Detroit Auto Show: Production Acura supercar revealed, but is it an NSX?

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This is the year the Acura NSX turns 25, and we can think of no better way for Honda to celebrate than unveiling the legendary supercar’s successor. Announced in 2007 but killed after the Global Financial Crisis but then revived again in 2011, it’s been a long wait for the Honda faithful. From what we learned at the Detroit Auto Show, it will be amazing in every respect, but is it an NSX?

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Let’s get the specs out of the way so all the armchair drag racers can begin their Internet arguing. Its 550-plus horsepower comes from a a twin-turbo V6 mated to a hybrid electric motor mounted midship, plus another two electric motors driving each of the front wheels. It’ll likely have some new and improved version of Honda’s front-back, side-to-side Super Handling all-wheel-drive and sticker for around $150,000. All of the numbers, aside from the cylinder count and motor tally, are approximate and will be finalized as the car gets closer to launch late this year.

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Perhaps the most amazing part is that while the car presented in Detroit looks a lot like the prototype you’ve seen bouncing about the web, it’s completely different under the skin. That concept, unveiled in 2012, had a transversely mounted V6 driving the rear wheels, like the front-wheel-drive car’s drivetrain but located on the opposite end, and just like the original NSX.

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Then, in mid-2013, Honda engineers made the unprecedented move of scuttling the entire setup and developing an all-new V6, mounted longitudinally, with a pair of turbos.The body was stretched three inches to accommodate the new powertrain. Essentially, they executed a brand new car in 18 months. Chief Engineer Tim Klaus described it as “undergoing a heart transplant while running a marathon.”

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So that’s the skinny, but here’s the rub. By any measure the new NSX will be a tremendously capable machine. The team made a point to say they worked closely with their counterparts who birthed the original NSX. But, there’s something about it that doesn’t seem very NSX-y. Sure, it ticks all the boxes on the modern supercar checklist, and maybe that’s the thing.

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For decades, Honda dismissed calls to build a V8 for its luxury sedans. “Because it’s not necessary” came the response. For decades, Honda stubbornly refused to cave in to rear-wheel-drive. Instead, they built the best handling front-drivers known to man. For decades, Honda rebuffed forced induction. Rather, they created some of the highest revving, most power-per-liter naturally aspirated engines the world had ever seen.

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But despite all that, the NSX always punched above its weight class. Like all Hondas of that era, engineers poured unthinkable man-hours, technological know-how and resources into making the end product as simple as humanly possible. But in the process, they created magic and upended the entire supercar establishment. We don’t know if the new one will slay cars costing twice as much like the NSX 1.0 did, but the point is that it sure is pumping a lot of technological iron. “More is more,” it seems to be saying.

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It feels closer in spirit to a Nissan GT-R or, perhaps because it’s engineered, designed, and built entirely in Ohio, a C7 Corvette. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” we say, quoting a man very closely associated with Acura who caused a minor stampede with his presence at the Detroit Auto Show. We’re just not sure that’s what Soichiro Honda would have wanted.

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But let’s not be Debbie Downers. Klaus reassured us that all the technology packed into the NSX would “respond to the will of the driver” and not the other way around. We’ll have to wait and see.

We have much more NSX goodness slated for 2015 as the original turns 25 and the new one nears its launch. Stay tuned.

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11 Responses to Detroit Auto Show: Production Acura supercar revealed, but is it an NSX?

  1. Nigel said:

    It does seem to be running with the pack. We will see when the test drives start…

  2. Bill said:

    I wonder if Honda’s jump back into Formula 1 with McLaren this upcoming season had anything to do with the development of an all new V6 turbo, Hybrid power-plant? I think the new NSX looks good, on paper and in presence. I can’t wait to see how it performs.

  3. Tony said:

    I know this is a import site and I have posted on here with praise for many imports but for the NSX I personal think it will be a flop, too much tech not enough power and completely over shadowed by the Ford GT that has the power plant that this car should have had twin turbo V6 600+hp!! Not to mention the on again off again BS with production and the commercial with leno & steinfeld fighting over the 1st one… I bet they both would rather have the Ford LOL. It’s time for the import manufactures to step it up there was a time when a bolt on B18/B16 could do battle with a Mustang GT and a Boosted 4banger could beat down a bolt on Mustang GT… We need tuners to keep up with performance and currently they don’t!

    1. FF halo cars should be 275-300 hp
    2. AWD halo cars should be 350-365 hp
    3. FRS twins… see FF halo cars
    4. The mighty Z car should be minimum 400hp at a Mustang GT price point
    5. The coming Supra see the Z car (both should whip a Camaro 1LE on track)
    6. the GTR spot on in terms of power but price is creeping to quickly
    7. the rumored RX7 see AWD halo cars…

    Is this so much to ask? Japanese imports seemed sooo much better in the 90’s compared to domestic competitors, yeah we had to pay a little more but we got less weight technology in engineering superior handling and big improvements with simple bolt ons! Gosh I miss the good old days LOL sound off if you agree or if you hate everything I had to say, I would honestly like to see if I am the only one that feels this way!

    • Randy said:

      I think I’m going to somewhat disagree with you.

      $150K is pretty rarified air, so “flop” is probably a relative thing.

      You’re probably right about the Ford being the “star,” but there are those who want something different, and odds are, the service aspects will be better.

      The Leno and Seinfeld types, regardless of who gets the first one, will each have them, even if they don’t care one way or another. Leno has like, everything, and I’ve read that Jerry is a Porsche guy, so he’ll get one just for the glam aspect.

      I think your comparison of the ’90s models vs. their then-competition IS fair though, even if only because the output numbers were so much lower.

      I don’t remember how the original NSX price-compared with contemporary ‘Vettes, but the new ones start at $54K, so I’d say the NSX is more into the exoticar turf, Porsche territory.

      • Tony said:

        Hey Randy!
        Long time no chat buddy!! You may be correct about the NSX not being a flop but, it sure seems like they could have brought this thing to market with a lot less BS had they used a twin turbo V6 not only that but it would have been tuner friendly… I think I have finally become that old man that say “in my day” blah blah blah LOL… I actually like this even if I come off as hating it I just cant dig the electric car thing for real cars. I love electric for RC but I just cant dig it jammed into modern cars. Like the electric steering racks and onstar and self park stuff “in my day” you had to be able to parallel park a car to get your DL not to mention I feel like super paranoid Rob Lowe with electric self drive tech in my car… expecting police to be able to shut my ride down… what if I need to escape!!!!! LOL good to hear from you buddy I’ll keep an eye out for your comments! Hope you been well!

  4. dead_one said:

    american honda sucks. no japanese vin don’t invest.

  5. JHMBB2 said:

    Hmmm…I like it. Styling-wise, I’d say it’s on point. Not as cool as the original, but I think it goes well with the times. I’m excited they went with turbos and the electric motors up front to make it AWD sounds cool. I just hope it isn’t too digital.

    I’ll agree, I’m not sure it’s what Honda would’ve wanted, then again he didn’t want liquid cooled cars.

  6. Dave Yuan said:

    “Honda’s front-back, side-to-side Super Handling all-wheel-drive”

    Whoa! That totally gave me a new perspective on SH-AWD…

    It’s hard not to compare this to the original NSX, but to be fair, the supercar landscape today is very different from what it was back in 1990. The original NSX was an amazing machine on its own, but the impact it made then was also due to how revolutionary it was compared to its contemporaries. Is it fair (or realistic) to demand Honda to make a car of equivalent impact among the sea of supercars today? I, for one, am glad this car is finally here. That said, the original NSX is a bona fide classic; this new one, time will tell.

  7. Glenn said:

    It would be interesting to do a comparison of Japanese designed cars with their American designed successors. To see whether the design maintains the perceived “spirit” of the predacessor or whether what we think of as “Japanese” is actually “American” etc.

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