Acura Precision Concept Needs a Cosmetic Surgeon

The Detroit Auto Show has laid its unofficial ugly duckling.

After teasing the media with a shadowed profile image of its Precision Concept, Acura put all 360 degrees of a car on view that heralds a bolder, more aggressive design direction. But maybe Acura should stick with conservative.

Recalling a shark with a gut filled with spoiled squid, the Acura proves again that complex, mold-breaking design is tricky to pull off at the best of times. And this is not the best of times at Acura.

Lexus has struggled mightily with a similar, often-overheated design language—see: the eye-stressing origami of the new RX crossover SUV—before pulling things together with the handsome LC 500 coupe.

Like Steve Martin’s nitrous-addled dentist in “Little Shop of Horrors,” Acura has been torturing the mouths of its cars for some time, including the TL sedan of 2009 whose “Power Plenum” recalled a gladiator’s breastplate or a metallic beak. Recent models dialed back the crazy. But then the new NSX supercar suggested that 37 surgeons collaborated on its cat lady face, with each one injecting some collagen here and a tarty accessory there.

The Acura’s rising side profile is reasonably compelling. The rear end’s folded elements definitely suggest that Acura designers have been crashing Lexus’ LSD design party, with all its Sailor Moon hallucinations. But the leering, hideously tumescent prow recalls, in the words of an old Mississippi farmer, a “jackass eating briars.”

Headlamp elements are strung with weird plastic cobwebby elements. Refusing to call it quits, the Acura’s “diamond pentagon” grille is festooned with cheap rubbery diamond appliques, like something my nine-year-old daughter would glue onto her diary.

The interior is more benign, including an infotainment system with a curved display that would supposedly scan occupants to dial up programmed features and functions. I only wondered if it could scan my face and make sense of the horror etched upon it. Please Acura: Sprint on over to the Buick stand, where the Avista concept coupe shows what tasteful design and a pretty car look like. Take notes and translate into Japanese.