2017 Acura NSX
Launched at the Chicago Auto Show in February 1989 for the 1990 model year the Acura NSX had its own factory and complete assembly line. It was the first mass-produced car with an all aluminum body designed on a Cray supercomputer with three thicknesses of alloy to allow the NSX to come in close to 500 pounds lighter than a steel chassis car could. The original NSX was hand-built at a rate of 25 cars on a good day. It received one light revamp in 1997 to a 3.2 liter engine and a light restyling in 2002 before disappearing altogether in 2005. The first NSX offered a gem of a 3.0 liter V6 engine built to meet or exceed that of a Ferrari V-8 while offering the reliability of a Honda at a price point that was well below the norm. In short, it was designed to be a disruptive influence in the sports car market. The styling was muted, understated and form definitely followed function.
The first time this author heard an account of the 1990 Acura NSX was in a phone call from a professional journalist friend. What he told me I have put into quotes, are they exact, no, as they are recollections from 25 plus years ago. “I was asked to cover a Ferrari event and the NSX was the only car in the magazine’s press fleet that might be able to keep up. I grabbed a couple of cameras and went out. I’ve got these great ‘death grip on the steering wheel with fierce face' shots and my editor won’t let me use them. Oh yeah, I was well into triple digits steering with my left hand and shooting with my right. This thing is utterly benign and incredibly stable.” What he told me never made it to press as he would have never gotten another Ferrari, and this happened, slight infractions in the eyes of a notoriously prickly manufacturer could get you banned from Ferrari, Porsche or these days, by Tesla.
What is the 2017 NSX like? Up close and personal it looks like an engineering exercise. This $156,000 base priced US designed and built 573 horse 406 foot pound twin turbo racing-derived 75 degree angle 3.5 liter V-6 second generation NSX has three electric motors, dual-clutch automatic with 9 speeds all-wheel drive and is one of the wildest cars this author has ever driven. The acceleration is seamless with an anticipated under 3 seconds to 60 MPH. We didn’t hear the engine kick in until we broached 35 MPH, and it just kept going. It should return around 22 MPG in regular driving. Ricardo Rodriguez Long of garagelatino.com and Aztec Network, thoroughly covers the biggest market that the auto manufacturers have completely missed, the pretty wealthy and rapidly expanding Hispanic Market, and his right foot familiar with a Formula Ford. Ricardo looked for a clear spot and pounded on the brakes. I had to check to make sure my eyeballs were still in their sockets. We stopped in what has to be record time. We pushed it some more. It took everything we could throw at it with aplomb. At moments it sounded more like a diesel truck than a sports car. But the steering telegraphed what was going on with the tires. The NSX was utterly benign. If we were to get in trouble with this car by pressing the limits, it would be our stupidity and not the car, we did and we didn’t, we knew our limits as drivers.
But my expectation is that the NSX will be a direct hit with the Geek Crowd. Why? Because they will get it. The original 1990 NSX weighed in at 3,000 pounds, had a V-6 that cranked out a reported 270 horses at a nosebleed 7,100 RPM with 210 foot pounds of torque singing in glory all the way to 8,000 RPMs with a five speed manual that offered zero to 60 in 5 seconds flat while returning around 22 MPG on regular gas. In the real world, the benign driving demur-looking NSX could chew up and spit out other exotics that could go just as fast but could never sustain it. Some of these other cars were a real bear to drive and would break at the brink of an eyelash if you tried to use the performance that manufacturers had promised. Push the NSX like you wouldn’t dare to with another so-called exotic and you'll end up changing rear tires every five to ten thousand miles. Do that with an NSX and you were simply just beating up on another less everyday Honda.
There are eight colors and types of materials in the tight but very comfortable cockpit. Nick Robinson, the 2017 NSX Dynamic Project Engineer was at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the Pre-Introduction in March and this author had the opportunity to ask him about the NSX. This is “brake by wire” and we “worked hard on a lot of twisty roads to get the acceleration, braking and handling just right.”
The 2017 NSX will not appeal to the Ferrari or Porsche crowd. Like the original NSX, the interior is still pretty basic Honda. Beneath the aerodynamically draped on body, you will find the same concepts found in the Porsche 918 and the Konigsegg Regera cars which is what the NSX really competes with. Now look over your shoulder at the 2018 Civic R at the 2018 Honda Civic R that is expected to arrive in Fall of 2017. 2.0 liter direct injection with 306 horses at 6,500 RPM and 295 foot pounds of torque at 2,500 RPM. Redlining at 7,000 RPM with a zero to 60 of maybe 5.7 seconds going onto an anticipated top speed of 168 MPH. Brembo brakes, yada, yada for something north of $30,000.
Before walking over to the 2016 WAJ Media Day Banquet this author met and started chatting with a woman from the Department of Defense Nuclear Energy Division who was attending a high level conference on Cyber Security. I told her how Honda had really dropped the ball with the Civic and some of the Acuras. However, they had finally found their way back with the 2017 Acura NSX. Because she wanted to see this up-and-coming vehicle, we asked the staff for access to the car. Almost immediately, it became obvious that the 2017 Acura NSX is more or less a disguised 2030 Honda Civic R, except one that you can buy now. It is not really a supercar, but more of a reality check from “Back To The Future.” Will it sell in big numbers? Not a chance. The Car Geeks will get it, the wealthy Car Geeks will buy it, it will be a great halo car to show off what Honda and Acura can do and will do. OK Acura NSX Team, you didn’t get to sleep or see your family for several months on end. Go home, go to bed and be proud of your accomplishment, Car Geeks will once again speak the names Acura and Honda with awe.