By Nauman Farooq
As far as automotive legends go, few cars can match the Acura NSX. It was the first Japanese sports car that could rightfully compete with the likes of Ferrari or Porsche and showed the world that a mid-engine exotic can be user-friendly and reliable.
The NSX (New Sports eXperience) can, therefore, be credited with improving the quality and reliability of sports cars the world over!
However, Acura did make a few mistakes along the way, after launching the original NSX in 1990 – as a 1991 model – chief among which was the fact that in the models entire 15 production run, Acura never really updated the car! Yes, the engine grew slightly in 1997, and 2002 saw some styling tweaks, but it was essentially the same car. To give you some idea what the competition had accomplished, when the NSX was launched, Ferrari had just put the 348tb into production, followed it with the F355, came out with the 360, and had already started producing the F430 by the time Acura pulled the plug on the NSX – so Acura (and it’s parent company, Honda) wasn’t keeping up with the times.
After the NSX production ended in 2005, Acura had no replacement model ready, and for nearly a decade after, just dabbled with what the future NSX should be – I’m just glad that front-engined concept didn’t get the green light.
Then, at the 2015 North American International Auto Show (in Detroit, Michigan, USA), Acura pulled the wraps off from what would become the production NSX. It went on sale in 2016 (as a 2017 model), and after bugging Honda/Acura Canada’s PR department for over two years, I finally got the keys to test it. So, was it worth the wait?
Before I answer that, let’s look at the 2018 NSX in detail.
Styling: Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, but in my opinion, the 2018 NSX looks fantastic. Penned by Michelle Christensen, the gen-two NSX looks like it has come from the future! There is not a straight line on this entire car, it is full of angles, grilles, ducts, and spoilers. Some might say that it looks too busy, I say, this is exactly what a supercar should look like, and if kids these days still put up posters of cars on their bedroom walls, the new NSX is certainly worthy of being a dream machine!
Interior: Open the door – which is thankfully conventional, no swing up nonsense here – and you’re greeted by a very well-built interior, which is also fairly well equipped. So, you get power seats, power windows and mirrors, automatic climate control, etc. You also get a touchscreen infotainment system, which seems to have been lifted right out of a Honda Civic – which is a bit of a let down in a car like the NSX. However, you shouldn’t buy a car like this for its infotainment system, you should buy a car like this for its entertainment, and trust me, this is a very entertaining car – more of that later!
Powertrain: Under the skin, the 2018 NSX is a tech marvel. Sitting mere inches behind your spine is a 3.5L V6 motor that features two turbochargers. That on its own would be sufficient to make a car like this fast, but Acura didn’t stop there. They also fitted it with two electric motor -one for each front wheel- which not only power the car, but also feature torque vectoring (in a corner, it slows down the inside wheel, while spinning the outside wheel faster, to aid in sharper handling). They weren’t done just yet, because between the V6 gas motor, and its nine-speed dual-clutch gearbox, lies another electric motor, to fill out any gaps in power delivery. As a result, total system output is 573 hp and 476 lb-ft of torque. That is enough grunt to push this 1725 kg vehicle from 0 to 100 km/h in just 2.7 seconds, and keep on going till it reaches a top speed of 307 km/h – so yeah, the new NSX is not a sports car, it fits in the supercar category now.
Driving Dynamics: Power is one thing, how a car feels and handles on the road is another – so how does the NSX fare? In a word, it’s brilliant!
Unlike some other vehicles that can compete with it, the NSX didn’t get a hand-me-down platform, that is used by many other models – no, Acura made a platform specifically for this vehicle. That means, they had to make no compromises, and it shows. Hence, this supercar can be hard and fast one minute, and soft and comfortable the next! It accomplishes that thanks to what Acura calls its “Active Gen III magnetorheological coilovers” which can vary stiffness based on how you want to use it. Drive this car in its “Quiet” mode, and the ride and engine noise is at the softest. There is no “Normal” mode, but you can think of the “Sport” mode as the new normal, and the car rides a bit stiffer, and the engine response is a bit sharper. To really liven things up, turn the “Dynamic Mode” dial to “Sport+” and now the gas engine stays engaged all the time, the throttle gets sharper, the gear shifts quicken up, it also holds the gears for longer, and the suspension really stiffen up – this is the mode most NSX owners should use when on public roads. The ultimate setting is “Track” mode, and this mode turns off the traction control, and is the stiffest setting for the car. Track mode also lets you engage “Launch Control” for the quickest acceleration times, and not only is it easy to use, but brutally efficient – trust me, it is worth buying this car alone for the way it accelerates off the line.
Fuel economy: A car like this is all about performance, and looking good, but the NSX manages to be responsible, too. Use the “Quiet” mode, and it uses its electric drivetrain where possible. Drive it gently, and you can quietly escape your neighbourhood, and cover short distances in complete silence. This also helped in its fuel economy rating during my test period, averaging 13.1 L/100 km in my test cycle (130 km of city driving + 170 km of highway driving), and the results would have been a lot better if I was easier on the throttle pedal.
Pricing: As you’d expect, a car like this is not going to be cheap, and it isn’t! Base price for the 2018 NSX is $192,895. Fully loaded up, with every option available, and your NSX can sticker just over $250,000 + dealer fees and taxes.
Verdict: So, is it worth the money? When compared to its competition, the 2018 NSX is not a bargain, but it is also not the most expensive vehicle in its category.
Does it satisfy the needs of a supercar buyer? Yes, it ticks all the requirements (looks, speed, tech), anyone who thinks this car is not good enough, the problem is likely with them, not the car. I know of plenty of people who are not fans of the NSX, but when you talk to them in detail, they will admit that they are badge snobs and prefer to buy a McLaren, Porsche, Audi, or Lamborghini, because they think of those as more prestigious brands.
I judge a car on what it is, not what badge it wears, and in my opinion, the 2018 NSX is not only one of the best cars I’ve driven this year, but among the best I have ever driven – and I’ve driven a lot of cars.
So, to answer the question I had posted earlier; yes, the new NSX was worth the wait.