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#MTSEMA18 – The OEM Displays: Honda and Acura

A Wild Ridgeline-Based Side-by-Side From the Big H

Oct 31, 2018
Photographers: Brett T. Evans
The SEMA Show is usually all about the aftermarket, and 2018’s event is no exception. But on Day One of the Las Vegas event, we spent our time pounding the pavement at the manufacturers’ displays, checking out everything the OEMs had to offer. In this installment, we’ve got Honda and Acura, who knocked it out of the park with the frankly ridiculous Rugged Open Air Vehicle concept.
Based on the Ridgeline pickup’s mechanicals, the Rugged Open Air Vehicle is the fever dream that resulted when Honda’s engineers wondered what would happen if they crossed the Pioneer 1000 side-by-side with the company’s midsize pickup. It’s hard to divine the Rugged Open Air Vehicle’s scale from the photos, but imagine a chopped down Ridgeline on a one-off lifted suspension and you’ll be close.
Photo 2/27   |   Sema 2018 Honda Rugged Open Air Concept
The concept retains much of its Ridgeline bones under the skin, featuring the same 3.5L V-6, six-speed automatic transmission, and i-VTM4 all-wheel drive as the pickup. It also retains Intelligent Traction Management, and it rides on a suspension that’s lifted about 2 inches over stock, with suitably aggressive rubber mounted on wheels that give the off-roader a wider track. Many of the non-Ridgeline bits on the Rugged Open Air Vehicle are nonetheless from the Honda stable, including four Civic Type R bucket seats wrapped in Pioneer 1000 upholstery, Pioneer 1000 front doors custom-mounted to the front and rear apertures, Pioneer 1000 accessory LED head- and taillights, and a spray-on–lined Ridgeline dash top. The cargo bed and its in-bed trunk carry over from the Ridgeline, lending some utility to the wild off-highway vehicle. Predictably, the Rugged Open Air concept has zero chance of achieving series production, but maybe an enterprising owner could build one themselves.
Also found at the Honda stand was the Ridgeline Adventure Lifestyle Project. Unlike the jumbo-sized side-by-side, the Ridgeline Adventure Lifestyle Project could feasibly be built by an owner, thanks to its long list of Honda-sanctioned Jsport Performance Accessories. Among these bits is a 1.5-inch leveling kit and steel side steps, bed rack, and roof rack. Furthermore, the Adventure Lifestyle Project is also sporting KMC 17-inch wheels and BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires, improving traction and ground clearance. Mounted to the bed rack is a RoofNest Sparrow tent and MaxTrax recovery platforms, while the roof rack carries a Honda EU2200i generator and spare tire. Each of these items is commercially available, meaning this machine might not be a one-off like its Pioneer-inspired cousin.
Photo 13/27   |   Sema 2018 Honda Ridgeline Adventure Lifestyle Project
Honda also trotted out the Rebelle Rally Pilot, a nearly stock Honda SUV that completed the all-women’s Rebelle Rally with Honda engineers Jen Ariel and Melanie Morimoto behind the wheel. The Pilot took on the 1,700-mile off-road navigation raid using its original, unmodified engine, transmission, and i-VTM4 all-wheel-drive system, with engineers adding custom skidplates, Baja Designs off-road lights, BFG KO2 tires, and about 0.75 inch of lift through custom suspension bits. The Pilot made it through the event, which winds through the California and Nevada desert, with minimal scrapes, the most obvious of which being a busted front chin spoiler. Not bad for a surprisingly capable machine more accustomed to family vacations and suburban commutes.
Acura’s lone utility vehicle on the SEMA stand was an RDX smartly upgraded by Graham Rahal Performance. The aftermarket company, founded by Honda IndyCar driver Graham Rahal, took to the RDX with a version of the Civic Type R’s turbocharger, intake and exhaust manifolds, and downpipe. Some custom tuning brings the total horsepower count to 345, a useful increase of 65 over the stock RDX. Torque goes up by 98 to 370 lb-ft, and Eibach sport springs and StopTech cross-drilled rotors and six-piston calipers improve control on the already sprightly RDX. A custom steering wheel and a few custom-painted exterior accents round out the subtle changes. There’s no word on whether Graham Rahal Performance will actually introduce an RDX tuning kit, but we hope it does.
Photo 22/27   |   Sema 2018 Acura Rdx Grp
Although Honda’s presence at SEMA was most definitely headlined by the bonkers Rugged Open Air Vehicle concept, it’s nonetheless exciting to see what the company’s products could actually look like, given an owner’s interest in bringing the Ridgeline, Pilot, or Acura RDX to the next level.


Torrance, CA 90501



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