Acura’s NSX exterior design leader went from crafting crossovers to hybrid supercars

Earlier this month, the Acura NSX made its long awaited debut at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. After the rubble cleared, we realized that we still didn’t know much about the hybrid supercar.

Sure, we know it’ll use a twin-turbo V6, three electric motors, and a nine-speed automatic. We know it’ll be all-wheel drive, be made of aluminum, and feature a cabin with exceptional ease of egress. But that’s about it.

Specific power output, engine displacement, acceleration times, curb weight, battery capacity, pricing, and about a dozen other things are still veiled in mystery.

Acura is reportedly still testing the gleaming sports car ahead of its production debut, so many of those specs will be revealed soon. Until then, Michelle Christensen, the NSX’s exterior design project lead, recently gave Automotive News a closer look into the car’s journey toward production.

Michelle Christensen
Michelle Christensen Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times

She joined the project in 2012, just after Acura revealed the NSX concept at that year’s Detroit Auto Show. “They wanted an emotional, 3-D kind of feeling,” she said. “My priority was to keep that.”

The supercar’s mid-engine layout and futuristic ethos gave her team new options for expressive profiles and ultramodern styling. “It gave us the opportunity to punch more holes in it and make it more exotic,” Christensen explained. “From a styling standpoint, we were really excited to take it to the gym and beef it up.”

And so they did.

“We really tried to treat it more like a sculpture,” the 34-year old said. Chasing a “mean, aggressive, front-end personality,” she and her team “wanted to take off any extra garnishes” to “simplify it and cut weight.”

Once the design language was pinned down, the team refined the car’s shape by sticking 40-percent scale models into Honda’s wind tunnels. A few flips of a calendar later and here were are, still in awe.

Christensen, who is the industry’s first female design lead for a supercar, wasn’t always crafting high-performance brake vents and molding cutting edge silhouettes. Before the NSX, she worked on the defunct ZDX crossover and the RLX sedan.


Someone just paid supercar money for the very first 2020 Toyota Supra

The 2020 Toyota Supra made its long-awaited debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The resurrected sports car, famous for a role in The Fast and the Furious, goes on sale in the U.S. this summer.

Muscle cars, trucks, and EVs roared into the subdued 2019 Detroit Auto Show

The 2019 Detroit Auto Show was the quietest edition of the event in recent memory, but that doesn't mean nothing significant happened inside the Cobo Center. Here are the new cars and concepts we saw at the show.

Infiniti previews its leap into one of the hottest industry segments

Infiniti will unveil the QX Inspiration concept at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The design study is an electric crossover shaped by Infiniti's newest design language that may point to a future production model.

Some of Volkswagen’s electric models will wear a ‘Made in the USA’ label

Confirming earlier rumors, Volkswagen has announced it will build electric cars in its Chattanooga, Tennessee, factory. The facility currently produces the Passat and the Atlas. Production will start in 2023, Digital Trends can reveal.

Tesla cuts workforce by 7 percent, ends referral program to trim costs

Tesla has announced plans to trim its workforce by seven percent, and it will end the referral program that rewards customers who help it sell cars. These measures are ways to cut costs and boost profits.

Worried about commuting in winter weather? Nissan has the answer

The Nissan Altima midsize sedan is now available with all-wheel drive. To advertise that fact, Nissan's Canadian division slapped some tank-like tracks on an Altima to create a one-off show car.

Lyft and Aptiv’s self-driving car program has come a long way (but not far enough)

Many companies talk about self-driving cars, but Lyft and Aptiv are already using a fleet of them to transport paying customers in Las Vegas. Hop in for a close look at the tech of autonomous cars, and the challenges they face.
Emerging Tech

Too buzzed to drive? Don’t worry — this autonomous car-bar will drive to you

It might just be the best or worst idea that we've ever heard: A self-driving robot bartender you can summon with an app, which promises to mix you the perfect drink wherever you happen to be.

Michigan OKs digital license plates with Rplate’s connected car platform

The state of Michigan approved the use of digital license plates on motor vehicles registered in the state. Reviver Auto, the manufacturer of the Rplate connected car platform, worked with Michigan's Department of State to pass the bill.

This Chevy Silverado pickup truck is made from more than 300,000 Lego bricks

To promote The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, Lego and Chevrolet teamed up on a life-size replica of the automaker's Silverado pickup truck made from more than 300,000 plastic bricks.

Prices for using Tesla Supercharging just skyrocketed

Tesla is updating their Supercharging pricing based on local electricity rates and customer demand, which has lead to an increase in charging costs by as much as 33 percent in some regions.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Can electric motors finally make three-wheeled cars great?

Every few years, someone tries to sell a three-wheeled vehicle to Americans. Historically, it hasn’t gone very well. We’ve got our suspicions about why people don’t buy trikes, and they boil down to this: a trike is just not a real…

Is Uber planning to put its self-driving tech into bikes and scooters?

Uber reportedly has its eye on building autonomous electric bikes and scooters that ride to a user when summoned by an app. The technology could also be used to make its two-wheelers safer with obstacle avoidance systems.