The 2017 Acura NSX will disappoint a lot of people on the internet.
People will complain the NSX should be normally aspirated, complain the car is too heavy, too complicated, complain that Japan’s supercar should not be built in Ohio. People will (check the comments on other sites, they already are) complain the new NSX is not the old NSX. Acura knows this and does Acura does not care because the new NSX is not about the past. After all, the “N” in NSX stands for “New”.
The car does feel like it’s been with us for quite a while though. With concept cars and Super Bowl commercials stretching back to 2012, the design is nothing if not familiar at this point. The styling has always been a bit conservative for my taste, the silhouette could even be called “generic-supercar”, but as the car has evolved new vents have sprouted from hoods and fenders, while air intakes have expanded to feed newly acquired intercoolers. The final product remains at the more restrained end of the supercar spectrum, yet I think it’s found some of the visual punch the early concepts sorely lacked.
The discreet styling does makes sense in the context of Acura’s goals for the car though. While monstrous acceleration, dinner-plate carbon ceramic brakes, and the latest and greatest in Super Handling are all present and accounted for, the NSX is aimed at the buyer who wants a healthy serving of refinement and comfort for everyday use. Providing the quietest in-class and most relaxed driving environment was one of the key development goals from the outset. The baseline drive mode is even called “Quiet Mode”. In this capacity, the 2017 NSX definitely carries on the torch of the original car, whose everyday drivability and reliability carried so many owners well over 100,000 miles.
The key to a librarian-approved demeanor is the brand new Sport Hybrid SH-AWD Power Unit. Naturally muffled by its pair of turbos, the 3.5-liter V6 hums along in Quiet Mode and at low rpms in Sport mode it sounds as if it was plucked straight out of an Accord. The engine, however, is a bespoke design for the NSX. It’s longitudinally mounted with a 75° V-angle, pumping out 500 horsepower from 6,500 to 7,500 rpm, along with 406 pound-feet of torque from 2,000 to 6,000 rpm.
Sandwiched between the engine and the Honda built and designed 9 speed dual clutch transmission is the Direct Drive Motor with 47hp and 109 lb-ft or torque. It’s responsible with masking any turbo lag from the V6, regenerating hybrid power from the engine, and taking over duty as a starter motor. The Twin Motor Unit sits between the front wheels and consists of twin 36hp, 54 lb-ft electric motors. The TMU takes care of the front-wheel portion of the all-wheel drive, regens electric power under braking, further supplements the NSX braking performance, and provides torque vectoring across the front axle. Power and torque peak at 573hp and 476 lb-ft from the engine and TMU, with the DDM’s contributions limited to the lower end of the rev range.
On the road, Quiet Mode works as advertised, even allowing for straight electric running up to 50 miles per hour. Throttle and gear shifts are mapped for comfort and engine rpm are limited to 4,000. Sport mode, however, is probably where these cars will spend the majority of their time. Throttle response and gear shifts are sharpened and the full power output is present and accounted for. Sedate cruising is still on the table, but the NSX comes alive with a prod of the right pedal. There is no turbo lag to be found, just a fat wave of torque blurring the scenery out the side windows.
This isn’t the last word in throttle response, by any means, but the hybrid system provides the torque fill as advertised. Flooring the throttle from a cruise brings the briefest of delays as the DTC drops gears, but I found no such issue at a more sporting pace. The soundtrack improves as the exhaust silencers are bypassed past 3,000 rpm, but the intake noise being pumped into the cockpit takes center stage. The soundtrack never overwhelms though, and I had no problem carrying on normal conversation even as I was banging through the gears on track.
This is definitely not a track special, but I found it more than at home pounding around Thermal’s 1.8 mile road course. With Track Mode selected the drivetrain and chassis get serious and the stability control allows the driver more a longer leash (stability control is fully defeatable if you desire, thank goodness). At moderate pace the balance is highly adjustable, but overcharge corner entry and the 3800-lb curb weight makes itself evident as the front tires scrub off speed. Once the car takes a set in the corner you can get back to power ridiculously early and feel the torque vectoring help rotate the car and drive you out of the corner. Mat the throttle early and rear end swings wide in an easily controllable slide. The deceleration on tap from the carbon ceramic brakes and TMU is excellent and easy to modulate despite the brake-by-wire pedal. In manual mode gearshifts lose some of their fluidity and you can bang up against the rev limiter to your heart’s content, but the gearbox works perfectly for track work left to its own devices. With so many gears on offer and such a wide power band the NSX is always ready to fire itself out of a turn and I think most drivers would wind up slower when shifting the gearbox themselves. Track Mode also enables launch control, which feels like it lives up to every bit of Acura’s sub-3 second claim for the 0-60 sprint.
Regardless of its track manners, the NSX is very much a road car, and I think it’s a hell of a good one. Those dreaming of chasing 9,000 rpm redlines or pulling up at the club with radioactive paint and doors reaching for the sky are never going to find what they’re looking for in the NSX. For everyday usability, however, the Acura will be hard to beat. Leather and alcantara seats provide plenty of support without being overly constrictive, controls fall easily to hand, there are enough spots around the cabin to store phones and sunglasses, visibility ahead is excellent thanks to rail thin A-pillars, and fuel milage should be about as good as it gets in this class outside of the BMW i8. But for all the practicality, the NSX feels like very special from behind the wheel. While the V6 can’t match the aural splendor of some of the 10 and 12 cylinder powerplants of its rivals, for me it is perfectly matched and enjoys being revved up to redline before shifting to the next gear. One of my favorite bits, however, is the view backwards out the side view mirrors of the rear fenders and air intakes, which is 100% Supercar and a sight I would love to savor everyday.
For all its talents, I have no idea how the NSX is going to do when it comes to customers signing on the dotted line. Acura hopes to find 800 buyers a year in the US (foreign sales targets aren’t determined yet) and they are going to have to come from somewhere. The market segment Acura decided to tackle is awash in excellent cars, some of them long having set up shop on the NSX’s everyday-supercar corner. All of them, bar the Nissan GT-R NISMO, have much more prestigious badges. A top speed of 190 mph (the most vital of measurements, I know) won’t raise any eyebrows in this company either. But despite all that, the implementation of hypercar hybrid tech, finally attainable for those who are merely very rich (rather than comically rich), makes the NSX a unique proposition and something truly new. I think this alone is worthy of applause and I’m sure the car will garner a good deal of consideration from buyers for this reason alone. The NSX is more than just a tech showcase though.
Time will tell if it enjoys the success its many talents warrant.