Honda Super Sports Car
So are we. The NSX isn’t the first of its kind to mesh electrons and hydrocarbons in the pursuit of speed, but give Acura credit for so rapidly democratizing the technology. Even with a starting price of $157, 800, the NSX is hard evidence of the kind of trickle-down economics that actually works. Sacrificing a fraction of the performance and the pure-electric driving capability of the 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder netted Acura a $700, 000 price cut for its mid-engined hero.
Widmer may have been talking about McLarens, Lamborghinis, and Ferraris when he made his 10-year prediction, but the electrification of performance won’t stop at supercars. Defying physics, the electrons are poised to flow into iconic performance cars where there’s even more resistance. Hybridized 911s and BMW M3s are an eventuality, not just a possibility. This NSX is a preview of things to come.
The engine-cover designer apparently grew up loving Jiffy Pop. The stiffer of the two suspension settings is a bit much for public-road driving.
The chassis is always awake even if the powertrain isn’t. With $1960 worth of Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires gluing the wheels to the pavement, our test car faithfully transmitted every minute steering input to the road regardless of the mode. Even as the steering weight ramps up with the more aggressive settings, the NSX turns in with zeal and precision. Most impressive, the NSX never belies its weight, no matter how fast the speed or how sharp the corner. Turns feel effortless, and as long as the pavement is smooth, the body remains flat.
That body is as much a hybrid as is the powertrain. It’s made primarily of aluminum castings, stampings, and extrusions, but the A-pillars, roof beams, and windshield header are all made of steel, meaning there is more ferrous metal in the body of this NSX than in the 27-year-old original. The front floorboards are the only structural carbon-fiber bits, although $21, 600 will buy just enough carbon fiber to reskin the roof, engine cover, splitter, sills, diffuser, and spoiler as seen on our $202, 960 test car. The outer panels are a mix of formed aluminum and molded plastics.
Not That Quiet: Quiet Mode
Compared with the mild-mannered Sport mode, Quiet mode is the self-effacing, almost apologetic way to pilot a low-slung, Valencia Red Pearl–painted origami supercar through a crowd; it kills the V-6 whenever possible. It is not, however, a truly silent mode. The engine still fires when you start the car in Quiet mode, though it revs only as high as the 1500-rpm fast idle and sounds as fierce as a Honda Odyssey minivan warming its catalysts. Once the powertrain is hot, Quiet mode largely behaves like an aggressive stop-start system.
That’s the side effect of performance-enhancing electric motors. They smooth the power delivery to the point that they mask the full contribution of the gas-fed engine. Flatten the accelerator and the NSX stirs the motors, the turbos, and the reciprocating pistons into a cascade of low-end torque, midrange boost, and high-end power. If you could separate the sensation from the intake-resonance tube singing just behind your skull, it would evoke the initial torque swell of an electric vehicle with the seemingly endless pull of a 9000-rpm Porsche. Even during part-throttle shifts, gearchanges register strictly audibly, with the motors masking the momentary blip in gas-engine torque. Our VBOX test equipment, which logs data 100 times per second, failed to detect any slackening in the speed trace when the transmission shifted.
Left in automatic mode in Sport-Plus, the gearbox will downshift under braking, though not very aggressively. The transmission prefers to keep revs between 3000 and 4000 rpm, and it feels more natural to find the right gear on your own with the paddle shifters. Even then, the transmission often denies the final downshift into first gear as you slow for a stop sign, and it’s only as you stomp on the accelerator that you discover the aggravation of still being in second.
Acura resisted the temptation to provide a separate damper calibration for every drive mode, which is fine by us. The Germans often get mired in creating a different but similarly compromised tune for each drive mode. Based on feel alone, Acura’s two settings use a fairly narrow portion of the bandwidth afforded by magnetorheological dampers, with one position covering Sport-Plus and Track modes and a softer tune for Quiet and Sport.
While the softer position nicely balances ride quality and body control, the stiffer position proved too much on our 10Best loop. The NSX skipped over lumpy sections, the engine revs surging and sagging as the rear tires shifted between light and loaded, which is unsettling busyness that saps confidence. Sport mode’s more compliant damping kept the body planted and allowed a faster pace over the same stretch of road. Unfortunately, there’s no way to decouple the damper settings from the drive mode.