2020 Acura NSX

2020 Acura NSX | Review

Few cars came onto the automotive scene like the original Acura NSX. It’s a bit cliché now, but it truly added the concept of “reliability” to the conversation about supercars that previously only included “looks” and “performance”. The original NSX was discontinued in 2005, and despite an announcement of a replacement in 2007, it took Honda/Acura a decade to get a new one into showrooms. The NSX joined replacements for the Supra, RX7, and the mythological mid-engine Corvette as upcoming cars that seemed to never actually arrive. But in 2016, we finally had the new NSX. And while it’s still powered by a mid-engined V6, just about everything else changed. Acura recently tossed me the fob for a 2020 NSX for four short days. Does it live up to the original?

First, let’s take a look at a quick video where I interview a 911 Turbo owner and an original NSX owner.

Overview

The original concept of the NSX was to highlight what was possible at the time. In conceptual form, that was the 1984 HP-X (Honda Pininfarina eXperimental) concept. The wedge-shaped car was rear-wheel drive, had a mid-mounted V6, and showcased some of Honda’s racing pedigree. Oh and importantly, it was produced the same year that development on the OG NSX began. NS-X, apparently means “New”, “Sportscar” “eXperimental”. The X also represents the “unknown variable”, but I’m sure you knew that.

The car squarely targeted the V8 Ferraris of the time, and even Gordon Murray has been quoted as saying that the NSX was massively important to him as an inspiration for the McLaren F1. The NSX was the first car with an all-aluminum body that was mass-produced and was powered by a 3.0L Honda V6 (NA1) that was eventually upgraded to a 3.2L (NA2).

Even though Honda discontinued the NSX in 2005, there were still 58 sold in 2006 and 2 sold in 2007 here in the states. It was in 2007 that Honda also announced that a replacement was in the works and would be in showrooms by 2010. Things looked good at first, as was the way back then, it was going to have a V10 engine. We saw the Acura ASCC (Advanced Sports Car Concept), and it seemed like it would happen. Honda even fielded the HSV-010 GT starting in 2009 as the successor to the NSX Super GT in the Super GT series. However, the worldwide financial crisis meant that the actual NSX development got shelved.

In 2011 we got word that a new NSX was back in the works. Huzzah! In 2012 we got the Acura NSX Concept which actually came really close to the final car that arrived three years later at the 2015 North American International Auto Show. NSX now apparently stands for “New Sports eXperience” and came packed with a host of new technology. Designed and engineered in Marysville, Ohio the latest NSX is now AWD (Sport Hybrid Super-Handling AWD actually) and is powered by a 573 horsepower 3.5 L twin-turbocharged hybrid V6 engine. Power comes through a 9-speed dual-clutch automatic and still makes use of lightweight aluminum and other materials for the space frame.

The NSX is available in nine colors, ours was equipped with Indy Yellow Pearl, a follow-up to the original Spa Yellow. It’ll cost you another $1,000, but it’s amazing. The interior is also customizable with five color options. The semi-aniline full leather power seats will add $1,000.

Y-Spoke wheels are standard and look the best in my opinion, but you can opt for a few other sets at $1,500 a set. Iron brakes are standard, paint the calipers red and it’ll be $700. The fantastic Carbon-ceramic brakes that our car came with were a $10,600 option.

Add the carbon fiber exterior package (front splitter, sills, diffuser, and exhaust surround), which gets you $9,000 and requires the addition of the carbon fiber engine cover for $3,600 and does not include the carbon fiber spoiler (another $3,00o) or the carbon fiber roof ($6,000).

Alcantara headliner? $1,300.

Carbon fiber interior package? $2,500.

ELS Audio? $500.

Here is the build summary. Clearly Honda has taken a look at the German and Italian option sheets and done their best to emulate them!

Sure, it’s expensive, but the NSX has a starting price of $157,500, which is less than the Audi R8, Porsche 911 Turbo, and McLaren 570S by a five-digit number.

Photo: Josh Taylor, Right Foot Down

Exterior

Some have said that the NSX is a bit too staid, a bit too conservative. I suppose when compared to a Pagani, or some other over-the-top hypercar, that could be true. Like the original, the new car comes across as purposeful and handsome in person. Sure, the front end is a bit fussier than it used to be, with more likes streaking this way and that compared to the original parked next to it, but it’s still a damn good looking car.

2020 Acura NSX
Photo: Josh Taylor, Right Foot Down
2020 Acura NSX
Photo: Josh Taylor, Right Foot Down

What’s great about the NSX’s scoops and vents is that they are functional. Like the original, there isn’t much on the NSX that isn’t there for speed. At least from an engineering perspective.

2020 Acura NSX
Photo: Josh Taylor, Right Foot Down

Interior

On the inside, the NSX is a different animal than the original. Its new price tag requires a certain level of luxury and materials. As you saw in the video, the NSX’s interior impressed both the 911 Turbo owner and the OG NSX owner. I liked it as well, the materials and fit-and-finish are all first-rate and the interior was incredibly comfortable. While it may not have some of the over-the-top details like Lamborghini’s launch-button starter, everything is where you would expect it to be and this interior style has been passed down to other Acura automobiles.

And those seats!

2020 Acura NSX
Photo: Josh Taylor, Right Foot Down

Interior space isn’t quite as generous as your average 2+2, where you can utilize the back seats for storage, but for a long weekend, you’ll be fine. Of note, starting in 2019, the Technology package (Satellite Navigation, ELS Studio Premium Audio, Front/Rear Proximity Sensors, and Power Adjustable Heated Seats) is now standard.

Driving

Yeah, yeah, outside, inside, cool, but what’s it like to drive you’re saying? Well, it’s phenomenal. The acceleration from the hybrid system is mind-bending. I’ve driven some supercars on a track, specifically the Lamborghini Huracan LP610-4 and Ferrari 458 Italia, at full chat. While they both made better noises than the NSX, the Acura feels like it pulls harder than either of them do off the line (though the Lambo has a slightly quicker as-tested time to 60). It hurts your brain a bit, it’s like some sort of weird science experiment. Which in some ways it is, but it’s one with a lot of engineering backing it up. Super-hyper-cars like the P1, LaFerrari, and the 918 offer hybrid systems as well, albeit with quite a bit more power (and a lot more MSRP). Think of the NSX as attainable hybrid supercar material, at a cheaper price.

2020 Acura NSX
Photo: Josh Taylor, Right Foot Down

The NSX has a party trick that no other supercar I’ve driven does – silence. You can keep it in full EV mode up near highway speed in full silence. Heck, even “quiet mode”, which still uses the petrol engine, is incredibly easy on the ears. At highway speed, you can drop it down to quiet mode and keep from pissing your wife off. Which was the case during our date night. The valet really liked the NSX, much better than the other car that was parked there when we arrived.

2020 Acura NSX

The NSX won’t serenade you like a car with a big V8, it delivers an F1-like scream combined with some mechanical intake noise. It still sounds pretty amazing through a tunnel, which you hopefully saw at the end of the video.

I didn’t get a chance to really test the NSX’s handling near the limit; with a $200,000 sticker price, I wasn’t looking to bin it into a DC guardrail. However, it’s worth noting that 2019 saw a host of updates, mostly in the handling department.

  • New Tire: Continental SportContact 6
  • Stiffer Rear Hub (+6%)
  • Stiffer Rear Stabilizer Bar (+19%)
  • Stiffer Front Stabilizer Bar (+26%)
  • Stiffer Rear Toe Link Bushing (+21%)
  • Revised Drive System Tuning

Acura claims that all means better at-the-limit control and improved track performance. Apparently it’s nearly 2 seconds faster at Suzuka Circuit than the 2016-2018 models. Nice.

Summary

Which brings me to the premise of our little motoring film – will the NSX convince supercar buyers it’s worthy? And will those kids of the 90s who grew up loving the original NSX think it’s good enough? In the end, I’m not sure it matters. The NSX is a great halo car for Acura, it’s in every commercial and fits Acura’s newly regained sporting image. For anyone with $100,000 to $200,000 in your budget for a weekend car, it’s ridiculously good. And if history is accurate, it should be reliable. The “reliable supercar” is back.

14 Comments

  1. It’s a nice car, but it’s CO2 output is incredibly high for something with hybrid tech. Quite surprising really,

    1. It’s still getting 500 of its 573 horsepower from the internal-combustion V6, so that isn’t very surprising, especially considering the car is tuned more for performance than efficiency. The Porsche 911 Turbo makes 572 hp with no electric assistance and generates 254 g/km. Drive around using the Mustang GT’s relatively paltry 460 hp and CO2 emissions jump to 270.

      I do wonder, though, how much less the NSX might have weighed without the electric motors, and what level of performance it might have achieved with the V6 alone.

      1. I assume a lot of it has to do with the tech demonstration. Sort of the “the P1, Ferrari TheFerrari, and 918 can do it at $1M, we can do it on a smaller scale at sub $200K” angle. But agreed, the weight is pretty hefty, although Acura claims 2.7 seconds to 60 which is massively quick.

      2. That’s the thing though – if all that motor trickery made this an eco sports car (and pragmatically, this massively affects its purchase price and ongoing ownership costs in some EU countries and from this year, it’s ability to be even sold), then I’d say yeah, those motors are a neat trade-off, even if it was a little gamed for the WLTP cycle. Without that benefit, it seems a lot less relevant and just a “look what we can do showcase”. Make it light an pure like the old one or proper electric, maybe with a range extender motor like the i8. Right now, it seems a bit no-mans land. Too overladen with tech and yet an irrelevant dinosaur at the same time.

        1. I don’t know, it’s sort of the best of both worlds. A full EV would be great, but will also be heavy and full of range anxiety if it’s performance-focused. Conceptually, they took current hybrid tech and made it fun, ala the P1, LaFerrari, etc.

          I didn’t post this chart, since it’s part of the Acura brag sheet, but it’s not wrong. The specs align pretty well to the competition. The question will remain, is anyone going to buy it?

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6f6e23699c7d027db97a2f6699379485b588d553c878e1b858ced48d23f65618.png

          1. 242g/km being the best of both worlds – more actually than a PDK 911 is like saying getting kicked in the head and the unmentionables is the best of both worlds. 😉 …it’s technically interesting, but seriously, you might be technically down on power, but wouldn’t you have more fun in regular 911? or a new Corvette? Once you’re into the 200s in CO2, the hybrid stuff seems a bit pointless, just go mad and get a big honking V8/V10. By contrast, the i8 is relatively weak at under 300bhp, but it does put out a mere 50g/km, that’s a massively different trade-off ratio in perfromance vs. emissions. Of course we know the Germans are masters at gaming emissions, but one would have hoped Honda could have made something similar but better to drive if they put their mind to it.

          2. Honestly I zoned out a bit on the CO2 part of the discussion. Can’t disagree with you there. And it’s not that I don’t think it’s an issue (and it was the original point of this part of the thread), I just don’t think that sports car or supercar buyers ever research their emissions as part of the purchasing decision. So my “best of both worlds” was referring to the overall performance for the price. If their target was the 911 Turbo, R8 V10, 570s, they did pretty well.

            Totally agree on the aspect of having as much fun for less money.

          3. If you’re in proper supercar buying mode, and especially if you live in the US, then yes it won’t enter your head. But hey, if yer gonna go full on red meat option, go full on, if you get me. It’s performance is impressive, but all these cars have more performance than you need and a bit of theatre and emotion can overwhelm a point something 0-60 difference.

            I understand your review is in a US context, but if you don’t live in the US, and some European countries, then it starts to become factored in much higher up the market than you’d imagine for financial reasons and not neccesarily giving a damn about the planet, and these are entry level supercars where people still aren’t neccesarily one percenters. While not all EU countries are punitive, some like Ireland or the Nordic countries can massively distort the relative purchase price and ongoing “road tax”/registration. From this year too, even if your country isn’t punitive to consumers, manufactures have to hit a 90gm/km CO2 average – with fines for exceeding that, and that will drop a further 30% – even the businesse case for petrol only small cars looks shaky.

            All boring stuff I know, but it does matter and I reckon eventually the US, perhaps if the Democrats take over might note the massive disparity. (The EU is too stupidly punitive to the point of being counterproductive, which got us dieselgate and I’m sure massive unintented consequences with the forced push to electrification, ‘murica could do with a small bit of a frugality reality check, there’s a happy middle somewhere) then in the future, this stuff might start to become relevant.

            Even if the US doesn’t start making people think about CO2 in the same way that hits their wallets, it’s very apparent there’s a growing disparity between cars that can be sold in the US and in Europe which is good for neither. It’s a missed opportunity in many ways, but it’s already getting on, so who knows where the NSX will go next. Look at how invested Mugen is in EV motorcycles.

          4. Solid and reasoned response, it’s clear you aren’t from the U.S.! haha We don’t do that here sadly. Hopefully that will change.

          5. 242g/km being the best of both worlds – more actually than a PDK 911 is like saying getting kicked in the head and the unmentionables is the best of both worlds. 😉 …it’s technically interesting, but seriously, you might be technically down on power, but wouldn’t you have more fun in regular 911? or a new Corvette? Once you’re into the 200s in CO2, the hybrid stuff seems a bit pointless, just go mad and get a big honking V8/V10. By contrast, the i8 is relatively weak at under 300bhp, but it does put out a mere 50g/km, that’s a massively different trade-off ratio in perfromance vs. emissions. Of course we know the Germans are masters at gaming emissions, but one would have hoped Honda could have made something similar but better to drive if they put their mind to it.

        2. Good point about an i8 style setup. I guess it would depend on the power to weight advantage (if there is one). i.e. is the weight savings (an i8 is 3,501 to 3,671 lbs) be worth it for the drop in power?

        3. From my perspective, supercars are only using hybrid EV tech for the torque benefits. “Hybrid” is a nice flag to wave these days, but realistically, these cars aren’t doing it for the reduced emissions. The NSX benefits more from the AWD traction than anything else. It’s not getting huge power from the electric motors, nor is it appreciably minimizing its CO2 footprint.

          From an American standpoint (where global warming is dismissed as fictional) I don’t see the point of the added cost and complexity of the electric motors. To please the U.S. consumers, Honda should have stuck with the original V10 plan. It’s a low-volume supercar, so screw emissions and screw fuel economy. Consume a few dinosaurs today, worry about the world tomorrow (or the next day…). But for Europe and individuals who actually believe in science, this was a missed opportunity at a full-EV supercar with legitimate green cred.

          I just don’t see the point. Yes, it’s fast, but it’s not very exciting. It’s not especially pretty, nor is its design radical enough to at least be interesting. I mean, at least the Civic Type R designers had the balls to make that car downright ugly. The NSX is a tentative toe-dip in the water, rather than the bold cannonball plunge it should have been.

          [Edit: I should have read crank_case‘s US-vs-Europe comments before writing this. I would have piggybacked off of those statements and saved a few keystrokes.]

          1. “at least the Civic Type R designers had the balls to make that car downright ugly”

            lol, funny start to the morning. I don’t disagree btw, although it’s a fabulous car to drive.

  2. My neighbor helped develop the NSX, so I got to experience some of the test mules and the final product before it was ever released (he also brought home Porsches and McLarens for comparison). I won’t deny having strong interest, but the car never “wowed” me. It lacks the visual punch and beautiful simplicity of the original. I’m pretty sure I can quickly stretch and cut an image of a Honda Civic in Photoshop and nearly nail the NSX design. It doesn’t feel very special on the inside, either.

    I think if there had never been an original NSX, maybe I would like the new one more. Maybe. I just don’t think it lived up to its predecessor. Considering you can find ’91 models for around $50k, I’d much prefer a classic one. I could save $100k-$150k and drive something that I find more rewarding and more special.

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