NSX-ceptional: An In-Depth Look at Acura's New NSX

When JFK committed America to landing a man on the moon, he made the point that there are some things you have to do because they are hard, not because they represent the path of least resistance.

Welcome to Acura’s moonshot.

With the 2017 NSX, Acura shows us not only an amazing automobile but also, perhaps even more important, how it wants to be perceived as a company. Talk to the NSX’s engineers–and even some of the “everything is awesome all the time” PR folks–and they’ll admit that for the last several years, Acura hasn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire with excitement.

Sure, the RSX was fun, and the brand’s sedans are sporty and competent. Its SUVs are good driving vehicles, too, and not just soccer team haulers. But since the days of the original NSX and the Integra Type R, Acura has kind of dialed up the “competence” knob while sort of neglecting the “thrill” switch.

Thrill Switch Engage

For 2017, though, the legendary NSX nameplate returns–and with big shoes to fill. When the original debuted in the early 1990s, it was a breath of Japanese fresh air in a sports car scene largely defined by German and Italian machinery.

Although some dismissed that first NSX as antiseptic and lacking soul compared to its more finicky European competitors, it gradually became appreciated for its own stellar performance–especially in light of the fact that it brought Honda-grade reliability to the supercar ranks. The same qualities that critics originally used to pan the car came to define it and solidify its place in the sports car pantheon.

As with most legends, though, a cloud of mythos and emotion formed around what was already a competent, capable machine. The current design and engineering team knew that by reintroducing the NSX name, they would be evoking comparisons to an icon, not just a car.

So naturally their target went more hardcore. Whereas the original NSX was designed as a foil for the Porsche 911 and perhaps a used Ferrari 308, the 2017 version has its sights set squarely on cars like the latest Audi R8 V10, Ferrari 458 and Porsche 911 Turbo. With such lofty goals comes a lofty price tag: Prices start in the mid-$150K range and quickly run into the $180,000s for a well-equipped version. But oh, the joy.

Ones and Zeros

The new NSX is a technological powerhouse. A twin-turbo V6 is just the beginning of the motivational force, as a connected electric motor at the engine and separate electric drive motors for each front wheel can all provide power when needed. With everything at full song, no fewer than 573 horsepower and 476 ft.-lbs. of torque drive the 3800-pound car.

Controlling all this thrust is enough processing power to not only guide and monitor that first moon landing, but video-record it, edit the footage, broadcast the film, and distribute the video game based on it as well. And that technology is integrated so seamlessly into the experience that the result is more reminiscent of the elemental original NSX than you might imagine.

In its most aggressive driving mode–Track mode–the car’s electronic assistants aren’t so much nannies as they are coaches. They reward skilled driving by helping you inch toward the edge of traction rather than punitively dragging you back from it if you get too close.

The result is a driving experience that feels for all the world natural and not digitally enhanced. The impression is that the NSX’s digital assistants are there to help the driver take advantage of an already stellar chassis, not to make up for any mechanical shortcomings. Indeed, the only shortcomings in this car’s operating chain will likely be meat-based.

Behind the Wheel

We’ve been alluding to the fact that the new NSX is some sort of dream come true from behind the wheel. Actually, it’s pretty close.

We got to sample the new sportster both on track and in the mountains of Southern California, and not once did we feel like we put a wheel wrong. The additional motors, electronic controls and digital wondery made us feel like heroes, not like we were having our hands held.

Inside, the cabin is spacious and refreshingly understated. The materials all feel lovely. There are appropriate amounts of gee and whiz in the design, but the overall look and feel is more homey and businesslike than you’d expect in a statement supercar. That’s fine, though: The statement comes from the fact that everything just makes sense and appears right where your hand expects it to.

Possibly the most impressive aspect of the interior is how well it allows you to see out of it. Unlike so many modern cars with their high windowsills, thigh-thick A-pillars and tiny windshields, the NSX was designed with outward vision as a priority, and it completely shows. The front fenders are in view just enough to be helpful in placing the car, and its overall visibility helps maintain an intuitive knowledge of the car’s boundaries.

Handling is expectably impressive. Since this is a mid-engine car, an experienced driver will anticipate some of the physics at play and drive accordingly–adding that bit of countersteer when throttling out of a slow corner, or pausing briefly to settle the rear end after a hard transition. But you quickly realize that these little compensations are no longer necessary. In fact, you can almost use the FWD trick of simply mashing the throttle and letting the electric motors on the front wheels stabilize the chassis when you feel things getting funky.

In Track mode, you can outdrive the assists, but it won’t help you any. You can also switch them all off, but get ready for your lap times to go up a bit–or at least become far more inconsistent.

The other modes available–Quiet, Sport and Sport+–are rather self-explanatory. Quiet mode is your cross-country touring mode. You could easily do several-hour stretches in this car without getting worn out. The throttle application is sporty but not abrupt, the chassis tuning is mild but not floaty, and the stainless-steel exhaust is softened by some extra sound abatement.

Sport and Sport+ both up the ante in rather predictable ways: holding each gear a bit longer, shifting a bit harder, increasing the edge in the suspension, and making more and more slip angle available from the tires.

Particularly impressive in all these modes is the dual-clutch transmission. Engagement and shifts in Quiet mode are practically automatic-smooth. In Sport+ or Track mode, it selects the proper gear for any situation or point on the track or street. It’s almost spooky.

In Track mode, but with the nine-speed gearbox in its automatic setting, the NSX stages downshifts and matches revs on the way into a corner, lets you throttle your way through that corner, and bangs the upshifts even when there are some lateral g-loads involved, all without upsetting the balance of the chassis. It’s truly uncanny. Even when we tried to fool it, we couldn’t.

What’s Next?

Here’s the good news for those of us who aren’t one-percenters: The new NSX is merely the first step in the re-excitening of Acura–at least the NSX engineers hope so.

The NSX is as much a trial balloon as an automobile, and if it takes off and is held in equal esteem to the original, there’s every chance we could see more intriguing Acura models. And those could be very relevant to a much broader segment of our market.

“Will there ever be another Integra Type R?” In response to this frequent question, NSX engineers simply smile and take the diplomatic way out. But they are very diligent in letting you know that everyone on their team is unapologetically hardcore. The head of development is a New England Hillclimb Association record-holder, and others are regular autocrossers, club racers, LeMons and ChumpCar competitors, and all-around greasy-fingernail types.

They’re also, with a couple of key exceptions, Americans. The NSX was developed and will be constructed in Marysville, Ohio–hardly a place associated with worldclass supercars prior to the 2017 model year. Its chassis was tuned heavily on the Nürburgring, but it also owes just as much of its composure to endless laps at VIR.

Developers are hoping that this is Acura’s highly visible first salvo in its return to a brand more associated with excitement than responsibility. They practically started from scratch for this design a couple of years ago, when delays in the development of the original variant threatened to keep it out of true supercar territory by the time it hit production. The team did a moonshot’s worth of work getting this amazing machine to production status.

As one engineer put it, with a sly smile, “It would be a shame to waste all this development and technology on a single variant, or even a single model.” That sounds like exceptional news for all of us.

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Comments
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dropstep
dropstep Dork
6/16/16 10:22 a.m.

My father in law took us too honda's open house at there anna plant when they were showing this car too the employees. Not usually a honda guy but that car and some of the tech involved is awesome.

Trackmouse
Trackmouse Dork
6/16/16 10:25 a.m.

Meh. I'll wait for the type-r model...

nderwater
nderwater PowerDork
6/16/16 10:31 a.m.

Whenever I spend time around an original NSX I fall in love all over again with those cars. But for some reason, nothing about this new NSX moves me one iota. Perhaps I'll have to spend some time with it in person?

jstein77
jstein77 UltraDork
6/16/16 11:01 a.m.

Wow, jaded people.

gearheadE30
gearheadE30 Reader
6/16/16 11:03 a.m.

Yeah, I'm also in the boat of cosmetic meh-ness.

Interesting that many of the early reviews also said it wasn't that great to drive, and certainly not as a performance car. When I read the article in the magazine, I couldn't help but wonder why it was so different from what I had read elsewhere. Maybe there's an option or different tires that is just that critical to have?

Flight Service
Flight Service MegaDork
6/16/16 11:53 a.m.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
6/16/16 12:00 p.m.
gearheadE30 wrote: Yeah, I'm also in the boat of cosmetic meh-ness. Interesting that many of the early reviews also said it wasn't that great to drive, and certainly not as a performance car. When I read the article in the magazine, I couldn't help but wonder why it was so different from what I had read elsewhere. Maybe there's an option or different tires that is just that critical to have?

I just don't get it, either. The capabilities and composure of the NSX are beyond reproach, but for some reason it gets a bad rap from some reviewers as "sterile" or even boring. But a refuse to believe that you have to sacrifice some great comfort or functionality in the name of "character" for a supercar to be super. In today's modern world there's no reason a supercar can't be, well... a Honda.

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH MegaDork
6/16/16 2:34 p.m.

I wouldn't say it's a competitor to the 458 but I would say it's a competitor to the i8.

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
6/16/16 2:50 p.m.

I was just kind of surprised at the weight!

Bobzilla
Bobzilla UltimaDork
6/16/16 2:56 p.m.

Wait... did hte article say it was 3800lbs? 573hp and 3800lbs? Sounds like a Camaro ZL1 only 5 times as much. I don't get it. At the price point of the old NSX ($80k), that would be impressive-ish. But at $180k? It sounds just like the old NSX. Too much money, not enough performance. What's the new Z06? 3400lbs with 650hp for $80k? For that extra $100k you could have a FLEET of hybrids for the daily commute/crosscountry trek.

Once again, Honda has jumped the shark IMO.

Bobzilla
Bobzilla UltimaDork
6/16/16 3:02 p.m.
gearheadE30 wrote: Yeah, I'm also in the boat of cosmetic meh-ness. Interesting that many of the early reviews also said it wasn't that great to drive, and certainly not as a performance car. When I read the article in the magazine, I couldn't help but wonder why it was so different from what I had read elsewhere. Maybe there's an option or different tires that is just that critical to have?

There's a lot of things that make it just "meh" I htink for a lot of people. We have Viper ACR's, Z06's, GT350R mustangs, even Ford GT's for less money with more performance and character. Why spend twice the cashola to get less car? Sure, it has electronic gee whizzery. I'm sure its composed as a daily driver. But aren't there MUCH better options for a quarter of the price? IT's decently quick as a track car, but again, aren't there much better options for half the price?

So the question becomes: What is the point? At this price point, it doesn't do anything better than anything else for half the money. Where does it fit?

EDIT: with that said, I think it is a beautiful car and there's some neat electronic gee-whizzery that I hope makes it down the line. I just think it's way over weight and waaaaaaayyyyy over priced.

captdownshift
captdownshift UberDork
6/16/16 3:03 p.m.

The original NSX didn't have a 570 McLaren sitting there at the same price point

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH MegaDork
6/16/16 3:17 p.m.

That's why I said this is an i8 competitor and not a 458 competitor - this car is a fancy gadget for technophiles first and a performance car second, much like the i8. It also costs a cool 100k less than the 458. The people who want an NSX or i8 would be bored with the crude simplicity of a Corvette or Viper or any of the other cars that make way more sense in dollars-for-performance.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
6/16/16 3:57 p.m.

Poor Acura, they spend all this $$ on developing a new supercar, and then make the critical mistake of launching it at the same time as the new Ford GT.

When both cars were displayed in Monterey--next to one another, most of us hadn't seen either yet. The Ford display was packed--- totally mobbed with people oooing and ahhing. The car was a sensation-- amazing, groundbreaking, breathtaking.

I think there were maybe 3 people checking the NSX out. It just was blown away by the Ford.

These are ego-gratification machines. How they look is #1, how they perform is secondary. (especially when they ALL perform amazingly well) I agree with what the others have said. Although this may be a wonderful car----- man, the competition is brutal out there. If I had $200K, or whatever these things cost, the NSX wouldn't' be on my list. It just doesn't do it for me aesthetically--- and for cars like this, that's a big deal.

Bobzilla
Bobzilla UltimaDork
6/16/16 4:03 p.m.

So, I just went to the build it page. To get XM radio is $3300. You know, something that the majority of the cheapest of the econoboxes now offer standard. Yeah.... Shark has been jumped.

irish44j
irish44j UltimaDork
6/16/16 5:39 p.m.

Impressive on paper, and I'm sure the Honda quality is top-notch in every way. I think it's an attractive car, but kind of looks like everything else out there in this class, to be honest. The old NSX didn't look like ANYTHING that was out at that time. It stood apart stylistically and yeah $80k was a lot of money then, but even with inflation it seems to me that would be more equivalent to $120k these days, not $180k. The old NSX price was at least something that a "normal" person could conceivably afford at some point. At $180k, I don't think that's the case at all.

Still, neat tech. But as mentioned, I don't see the appeal of it when you can get a Z06 or something for half the price with the same general performance.

Acura should have put their development into an affordable, fun car like the Integra/RSX. Something that is affordable to people who think of Acuras as a "high-end car." People who pay $180k for cars think of Ferraris and Porsches as high-end....not Acuras.

That said, looks like a better deal than the on-paper comparable performace (and WAY UGLY) Lexus LF-A, which costs twice as much.

Bobzilla
Bobzilla UltimaDork
6/16/16 5:55 p.m.

In reply to irish44j:

the 1990 actually came out as a $60k msrp, or about $109k now.

nderwater
nderwater PowerDork
6/17/16 9:38 a.m.

In my opinion this new NSX is the ugliest supercar on the market, hands down. A mishmash of lines and angles and holes. 'Impressive on paper' doesn't amount to much of a value proposition--what would draw a buyer spend $170,000 on this car over anything else?

captdownshift
captdownshift UberDork
6/17/16 9:52 a.m.

I think that it should be celebrated that if you're looking to spend 180-200k on a new sportscar there are close to a dozen options that a buyer doing their due diligence needs to sample.

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH MegaDork
6/17/16 9:56 a.m.

I think it's a decent-looking car...not great but not bad. This is another Great Divider like the new Prius and Nissan Juke it seems. All cars I think are OK but many think are hideous.

Most of you don't understand that the technology on board this car is the source of the allure to the technophile buyer. I can understand it, I just like speed more than cool high-tech bits so I wouldn't pay for it

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
6/17/16 10:16 a.m.
irish44j wrote: That said, looks like a better deal than the on-paper comparable performace (and WAY UGLY) Lexus LF-A, which costs twice as much.

You shut your dirty, whore mouth!

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess MegaDork
6/17/16 10:32 a.m.

The problem is that nobody wants an exotic supercar with a functional climate control system.

Bobzilla
Bobzilla UltimaDork
6/17/16 11:01 a.m.
nderwater wrote: what would draw a buyer spend $170,000 on this car over anything else?

The same thing that has been drawing Honda and Acura buyers for over a decade "Because its a Honda". What they don't understand is people with that mindset don't have $170k to blow on a car like this.

I will go on record as saying "This thing will flop like a fat guy in a belly-flop contest where the winner gets cake."

nderwater
nderwater PowerDork
6/17/16 12:56 p.m.
captdownshift wrote: The original NSX didn't have a 570 McLaren sitting there at the same price point

Or an Audi R8.

Rusted_Busted_Spit
Rusted_Busted_Spit UberDork
6/17/16 1:05 p.m.

Earlier this year I was heading home from work and I heard a shrieking. My first thought was a Ferrari but it was a white NSX. It came up beside me, slowed beside me so I got a good look at it. I think it looks better in person than in photos and it sounded better than a McLaren or R8.

Matt B
Matt B SuperDork
6/17/16 1:36 p.m.

I think some of you who are complaining about the price/performance value is forgetting that the original was also stupid expensive compared to other cars in the same envelope. With maybe the exception of the Supra, that NSX is now worth up to quadruple more than those models. Honda has never really chased cheap horsepower, so I'm not really surprised they didn't do it here either. That said, I would have rather they focused on developing a lighter, more driver-focused chassis over techno-wizardry, but that's not what that market range (or maybe any range) responds to these days.

Matt B
Matt B SuperDork
6/17/16 1:51 p.m.

Oh, and just to add to the subjectivity in this thread I'll say I think the new R8 has been fugilified as well. So I'll say that I'd rather have this Acura mid-engine supercar I can't afford over that other Audi mid-engine supercar I can't afford.

chuckles
chuckles HalfDork
6/17/16 5:14 p.m.

In reply to Matt B:

+1.

Flight Service
Flight Service MegaDork
6/18/16 8:41 a.m.

I would say what will make the Acura standout over the Ford (although I like the Ford better) is you can buy them.

Remember the Ford is an extremely numbers limited vehicle.

And it isn't like the old NSX did that badly even though shortly after it was released a half the price RX-7 gave it a run for it's money. The NSX has never been about being #1 in all performance category's except being #1 in all performance categories at 100k miles. Because let's face it, most cars in this range won't be running at 50k miles much less a 100k and for the old NSX, that is still a daily driver reliable $35k car.

Flight Service
Flight Service MegaDork
6/18/16 8:43 a.m.
Matt B wrote: Oh, and just to add to the subjectivity in this thread I'll say I think the new R8 has been fugilified as well. So I'll say that I'd rather have this Acura mid-engine supercar I can't afford over that other Audi mid-engine supercar I can't afford.

I just wish the R8 owners would put enough miles on them to blow that VAG V8 and we can afford them to start doing LS swaps....

wheelsmithy
wheelsmithy Dork
6/18/16 7:56 p.m.

I've gotta say, all these responses sound exactly like reviews of the first NSX...too pricey, derivative styling, not enough oats for the money. Well played, Honda. The littlest supercar.

kanaric
kanaric Dork
6/19/16 9:59 a.m.

The thing with this car is that the original was part of a slew of cars that bucked trends. People would say that Japanese cars then "had no soul" or were copies of other cars. Meanwhile this was a car that everyone copied, along with other cars in the lineup. It was a groundbreaking vehicle and along with cars like the FD Rx7, MK4 Supra, GTR, etc it set standards for performance and design.

Now with this current NSX it's ironically an American car and pretty much setting no trends and nobody will copy it because everyones been doing a supercar like this lately many before this car even came out.

The reason why it's "irony" that it's american is when the car became all electronic and "fake", what Americans like to claim about Jap cars, it also become a wholly American vehicle.

Japanese cars were far better and more interesting when they were built and designed in Japan.

Flight Service
Flight Service MegaDork
6/19/16 12:53 p.m.

In reply to kanaric:

Ok, almost everyone on here would buy the Ford GT over the new NSX, but since Ford has turned it into a version of trying to get a job on the board of directors, that takes it out of contention. So what would you buy?

Maclaren fax machine? Yeah that would be great if you weren't going to drive it anywhere because getting it serviced is impossible.

Ferrari? Same issues plus fire.

Audi? Please, kaboom.

Lamborghini? Audi issues plus Maclaren issues. Great combination.

Porsche 911? Ok here is a real threat, but comparatively they are common, this one could be a real choice.

Nissan GTR? OK there Brian Spillner. I am sorry FF didn't win the academy award. This is a possibility.

So the 911, GTR and the NSX are the only two real cars in this category. Some would argue the Vette but that would purely be based on performance numbers and this class is about so much more than that.

So between those three cars which would you pick? I like the NSXs odds.

Vigo
Vigo PowerDork
6/19/16 1:23 p.m.

I'm glad to see the i8 reference here. I never saw this coming, but when the i8 came out it totally killed my anticipation for the NSX. On the surface that doesn't make sense but as was said, "this car is a fancy gadget for technophiles first and a performance car second, much like the i8" and in that context my interest is piqued more by the i8 being a very unusual mix of attributes and basically inhabiting a niche of one. The NSX is trying to play in a much more competitive sandbox and so even though it performs objectively better than the i8 in performance stats, it ends up being compared to things that it pales in comparison to.

I think the MAIN thing that killed my enthusiasm for the NSX was the endless delays. If the same car had come out WAAY back when it was first teased/discussed (it's been 9 years since Honda said they were going to do it) it would have been a bombshell. The rest of the supercar industry has moved forward so much in the ensuing time that a vision of the future from 2007 now seems at least several years behind the curve.

It begs an ironic comparison to the original NSX. It lived a long life and performed well against newer competitors and was given reams of slack in terms of absolute numbers because of its 'advanced age'. The r35 GTR is entering a similar phase right now. If the 2016 NSX was the 2012 NSX we'd all be saying it's held up incredibly well and we can't wait for the next update.

It's too little BECAUSE it's too late.

Flight Service
Flight Service MegaDork
6/20/16 9:56 a.m.

In reply to Vigo:

Dude, this is the 5 version, they just didn't sell the middle 3.

Bobzilla
Bobzilla UltimaDork
6/20/16 10:07 a.m.
wheelsmithy wrote: I've gotta say, all these responses sound exactly like reviews of the first NSX...too pricey, derivative styling, not enough oats for the money. Well played, Honda. The littlest supercar.

"The littlest supercar" that weighs 4k lbs.

Tyler H
Tyler H SuperDork
6/20/16 10:58 a.m.

The similarities between the original NSX and this NSX end at the limited paper performance for the price.

The original was leaps and bounds above everything else on QUALITY. I still think it is one of the best engineered and assembled cars, ever. People bought them "because it's a Honda."

People have been buying Hondas and Acuras since then, "because they're Hondas." But is that sterling reputation (and price premium) still warranted? Seems like the gap has closed on innovation and quality since the 80's and 90's.

I just got back from a Chump race at NCM, and there was a supercar driving experience program or something on-premise. I watched folks lined up all weekend to beat a rented 458 like it owed them money, all weekend, in 90 degree heat...

Vigo
Vigo PowerDork
6/20/16 2:02 p.m.

Sadly I think Honda is sort of too far behind in the hybrid game to put out anything top-of-class in the hybrid exotic bracket. But if you think about it, the NSX is the lowest cost hybrid exotic if you don't consider the i8 to be in the same category. And I kinda don't, because if you say an NSX only makes as much power as a current mid-level Corvette, well the i8 only makes as much power as a base model corvette from 19 years ago.

Their new Accord hybrid is at least very current and performs well in its role but that system is totally unsuited for a performance car. At least the Lexus LF hybrid will simulate gears and rev the engine to 6000+. I'm not saying the NSX doesn't work with what it has because everyone says it does, but it's relegated to 'just another' hybrid exotic on the technology front instead of being out in front.

Bobzilla
Bobzilla UltimaDork
6/20/16 2:49 p.m.
Tyler H wrote: People have been buying Hondas and Acuras since then, "because they're Hondas." But is that sterling reputation (and price premium) still warranted? Seems like the gap has closed on innovation and quality since the 80's and 90's.

After working for them for 10+ years, I will say "No". I worked for them for 10 years and I have zero desire to buy a honda product. Not just because their product line is overpriced, or stale but their quality is just not there compared to Honda of the 90's.

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