It’s not new news that Honda is to resurrect their highly respected NSX supercar moniker, with the new hybrid NSX scheduled to go on sale in 2015. What is news however is that the all-new car will be engineered and built at the firm’s new Performance Manufacturing Centre in Ohio, U.S.A. Cue sucking of air through teeth!
Now we can all make Clarkson-style gags at the Yanks’ expense when it comes to cars, but, fair play to them, in (very) recent years, cars like the Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang have delivered some pretty tasty thrills for not too much dollar; mixing V8 grunt ‘n’ bark with a lively rear axle, bad-ass styling and at least respectable cornering ability.
But supercar-building in Ohio? And not just any supercar – one of the most respected and loved supercars of the modern age – the eagerly awaited new model of the super-high-tech-for-its-time Honda NSX. But, before we talk more about the new NSX – with its mid-mounted V6 petrol engine and new Sport Hybrid SH-AWD (Super Handling All Wheel Drive – so Japanese!) four-wheel drive system – can I just say that I’m just not that mad on the old NSX.
Yes, I said it, and yes I understand why people love ‘em, but having driven a brand new one from London to Le Mans and back a few years ago, I have to say that it didn’t blow me away like I thought it would. It was just too good…
Too much grip to be scary and too composed to be lairy; too refined to be exciting – it just didn’t feel like it was doing 0-60mph in 5 and a bit seconds. I had 150mph out of it and it was easily as cool as a well-dressed cucumber, and while I don’t want a car to constantly threaten to kill me every time we touch the ton-and-a-half, I want to feel fast and a little edgy when I’m going quick. The NSX felt welded to the road.
As for the 3-litre, 270bhp, V6 VTEC (variable valve timing) petrol engine that still red-lines at a still-heady-to-this-day 8,000 rpm, it didn’t feel racy enough to me, even though it’s packed with racing goodies like forged pistons and titanium connecting rods. It didn’t seem to spin up that quick as I blipped the throttle – like a sweet naturally aspirated engine should – and the airbox note was too muted and mumbling for my liking.
All of this is perhaps not the old NSX’s fault. I’ve been a passenger in an NSX driven by a man who really knows how to drift, and while even he sometimes struggled to get the grip-tastic NSX to slide on a dry track, he did coax some pretty decent sideways action out of it. You see, for an average driver like me that can get a bit lairy on the track from time to time, getting an NSX to play up requires too much on-the-limitness to be fun.
However, to defend a car that almost everyone loves – a shabby used one will still cost around £20k! – I think it looks great – just like I’d imagine a Honda supercar of that era would and should – and the engineering inside did the Honda boys very proud indeed. At the time, all-aluminium bodies and suspension (saving over 200kg over steel), titanium bits, an 8k rev-limit, and racecar-like handling were simply unheard of in mass market cars. Sure, the NSX when new wasn’t exactly cheap, but you got so much tech, engineering and exotic material for your money that the car immediately became a legend. The fact the Ayrton Senna advised with the handling and chassis development helped in this regard, too.
So what of the all-new NSX? Well, of course, it’ll be 25 years between the old and the new NSX by the time the next model hits the dealers, and much has changed in that quarter-century. The new car keeps a similar silhouette to its predecessor, with its forward-loaded cabin and mid-mounted V6 engine, and the materials are again said to be light in weight and exotic in origin.
But, we don’t know how much power the V6 petrol motor will make, or indeed what sort of grunt the three electric motors in the all-wheel drive hybrid system – one working with the petrol motor driving the rear wheels and two up front that can instantly send a negative or positive response to the front wheels (torque vectoring) to help ‘pull’ the new NSX through the corners – will bring to the power party either.
The new car will doubtless be much more efficient than the old NSX – where you had to rev the engine hard to find decent power and torque – and with a raft of complex electronics and a new extra angle on luxury, it’ll likely be more relatively expensive than the 90s NSX too.
Can such an NSX capture the enthusiasts’ imagination like the old car did? Well, it’ll need to be a ground-breaker for a start, and in the modern era of Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren supercars, much of the revolutionary automotive excitement of late has already been seen. Honda know plenty about incredible engines, innovation and engineering, but up against the new 903bhp McLaren P1 hybrid, for example – that makes the Space Shuttle look like paper aeroplane for technology – the new Honda will have to be pretty science-fiction-fast to wow the supercar-savvy-crowds.
As for engineering it in Ohio, goodness knows. The thing that usually captivates me about Honda products is that they are engineered with incredible detail, by Japanese engineers. Committed and tireless individuals that think of nothing but innovation and excellence, with form following function, and that function usually dictating an all-business, distinctly hardcore form that’s pure razor-sharp technology in the eyes of this petrol head. Can an American engineering facility pull off a new Honda beast from the east? I’m not convinced it’ll have the racer’s edge that I’d want from a new Honda supercar, but I expect it’ll corner like it’s on magnetic rails. American heads will roll, Samurai-style, otherwise!
The original NSX in facelift form with ‘revealed’ headlights
Series one NSX with pop-up headlights. The original Japanese supercar
NSX-R – lighter, faster; much more expensive
By Dan Anslow