Michelle Christensen was responsible for the form gracing the second-generation NSX unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show, and is the first woman to hold the exterior designer position at Acura. With the original NSX passing the threshold into classic status this year and an all-out legend in the hearts of many enthusiasts, the job of styling Honda’s next supercar would be a tough act to follow. Here’s what she had to say about the job.
“The original NSX is 25 years old but it still looks good. We wanted to keep the concept shape, but also get to the basic tenet of the original: purity. We strove for that, with the goal of omitting anything extra that wasn’t needed.”
Whereas the original NSX had a very clean design, the new one has no shortage of vents. According to Honda, each one of those opening has a purpose. The four on the prow — two on the hood and two in the fenders — provide downforce while cooling the front brakes and the electric motors powering each forward wheel.
The air exiting those vents then follows the mid-section of the car before reaching the rear, feeding a twin-turbo V6 and electric hybrid motor generating over 550hp, though specific numbers weren’t given yet.
One trait styling trait is somewhat difficult to notice unless you’re up close is that the C-pillars are flying buttresses, channeling the airflow to provide more downforce over the rear spoiler as it leaves the body. Unlike many modern supercars, the NSX will have no active aerodynamics, relying instead on the purity of the shape to provide the necessary downforce.
One of Christensen’s proudest accomplishments is subtle, something you might not notice but that anyone who’s driven an 80s or 90s Honda can appreciate. She went through great lengths to make the A-pillars as thin as possible, an effort to capture the airy greenhouse and expansive visibility of the 1990s Hondas. Indeed, a broad view from the driver’s seat down a sloping hood was one of the trademarks of the original.
That notion of expending more effort to create less, rather than relying on complex mechanisms, is very much aligned with the Honda philosophy. Perhaps we were a bit hasty to call the NSX overly complex initially. The original NSX had 270hp. It needs at least double that to do battle with modern supercars.
“Culturally, the customer today is different. We had to appeal to purists who consider traditional values, as well as progressive buyers,” Christensen explained. “Because so much time has passed since the original, we had to consider how it would look if the car launched today.”