Since decades ago, Honda had already shown its capability to beat its American competitors at their own field by building better cars and marketing them for more affordable prices. Trying to make a difference, the Japanese automaker shifted its sight to a market it hadn’t yet subjugated, namely the mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive supercar.
If we want to trace back, the first-gen Honda NSX actually originated as the HP-X or Honda Pininfarina eXperimental concept. It was a great idea that Honda got the Italian design house Pininfarina to make its concept. After all, it aimed to create a supercar with typical European style.
Like many concepts at the time, the HP-X had a bit strange look, but engineering sciences introduced on it and Honda’s F1 team eventually made the NS-X or New Sportscar eXperimental.
The first NSX hit the roads in 1990, boasting the first all-aluminum body in the world. It also featured a frame and engine that were comparable to those of Ferrari for almost half the cost. There were at least 8,900 NSXs sold across the globe before Honda discontinued the making in 2005. The Japanese automaker wouldn’t revive the NSX until 2016.
Initially, Honda senior officials had planned to launch the second-gen NSX in 2010, but the plan was cancelled due to the global depression. So Honda had to wait until market conditions improve. In 2012, the NSX Concept made its debut at the Detroit Auto Show, and three years later the production model arrived for 2016.
The 2016 NSX come with a lot of improvements over its predecessor. Even its name now has a revised definition: New Sports eXperience. This new generation retains the same goal as the old one, that is to rival European supercars at a more affordable price.
The Honda NSX is a hybrid supercar packing three electric motors and a rear-mounted 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 engine. The engine alone develops 500 hp, and the three electric motors boost the total output to 573 hp and 476 lb-ft torque.
With an electric motor turning each front wheel and the last motor and engine powering the rear wheels, the NSX has complete torque vectoring all-wheel-drive. It also benefits from instant and powerful torque produced by its electric motors, which enables the car to accelerate to 60 mph from a standstill in just 2.9 seconds. Top speed is clocked at 191 mph, with a quarter-mile time in 10-second range.
The NSX manages its power through a 9-speed dual-clutch transmission. Each of its wheel sports regenerative Brembo brakes. Drive modes are available in four selectable options include Sport, Sport Plus, Track, and Quiet; each of these fine-tune the steering, throttle response, stability control, and brake according to the asked level of performance. Quiet mode turns off the V6 engine and lets the three electric motors silently propel the NSX.
In contrast, Track mode opens the vehicle’s active exhaust system so the scream of the V6 heart can be fully unleashed.
The NSX may not have the sort of active aerodynamics like many other European supercars today, but each body panel has been carefully examined to generate the right amount of cooling and downforce. Its design is also ideal to lessen drag as much as possible, with minimum touches like flush door handles for an added air of sleek speed to the vehicle.
Aircraft-grade aluminum materials cover most parts of the NSX, but one version with a carbon fiber roof or rear decklid spoiler is actually requestable.
The NSX comes with a remarkably gorgeous exterior. You can park it next to a McLaren and a Lamborghini and their togetherness will look absolutely alright. The interior, meanwhile, leaves a little to be wanted. Yes, you can see necessary amounts of carbon fiber accents, leather and Alcantara on every surface, but you will notice too that some components are pretty inexpensive.
For instance, the 7.0-inch infotainment display appears like it was derived straight from a 2012 Honda Acura. The menu system also appears to be dated, and there seems to be no 4G LTE nor Wifi capability. One could say that such features are already available on a smartphone so they’re not really important for a car. Still, that gives some cheap and dated impression to the car’s interior.
Compare it to the McLaren 570S. At about $190,000, the 570S is $32,500 more expensive than the $157,500 NSX. It has same size infotainment display, but its center console, instrument cluster and wheel are far cleaner. The NSX does pack more grunt than the 570S’s 562 hp, it loses badly in terms of interior design.
Does this make the 570S $32,500 more attractive? It doesn’t necessarily mean so, but when one has decided to shell out $157,500 on a supercar, of course he wants to see more than just a great look and performance, but a nicer interior too.
The NSX still manages to achieve its classic goal of being a mid-engine Japanese supercar with European styling that can beat any foreign competitor in its price category. It can even rival more costly models like the McLaren 570S or the Ferrari 488.
But the NSX today is in its odd times in automobile annals, where buyers who are rich enough to get a $157,500 supercar can just as easily get one twice as much. Competing on price is just not enough these days, a supercar has to be outstanding. And the NSX is just great in performance and a bit more.
However, there’s no denying that the original NSX has held its value over the times whereas most supercars from the Europe haven’t. Maybe we can only see the real value of a car after it exits production.