It has been so long since Honda had an out-and-out sports car in its line-up that you might barely remember what the original Honda NSX was meant to do. The two-seat, mid-engined supercar aimed to compete with the contemporary mid-engined Ferrari, but at a much cheaper price. It did so until it disappeared from sale more than a decade ago.
Now it’s back, and the ethos is, in some ways, similar: the new NSX is a £130,000 supercar that Honda benchmarked against Ferrari’s recently-replaced 458 Italia. Today’s NSX, though, sets out to be far more sophisticated than its predecessor, and certainly far more at home on the road than it is on a track day. It also has to compete against far more rivals than before, including Porsche’s 911 Turbo and the Audi R8.
What’s the 2016 Honda NSX like to drive?
Its mechanical make-up is extremely complex by modern sports car standards; – it’s more like a BMW i8 than an Audi R8 in that respect. Yes, in its middle it has a conventional 3.5-litre, V6 petrol engine with two turbochargers, making 500bhp; but that’s assisted by a 48bhp electric motor which, like the engine, drives the rear wheels, and there are also two 37bhp electric motors at the front, one driving each wheel. All three electric motors can generate electricity to recharge the batteries, give power to boost straight-line speed or affect the handling balance.
There’s a battery pack between the seats and the engine, but don’t think the NSX is some kind of range-extended, low-emission, plug-in hybrid. The battery pack is small and exists primarily to enhance the driving experience. If you put the NSX into ‘quiet’ mode it’ll run on electric power alone, but not for long, and not very quickly. The other modes: ‘sport’, ‘sport+’ and ‘track’ are where the Honda likes to operate, where its engine is louder and its performance altogether more ferocious.
The NSX feels to us like it lacks the outright pace of, say, a Ferrari 488 GTB – which wouldn’t be surprising – but what the NSX is capable of is travelling deceptively quickly. The complex electrical systems are supremely well integrated, so what could feel like an overly complicated drivetrain actually feels very natural. Ditto the steering and handling, too. We’ll have to wait until we get a car in the UK to make a final judgement on the ride – and whether this car feels too wide for narrow British lanes – but the first signs are promising.
What’s the 2016 Honda NSX like inside?
The NSX’s interior fit and finish is promising, too – even though our test car wasn’t a final production version. Some of the materials and the infotainment system are a bit too reminiscent of a £20,000 Civic rather than a £130k supercar, but it would be harsh to complain about them too much. Mostly the cabin is terrific; we’d prefer it if the driver’s seat was height adjustable, but the driving position itself is sound, and visibility is strong; that was part of the original NSX’s ethos and something it continues today.
There’s a low sill at the front, the A-pillars are slimmer than most rivals’, and the a centre of gravity – the whole engine and exhaust – sits below shoulder height. That means there’s room for a 125-litre boot at the back. It’s wide enough for golf clubs, but sitting above that exhaust, it gets pretty warm in there, especially if you’ve been inclined to enjoy the NSX’s handling; and that’s something we can well imagine you’d want to do.
Should I buy one?
If you do, you’ll be one of only 100 or so people a year in the UK who will. Although we’ll wait until Honda has announced full options pricing, and we know how it will depreciate and how much fuel it’ll use, we suspect you’ll be rather pleased if you do buy one. The NSX is great to drive and it might well be even better to own; it’s less hard work and more subtle than a lot of supercars, and it has somewhere to keep your golf clubs warm.
What Car? says…
Porsche 911 Turbo