Latest Acura NSX review
– Carmel, California
I’ve never driven the original Acura NSX. I know, it’s a huge void in my automotive catalog, but I’ve not had the pleasure of making that iconic supercar’s acquaintance just yet. So I can’t tell you if this new, hybrid-powered coupe drastically changes the whole NSX experience. I can’t tell you if it’s a return to form or if it bastardizes the original NSX name. All I can tell you is that this new car offers a fantastically futuristic experience, an Acura supercar for the modern age.
That starts with a firm design handshake, the NSX immediately looking the part of a proper supercar, but with its own strong styling statement and presence. To put it in another light, while driving the NSX up and down Pacific Coast Highway and through downtown Carmel, California, during the Monterey Car Week festivities, everyone stopped what they were doing to watch the NSX go by. A group of Ferrari enthusiasts stopped caring about a 488 GTB for a moment to ogle the Acura. Aventadors were ignored as the deep red NSX drove by. This thing stopped people dead in their tracks. Maybe it’s because the NSX is still so new. Or maybe it’s because it looks that good.
This thing stopped people dead in their tracks. Maybe it’s because the NSX is still so new. Or maybe it’s because it looks that good.
From the outside, everything about the NSX looks and feels special and unique, the way a supercar should. But it’s inside where things sort of taper off on that front. I won’t argue against the Acura’s luxury credentials, with fine leather and optional Alcantara materials throughout the cabin, not to mention the sort of exquisite fit-and-finish that you’d expect from a halo Honda. But it all comes together with a sort of fussy design. Sure, the NSX comes equipped with everything you could want, but it all looks a bit overwrought. Compare it to the simplistic interior of an Audi R8, and you’ll agree that there’s a lot going on in here.
I can’t tell you how to feel about the fact that this $156,000 Acura NSX shares its infotainment interface and much of its switchgear with a $30,000 Honda Accord. If you like what Honda and Acura have been doing lately, you won’t find much reason to complain about the NSX. I do really hate the weird shape and functionality of the gear selector, but it looks and feels more appropriate here in the exotic NSX than it does in the more mainstream Acura TLX. It’s all relatively simple to use and easy to live with – as is the rest of the very comfortable interior. Conversely, that comfort – more "Acura" than "NSX" – slightly downgrades the specialness I expect in a supercar cabin.
If you like what Honda and Acura have been doing with interiors lately, you won’t find much reason to complain about the NSX.
Acura has made a huge step forward with the powertrain. Get used to this very advanced hybrid setup – it’s the sort of technology that will be a big part of future supercars, and is already featured prominently in exotics like the Porsche 918 Spyder and Ferrari LaFerrari. The NSX powertrain starts with a biturbocharged, 3.5-liter V6, paired with three electric motors. The gasoline engine alone is good for 500 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, with one electric power unit providing an additional 47 hp and 109 lb-ft of motivation. That mid-mounted lump powers the rear wheels, and up front, two electric power units deliver 36 hp and 54 lb-ft to each of the front wheels when needed. This very fancy and very complicated system results in a net output of 573 hp and 476 lb-ft of torque – those are the talking-point numbers you’ll want to remember.
Executive Editor Seyth Miersma's initial drive of the NSX included a number of laps at Lime Rock Park, where the NSX shone thanks to its flat and balanced chassis, and the confident accuracy of Acura’s SH-AWD all-wheel-drive system. On the street – especially my traffic-heavy stretch of PCH – the at-the-limit merits of the NSX are harder to notice. I applaud the advanced powertrain for offering a smooth wave of power that never lacks for additional thrust, and make no mistake, this car is god-damn quick. But I have to agree with Seyth’s assessment that there’s a distinct lack of steering communication on public roads – so often, I’m wanting more through the wheel.
There’s a distinct lack of steering communication on public roads – so often, I’m wanting more through the wheel.
That said, the chassis tuning inspires a ton of confidence. With every quick turn on PCH and a quick jaunt down 17 Mile Drive, it’s easy to feel that this car can handle a lot more than I’m throwing at it, especially in the super-sharp Sport+ drive setting. You can hold a flat, confident line through bends, but there just isn’t a ton of feedback through the steering wheel, no matter the drive mode.
The power delivery is constant and plentiful, and the nine-speed dual-clutch transmission keeps the engine on boil, never requiring an override up- or downshift from the paddles.
Along the bumpy and uneven streets of Carmel’s city center, the NSX offers a compliant, comfortable ride and very easy steering action. It’ll even act as a full EV at times in Quiet mode. But I’m not buying a supercar because of how nice it is to drive around town. To that point, I’d like a bit more in the way of driver engagement when I’m charging down a great road. The NSX seems to be very well balanced and great to use in the weakest and most extreme cases of the driving spectrum – it’s that middle ground, sporty driving on a winding road, where I wish it felt more special.
Deliciously fast, properly growly, and impossibly pretty, Acura’s top coupe can run with the best of ‘em.
The big thing working against the NSX right now is that there are a number of rewarding experiences in the $160,000-200,000 sport/supercar space. In a segment that includes things like the Porsche 911 Turbo, Audi R8, McLaren 570S and 570GT, Lamborghini Huracán, and more, it’s really hard to stand out. I’ll say the NSX makes a bold design statement that, on its own, is enough to win people over. But it’s not demonstrably better or worse than any of the aforementioned competitors in any one specific way (except maybe steering feel).
Spending time with the new NSX on the street affirms its place as a proper supercar, even if it doesn’t quite offer that one special something to set it apart from the pack. Deliciously fast, properly growly, and impossibly pretty, Acura’s top coupe can run with the best of ‘em.
Photos: Steven Ewing / Motor1.com