Acura’s new supercar was born in the USA.
The 2017 NSX was designed and engineered by a team based at American Honda’s headquarters in Marysville, Ohio. Sure, they had help from folks around the world, but the buck stopped in the Buckeye State.
It’s built there, too, at a facility outfitted to produce the ultra-high-tech machine. Like the original 1991 NSX, this one’s been developed to compete with exotics at a more attainable – if not exactly affordable – price.
Starting at $156,000, this is the most expensive Acura ever. But for what you get, that might be a steal. The NSX has four motors. It’s a hybrid – not to be green, but to be mean, in a cutting-edge kind of way. It is a statement, writ with speed.
Like its predecessor, the NSX leans heavily on aluminum for its mid-engine chassis, but this time it’s teamed with high-strength steel and carbon fiber, and it’s produced with modern methods described with words like quenching and ablation. Let’s just say the result is stiffer than a shot of Korski Vodka.
Behind its comfortable, airy, leather- and aluminum-trimmed two-seat cabin, you’ll find a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 unique to the NSX. It features an oddball 75-degree V-angle – just like the ones in Honda’s prototype race cars – to help lower the center of gravity, and an electric motor where the flywheel should be. Their combined power is routed to the rear wheels through a nine-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Up front the NSX has the aptly named Twin Power Unit, essentially two electric motors attached at the hip, each driving one wheel – or slowing, as they quickly recharge the NSX’s small, 1.3 kilowatt-hour battery pack, which stores just enough juice for a full-power burst until you need to slow for the next corner, where the cycle continues.
The NSX is … complicated, and that includes its body. The essence of the design is Supercar 101: a low, wide wedge. But this one has lots of holes in it. They’re on the top and the sides and they’re punched into its otherwise flat bottom. Some are inlets that feed cooling air to all those motors and brakes and battery cells; others are exhaust ports for heat and air pressure to escape, the latter to keep the car from flying off the planet as it approaches its 191-mph top speed.
Any doubts about its visual appeal were extinguished when I got stuck in traffic behind a high school bus, and its rear windows filled up with cellphone cameras and smiles. I enjoyed reveling in the celebrity as much as the NSX’s active suspension, which smooths out the road better than it should, considering you’re riding just 3.7 inches above it.
Safety over style
The Acura NSX has no vanity mirrors because the sunvisors they would be installed in are in a location that requires them to be impact-friendly.
Like all good supercars, the NSX has launch control. Like only a handful of them, it can accelerate to 60 mph in under three seconds. Instant torque from the electric motors combined with the all-wheel-drive make this possible, even with its mere (for today) 573 horsepower. It actually produces less in this situation. To make sure you never run out of electric boost, the driving mode that activates launch control reduces max power by an unrevealed, but virtually imperceptible, amount.
During many laps of Lime Rock Park, it never came up short, and it made good use of the power on hand. Along with its all-wheel-drive, the NSX has a limited-slip rear differential and a torque vectoring system that shuffle the power among the wheels, often dishing it out in four individual servings.
For example: It can use a front electric motor as a generator to slow the wheel that’s on the inside of a curve, creating a pivot and sending the energy it captures directly to the outside wheel, spinning it faster to hurry it around. Meanwhile, the inside brake can tap itself to enhance this “ski pole” effect.
What’s most remarkable is that it does it seamlessly. There are conventional cars that feel stranger than this one. When you hit the accelerator, nothing wonky happens, as it can with hybrids. Your pupils just dilate as your heart races toward its redline. The same is true when you turn the steering wheel, which is numb, but responsive. At 1.9 turns lock to lock, it’s as quick as everything else about the NSX. That includes the transmission, which is always in the correct gear.
The brakes use a fly-by-wire system that’s been perfectly programmed not to feel like one, and turn the tarmac into a sand trap, especially with the fade-free carbon ceramic discs that cost an extra $9,900. (There are enough options available, many of them made from carbon fiber, to push the NSX well over $200,000.) No matter how fast you’re going, or what pedal your foot is on, the NSX is as stable as a bullet train, at least to the limit.
It has one. And while it is almost too clean, too perfect, too precise until you reach it, it will let you pass and slide the tail out. An insider on the NSX team told me that attitude is the sort of thing it wouldn’t have had if it had been made in Japan and didn’t have a little red, white and blue blood in it. (To keep him or her employed and doing more of the same, I’ll protect my source.)
One thing it is missing is an awesome rock-and-roll or operatic soundtrack. Even at full boil, with its exhaust bypass open, there’s no how, no shriek, just a whoosh. Blame (or thank, if you’re a neighbor) the muffling effect of the turbos. It’s so quiet, there are tubes to pump some engine sound into the cabin. I’d rather it came out of the tailpipes.
Then again, that might get old. But I don’t think owning the NSX will. It even gets pretty good gas mileage: 21 mpg combined in the hands of the EPA, 25 mpg in mine. This could be the best Japanese sports car ever.
But it’s not.
2017 Acura NSX
Base price: $157,800 (including destination fee)
Type: 2-door, 2-seat all-wheel-drive coupe
Engine: 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 plus three electric motors
Power 573 hp, 476 lb-ft
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
MPG: 21 city/22 hwy