The 2017 Acura NSXs have been on the road for a year now, but chances are, you haven’t seen one. It’s been delayed and ignored, and it suffers from a weak public image because of its association with the hordes of forgettable Acuras out there.
That’s too bad. Because after test-driving a US$204,600 version of the car, I can tell you it more than deserves to be considered in the same vaunted category as the Audi R8, the Mercedes AMG GT, and even the McLaren 570S.
The forgotten supercar
Here’s the short version of the car’s troubled life in recent years: Honda first announced plans for a new NSX - the successor to a highly praised first-generation NSX – in 2007 but then canceled production after the economy went south in 2008.
Then, in 2011, the company said it had started again on a second-generation, updated NSX concept. By 2012 it was showing one at the Detroit Auto Show, but it took an additional three years before the production model hit the same car show in 2015. The modern NSX finally went on sale last year, nearly a decade after first rumors.
Designed by Michelle Christensen and built in Ohio, the 2017 NSX follows the same vein of calculated angles and muted aggression of the original NSX, conceived in Japan in 1990.
When compared against such distinctively designed supercars as the brash Chevrolet Corvette, the callipygian Ferrari California, the robotic Nissan GT-R, and the discreet Porsche 911, the NSX holds its own with subdued flair.
Christensen, who designed the exterior, has said she used “animals and trees” as reference points in the restrained final look; I don’t quite see poplars or willows in the NSX, but careful sobriety is clearly there.
It’s as if Honda didn’t want to risk making its important new supercar look too nuts – better to make it look polished, rather than polarizing.
I’m glad that an automaker resisted the urge to over-style just for the sake of impact. We’ve seen that before, and it’s not pretty.
Instead, the NSX comes with thin LED headlights strung like diamonds on either side of a flared front grille.
The air intakes flanking its rhinoplasty-perfect nose match those set on each side of the rear haunches.The 20-inch alloy wheels are set widely on either side.
The (only) two seats are positioned comfortably and supportively inside the cabin, and the visibility on all turns is actually startling, when you consider the black walls that impede vision in most other supercars.
And how does it drive?
“Aggressive,” “raw,” “guttural,” “beastly” – these are not the words to describe how the NSX looks and drives. Nor “elegant,” “curvaceous,” nor “buxom.” NSX falls in the center of the Approval Matrix of all those extremes.
Is there such thing as an androgynous coupe that edges toward the sylphlike, with the balance of a dancer and the manners of a samurai? This is it.
Did you know the NSX is an all-wheel-drive hybrid? You wouldn’t pick up on this if you didn’t already know before getting behind the wheel. And you wouldn’t know it from watching one drive past.
Nothing much lets on about its hidden electric power except for a small indicator on the dash and the fact that the engine kicks off when you come to a stop outside Track mode.
It’s also incredibly hushed – there’s even a “Quiet” drive mode that lends utter stealth. Guys who love a Corvette will complain that the NSX needs more growl behind its power, but the NSX isn’t meant for those guys, anyway.
The NSX has three electric motors: two on the front axle and a third between the twin-turbo, mid-engine V6. This helps it achieve 573-horsepower and 22 miles per gallon on the highway, among the best fuel efficiency of any in this segment. (The North Star for the hybrid supercar group would be Porsche’s $850,000 918 Spyder, which gets nearly 90mpg.)
Some have criticized as “not fun” the ample driving technology that the NSX uses to enhance acceleration and handling. “Magnetorheological” dampers control rolling independently at all four corners; in Track mode, for instance, the car corrects itself coming out of corners so that you don’t – can’t – slide.
The thing hits 60 miles per hour in 2.7 seconds; top speed is 191mph. (Did I mention I had the prototype up on Pike’s Peak?) Those people are wrong. This car is a joy to drive.
With swooping, swift acceleration, nimble steering, and alert, hyper-quick brakes, it easily compares well against the Audi R8 and the McLaren 570S. This type of precision, my darling, is not boring. It’s exhilarating.
In fact, go drive the NSX for 30 minutes and come back and tell me you didn’t have fun. I dare you.