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Driven: Honda NSX (2019MY). Image by Mark Riccioni.

Driven: Honda NSX (2019MY)
Not much has changed for the updated 581hp hybrid supercar, but what has changed has undoubtedly improved the formula.

   



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Honda NSX (2019MY)

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: facelift and tech updates for 2019MY have undoubtedly improved the mighty NSX Mk2, Thermal Orange Pearl paint is an absolute must

Not so good: stingy (and hot) boot, still lacks that last degree of driver involvement and excitement that a 190,000 supercar really ought to possess...

Key Facts

Model tested: Honda NSX (2019MY)
Price: NSX from 189,950 as tested
Engine: 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine with three electric motors and lithium-ion battery
Transmission: nine-speed DCT twin-clutch automatic, SH-AWD all-wheel drive
Body style: two-door hybrid supercar
CO2 emissions: 242g/km (VED Band 226-255 Alternative Fuel Cars: 1,805 in year one, then 455 years two-six of ownership, then 135 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 28mpg
Top speed: 191mph
0-62mph: sub-3.0 seconds
Power: petrol 507hp at 6,500-7,500rpm, rear electric motor 48hp at 3,000rpm, Twin Motor Unit (TMU) twin front motors 37hp + 37hp at 4,000rpm, quoted system maximum 581hp at 6,500rpm
Torque: petrol 550Nm at 2,000-6,000rpm, rear electric motor 148Nm at 500-2,000rpm, TMU twin front motors 73Nm + 73Nm at 0-2,000rpm, quoted system maximum 646Nm from 2,000-6,000rpm
Boot space: 110 litres

Our view:

As difficult second albums go, surely nobody could have had a tougher job than Honda in trying to follow up on the original NSX, an utterly seminal creation. A number of false dawns came and went in the years following the Mk1's demise in 2005, until the hybrid Mk2 finally arrived in 2016. All three electric motors and 581hp of it. Whereupon it received positive but not ecstatic critical reviews.

Tough gig, you see. And our opinion is no different to the mainstream consensus when it comes to trying to appraise the latest NSX. In 2018, we were given the singularly lucky opportunity to drive a pre-facelift Mk2 to Belgium and back, racking up hundreds of miles in the process in NSX 999, Honda UK's Nouvelle Blue Pearl example. And while we came away from that trip with masses of admiration for the Honda flagship, we also didn't fall in love with it... mainly because of the presence of MY05 NSX on the same trip, which was just so much more alluring in every regard.

Not to be deterred, for the 2019 model year, Honda had a fiddle around with the NSX Mk2. The power and torque remain the same, but when you've got 581hp and 646Nm thumping through a whipcrack nine-speed dual-clutch transmission and all four tyres, thanks to Honda's Sport Hybrid All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system, then you find that the petrol-electric drivetrain makes a mockery of the NSX's portly 1,776kg kerb weight to turn in a stunning 0-62mph time of sub-three seconds. Oh, and 191mph flat out, too. So you don't really need any more grunt, because it's already in another league entirely, compared to the original NSX, when it comes to speed.

Where it perhaps fell down was on the subject of driver involvement, so the 2019MY changes tried to address such shortcomings. The brief explanation from Honda is that the 'NSX gains new geometry for increased compliance over marked surfaces, as well as increased steering feel and a sharper turn-in'. The expansion of what that means precisely is that the front and rear anti-roll bars increased in size, in turn improving the car's torsional rigidity by 26 and 19 per cent respectively. The rear carrier hubs and the control-arm toe-link bushings at the back were toughened up, while recalibration work was carried out on the SH-AWD control software, the EPAS set-up, the Vehicle Stability Assist system and also the NSX's adaptive dampers. The mid-mounted, twin-turbo, 3.5-litre V6 gained new injectors and the turbochargers themselves were said to have 'better heat-responsiveness'. To satisfy emissions laws, a particulate filter was added to clean up exhaust nasties, while specially-developed Continental SportContact 6 tyres were drafted in for the 19-inch front, 20-inch rear alloys.

All very noble. And, visually speaking, there were a few tweaks too. New interior upholstery colours came in, while there was the option to drape the car in lots of exterior carbon fibre and/or paint its brake callipers a different colour. At the front, the chrome upper front grille surround was switched for a body-coloured item, while all the mesh in the front and rear bumpers became gloss black. All told, the mechanical changes were said to make this facelifted Mk2 NSX two seconds quicker around the Suzuka circuit than the pre-facelift analogue, but would they be enough to make the NSX desirable enough to justify a price tag that, on current exchange rates, hovers around the 200,000 mark? Time for us to find out with a UK-based test drive.

First things first, another addition for the 2019MY was the Thermal Orange Pearlescent finish you see here, which looks absolutely magnificent. The NSX Mk2 never lacked for kerb appeal in the first place, but finishing it in searing tangerine paint gives it the true star quality that a mid-engined supercar deserves. The interior is not quite as gobsmacking, of course, and perhaps not up to the standards of the leading lights in the NSX's exalted market sector, although - clunky Honda infotainment aside - it feels a lot more special than any other cabin from the marque. Which is to say, the switchgear and displays don't feel like they're lifted from something mundane, such as the HR-V, instead giving the impression (as they should) that they're bespoke to the hybrid supercar.

And it has lost none of its thoroughly astonishing power. The Honda's monumental pace is so easily accessible and readily deployable, at all road and engine speeds and irrespective of the drive mode, that it can still startle you with just how savagely it'll fire at the horizon if you depress the throttle pedal to any meaningful degree. Glowing mentions here for the SH-AWD system and the gearbox, both of which operate with distinguished discretion, allowing you to focus on the job of controlling such a phenomenally fast car on tighter roads.

We're also extremely delighted to tell you that you can feel the difference between pre- and post-facelift NSXs when it comes to those very characteristics Honda itself mentioned earlier: steering feel and turn-in. The former remains among the pack, rather than leading the way in this sector if you consider the set-up on some of its direct rivals, but it's definitely more rewarding to operate than previously and it's also markedly more informative for its driver to boot. Meanwhile, 'sharper' turn-in somewhat does a disservice to the rabid manner in which the front end of the NSX will seek out the apex of a bend; in the dry, the Honda comes mighty close to that dangerous piece of terminology known as 'unstickable'. All ends up, dynamically speaking it is an epic vehicle and incredibly enjoyable, but it continues to lack that nuanced magnificence that goes with the truly scintillating sports-, super- and hypercars operating in the realm of machines with six-figure price tags.

However, where the NSX still stands comparison with the very best in the world is for usability. Trying, with every ounce of self-control we have, not to make that bloody awful analogy about the docile manners of a Civic, if you had to have just one 550hp mid-engined supercar in your life and one alone, look no further than the Honda. While it has a feeble 110-litre boot which, due to its location aft of the V6, is nothing more than a small, carpeted oven, and the interior storage solutions (plug-in cupholder stashed in the glovebox, anyone?) are laughable, it is nevertheless a dream supercar to use as an everyday conveyance. The ride quality is notably improved by the 2019MY updates to the dampers, the NSX oozing its way effortlessly along motorways, and furthermore it marshals its petrol/electric resources convincingly. Across 332 miles in its company, this heavy, AWD, petrol-powered supercar recorded a remarkable 25.1mpg overall, with a motorway best of 28.6mpg - a figure in excess of the quoted combined data. Add in easy ingress/egress to the cabin and excellent visibility out in all directions, and the Honda continues to leave its more exotic competitors looking a bit recalcitrant and inhospitable in comparison.

This is a supercar which has upped its game as a result of its updates, that much is for certain. Which means that what you've got here with the NSX facelift is a blindingly fast, devastatingly attractive, hugely amenable and yet engaging-to-drive machine which is beautifully engineered and a shining credit to its parent company. That difficult second album finally remastered into something approaching true greatness. But is it the best car of its type? With regret, as we pride ourselves on being huge fans of the Japanese marque... no, it isn't. For whatever indefinable reason, the NSX Mk2 still doesn't have that little sparkle of magic, that strange quality which makes you yearn for it once it has gone. For a car costing at least 190,000, it simply doesn't have quite enough of the 'wow' factor to allow it to properly challenge the likes of McLaren, Ferrari, Lamborghini et al.

And then there's one final point to be made. While the second-generation Honda supercar is technically amazing, if you were to ask us to choose in a straight fight of desirability between a late Mk1 NSX and this upgraded Mk2, then there really is no choice: we'd have the motor from 2005 in a heartbeat. That, in a nutshell, is the 2019MY NSX's biggest problem - the very car which paved the way for it to exist in the first place. Tsk.

Alternatives:

Audi R8 V10 Coupe performance: a similarly 'establishment-challenging' supercar, the Audi R8 has a much more alluring engine than the Honda and a nicer cabin. NSX is markedly quicker, though.

McLaren 600LT: it's OK saying this is a much more focused car than the NSX, but the magical 600LT is the same money as the Honda and while it might not have hybrid power, it is the superior vehicle dynamically speaking.

Porsche 911 Turbo S: this link takes you to a review of the 580hp/750Nm 991.2 Turbo S, which we'd already say is a tiny bit more enjoyable than the 2019MY NSX. So where will the Honda stand when the confirmed 650hp/800Nm 992 Turbo S lands?


Matt Robinson - 23 Mar 2020



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2020 Honda NSX UK test. Image by Mark Riccioni.2020 Honda NSX UK test. Image by Mark Riccioni.2020 Honda NSX UK test. Image by Mark Riccioni.2020 Honda NSX UK test. Image by Mark Riccioni.2020 Honda NSX UK test. Image by Mark Riccioni.

2020 Honda NSX UK test. Image by Mark Riccioni.2020 Honda NSX UK test. Image by Mark Riccioni.2020 Honda NSX UK test. Image by Mark Riccioni.2020 Honda NSX UK test. Image by Mark Riccioni.2020 Honda NSX UK test. Image by Mark Riccioni.








 

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