No big kick
His Japanese colleagues wanted the turbocharger to produce a kick, similar to a turbocharged engine that Honda uses in its Citi small car in Japan. The Citi produces a violent kick in the middle RPMs, he says.
"I wanted a smooth turbo -- no big kick. That's old-school turbos," Evert says.
Evert and his team nightly drove a specific course that took their vehicle over highways, hilly terrain, winding roads and city traffic.
Despite their attempts to go unnoticed, that didn't happen.
"The ones who noticed us most were driving the (Honda) S2000 and BMW 3 series," Evert says. "We'd race them to the next light. A lot of that was going on. My team really enjoyed the nightly drives. They were hard core, like robots. They kept pushing for one more lap."
After the test drives, Evert says his colleagues did come around to his view on smoothing the acceleration over a broader range of RPMs.
"This is the kind of turbocharger that the younger generation wants," Evert says.
"They are catching on to turbos. We're at the beginning of a wave of turbos in the U.S. It's nice to have something to make the RDX distinct in this saturated market."
Turbochargers allow an automaker to use smaller engines without sacrificing performance. A turbocharged engine creates more power by forcing compressed air into the engine cylinders.
Evert considered the RDX a somewhat risky project because Acura already had the larger MDX luxury SUV with a V-6.
"But we wanted something different," he says. "The market is ripe for turbos. You get outstanding performance, and you are taking wasted energy to make a more efficient powerplant. We wanted the RDX to be smaller and sportier, and we didn't want another V-6."
There also was debate over the feel of the suspension and steering, and of engine feedback, Evert recalls.
But the team and management gave him support, he says. Evert swayed the team to move away from soft, "old luxury" and go with a harder, sportier suspension, heavier steering and some audible engine feedback in the cabin.
"My team also wanted a hood scoop. I didn't want one," he says.
"I was against it. I did not want a rally car. I didn't want a 'boy racer.'"
Evert, who has spent five of his 18 years with Honda working in Japan, considers his leadership role on the RDX a career highlight.
Evert earned his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington in Seattle. He recalls graduating on a Friday and joining Honda the next Monday.
He has worked in Honda's chassis group in Japan; was body project leader for the Acura CL car in Ohio; was manager of the body group in Ohio; and was assistant project leader for the Element SUV in Ohio.
Adds Evert: "The RDX was a unique experience for me, being the only American on the team, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
You may e-mail Ralph Kisiel at [email protected]