Let’s cut right to the chase.
I was never a fan of the first-generation Acura NSX. In fact, I could rightly be called a critic of the car, introduced in 1990 and produced until 2005. I thought it was boring. A guy who lived down the street from me in Los Angeles owned one and parked it on front of his house. I never once paused to look at it.
Yes, I know the car was a designed by the legendary Pininfarnia. Didn’t matter. I didn’t care.
But the NSX had its fans, and plenty of them. So after a hiatus, Honda (Acura’s parent company) completely rethought the NSX and rolled out a second-generation of the car. I saw it for the first time at the 2015 New York auto show. My reaction was “Meh.”
Later, I saw different versions of the new NSX. More meh. Images of the interior began circulating. Meh.
Then Acura kindly let us borrow the NSX for a few days.
Oh. My. God.
It was almost head-warping how quickly my mind was changed after just a few minutes with the actual NSX, live and in the flesh, sitting behind the wheel, driving the thing.
It was hypnotically beautiful. It was fast and responsive. It was breathtakingly gorgeous.
The new NSX flat-out ravished me. I can’t remember having such a profoundly rapturous reaction to a car. I could barely speak. Everything I had thought about the car before was wrong, so wrong.
Let’s take a closer look at why I was an idiot to ever doubt the new Acura NSX — and why it was our Car of the Year for 2016:
Photos by Hollis Johnson.
The NSX landed in New York City during a spell of lousy weather. It didn't matter. Our photographer, the intrepid Hollis Johnson, couldn't stop drooling over the $A210,688 car, which wears wet stupendously well.
I thought it looked like something out of 'Blade Runner.' Really, better than something out of 'Blade Runner.'
The car's designers and engineers thought of everything and pondered how it should all blend into a harmonious, aggressive, aesthetically formidable whole. The headlights are sweeping and katana-esque, but the cube-like elements inside provide an anchoring counterpoint.
This is a taut, compact, mid-engine supercar. It genuinely appears more roadster-ish than some of it recently debuted ilk, namely the Ferrari 488 GTB and the Ford GT. It's closer to the McLaren 650S or 570S, but to my eye far better looking.
The NSX managed a neat trick of having a small and slightly ferocious outward vibe without coming off as insubstantial. The rear haunches and spread of the back end are solid, settled, and purposeful.
The car looks great from the front, great from the side, and great from the rear. That's a triple-threat of greatness. The entire package, made of aluminium and carbon fibre (but not that much carbon fibre), tips the scales at 3,800 lbs., and I'll explain shortly why that heft doesn't matter at all.
Acura's badge is unmodified for the NSX, which although a very Japanese take on the supercar is actually built in Ohio!
This angled, modest buttress and scalloped intake are similar to the Ford GT's now-celebrated wing-like curved buttress, but tighter to the NSX's body. They put me in the mind of the wings of raptor, tucked in tight to dive on prey.
Here's another bit of functional surface detail -- of which there is refreshingly little on the NSX. The entire car is an exercise in visual discipline and restraint, exuding a confident power.
The impressive 3.5-litre V6 powerplant is tucked between the driver and the rear wheels -- it lives beneath this glass cover.
It's about as large as a suitcase and includes a pair of turbochargers. And yet coupled with the NSX's trio of electric motors, it contributes to a hybrid drivetrain that serves up 573 horsepower. Routed through a nine-speed dual-clutch transmission, the power yields a 0-60 mph dash of 3 seconds and top speed of 191 mph.
Yep, the Acura NSX we sampled was #0000 -- a pre-production vehicle. This is actually the first time I've ever tested a supercar this early in its run.
Supercar interiors are notoriously uncomfortable. The NSX's is decidedly not. It is, in fact, without question the most comfortable supercar I've ever slipped into. Sure, you could call the interior bland. Where's the racy topstitching, the two-tone colour scheme? This could be any old Acura. But let's not forget how pleasant it is to sit in an Acura. A supercar need not punish to impress.
Carbon-trim, black leather, and the same roundup of control buttons you'd find on any luxury vehicle these days. No, the NSX doesn't have a steering wheel that evokes a Formula 1 race car, à la Ferrari. But it gets the job done.
The instrument cluster is fairly straightforward. The visual changes depending on which driving mode is selected.
Supercars simply don't have enough interior space for a large infotainment screen. But the NSX's is effective, and the vehicle doesn't lack for technology: navigation, audio, Bluetooth pairing, and USB and AUX inputs are all present.
The knob allows the driver to switch driving modes: Quiet, Sport, Sport Plus and Track. Quiet mode provides limited all-electric piloting, Sport is for everyday meandering, Sport Plus is for winding-road fun, and Track is self-evident. We experienced the NSX in the hands of a pro driver in Track mode, and it's thrilling, maximizing the torque-vectoring feature and allowing a driver to absolutely carve a track to pieces.
That ... is ... the cupholder. It's removable so that it doesn't abrade the thigh of your passenger. You can stow it in the glove compartment.
The audio system is by ELS. There are nine speakers and 580 watts, which is more then enough to fill a cockpit this small with lush, dynamic sound.
OK, enough walking around in the rain and enthusing over the most comfortable supercar interior every crafted by human hands on Planet Earth. What's it like to drive the NSX?
The only car I've driven all year that made as penetrating an impression was the Ferrari 488.
BI's Ben Zhang sampled the NSX on a fine Connecticut race track and also richly enjoyed the car.
Ultimately, the Ferrari 488 is better. But it's also hundred of thousands of dollars more expensive. As supercar goes, I don't think there's ever been a superior value proposition to the NSX, unless you go for a Corvette Z06 -- a front-engined V8 that can be had for under $A131,680. The new NSX is of course a mid-engine machine, and consequently more of a proper supercar than than the Vette.
Did I mention that you can extract a ridiculous 22 mpg combined from a car that has a 573-horsepower combined hybrid powerplant!
Did I mention that the other supercars that use the type of powerplant, such as the Porsche 918 Spyder, will set you back a cool million bucks?
There's just nothing' you can do with the NSX. Poodle around town? Check. Cruise on the highway? Check. Take it hard into the corners while flipping through the exquisite nine-speed gearbox (well, four or five of them, anyway) and playing with with responsive, juicy throttle response? Check. Punch it in a straight line? Check. Slide around a track? Check. Sit in the driveway and listen to Little Steven's Underground Garage on Sirius satellite radio? Why not? The seats are pliant enough for napping.
The NSX is also a magnet for the eyes, as the countless passers-by at my house for a few days proved by taking no end of photos and videos of the car. I caught myself looking out the window plenty of times, just to get me a little dose of NSX beauty.
We could call the Audi R8 and maybe the Nissan GT-R or McLaren 570 competitors, but I'd take the NSX any day over those cars. It's more stylish and comfortable that the R8. It's far less overexposed than the GT-R. And it won't beat you into submission like the McLaren 570. Those are all terrific cars, by the way. The NSX is just special-er.
I change my mind all the time. But not about stuff I consider truly fundamental, such as my gut feeling that the old NSX was cultishly unworthy.
But boy, did the new NSX ever do some damage to my pride. And I was more than happy to take the hit.
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