step by blending in some styling derived from its NSX supercar.
It's been close to two decades since crossovers like the Toyota RAV4 began populating highways, but you'd never know it based upon styling. "Utilitarian" is about the kindest adjective that can be applied to many crossovers' looks. It seems that automakers just haven't figured out how to effectively combine all-conditions handling, gear/large family-hauling utility and looks that can make consumers say something more complimentary than "At least it's got a lot of space."
Concepts like the Lamborghini Urus and MG Icon have made pretty strong arguments against using super/sports car styling for spicing up the crossover, but maybe they just haven't quite fine-tuned the formula enough. The rugged-but-sporty look of the Italdesign Parcour made a case for an all-terrain GT layout, but it lost some of the space and utility that compel people to buy crossovers in the first place. So far, "compromise" remains the operative word.
Acura used sporty styling courtesy of the NSX to give the SUV-X, its first concept to premiere outside of North America, a distinct face. The influence is apparent in the headlamp strips, creased nose and grille design. Thankfully, Acura didn't try to make the hatched rear end look like a six-figure sports car, but it did give it a compelling look courtesy of the muscular rear fenders, angular cuts, center crease and bumper-centered brake light. The car makes a solid first impression and looks good on the way out.
The story in between "coming and going" reads much differently. Acura got a little too cutesy with the sides, and the competing fender and character lines just end up looking messy – like a child scribbling a bunch of lines across a car in his coloring book. The car's sporty front end would be better complemented by a descending roofline, but Acura gave the SUV-X about as straight and flat of a roofline as we've seen on any crossover – the NSX face feels too sporty for the boxy body.
Overall, we like that Acura stepped beyond the bland, forgettable styling that dominates the crossover segment, but we hope it refines the individual styling components significantly before launching a Chinese-market "mass-production model based on this concept vehicle" within the next three years. This version is clearly just a rough styling exercise because Acura doesn't offer any hard details outside of saying it has the "environmental performance of a small vehicle and excellent utility of an SUV," which is to say, "it's a crossover."