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Sorry, Acura, but simply bolting bigger wheels to a car doesn’t make it SEMA worthy

Like parent brand Honda, Acura has developed a loyal following thanks to simple, nimble cars like the Integra, RSX, and even the first-generation TSX. With that reputation, the annual aftermarket summit that is the SEMA show seems like the perfect place for the luxury brand.

Acura did bring some customized cars to SEMA this year, but it served up a different flavor of Acura cake than fans probably expected.

The three sedans Acura unveiled emphasized style over performance.

Two of the three cars were modified versions of the top-shelf RLX. The RLX VIP, built by Evasive Motorsports, features 21-inch wheels and subtle body modifications, including a carbon fiber chin spoiler and carbon fiber side skirts.

“VIP” is a styling of customization that’s popular in Japan. It involves taking big sedans like the RLX, adding big wheels and tires, and keeping other modifications to a minimum. The goal is to create a look that is both stylish and sophisticated.

With its 22-inch wheels, the RLX Urban Luxury built by MAD Industries was designed in a similar vein. The name is a bit puzzling, as those wheels probably won’t last long any real urban environment without getting scuffed.

While the modifications to both cars definitely improve their looks, in the end, they’re just Acura RLXs with larger wheels. Both builds offer enough subtlety for the daily commuter, but they don’t really pop as much as other SEMA show cars.

Attempting to redeem Acura’s performance credibility is the Street Performance ILX. The Civic-based ILX holds the same spot as the much-loved Integra in Acura’s current lineup, so it has some big shoes to fill.

This one is painted in bright orange, which everyone knows adds 100 horsepower to any car.

The ILX’s 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine has a supercharger, custom intake and exhaust, and other modifications, giving it 250 hp. That’s a healthy increase over the stock ILX’s 201 hp.

The Street Performance also features upgraded suspension and brakes, which might help bring back some of that old Honda-Acura handling magic.

In the past, Acura was the darling of the aftermarket, and it would be great to see it in that position once again. Maybe next year we’ll see an RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD at SEMA. Or, better yet, an NSX.

Stephen Edelstein
Stephen is a freelance automotive journalist covering all things cars. He likes anything with four wheels, from classic cars…
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