Honda’s second NSX supercar is built to remain relevant for 25 years – just like the first one.
ELEVEN DYNAMIC SYSTEMS WORK IN TANDEM TO GIVE THE NSX OPTIMAL PERFORMANCE ACROSS FOUR DIFFERENT DRIVE MODES.
IT has taken Honda a quarter of a century to unleash a sucessor to its legendary NSX supercar. And the new car is as complex as the first car was simple.
There are 11 dynamic systems working in tandem to give the 2017 NSX optimal performance across four different drive modes. The car also has about a dozen vents, intakes, diffusers and spoilers on its busy yet elegant body to minimise wind turbulence and lift, including a couple which “cleans up air around the wheel before guiding it along the side of the car towards the rear side intake”.
And there are 10 heat exchangers to keep things under its aluminium skin cool. Yes, 10.
Beneath the metal, you will find a mid-mounted, twin- turbocharged 3.5-litre rev- loving V6 powering the rear wheels, along with a direct drive motor filling in the inevitable lag of a forced-induction engine, a twin motor unit on the front axle to enhance traction and stability, and a bank of lithium-ion batteries situated just behind the seats.
Electric variable-ratio power steering, third-generation super-responsive magnetic ride dampers and an electro- servo braking system are some of the other gadgets that add up to what might well make the NSX a convoluted science project on wheels.
So, why couldn’t Honda have stuck to the simplicity of the first NSX, which was light, communicative and very driveable? Well, actually it did consider that. The initial brief called for a front-mounted V10 wrapped in a body with a similar silhouette as the original car. That was in 2007.
When the global financial meltdown happened the year after, followed swiftly by renewed calls for tighter carbon controls, Honda decided a petrol-electric hybrid was a better option.
It is in good company, too, since Ferrari and Porsche have also introduced super hybrids instead of large-displacement beasts as trophy models.
So, how does this mobile laboratory of a sports car drive? Surprisingly, very naturally. Despite its array of propulsion and dynamic systems which would require the computing power of Nasa to coordinate, the NSX does not feel stilted, distant or clinical.
It actually feels like a well- oiled and highly precise high- powered machine capable of delivering buckets of thrills without overtaxing the driver.
Take its launch control for a start. Just select launch mode, depress the brake pedal with your left foot, and put the other pedal to the metal. The engine is primed at around 2500rpm. And when you lift your foot off the brakes, the car blasts off with zero wheelspin.
Heady and brutal acceleration follows, assailing the driver with a force in excess of 1g. The car hits 100km/h in second gear within 3.2 seconds. In less than 500 metres, the speedometer is pointing at 170km/h. This coma-inducing onslaught is proof that the Honda’s V6-electric motive recipe works well.
Around the circuit, the two- seater coupe demonstrates fine balance and almost brainlessly easy driveability. Its variable-ratio steering helps to a great degree, allowing you to get through that killer hairpin with your hands not having to move an inch from the nine and three o’clock positions.
The brakes are extremely powerful without being uncomfortable, and the brake pedal is light and easily modulated, which is unusual for a hybrid. Most hybrids have brakes which feel unnatural because of their secondary role of power recovery.
The NSX is quick and confident around the track, thanks in part to its sticky Pirelli P Zero Toffeo tyres (the car’s standard road tyres are Continental ContiSportContact 5SPs, which are more than adequate outside a racetrack).
While the car reaches maximum velocity in 8th gear, it is able to cruise in 9th gear at 90km/h. Like all modern hybrids, it is also able to move on battery juice alone in light-throttle situations.
The motors are not just power boosters and carbon mitigators. They provide extra cornering stability and optimal traction, too. The car corners neutrally, and is impressively stable going in and out of a fast corner.
The NSX’s carbon-ceramic brakes (optional) bring the car from 200km/h to 50km/h with minimal fuss and maximum stability. Still, they are prone to fade after a few laps with a professional driver at the wheel. They recover quickly after a cool-down lap, though.
Its magnetic dampers – said to be the most responsive in the business – ensure tyres and bitumen are well acquainted at all times. And its front motors counter forces which threaten to send you off-track. In fact, you often feel the car is almost pulling you into corners, allowing you to re-accelerate sooner.
THIS IDIOT- PROOF SUPERCAR MAY WELL BE THE FASTEST THING IN THE REAL WORLD, IN THE HANDS OF AN EVERYDAY DRIVER.
There are four drive modes to choose from: Quiet, Sport, Sport+ and Track. Most times, Sport and Sport+ are preferable, as they offer a good blend of performance and comfort.
Rev past 3500rpm and the car sings as its active exhaust valves open up. An “intake sound control” pipes the music into the cabin for maximum effect.
But if driven sedately, the NSX is aurally flaccid, sounding a little like a tractor. Which is another reason why you should select Sport or Sport+, as it avails you to better sounds more easily.
On the road, the Honda continues to prove its mettle. Even though it is never meant to tackle serpentine mountain passes with the agility of a pocket rocket, the broad-bodied NSX puts on a convincing show.
The steering is tight, quick and linear in any situation, even though it could have been a tad weightier and more communicative at speeds beyond 230km/h. The rim itself, though, is meaty and slip-free.
At times, the car’s relatively high kerb weight of around 1.8 tonnes shows, and you feel like it is a bit of a handful around nastier stretches. Even so, the Honda never fails to instil awe. It dishes out lethal acceleration in the most painless manner. And whether on track or off, it always seems to be in the right gear, so much so that its paddle-shifters are left largely untouched.
Its cabin is well-appointed, luxurious and yet fitted out for hard driving. Its knee braces are the most comfortable and sturdy. All-round visibility is enviable for a sports car. All these help to mitigate the car’s performance-biased suspension.
All said, the new NSX is an idiot-proof supercar, just like its predecessor. And because of this, it may well be the fastest thing in the real world, in the hands of an everyday driver.
Honda could have accomplished the same end with less complicated hardware and software. But that would have been too last century. The NSX is a supercar for today’s world. And its space-age styling, pulled off by American Michelle Christensen, reflects that.
It is, mind you, a car that is quicker than the Lamborghini Huracan and nearly as quick as the Ferrari 488 GTB. Yet, it has a smaller engine which consumes less fuel and emits less carbon.
While that may not impress the supercar fraternity, the fact that it will do all that and accommodate a full-size golf bag might.
V6, 24-valves, turbocharged hybrid
BORE X STROKE
91mm x 89.5mm
507bhp at 6500-7500rpm (total system output 581bhp)
550Nm at 2000-6000rpm (total system output 646Nm)
POWER TO WEIGHT
327.1bhp per tonne
9-speed dual-clutch with manual select
Double wishbones, active dampers
Multi-link, active dampers
FRONT / REAR
Continental ContiSportContact 5SP
245/35 R19 (front), 305/30 R20 (rear)
PRICE EXCL. COE
$888,999 (after $15k CEVS surcharge)
5 years/unlimited km