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?
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.