The Acura NSX has, for the longest time, been my dream car. This obsession with the mid-engine-powered Honda isn’t likely to go away anytime soon, as the latest incarnation prepares to do battle with some of the biggest names in the exotic segment. But my love is not for the latest model (which may change), for it’s the earlier generations that own my interest with their pop-up headlights, funky interior trim pieces, and blatant disregard for any Ferrari fan who thinks they are better. The C-series V6 wasn’t the most potent animal, and the cars were occasionally prone to various issues (many of which I highlighted here), but I didn’t care. A 25 year-old NSX looks timeless, even by today’s standards, and that alone gives me reason to keep one in the forefront as a dream car.
Now, the all-new NSX is heading our way, and although it may be a far cry from its predecessors in many regards, the spirit of Honda lives on. Now we have reviews to prove it: Motor Authority got its hands on some official stats, and recently, Realtime Racing head honcho Peter Cunningham got the chance to take it around the track in good fashion. Fortunately for us, neither source has obfuscated their findings, and now we have a whole new reason to be excited.
While production may not start for another few months, many NSX fanatics are already taking bets on zero to sixty times, curb weights, and top speed capabilities. But why guess when we have the facts and a first drive review right here for you, so put away all of your assumptions, best guesses, and hopeful prayers.
Before we go over all the details and analyze what the guys at Realtime Racing thought of the car, let’s look at the downsides; every car on the planet is bound to have at least one or two. Firstly, although Honda remains tight-lipped on the matter, the Acura NSX is likely going to cost north of $170,000 when it goes on sale next year, which puts it in McLaren territory without all of the brand exclusivity. Secondly, this car is going to be expensive to insure, will be near impossible to take on city streets due to its ride height, and is going to attract just as much unwanted attention as it will desired glances. But that all goes with the territory when you opt for an extreme exotic, and frankly, it makes the owning experience that much more interesting for some people.
In keeping with the time honored tradition of being badass, the 2017 NSX will have a true-to-style, all-aluminum monocoque chassis, a mid-engine twin-turbo V6, a nine-speed dual-clutch transmission, and a trifecta of electric motors on board that will be powered by a monolithic lithium-ion battery. The 3.5-liter engine blasts out a healthy 500 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, but with the assistance of the specialized hybrid system (commonly referred to as Sport Hybrid Super Handling-All-Wheel Drive)￼, numbers jump to the 573 horsepower mark along with 476 foot-pounds of low-end grunt. All of that boils down to hitting sixty in just three seconds flat and a top speed of 191 miles per hour.
Of the three electric motors found on the new NSX, the one in the back works alongside the petrol side of the equation in order to drive the rear wheels, all while assisting with key functions like engine braking, silky smooth transmission shift points, and recharging that massive lithium ion battery. Meanwhile, the two electric motors up front assist with traction, and their torque-vectoring capabilities help bring the handling department to a level like no other: The motors will even apply negative amounts of torque to the front wheels to keep the car calmly in control.
Fully independent front and rear suspension systems rocking magnetic dampers are the footwork of choice, and re-tuned electric power steering￼ gives a stiff feel even when it’s not hydraulic-based. The forged wheels offer a 19- or 20-inch set of rollers in both front or rear. Six-pot piston Brembo calipers reside up front, while four-piston calipers clamp down in the rear, and carbon-ceramic discs are an option (something we’ll get to later). While the NSX appears to be quite the pig when compared to its earlier incarnations (the car weighs a whopping 3,803 pounds), the 42/58 front/rear weight distribution and clever handling mechanics should negate the added bulk.
Inside the cabin, you get a minimalistic fighter pilot kind of cockpit that has enough luxury touches to keep it classy. There’s a recognizable theme that lets you know that this is indeed still an Acura; leather and Alcantara are staples here, as are both digital and analogue dials, a seven-inch touchscreen, and a nine-speaker sound system that includes a shallow-mount subwoofer.
But in order to find out how it drives, we turned to the only guys for the job — Realtime Racing, which only rolls in Acuras.
Back in early October, in the heart of Palm Springs, California, the annual NSXPO took place. Hundreds of NSX owners celebrated the 25th anniversary of the unsuspecting supercar, and it was there that Acura race team leader Peter Cunningham got the chance to be one of the first civilians to take the brand new NSX out for a quick spin. The tarmac at the Thermal Club Raceway was scorching hot that day, and it sure wasn’t just the sun that was causing it.
Accompanying Cunningham on his maiden voyage was Honda R&D engineer Ted Klaus, who happens to be the “Large Project Leader” for the new NSX. Showcasing what Honda is calling the “New Sports Experience,” the two men dove into the car’s different settings, with Sport, Sport+, and Track modes all getting the once over. In “Quiet Mode,” Cunningham reports that the NSX “didn’t make a sound” and by squeezing on the throttle, the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 kicked in “seamlessly.” Upon acclimation, the Acura specialist noted that both the driver’s seating position and view across the dashboard were “very reminiscent of the first-gen car,” making him feel right at home and giving even more reason for him to hammer the throttle.
Three laps were first experienced as a passenger, with three more to follow as a driver, and even riding shotgun, Cunningham was just blown away by how awesome the new NSX performed on the track. Blasting down the back straight at over 130 miles per hour and hugging chicanes, the seasoned veteran began to concoct a laundry list of initial thoughts regarding the new NSX.
Silky smooth and “rocket fast,” the NSX gave Cunningham what he called “executed and quick shifts from the 9-speed dual-clutch transmission,” never once causing him to consider the utilization of “automatic mode” since the paddle shifters refused to defy his whims. Remember, this is the guy who regularly mans the Acura TLX-GT race car I reported on, and while the TLX he drives may be about as hardcore as it gets, the way the NSX went about distributing power made the whole experience feel almost second nature to the pro driver. Refined, with acceleration that Cunningham calls “deceptively quick,” the blend of electric suaveness up front and dinosaur bone-burning brute strength out back gave little reason for the lucky driver to feel like it needed anything else in the drivetrain department.
The car Cunningham was driving just so happened to have the carbon ceramic brake package slapped on it, which in his words “performed flawlessly.” Ted Klaus said the stock brakes are more than ample enough for the common driver, but what’s a few more grand if you’re already tipping $170,000? One interesting note is that once tested under heavy braking, Cunningham said that he was “definitely able to activate the ABS,” which happened a bit too quickly for his tastes.
In conclusion, “only the tires limited the ultimate performance of the car, particularly in stopping and turning,” Cunningham said. However, he also says that the base rubber remains a solid option for typical drivers because the tires are quieter, longer lasting, offer superior performance in the rain, and have great directional stability and turn-in. He would recommend giving them a shot before opting for a more track-ready compound.
Final words from Peter Cunningham are both purposeful and poignant, as he says that due to all of the personal history he has both on and off the track with various iterations of the NSX, this car “had a personality that was uncannily similar.” We can’t wait to drive and review one in true Cheat Sheet fashion for you.