2017 Acura NSX

2017 Acura NSX

2017 Acura NSXStory by Gerry Frechette,

Fans of Japanese supercars sure do have to endure long waits between generations, especially if they live in North America. Case in point, the Acura NSX. The first-generation car, designed in the late 1980s, lasted until 2005, and fans of Honda-style performance have been waiting, and waiting… until now.

As long ago as 2007, Honda announced it would be building a replacement for the NSX, and showed a concept at the Detroit Auto Show which was clearly a front-engined GT intended to have a V10 engine. Then the market crash happened in 2008, and everything was put off until 2012 at Detroit, when the latest concept, looking production-ready, was shown. It took over four more years to bring the new NSX to market this past summer, and it is definitely worth the wait.

It’s pretty obvious that electrification is the future of the automobile, and that applies to high-performance cars too. The characteristics of electric motors, such as instant on-off and maximum torque from the first spin, lend themselves very well to tasks other than simply powering a car down the road for 200 km, as laudable as that may be.

They are ideal for augmenting the power of a regular engine, as well as being put to use on individual wheels to improve handling characteristics. The Acura RLX sedan has had this system for a couple of years now, with a motor on each rear wheel operating independently to optimize handling. So now, picture that entire system being rotated 180 degrees, in a mid-engined car with rear-wheel drive, and the two front wheels each driven by an electric motor. This is the NSX’s all-wheel drivetrain.

That mid-engine is a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 with 500 horsepower, and that in itself sounds like a great recipe for a supercar. Interestingly, the valve openings are not controlled by VTEC, and the angle between the cylinder banks is 75 degrees. It pumps out 406 lb-ft of torque as low as 2,000 rpm.

2017 Acura NSXBut add three electric motors to the mix, and things get more interesting. Between the engine and the nine-speed twin-clutch transaxle is a motor that contributes another 109 lb-ft at 1 rpm. Two more 54-lb-ft motors drive the front wheels. You might think that the total torque would be over 600 lb-ft, but Acura rates the system at 573 hp and 476 lb-ft. Which is, as they say, adequate.

So, technically, the NSX is a hybrid (not a plug-in) because the motors occasionally will propel the car in “Quiet” mode. But who cares about that? We certainly didn’t, and in our 30-minute drive, the Mode Selector went right past Sport and was glued to Sport Plus for optimal performance on the fabulous winding country roads we were blessed with.

In any corner you can think of – hairpins to big fast curves, all taken at a rate with little regard for legalities – the NSX carved the turn as if it couldn’t get down to the apex and out of the corner fast enough. That feeling is the work of the electric motors, which instantly give more or less torque to the two front wheels as needed, to eliminate understeer, and then assist with driving the car out of the corner with maximum traction. Backing up the motors is a set of “magnetic ride” shock absorbers that are just as quick to provide optimal damping, so that the car corners flat at all times. The optional carbon-ceramic brakes on our tester felt smooth in the light use we gave them. We’d love to give them heavy use, on a test track. For that, there is a Track Mode, too.

It’s truly uncanny how well the NSX handles. Acura’s approach (shared by others in the high-end business) is clearly the future of performance cars – electric motors as performance enhancements first, with some degree (probably more than the NSX delivers) of all-electric operation in the city.

The thing with the NSX is that it rewards a high level of driver involvement, but doesn’t demand it. The potentially high-strung nature of the 500-hp V6 is dulled somewhat by the turbos as expected, but also largely by the electric motors, which are constantly flashing on and off to smooth out the power delivery. In that sense, it is a comfortable car to drive, and the interior contributes to that impression.

2017 Acura NSXOther than the obviously low door opening like any such car, once inside, the feeling is one of comfort and space. Almost like a two-seat luxury sedan. The NSX is certainly is as wide as any big sedan, so that allowed Acura to include nice big seats that will suit a lot of different builds, and enough room for taller 6-foot-plus drivers. The seats are multi-adjustable, of course, so you can clamp down with bolsters, or loosen them up for highway cruising.

Finding a good driving position was easy, even with the steering column that didn’t telescope out as much as desired, and the NSX should prove to be a comfortable tourer. Don’t expect an infotainment interface that is any better than in regular Acura models, though.

Interestingly, the new NSX was conceived and is built by hand in Ohio, USA, unlike the original which was a project of the enthusiast engineers at the head office in Japan. As such, it has design details that will appeal to North American tastes, but which don’t diminish its supercar credentials. Its suitability as an everyday car can be traced to its heritage. One has to think that other versions of the NSX without the motors in the front will be built at a lesser price; indeed, Acura will race such a version next year in GT3 competition.

But for now, the price of entry is $189,900, with the many options available pushing it nearer to $250K. At that, it is a small fraction of the price of the hybrid Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche models, with less power and cachet, of course, but outright performance that is essentially the same. Like, zero-to-60 mph in the low three-second range. 11.2-second quarter-mile. Top end of 197 mph, electronically limited, no less. And 1.08g cornering. All that, in a car one expects will have Honda reliability.

In other words, the NSX is an everyday supercar, as a few other cars can claim, but one with the latest in electric motor technology, giving it dynamic handling and powertrain refinement that are not exceeded in a street-legal performance car. In that sense, it is a very worthy successor to the original.

Categories: Driver Plus, Road Tests
Tags: 2017, Acura, NSX