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First drive: Honda NSX. Image by Honda.

First drive: Honda NSX
Honda resurrects its NSX supercar, to good effect.

   



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Honda NSX

4 4 4 4 4

Model tested: Honda NSX
Price: from 137,950
Engine: 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol and triple electric motors
Transmission: nine-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: two-door, two-seat coupe
CO2 emissions: 228g/km (Band L, 490 per year)
Combined economy: 28.2mpg
Top speed: 191mph
0-62mph: 3.0 seconds (est.)
Power: 581hp at 6,500rpm
Torque: 646Nm at 2,000- to 3,500rpm

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Honda NSX
Price: from 137,950
Engine: 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol and triple electric motors
Transmission: nine-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: two-door, two-seat coupe
CO2 emissions: 228g/km (Band L, 490 per year)
Combined economy: 28.2mpg
Top speed: 191mph
0-62mph: 3.0 seconds (est.)
Power: 581hp at 6,500rpm
Torque: 646Nm at 2,000- to 3,500rpm

What's this?

The second coming: Honda's new NSX has the unenviable task of following the original aluminium 'New Sports eXperiment', a car as famous for Senna's hand in its development as it was for its disruptive effect on the sports car market.

Fast forward a generation and there's no headline development driver in heel and toeing slip-ons - though Dario Franchitti was called in for his opinion. The Scot was denied the opportunity to dance on three pedals (regardless of his footwear choice) given the NSX's specification of a nine-speed, twin-clutch automatic. Indeed, the new NSX's technical arsenal is about as far removed from the original car's as conceivable. Aluminium still features extensively in the construction, bringing useful weight savings, which help, if not entirely overcome the bulk that the NSX's complex hybrid drivetrain results in.

There are four motors in total, three electric and a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol. Two of those electric motors work on the front wheels individually, the third filling the gaps in the torque curve that those two turbochargers bring to the 3.5-litre V6. Combined, all that adds up to 581hp and 646Nm of torque, enough for the NSX to come with a 191mph top speed and although Honda's not officially quoting a 0-62mph time, insiders happily say that, in internal tests, it betters the Porsche 911 Turbo. So think 3.0 seconds give or take... plenty brisk, then.

How does it drive?

Reading the technical specifications, such as the weight (quoted at 1,763- to 1,801kg), you could easily write off the NSX before it turned a wheel. Writing off a Honda though, particularly one as significant as an NSX, isn't very clever; any preconceptions that all that technology will dominate and define the driving experience are dispelled the moment you start it up. The V6 engine barks into life with a rousing note - assuming, of course you've not selected Quiet from the four driving modes - toggling between Quiet, Sport, Sport+ and Track is as simple as turning the big dial in the centre console.

Leave it in the Quiet setting and it'll glide away on battery power alone, allowing you to escape the neighbourhood (or at least stay friendly with your closest neighbours given the short electric-only range). Sport's your daily driving mode, Sport+ adds some intensity and Track dials that up further and sees the ESP and traction control systems take a break until they're really needed.

It's on the track that the NSX initially wows; the front axle, thanks to some torque vectoring and braking on the rear axle, is sharp and precise on its turn-in. The wheel that initiates that, a weirdly profiled squared-off oddity that looks like it shouldn't work, feels natural in the hands and responds with good weight and some decent feel. The entire driving environment fits well and the view out is good too, the NSX continuing the legacy of its predecessor in that respect. It also follows it in not feeling particularly special inside, at least not in the class it finds itself in. The cabin materials betray Honda's otherwise mainstream status, the plastics in areas are more Civic than supercar. That'd be just about acceptable in a 45,000 sports car, but the NSX is treble that and counts vehicles such as Audi's R8 and McLaren's 570S as rivals. That's a potential problem.

The paddle-shifters may not have anything like the tactility of a McLaren's, but there's no denying their effectiveness. Usefully with nine ratios on offer the Honda-built dual clutch automatic shifts with faithful immediacy, it particularly adept at picking the right ratio if you choose to let it do so by itself. In Track mode, around the testing Estoril circuit in Portugal, the NSX underlines Honda's engineering prowess, the way it juggles all its motors, various chassis stability systems, brake by wire and the gearbox's nine gears is little short of extraordinary. That it does all this while feeling entirely natural is even more so, the way it masks it bulk in the process surprises, too. It's wickedly quick, full-bore launch starts catapulting it forwards with genuinely alarming force, the huge traction on offer assisting in its supercar launch prowess. That shock doesn't stop in the corners. It increases, the NSX's turn-in accurate, grip high, though there's movement on offer from the chassis if you want it, the NSX a playful, engaging car. The engine's always-ready response (thanks to the electric motor's in-fill) allows you to exploit that rotation to good effect. There's some of its predecessor's DNA in there, despite the technologically-rich specification, the engine sounding great at high revs, the brakes strong (the NSX is hugely stable under heavy braking) and there's something even managing to approach feel at the pedal.

On the track with its singular focus the NSX engages and entices, though it's lacking some of that on the road, at more ordinary speeds. The engine sounds great at 4,000rpm and above, but under that, as it is most of the time on the road, it's ordinary, with plenty of gasping from the intake system and little in the way of joyous roar. The suspension and steering still delight, but the NSX is at its best when it's pushed hard, and there are few opportunities on the road to do that. There's the chance to fiddle about with all the modes, but no individual configurability, meaning you cannot have the sharpest drivetrain settings with the supplest suspension. Nuances, and certain to be sorted in time, but it's to the NSX's detriment on the road.

Verdict

The new Honda NSX is daringly difference, but not so outrageous that it's going to put potential buyers off. Indeed, what's so surprising given its massive technical arsenal is just how conventional it feels - in a good way. It's crazy quick too, but it's a shame that it doesn't exhibit more of its character more of the time at road speeds - though that's true of much of the competition. The interior's a bit disappointing given the price point, and some configurability in the drive modes would help, but to drive there's little to fault the NSX - and a lot to like, too.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

2 2 2 2 2 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Kyle Fortune - 18 Jul 2016



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2016 Honda NSX. Image by Honda.2016 Honda NSX. Image by Honda.2016 Honda NSX. Image by Honda.2016 Honda NSX. Image by Honda.2016 Honda NSX. Image by Honda.

2016 Honda NSX. Image by Honda.2016 Honda NSX. Image by Honda.2016 Honda NSX. Image by Honda.2016 Honda NSX. Image by Honda.2016 Honda NSX. Image by Honda.








 

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