Long before the term disruption was used to describe every locally sourced cat toy on Kickstarter, Acura released an aluminum-bodied sports car called the NSX. It was an actual disruption, delivering Ferrari performance for roughly half the Ferrari price. And unlike those touchy Italian exotics, the Honda-produced NSX didn't spend many of its days in the shop. A remarkable number of the 9,000 sold in the U.S. from 1990 to 2005 are still being used as daily drivers. Acura made few changes to the car — all the way through 2005, the year Acura's U.S. sales peaked. Only a small portion came from the NSX, but the halo supercar made the brand synonymous with tech, its glow burnishing lesser models in the showroom.
Ten years later, Acura needs a hit, badly, or at least another glow. Enter the new NSX. Like its forebear, the second-generation NSX is a high-tech tour de force. Although it starts at a hefty $157,800, the NSX is actually a value play — its powertrain combines a twin-turbocharged V-6 with three electric motors (two up front, one in the back) for a combined 573 horsepower — with a hybrid go-fast philosophy that's similar to those of the Porsche 918 and the McLaren P1, hypercars hovering around a million dollars.
After 15 laps around the Palm Springs Thermal Club racetrack, I can say the NSX's complex all-wheel-drive powertrain drives like the world's greatest video game. To correct imbalances if, say, you come into a corner too hot, the NSX generates torque to speed up one or more wheels, which stabilizes the car, decreases the radius of your turn, and allows you to get back on the accelerator quicker. The net effect: You become a better driver, and you exit the car with Dockers intact.
While some supercars prove awkward off the racetrack, the NSX's full range of character expands on the open road. On a winding, mountainous stretch, its rare, bubble-like forward visibility, aided by A-pillars that robots bend in 3-D to make them stable but as thin as possible, invited hard driving. Since you see more, you drive with more confidence.
There are a few things that the NSX is not. One, visually stunning. But the design suits the car: low drama, high function. It is also not loud. The auto world is full of sonic trickery right now; the NSX has some degree of sound control, via an electronically controlled diaphragm, but even at full tilt its cry is muted. Finally, if you think this supercar sounds un-American, well, not so fast: Unlike the first NSX, this one was designed in California and will be built in central Ohio — polite people making a brainy, muscular car with modern manners. Will this help sell Acuras? I'm not sure. But it's a safe bet you'll still see the 2017 NSX on the road come 2042.
- 537 HP
- 0–60 in 2.7 seconds
- 3,803 lbs
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