This is a car that provides a dynamic ability and scalability unlike anything in its price bracket, but, at a staggering $420,000 (plus on road costs), this Japanese supercar is in uncharted territory.
The original Honda NSX, which stood for New Sports Experimental, was the first mass-produced car to use an all-aluminium body. It was on sale in Australia from 1991 to 2004, finding just 133 buyers – roughly 10 per year – and, over its 13 year history, it went on to represent the best of what Honda stood for in the automotive market.
Fast-forward 12 years and the new NSX, now meaning New Sports eXperience, is hoping to do it all over again. Bringing back the NSX was critical to today’s Honda. The Japanese brand felt the full brunt of the global financial crisis, as well as earthquakes in Japan and floods in Thailand, all putting it on the back foot for the last few years. Now, though, it’s back. With a vengeance.
When Honda rebooted the NSX program for what must have been the 100th time in 2012, it ditched its naturally-aspirated engine and went for a turbocharged solution that resulted in basically three separate power units that give a total power output of 427kW and 646Nm of torque.
The 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 on its own manages 373kW and 550Nm, with that might pointed at the rear wheels. It’s the addition of the two electric motors at the front (one on each wheel) that provide 27kW and 73Nm (each side) plus the 35kW direct-drive motor that assists the rear wheels in overcoming turbo lag, all joining together for that mammoth combined system output. Don’t try and add the figures together, either – it doesn’t really work like that.
What all of this means is an enormous amount of power and torque that appears to be accessible across the rev range. The NSX has the benefits of an electric car with instantaneous torque delivery, while utilising a high-compression turbocharged engine (10.0:1) to deliver a real motivating force through a Honda-designed nine-speed dual-clutch transmission.
To find out if the NSX was as good behind the wheel as it sounded on paper, we headed to Estoril in Portugal, where a high-speed racetrack and the surrounding mountainous roads proved a real test for the latest Japanese supercar (which is actually hand-built in Ohio, USA).
Perhaps, though – before we get stuck into the car’s specifics – it’s important to address the elephant in the room: the very serious “supercar” classification that Honda has given the NSX. It certainly has the performance credentials and the price tag to back it up – but are those the only two criteria for what makes a supercar?
Can a Honda-badged vehicle, on merit alone, claim status in the supercar world? Can the brand stretch that far? That’s a question buyers will have to answer with their wallets. As it stands in Australia, the NSX is about the same price as a Lamborghini Huracan and Porsche 911 Turbo S and more expensive than both variants of the new Audi R8. It costs more than double the Nissan GT-R black edition. So it’s only fair that when we come to assess the NSX, it’s pitted equally, in all regards, against its true competitor set.
From the outside, the Honda NSX is a rather striking car. It’s unfortunate (for NSX buyers) that Honda has now utilised the front-end styling across other models, because, while it looks good in isolation, it bears far too much resemblance to the likes of the Honda Civic. The rear, though, is rather unique and helps set the car apart.
Even so, the level of design flair and drama on offer from its Italian rivals goes unmatched. Not just on the outside, either.
Jump in and the ‘Hondaness’ of the NSX is immediately apparent. The 7.0-inch multimedia system is a direct clone of the one you’ll find in the Honda Civic. The steering wheel paddles are plastic and borrowed from another model, they feel cheap to touch and require far too much movement per change. The switchgear, while mostly unique, feels and looks like something that belongs in a $50,000 car.