Honda likes to take its sweet time when replacing one of its performance heroes. Take the current Civic Type R, the hyper-aggressive turbocharged aerodynamics lesson on (red pinstripe) wheels. That didn’t turn up until 2015 – five years after the old ‘spaceship’ went to the great fast food outlet car park in the clouds.
Observe the gap between Honda killing off the original V6 NSX in 2005 and its successor finally reaching customers in 2016, and you’d naturally imagine Honda completely forgotten about building mid-engined sports cars in the meantime. It didn’t. It was just deliberating…a lot.
As early as 2003, Honda showed off the clean, crisp, modern new sports car design. An obvious successor to the Senna-approved NSX Mk1 (it’s the law to namecheck Brazil’s most illustrious motor racing export when mentioning Japan’s original supercar, m’kay?) This is the HSC.
Just as the NSX’s name wasn’t a random jumble of alphabetti spaghetti (it means New Sportscar eXperiment), the HSC had method in the moniker too. ‘High-performance Sports Concept’ was the full name on the birth certificate.
Revealed at 2003’s Tokyo motor show, the HSC’s engineering recipe now seems almost quaint. Free of turbochargers or hybrid boost, it kept the trademark NSX V6 powerplant, mounted behind the two-seat cockpit. Thanks to its appearance in Gran Turismo, we know the 3.5-litre engine was rated at 315bhp, which would have been enough to launch the HSC from 0-60 in 4.7 seconds, and top out at around 300kph – 186mph, in old money. That’s heady performance for the early Noughties, even if these days an Audi RS3’d dust it.
Honda chose to break with tradition in one crucial area, eschewing a six-speed manual gearbox in favour of a six-speed paddleshifter. Oh, and as is apparently compulsory for concept cars, it swapped door mirrors for rear-view cameras. Mmm, sleek.
The HSC was Honda’s toe in the water when deciding how to best replace the NSX, and it wasn’t a successful one. The idea was left alone, and the next time we saw a design study for a new Honda sports car, it came in the front-engined V10 form of the Acura Advanced Sports Car concept. The world seemed in store for a Lexus LFA vs Honda ‘NSX V10’ showdown, but the global financial crisis put Honda off the idea of fast cars once again.
Today’s NSX develops over 500bhp and 405lb ft, hits 62mph from rest in 2.9sec and tops out at 191mph. It’s the culmination of everything Honda knows about building advanced, clever cars. But it’s a mid-engined V6 at heart, so the pure and plain HSC just about lives on in spirit.