Everyone always asks, so I’m going to start with the price. It’s $888,999, but that’s without COE, so you’ll have to budge around 950 grand for your Honda NSX. Not quite a million dollars, in spite of our headline, but near enough to see it from there.
But then, the new NSX was built to run in fairly exalted circles. And it can.
The original NSX did, after all. Its lasting legacy is clearly seen in the current supercar brigade — it’s the reason all Ferraris are made of aluminium now, and are drivable on a daily basis.
So this time around, the question for Honda is a simple one: will the new NSX have anything to teach the world?
To understand the car, you’d have to first get to grips with torque vectoring.
We all do it to some extent. Say, you’re walking in a straight line and you want to turn right. You can slow down your right leg, or speed up your left leg. Doing either will put you on a rightward trajectory. The NSX can do the same, and that is its defining trick.
The standard supercar recipe is there as a base—lightweight body made of unconventional materials, powerful mid-mounted engine—but the NSX adds exotic ingredients to pull off the torque vectoring.
There’s a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 worth 507hp alone, with a 48hp electric motor to add spice. That’s for the rear axle; the front is driven by a pair of motors, each one producing 37hp.
You can’t just add all the horsepower figures since the V6 and motors all peak at different rpms, but the system total is 581hp. That’s a smidgen more than the 570hp offered by the Ferrari 458 Italia, which was one of the cars Honda benchmarked the NSX against.
All that hybrid tech makes it sound like the BMW i8, except that it’s different.
For starters, the Honda is way more powerful than the BMW, but its battery is one-seventh the size of the i8’s — just 1kWh, good for 2 or 3km of electric drive. It’s no plug-in, eco-centric hybrid, obviously. The i8 is pitched as an eco-sportscar, but the NSX is a smart supercar instead.
The “smart” part is apparent on the track. The first corner you take in anger reveals an astonishingly sorted car. It’s all there: mighty brakes, pin-sharp steering and a roll-free way of making quick direction changes. But much of the Honda’s behaviour is down to the car’s electronics.
Here’s the torque vectoring part: Those front motors can brake or add drive to individual wheels, so the NSX pivots into bends like a rebellion against Isaac Newton and his laws of physics.
In the car’s baseline “Sport” mode, the NSX feels painted to the road, but crank things up to the “Sport +” setting and it sharpens up still. The active dampers become firmer to tighten up the suspension, the steering drops its assistance a notch, and all those motors and cylinders swing their fists harder.
But it’s the torque vectoring that makes the NSX really feel unique. Slow down, turn in, accelerate… and there’s a complete and utter absence of understeer. If anything, you can feel the Honda pulling itself into a bend just where other cars would be running wide instead.
It means three things: you can take aim with the steering and nail your chosen line, every time. You can get off the left pedal much later, braking improbably deep into corners. And you can stomp on the accelerator a lot earlier than in your average supercar.
It feels weird at first, then wonderful, and makes the NSX a completely different experience. If you could somehow drive different supercars with your eyes and ears blocked off, you would always know when you were in the Honda.
That’s the “smart” bit. The “supercar” part pertains to some textbook stuff: Front/rear weight distribution is 48/52, and the car has a low centre-of-gravity (the lowest in its class, says Honda). That means it’s inherently balanced and stable, giving the number crunchers a solid base to work their active trickery off.
And boy, does it go like a supercar. Honda hasn’t published 0 to 100km/h times, but an engineer told us they think it’s a bit quicker than the Porsche 911 Turbo. Measured by buttocks, it’ll hit 100km/h in 3 seconds flat, and the acceleration doesn’t just come in a violent burst, but in a long, sustained rush.
The nine-speed transmission helps, certainly. The ratios are closely stacked, meaning the revs never drop much with each gear change. And there’s a bit of trickery with the launch control that any geek would admire.
In spite of all that electronic trickery, however, the NSX feels entirely natural. The tech works in the background, never calling attention to itself. That’s a huge achievement, really. Just imagine, you press the accelerator and the car not only has to figure out how much power you want, but how to divvy up the drive from the three motors and the V6 seamlessly.
In any case, there’s a Track mode available that alters the settings in a way that makes the NSX more of a handful. It dials some of the assistance down, allowing small tailslides if you tromp on the accelerator a little too much, too soon as you exit a corner.
There’s also the option of disabling the car’s stability control system altogether, and pull off some enormous, tyre-shredding drifts should you have that in you, which is a great way to drive home the fact that the NSX can still be driven like an old-school, analogue supercar.
Of course, no one’s ownership of a supercar consists entirely of hammering it around a track. As an everyday prospect, however, the NSX looks pretty promising. The controls are minimalist and easy to use, the seating position is pretty much perfect and the seats themselves are excellent: firm in the right places and soft where they should be.
In some ways, Honda actually seems to feel that comfort enhances performance. Engineers pressure-mapped different palm sizes to make the steering wheel feel just right, for instance. And they invented a new way of strengthening steel, just to shave 35mm off the A-pillars. Why? So it would be easier to see out of the cockpit.
In refinement terms the NSX is a 365-days-a-year car, no problems. There’s a Quiet mode designed to let you creep down the street without annoying the neighbours, but it’s great for your own comfort, too. It gives you light steering, soft suspension, and a quieter exhaust — 25dB quieter than in Track mode, as a matter of fact.
To a limited extent, the NSX can waft along silently on pure electric power, but it’s actually nicer when the engine is running. Honda put a pipe in the cabin connected to the engine’s air intake that lets you hear the hiss of induction, along with the odd whoosh from the turbo — a nice, playful touch.
If you already have a Ferrari in the garage, the NSX would make a nice addition. It’s the one you would wish to be in, driving home from a stressful board meeting.
But you could also make a case for the NSX above a Lamborghini Huracan (Lambo has no sporting pedigree) or an Audi R8 V10 (great, but technologically passe compared to the Honda) or a McLaren 570S (not nearly as fascinating).
In all honesty, it’s probably for someone like Alexander the Great. To quote Hans Gruber (the bad guy from Die Hard, who in turn was misquoting Plutarch), “When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no worlds left to conquer.”
There aren’t that many people like that around, so the NSX will probably be simultaneously blessed and cursed by exclusivity. If nothing else, it will stay rare enough that bystanders will raise their camera phones in salute when they come across one, especially since its styling is more striking in the flesh than in pictures.
And if you’re going to drop that kind of money on a car, it might as well be one that looks like a million bucks.
Engine: 3,493cc, twin-turbo V6
Motor (rear): 48hp at 3000rpm, 147Nm from 500 to 2000rpm
Motor (front): 2 x 37hp at 4000rpm, 2 x 73Nm from 0 to 2000rpm
System output: 581hp
System torque: 646Nm
Gearbox: 9-speed twin-clutch automatic
Top Speed: 308km/h
0-100km/h: 3.0 seconds (estimated)
Fuel efficiency: 10km/L
Price: $888,999 without COE
Availability: September 2017