"It’s basically been the most tantalising tease in supercar history", writes Top Gear Magazine's editor-in-chief, Charlie Turner, of the new Honda NSX. The car, which will be built in the US state of Ohio by a select team of 100 artisans, is the product of a unprecedented nine-year development period.
"To give you some idea of the time and effort that goes into making the NSX", writes Turner, "at full production, the team will produce eight units a day. Next door, they build 850 Accords in the same time."
The car features a mid-mounted 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 producing a stout 500 horsepower, which is further augmented by a trio of electric motors — one between the engine and the nine-speed transmission, and two more at the front wheels — bringing the total output to 573 horsepower and 476 pound-feet of torque. It's a highly complex arrangement, but one that delivers potent results: Honda estimates the new NSX will sprint from zero to 60mph in 3 seconds flat, and keep moving until 191mph.
Honda invited Charlie to get to know the new NSX in the US — expected to be its largest market, and where will be sold as an Acura). The venue was the members-only Thermal Club road course racetrack in the California desert, and Charlie's session included seat time with the NSX's performance development leader, Jason Widmer, and a cat-and-mouse game with IndyCar hero Dario Franchitti.
Was it worth the wait? Absolutely, says Turner. "Like the [Porsche] 918, and even the BMW i8, this is a car where electrics add an important dimension to the experience, significantly broadening the appeal."
On its specifications:
What we’re talking here is an AWD supercar with a combined output of 573bhp and enough computer processing power to make NASA blush. However, it’s also led to a 1,725kg kerbweight — that’s 100kg more than the V10 AWD Audi R8, and a quarter of a tonne more than a Ferrari 488.
On its 'NASA' technology:
You learn to drive with the systems, not against them, and in return it delivers a fascinating analogue feeling. It’s testament to years of optimisation and testing, of perfectly integrated algorithms and subtly honed hardware.
On the exterior:
The NSX relies on clever aerodynamic channels rather than complex deployable spoilers, which in turn keeps the car looking uncluttered. However, you can option a carbon-fibre rear wing and more aggressive front splitter. I’d have them — made from matte carbon weave, they add an additional layer of intent.
On the interior:
My biggest issue is the quality of some of the materials: there’s loads of metal-look plastic, and a lack of authentic materials on some of the key touchpoints — most notably the door handles, paddle shifters and dynamic mode selector — undermines cabin quality.
On the ride and handling:
There’s a suppleness to the ride that is reminiscent of the McLaren 650S; I’m blown away by how effectively the NSX hides its mass. There’s initial understeer — let’s call it a safety warning — but once into the meat of a corner, the NSX hits a sweet balance point.
On its supercar rivals:
The [Audi] R8 and [Ferrari] 488 are the benchmark competitors, but oddly that comparison feels slightly off-target. When I was driving the NSX, the car it most put me in mind of was the Porsche 918. There are parallels. Both took years to get right, both hide their additional mass with trick electronics and both represent a new kind of performance car.
On its promise:
Honda describes the NSX as “not the finish line, just the start point”. There’s more to come, then, but as a start point it was well worth the wait.
Read Charlie Turner's full story here, with photography by Webb Bland, and if you haven't already done so, join the TG community on Facebook.
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