Rushing down some backwoods highway in the California canyons, the feeling of rock and pine flashing by at warp speed past the window—we were moving at speeds any California Highway Patrol officer would conclude to be ‘reckless.’ I didn’t care, the Acura NSX I was piloting didn’t seem to give a damn either, it continued to push the limits of what was possible; on the corners, in the straights, and everywhere in between.
If you were looking for a lightweight supercar similar to the NSX you saw a decade ago, this wasn’t it. This was something far more advanced, seemingly from another era far beyond our time. A twin-turbocharged engine, two electric motors, and space-ship like design. This was a car built for the future, and here I was, in 2016, driving it quick.—dangerously quick.
For Acura, the NSX comes at a very important time. The brand is struggling to reinvent itself, because sometime between 1990 and 2016, Honda’s luxury marque strayed into the desert to do some soul-searching, eventually finding itself by creating vehicles one would consider far from ‘acceptable’ in the realm of luxury manufacturers.
It’s definitely a tough pill to swallow for everyone involved. But the first part of reinventing yourself is realizing your mistake. The second part is putting that signature Honda “power of dreams” slogan to good use, proving to everyone that anything is possible. Things like the NSX are possible.
To understand this car you have to understand the entire thought process behind it. The new NSX was built in Ohio (yes, that’s the United States), at a facility designed specifically to build the new NSX. This further reassures everyone that Acura wants to continue its separation from the Japanese-built original. And that’s not a bad thing.
For one, the technology on this car is bar none. It’s almost as if McLaren shrunk down its P1, made it look better, and slapped an Acura badge on it. The 3.5-liter V6 shares space with two electric motors—one in the front, one in the back—to which a total of 573 horsepower and 476 lb-ft torque are produced. That’s not slow, and even without an official 0-60 mph figure to work with, I can tell you safely it’s somewhere in the three second range.
With an ample amount of power on hand, one of the things the NSX truly excels at is launch control. It’s as easy as transferring the car into Sport+ mode, mashing your left foot on the brake, right foot on the gas, and waiting for a sensor to tell you to get your ass up and go. As soon as you release the brake, a full G of force is thrust onto your chest. There’s no wheel spin, no fuss, no nothing to convince you that this isn’t one of the best systems money can buy.
Putting to use both the electric motors and the 3.5-liter V6, Acura’s power distribution is something of wonder. If you were looking for turbo lag—look somewhere else. Power is immediate and aggressive, just like any good supercar should be. The dual threat of electric and gas gives you gobs of power. Comparably, it’s a more efficient, though slightly convoluted approach to power than any of its segment competitors.
Hold the 9-speed gearbox to 7,500 rpm and it cycles through gears while the speedometer climbs faster than you can blink. It works flawlessly in the straights, putting down the right amount of power right when you need it. But that isn’t to say Acura’s 9-speed autobox is perfect. Far from it, in fact.
It took Acura only 18 months to develop its new gearbox, and it shows. In the corners—specifically on the track—it seemingly wanders around under the hood, searching for the right gear at the wrong time. Holding one for too long, not downshifting quick enough for another. By then, you’ve already clipped the apex going 2 or 3 mph slower than you should be. You can combat that by using the paddle shifters, but even then, it’s not even comparable to cars like the R8 or 911 relative to preciseness.
The steering rack follows a similar issue. Unless you’re in Sport+ or Track, which is quick and precise, it doesn’t feel a whole heluva lot like a $150,000 supercar. Depending on the type of person you are, that may ore may not be a good thing. Sport mode is comfortable, definitely, and Quiet mode is efficient, sure, but the steering is numb, and the all-wheel drive system doesn’t work well in unison with the suspension, leading to a healthy amount of understeer.
Acura’s saving grace for its senseless steering rack comes in the form of a $2,900 optional steering wheel. You get more than just a steering wheel, of course, (carbon fiber accents, etc.). But it’s the most important part. The steering wheel feels as if it was designed for you specifically. Yes, you. The way it contorts to your hand—every inch of your palm and fingertips are connected at once, giving you a better sense for the road. It’s like Acura engineers looked at a glove and said, “how can we make this into a steering wheel?” And they did.
Sure, a steering wheel might sound like a trivial thing, but this is the single best steering wheel my hands have ever touched in a road car.
There’s definitely a lot of detail in the new NSX. Arguably, too much for a single review. But when it comes down to the brass tacks, negativity aside, the NSX really is a marvel of engineering. 80% of the time it works every time. Even after tracking it, and moving at a healthy clip through the canyons, it returned 19 mpg, showed off its faultless all-wheel drive system, and looked good doing it. Really good.
For $156,000, with all the technology and over-thinking, the NSX doesn’t herald back to the original in the way you were hoping. But that’s ok. The way it does share similarity with the original product is its push for new technology. A feat of engineering—just like the original—but in a very different way.
It’s attractive and sustainable and previews a future—whether you like it or not—that’s coming right for you. Culminating performance, efficiency, and design, into a well-thought out, fun-to-drive package. That’s the true beauty of the Acura NSX.
Engine: 3.5L Twin-Turbo Hybrid V6
0-60: 3.0 Seconds (est.)
Price (base): $156,000
Numb steering rack
Cheap interior plastics
Photo Credit: Jeff Perez for BoldRide