When an Acura NSX prototype did a couple of unofficial laps at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio last weekend, just before an IndyCar race, car fans took notice, just as they did when a topless NSX had a cameo in Avengers last year.
Normally, Acuras don’t inspire this kind of excitement, but the NSX is different.
When Japan’s first mass production mid-engined supercar was unveiled in 1990, it signaled that the Japanese car industry had arrived. It took on the best, from Ferrari to Porsche, and won, combining extreme performance with Honda’s legendary reliability.
Now, Acura is trying to recapture that magic with a 21st century twist. First shown as a concept car at the 2012 Detroit auto show, the new NSX will be a hybrid, and is set to go on sale next year. There was another sneak peek in this hilarious 2012 Superbowl ad.
In the meantime, we’ve gathered everything there is to know about the NSX in one convenient dossier, and checked out the hybrid supercar competition. Read on for all of the juicy details.
Like the first NSX, the reincarnation will have a V6 engine mounted in the middle, but the similarities end there.
The V6 displaces 3.5 liters and has two turbochargers. It produces an estimated 450 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque, but it also gets a little help from three electric motors. One motor is attached to the car’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, helping to drive the rear wheels. The other two drive one front wheel each.
Combined, the V6 and three electric motors should produce 560 hp and 650 lb-ft. Acura calls the system Sport Hybrid Super Handling-All Wheel Drive, and like the non-hybrid variant found in many of the brand’s regular cars, it should be able to vector torque side-to-side, helping to accelerate the NSX out of corners more quickly.
All of those mechanical bits are wrapped in svelte styling that makes all of Acura’s recent angular sedans and SUVs make sense. This is what Acura’s stylists must have envisioned when the boss told them to design a car with a totally unique design language, but before they were told that car had to be the 2012 TSX.
Unlike the questionably-styled cars we’ve seen over the past few years, the NSX looks amazing. All of those sharp edges make it look like a stealth fighter.
Acura has also shown a concept interior for the NSX. The “Human Support Cockpit” theme features a raised center stack (moving the controls closer to the driver) a large central screen (in case the driver wants to read Facebook statuses at 180 mph), and plenty of carbon fiber. It looks like a wonderful place to be.
The long and winding road
Since the original NSX went out of production in 2005, Honda has dragged its feet about finding a replacement.
In 2007, Acura showed the Advanced Sports Car Concept in Detroit. While it featured a front-mounted V10, it was hailed as the NSX’s replacement. After its development was interrupted by the 2008 financial crisis, Honda built one prototype, dubbed HSV-010 GT, and campaigned it in the Japanese Super GT series.
That seemed to be the end of that, until an unusual Acura-badged sports car was spotted on the set of Avengers, with Robert Downey Jr. at the wheel. This convertible morphed into the hardtop NSX concept shown at Detroit in early 2012. Since then, it’s been a waiting game.
The wait is almost over, though: Acura will put the NSX on sale on 2015. It will be built at a new “Performance Manufacturing Center” in Marysville, Ohio, adjacent to two existing Honda facilities.
So how does the NSX stack up?
On paper, not very well. The least powerful of the trio, the Porsche, has 887 hp and 940 lb-ft of torque, courtesy of a 4.6-liter V8 and two electric motors. That’s 327 horsepower and 380 pound-feet more than the Acura.
The Ferrari and McLaren are even farther ahead: LaFerrari has a 6.3-liter V12 and a single electric motor, good for a combined 950 hp and 664 lb-ft, while the P1 has a 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8 and a single electric motor, together producing 903 hp and 723 lb-ft.
At 3,350 pounds, the NSX is the lightest of the group; curb weights are 3,450 lbs, 3,400 lbs, and 3,700 lbs for the Ferrari, McLaren, and Porsche respectively. Still, that power gap means the NSX will probably be left in the dust (official performance figures haven’t been released).
That other important performance metric, fuel economy, is also a tossup. Acura has said that it could give the NSX an electric-only operating mode, but hasn’t confirmed whether it will actually do that. The LaFerrari cannot operate solely on electricity, while the P1 and 918 have EV ranges of six miles and 18 miles, respectively, with the 918 reportedly able to top 80mph in EV mode.
However, direct comparisons between the NSX and other hybrid supercars aren’t really fair, because the Acura will be much cheaper. Whereas the 918 Spyder is on sale now for $845,000, and the LaFerrari and P1 are expected to cost over $1 million each, the NSX is expected to cost under $200,000.
That puts the NSX in the “entry level” supercar category alongside the Audi R8, Ferrari 458 Italia, and McLaren MP4-12C. Its hybrid powertrain will make it one-of-a-kind in that class.
Of course, to be truly faithful to its predecessor, the new NSX needs to be more than competitive. It needs to set a new standard for automotive excellence. Does this all-wheel drive hybrid have what it takes? We’ll find out in 2015.
Will you be in line for an NSX in 2015? Tell us in the comments.