2017 Acura NSX First Drive Preview

27 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

2016 Honda NSX Review Quick drive.

A guttural, growling 3.5-litre V6 is not a natural fit for a fuel-sipping hybrid, but it’s a hand-in-glove choice for a brazen grand touring coupe with ultra-modern styling and a price tag to match.Honda has told Auto Express it is evaluating plans to bring an all-electric sports car to the global market, based on the technology it used in a CR-Z racer.When we boarded the bus on Monday morning to Honda’s research and development headquarters in Togichi, Japan, we had no idea the 2016 Honda NSX was waiting for us at the other end.Honda has plans for a four-motor, pure-electric sports car that could sit just below the newly launched NSX in its line-up, according to well-placed insiders.

This is the way of the future perhaps; a car that is less about its environmentally-friendly credentials and more about ego-massaging dynamic ability. The original generation had a reputation of being easier to use than most of its peers, and Honda’s engineers claim they’ve used the same mantra – ‘everyday supercar’ – when developing the new version. The feeling that followed, upon learning this en route, could be likened to the nervous excitement felt as a schoolboy when your high school crush sat next to you on the school bus – mixed with the mischievous thrill of stealing some other kid’s bag and dangling it out the window as the bus hurtles the highway.

The long gestation period for the Japanese manufacturer’s hybrid supercar has allowed it to start work on several other sporting projects in parallel. Honda has developed a road-going prototype of the CR-Z, which uses four electric motors – one housed on each wheel – and a 16kwh lithium-ion battery. In effect a rival for everything from a Porsche 911 Turbo up to the latest Audi R8 and the Ferrari 488 GTB, the new NSX gets a 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine, an electric motor at each of the front wheels and a further electric motor driving both rear wheels.

Standing face-to-face with the new-generation NSX in the infield of Honda’s proving ground, it’s impossible not to admire the car’s striking exterior: sharp and sleek, muscular and menacing. These include a smaller, four-cylinder engine-based sports car and, as a higher priority, a successor to the S2000 roadster – but also a performance-focused pure EV that could showcase the next generation of Honda’s SH-AWD torque distribution system. And finally, after four years of development and the show-car circuit, the long-awaited Acura NSX from Honda, born of the original and much-loved NSX from 1990 to 2005, is back. Two laps of a banked test track at Honda’s Tochigi proving ground was nothing like enough to fully explore Honda’s long-awaited hybrid sports car, the NSX.

In the latest NSX, SH-AWD extends to a pair of electric motors at the front – one powering each wheel – and a third electric motor that supplements the 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 engine at the rear. The car is not particularly light – indeed at 1725kg, its kerb weight is 130kg up on the latest R8’s – but Honda claims that the electric motor assistance helps to deliver instant performance to overcome this. It will be 12 months until we get to see the Honda NSX on local roads – and even then only in very limited numbers – so pausing to admire is tempting, though we’re soon interrupted in the most pardonable way when a Honda R&D employee ushers us towards the car for the first drive of the session.

The 3.5-litre turbocharged V6 starts with almost a raw, race-car bark, just like a V8 Jaguar or an AMG-fettled Mercedes – and it conveys not even a hint of fuel-saving parsimony as it pins you back in the seat under full-throttle acceleration, the nine-speed Two examples of the NSX were available for testing. While the finished NSX may look largely unchanged from the concept, beneath the surface Honda essentially decided to start from scratch half way through the development process.

The NSX’s project leader would later apologise to us about the ‘rough edges’ inside our early pre-production test car, though we detected little worthy of such a description, speaking to the high levels of material quality and attention to detail we can look forward to from the real deal. It demonstrated this complex set-up with a modified CR-Z at this year’s Pikes Peak International Hillclimb, winning the Exhibition Class and posting the 11th fastest time overall.

Because each wheel is powered individually, the system can vector torque right to left and front to back – although bosses told us it isn’t possible to send 100 per cent power to either end. Both cars were limited to 180km/h around the track, which was more restrictive than it needed to be, given a front-wheel drive 1.5-litre Jade wagon for the Chinese market was pretty settled on the lowest banked lane of the track at an indicated speed of 183km/h. So, what Honda eventually came up with – as you probably know by know – is a 3.5-litre V6 twin-turbo supercar that calls upon three electric motors to supplement power. Another unique feature of the prototype over other EVs is Honda’s Precision All-Wheel Steer system, which allows the rear wheels to turn up to angles of three degrees to aid handling and agility. The front two wheels get a total of 72bhp, and the NSX varies the output to each wheel to help you turn in to corners, or to aid stability after a quick manoeuvre.

The brakes are electrically operated, and pressure can be adjusted depending on the style of driving, from softer for around town, to harder for more aggressive driving. The transmission already mentioned is operated by buttons in the centre console, using a new configuration that Honda plans to introduce across a range of cars over the next few years. Two electric motors bolted onto the front axle develop 73Nm of torque a piece, while a third motor nestles between the V6 engine and a nine-speed dual clutch gearbox producing a further 143Nm of torque.

No information has been given on when the car might make production, but with more and more car makers eyeing up all-electric sports cars, there’s no time like the present. If you’re considering an NSX over the likes of the R8 or 911 Turbo, you’ll want to know what its straight-line acceleration feels like – and the good news is that it does feel supercar fast. Now we have to think about the commercialisation of it.” The CR-Z Pikes Peak racer had a 444bhp combined output and weighed 1800kg (thanks to a jumbo 50kWh battery and a heavy-duty roll cage designed to protect both it and the driver); the roadgoing mule driven ahead of the Tokyo show has around 250bhp and weighed 1600kg, but Honda engineers have indicated that it could run at 350bhp with relative ease. It’s quite straightforward to use, but signals that Honda is joining Ferrari in the league of high-prestige sports cars that have done away with the awfully archaic gear lever.

No sooner do we begin to take in the transmission cluster that snakes its way down the middle of the centre tunnel than we are instructed to hit the red glowing button that sits at its head. The car currently has a 16kWh battery but engineers say they need to target range of 300 miles “to make customers satisfied”; that’s likely to bring extra weight that will add a few tenths to the car’s current 0-62mph time of 3.5sec. The gearshifts – operated by paddles mounted behind the steering wheel – are fast and the rev counter flashes red when you need to change up to another gear. To give you some context, that’s 80kg heavier than an AMG GT S, 170kg more than an Audi R8 V10 Plus and frankly ridiculous 412kg bulkier than the carbon-tubbed McLaren 570S. That’s because the targeted range of the production version and the need to use lithium-ion batteries are likely to drive up the price – not to as high a point as the NSX’s, but feasibly as high as $100,000, or £65,000.

As a bonus, this electric wonder car offered tactile steering feel at speed, but the weight could be dialled out at low speeds by opting for one of the operating modes that change the steering assistance and the drivetrain’s operating parameters. However, our impressions are generally positive; this feels like a car with a wide range of abilities, as well suited to comfortable cruising as thrashing along a B-road. What none of the NSX’s rivals have, however, is the ability to call upon electric assistance to stoke the fire that is the internal combustion engine. In Sport mode (and in the more aggressive Sport+), the shift paddles could be used for more engine braking, although the regenerative braking produced that to a significant degree anyway. This also means, however, that we’re largely numb to the NSX’s ride and handling prowess, as the runway-smooth banked lanes of the NASCAR-style ring ask little from the steering and chassis.

Behind the wheel, the NSX is just like any other Honda – good driving position that is quickly and easily sorted, along with snug but comfortable seats. The NSX has a lot of expectations to live up to, considering its first iteration was such a success, but this brief drive shows the new one has more than plenty of promise to deliver. With the transmission still in regular drive mode, we flick the paddles in a naive attempt to extract even greater acceleration from the powertrain, though are swiftly put in our place as the transmission takes back control and files seamlessly through the tightly packed ratios that Honda likens to those of a sports bike. Peak torque arrives at only 2,000rpm and begins to tail off around 4,000rpm later, so the pick up is almost immediate with the electric motors providing boost while the turbos spool up. However, the cabin itself is a mixed bag on quality; the seats get a pleasing covering of Alcantara and leather, but the fascia is a bit of a mishmash of bespoke parts and bits that you’ll notice from regular Hondas.

Steering wheel mounted paddles give you access to the nine ratios, and at times we did find ourselves having to glance down at the digital readout to see what gear we were in given the sheer amount of them. But the overwhelming sense among the mob – who just hours earlier thought they were here to sample Honda’s latest hydrogen fuel cell drivetrain among myriad other futuristic technologies – was that Honda has created something quite special in the reborn NSX.

Indeed, even if you have already told your local dealer that you’d like an NSX, you’re still unlikely to get your car until the second half of next year at the earliest. We’ll have to wait for a more extensive drive to know for sure, and to determine if it lives up to its $200,000-plus anticipated price tag and the famous NSX badge. The NSX doesn’t really feel any more usable than a 911 or an R8, and while its trick hybrid set-up trumps both of those rivals, its cabin finish is a step behind them. If you’re in the market for a car like this, then Honda’s offering is an interesting, worthy addition to your shortlist – but we’re not sure that it would be right at the top of it.

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