For me, as a child of the 90s, the Acura NSX (or Honda NSX if you reside outside of the US) helped define automotive excellence for the decade of my youth.
When the original NSX debuted in 1990, it turned the supercar world on its head. Never before had anyone been able to deliver the performance of a Ferrari 328 or 348 while offering the ease of use and reliability of a Honda Accord.
It’s a car I’ve always dreamed of having the chance to drive.
Unfortunately, the first generation NSX went out of production in 2005 — long before I began my career as an auto journalist. Heck, I only got my driver’s licence in 2002.
Although the decade-long wait for a successor was less than ideal, the second generation NSX is finally here for 2017.
Last year, Acura invited me up to Lime Rock Park in Connecticut to turn some hot laps in their second generation NSX supercar. We liked the 2017 NSX so much that we named it Business Insider’s 2016 Car of the Year.
But what I found sitting in the parking lot at Lime Rock piqued my interest even more — a first-generation NSX.
Fortunately for me, the grey 2005 NSX is part of Acura’s corporate fleet and the company brought it along just in case anyone wanted to take it for a spin.
Here’s what happened when Acura handed me the key to two generations of their NSX supercar.
Nestled in the rolling hills of northwest Connecticut, the idyllic Lime Rock Park made for the perfect race track to put ...
However, as I pulled into the parking lot. This car caught my eye -- a first generation NSX. What a sight to behold! And then Acura handed me the keys. Time to get excited!
The NSX is a reminder of Honda's success in the late 1980s. At that time, the Japanese automaker was on top of the world. The company's Accord and Civic sedans became two of the best regarded and fastest selling cars in the world.
Its engines were dominant in Formula One -- winning six world championships in a row with Williams and McLaren. Honda showed the world that it could take on and beat Europe's best on the race track. Now, it was time to show them on the street.
In North America, Honda decided to sell the car under its premium Acura brand, while it was sold under Honda's own badge in most other markets.
The NSX shook up the supercar world big time. For the first time, there was a car capable of delivering the performance and exotic looks of Ferrari's latest offering at the time - the 348 (seen here) -- with the usability and the bullet-proof reliability of a Honda Accord.
In effect, the car was a high-tech Japanese take on the European supercar that won over just about everyone who came across it. The NSX was so impressive that legendary car designer Gordon Murray used it as a benchmark when it came time to create the 240-mph McLaren F1 hypercar.
The NSX debuted in 1990 featuring a stunning body created with the help of Pininfarina -- the Italian design house most famous for creating many of Ferrari's greatest hits.
The NSX features the standard mid-engine supercar layout, with its motor tucked neatly between the rear wheels and the driver's compartment.
Over its decade-and-a-half-long production run, the overall shape of the NSX changed very little. The NSX's large glass greenhouse offers great visibility and headroom for the driver.
Honda loaded up the NSX with the latest automotive technology of the day. For instance, the car was made almost entirely of aluminium that was very lightweight, but also very expensive.
The NSX debuted with a 3.0-litre, 270-horsepower V6 engine featuring Honda's race-bred VTEC engine technology. Later versions of the first-gen NSX, such as the one I drove, got an upgraded 3.2-litre, 290-horsepower version of the engine. The buttery smooth V6 is an absolute gem. Although it doesn't have the punch of a modern turbocharged or hybrid-electric power unit, the old-school V6 revs hard and provides plenty of punch for the 3,200 pound car.
No paddle shifters or twin-clutch gearboxes here. The good old fashioned six-speed manual offers quick and precise shifts that makes changing gears a very satisfying experience.
Even though the old NSX's 5.0 second 0-60 mph time and 175 mph top speed is now in $45,000 sports sedan territory, pure speed is but a small part of its secret sauce. Around the winding country roads of rural Connecticut, the NSX was in its element. The car felt light and nimble. The suspension -- tuned with the help of legendary F1 champion Ayrton Senna and Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal -- was perfectly balanced, while the handling proved to be scalpel-precise.
All in all, the NSX goes about its business in a very understated, but highly effective manner -- devoid of any of the nasty habits (poor reliability, tricky handling, and so on ) that plagued its European counterparts when it was new. This is the driving experience all sports cars should aim to achieve.
Although it's very intuitively designed with a great view of the road, the overall impression is Big 1990s.
No infotainment system here! But there is a Bose cassette deck. Really, as supercar interiors go, Acura could have brought a little more game.
The 2017 NSX is very different beats from the first generation car. While its predecessor was decidedly analogue, this car is full-on digital. Instead of lightweight and raw driving pleasure, Honda went for high tech and high performance.
In place of a 3.2-litre V6 engine, the 2017 has a hybrid-electric power unit. The system is made up of a 3.5-litre, twin-turbocharged V6 and three electric motors that produce a total of 573 horsepower. At the same time, the 6-speed manual has been replaced by a 9-speed twin-clutch transmission.
As a result, the new car offers performance that the old NSX could never approach. Acura says it can hit 60 mph in about 3.0 seconds with a top speed of 191 mph.
Inside, the NSX is a pleasant place to be. It's comfortable, relaxing, and rather luxurious for a supercar.
Around the 1.5-mile-long Lime Rock circuit, the new NSX ate the track for lunch. Although the 3,800 car is far from featherweight, its advanced drivetrain moved the car around with great poise and ferocious pace. On the front straight, I was able to reach speeds upwards of 130 mph.
Although the two generations of the NSX take very different approaches to speed, ultimately, both cars incorporated the latest automotive technology of their respective times to create world-class supercars.
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