We’ve waited a long time for it but Honda’s intriguing NSX is nearly here. The new Japanese supercar is capable of immense speed and is effortless in the way it delivers that performance. On the road its eccentric design and short, low-slung body look almost otherworldly. This first impression is a good one – we can’t wait to get our teeth into the new Honda NSX on UK roads for the definitive verdict.
The original Honda NSX was revealed at the Chicago Motor Show in 1989. Developed with the help of late Formula One legend Ayrton Senna, the car enjoyed a 15-year-plus production run – but with the facelifted model discontinued in 2005, it’s been a while since Honda had a machine to challenge the likes of Porsche and Ferrari.
In 2007, the company confirmed that a new supercar, powered by a huge V10, was being considered for release at the end of the decade. But then the recession hit, and the brand backtracked, announcing that all plans for a new NSX had been cancelled. Now, though, 10 years since the previous model rolled off the production line, Honda is readying its most exciting product for two decades – in the form of a brand-new, hybrid-powered supercar.
Can you imagine Ferrari promising the 488 GTB's successor for an entire decade, showing it first as a front-engine GT; then a transverse, mid-engine hybrid; and then finally turning the engine 90 degrees, turbocharging it, and having to completely re-engineer the car from the outside in—and stretching it 3 inches in length and an inch in width to accommodate the new powertrain? This kind of unclear direction isn't just showing your hand too early, and it's not just a waste of time and money. It's a sign that Honda is having a hard time figuring what its own flagship should be. And, by extension, what the Acura brand even means.
Acura's latest models—TLX and ILX—are badge-engineered versions of existing Honda cars. So it's clear that the NSX has one big job: to show the world that Acura actually means business.
The NSX uses an aluminum space-frame and carbon-fiber floor with both aluminum and SMC (plastic) body panels to be as light as possible. Then it adds weight back via a hybrid system and battery of undisclosed capacity. Its front-mounted twin-motor unit contains two 36-hp, 54-lb-ft electric motors. Since they power each front wheel independently, they provide real, honest-to-god torque vectoring. The ingenious TMU is similar to the one at the rear of the RLX Sport Hybrid, which means there's a maximum road speed at which the motors can provide propulsion and regen. Above that speed (124 mph) the NSX switches to rear-drive but can still use the motors to vector by adding drag to one side and propulsion to the other in equal amounts.
Less defensible is that the car simply went on too long without a major redesign while the price crept up, the latter due more to exchange rates than any greed on Acura's part. By the time the new millennium hit, redesigned (and less expensive) competitors outclassed it in terms of performance and value by a significant margin.
Highlights of driving a used NSX include an easy-to-drive nature, excellent forward visibility, its sweet-sounding V6 and a very smooth shifter. The major downsides to the car are limited practicality and mediocre outright performance for an exotic. Finding an unmolested NSX might also be hard, as many cars have been modified with aftermarket parts over the years.