Review: The $198,000 Acura NSX lives in the shadow of its legendary predecessor but deserves so much more
- The 2020 NSX is the mildly refreshed version of
Acura's second-generation mid-engine supercar.
- It uses a twin-turbocharged V6 and three electric motors, including one for each front wheel.
- Base MSRP of the NSX comes to $157,500. After options, my loaner cost $197,995 MSRP.
I think there should be a rule for when we talk about, think about, and drive the new
And that rule is: You don't talk about the old NSX.Fans hold the OG NSX from the 1990s and early 2000s - whether deserved or not - in a sort of godly, mythical regard. It might not have the same "Fast and Furious" pop-culture clout worn by the Toyota Supra of that age, but among car people, it's in the same class: worthy of worship and a whole lot of money on the used market.
True, the new NSX doesn't have a manual transmission and all the other analog this, thats, and whatevers that people loved about the old car. The only things the two have in common are a name and the fact that they were built as specific responses to the calls of their respective eras.The first NSX was designed and built in the late 1980s. It had a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. A naturally aspirated V6. Horsepower came to 270. Since then, technology - and our own supercar expectations - have marched on by light years.
The current NSX, which finally hit showrooms in 2016, is an embodiment of this period in automotive design and technology. It answers to demands from this market.And it does the job perfectly. The new NSX uses a mid-mounted 3.5-liter, twin-turbo V6 and an electric motor to drive the rear wheels and two more electric motors to drive the front. Combined, the total system output is a claimed 573 horsepower and 476 pound-feet of torque. There's a nine-speed dual-clutch transmission. Mildly updated for the 2019 model year, Acura gave the NSX improved standard features such as dynamic chassis control, power seats, satellite navigation, front- and rear-proximity sensors, and aluminum pedals. Thermal Orange Pearl paint was introduced that year, followed by Indy Yellow Pearl in 2020 and Long Beach Blue Pearl for 2021. But it's still the same striking hybrid supercar that was introduced five years ago, and its looks haven't aged a bit.
In bold, eye-catching Pikachu-yellow, the NSX's swaths of black detailing - its wheels, intake grilles, and front bumper - contrast sharply. Around back, the massive carbon fiber diffuser claws its way out of sight beneath the car. A honeycomb mesh grille festoons the body, letting out heat here, giving the engine holes with which to breathe there.Though a hybrid, the NSX is not a plug-in hybrid. Battery-only driving is possible, but Acura declined to give a range. In Quiet mode, the car will roll forward from red lights on battery power, with the gasoline motor only kicking in when you press on the accelerator more forcefully.
It's an event when that happens too; one second, there's a futuristic and high-pitched whirring sound accompanying your zero-emission, low-speed traversing. But when the V6 kicks on, it does so with a tremor through the cabin and a throaty purr like something that's just been woken up.Climbing into the NSX demands that you do the DSD, a pretty standard supercar dance: duck to fit under the low ceiling, slide across the big sills, and drop into the bucket seats. Or, if you're my 94-year-old grandmother, you go in butt first and swing your legs in after. Both are acceptable. The NSX's skinny steering wheel fits well in the hand and, frankly, is my favorite part of the interior. Not only does it require very little arm movement to turn, but that petite wheel is also attached to some of the most direct steering I've ever used. Even the smallest inputs twiddled the front wheels, like I was the marionettist making the car dance.
And the noise? Furious. At the mid-RPMs, you're urged along by a velvety V6 rasp - more trebly than any V8 - that crescendos into a full-out roar as you ascend the rev range. Let off the throttle and you can hear the turbos whoosh encouragingly.You'll find plenty of blogs on the internet of people doing long-distance journeys in the NSX. This is because the car has been billed as the daily drivable, everyday supercar. Certainly, in Quiet mode, it's manageable on long stretches of highway.
But it's still a supercar. And as such, it comes with supercar-isms that make living with it inherently compromised.To begin, the price: My loaner, with its Indy Yellow Pearl paint, carbon-ceramic braces, carbon fiber exterior sport package, rear decklid spoiler, carbon fiber engine cover, carbon fiber interior sport package, and carbon fiber roof, came to an estimated MSRP of $197,995. The suspension: Doesn't feel like it'll atomize your bones, but I wouldn't call it soft. You'll never forget it's there.
The wing mirrors: Must stick out into the next county just to be able to see around the giant intakes behind the doors.The infotainment: Seemingly straight out of an MDX from 2014.
And the storage: Laughably bad. There's no front trunk because that's where all the hybrid stuff lives. As my mom acutely observed, "They put too many motors in it and not enough storage space."But fully expecting the NSX to have the practicality of anything else is silly. Anyone serious about it going in already knows about these -isms; hell, they might even welcome them, because, in exchange, you get a driving experience that rips just as well as other
The NSX isn't cheap by any means - the C8 Corvette is far more affordable and much newer - but every aspect of it feels tighter and more exciting than the Corvette. More special. There, I said it.On this side of the new millennium, we have turbocharged cars with so much power that they need all-wheel drive to mitigate all of it. We can give them nine gears to help with gas mileage. We have the option for electric motors and driving without using an ounce of gasoline. What might have been regarded as unthinkable witchcraft in 1990 is today's reality. It's marvelous stuff.
If you're still stuck on the idea of the original, analog Car-That Must-Not-Be-Named, then just go ahead and buy that. Don't cross-shop it with today's NSX because the two couldn't be more different.Rather, enjoy the current NSX in all its funky hybrid goodness. Don't dismiss it just because you don't like its on-paper ingredients. It deserves so much more than that. ♦♦♦
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