Up: Affordable for supercar standards, built rock solid, so much fun to switch between modes
Down: Something about the nose…
Neutral: Honda may have developed the best daily driving supercar around… again.
Back in 1990, the geniuses at Honda Motor Co. developed the single most reliable mid-engined supercar of all time, the NSX. It was the first chassis made entirely out of aluminum, had an unheard of 270 horsepower V6, and a shocking 8000 rpm redline. The NSX was supposed to be a Ferrari killer from Japan that you could drive every day. The only problem was that it didn’t sell.
At least, not as well as Honda had hoped. Honda moved 6000 units the first year the NSX was available and sales dwindled each year following. During its 15 year production run, other brands such as Ferrari and Porsche kept developing newer and fresher cars while the NSX sat mostly unchanged on its shelf and grew stale. Ironically, like most Hondas, the NSX’s value held solid. It sold for $60,000 in 1991 and nearly $90,000 during its last production year in 2005. Today you’d be hard pressed to find one in good condition for under $40,000 while pristine later models go for over $100,000.
So how’d we get here? What is this new NSX and why should we be excited about it? All car enthusiasts remember the Acura ASCC concept with a V10 engine from 2007, Tony Stark’s NSX thing from the Avengers in 2011, the new “official” concept followed by the Jay Leno/Jerry Seinfeld commercial in 2012, and then the completed car unveiled at the 2015 National American International Auto Show. It was a long road but fans were finally treated to a twin-turbo’d, V6 engined, and electric motored supercar with the NSX badge that went on sale in 2016 starting at $156,000. Those are all really impressive numbers. Will it be a Ferrari or Porsche killer? No. But I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon driving this one and yes, we should definitely be excited about it.
The first step to understanding the 2017 Acura NSX is understanding just what the heck segment it fills. At $156,000, it starts at around $100,000 less than the Ferrari 488 GTB, but doesn’t quite go 200 mph. It’s quicker and cheaper than a base Audi R8 V10, but the R8 V10 Plus blows a top spec’d NSX out of the water for a similar price. Then there’s the NSX’s close cousin also from Japan, the Nissan GT-R. But even GT-R Nismo doesn’t have electric motors and the engine is still in the front so it isn’t quite cool enough. So where exactly does this new Acura fit in? Just about every other automotive reviewer will scoff at me but I think the 2017 NSX is the best daily driving supercar on sale today. Seriously.
Let’s start with the dealership experience and how it compares to higher priced exotics. When you walk into an Acura showroom you expect to see cars built by Honda but are nicer than Hondas, and you do, but there is also the NSX customization center. I got to play around with it while I was waiting for my drive and it’s really cool. The station features a large HD screen where you can literally build your NSX in house and see how it looks at different angles. If you are even more meticulous, which you rightfully should be when spending over $150,000, you can open the drawers below the screen and hold in your hand actual samples of exterior paint colors and interior leathers. I’ve been in Ferrari and McLaren dealerships and although they dedicate an entire section of their showroom to their display, this is a similar experience.
While you’re building it you’ll notice that there are tons of way to configure and customize it that will make your NSX unique. There are multiple paint colors unique to this car, interior color options, headliner options, wheel options, brake options, and the list goes on. Almost every exterior add-on you can get color matched or in carbon fiber, and on the interior you can choose leather, Alcantara, and plenty of carbon fiber. To top it off, each car comes with an engraved plate on the engine cover that displays the car’s build number. This one is #308.
Once you’ve made your purchase, your Acura NSX is delivered with even more goodies to make your experience memorable. You will receive two models—one small and one a bit bigger—of your specific full-sized NSX, a folder containing your full spec list, and an original illustration by the NSX’s designer. I’ve always really like extra goodies because it not only shows that the manufacturer cares about their car, but also their customer.
So you’ve got your car, your goodies, and hopefully a well-negotiated free hat, so it’s time to take a drive! Luckily, I got to do this part without having to buy it but it was no less special. Before I get to how awesome this car is I’ll go through what spec I drove because rarely will you see a completely base model. This NSX had the carbon ceramic brakes ($10,600), ELS Studio Audio ($3,300), carbon fiber interior sport package ($2,900), semi-aniline leather seats ($2,500), the machined interwoven wheels ($1,500), and the black Alcantara headliner ($1,300) bringing this NSX in at $180,600. Yeah that seems like a good chunk of change, but the carbon ceramic brakes and carbon fiber interior are must haves in my opinion!
So let’s fire it up, eh? The first thing I noticed when sitting in the NSX is how cozy and comfortable it was. The seats didn’t firmly tell my back that we would only be racing and more so let me know that it was ready to go for a drive. The steering wheel has a beautiful carbon fiber weave and is flat on both the top and bottom. Along the interior there is no b.s. button placement and everything is right where you would expect it to be. The only thing in this car you wouldn’t see in your car is the drive mode selector and the gear selector. There’s a knob under the radio/climate control that allows you to select what mode you’re driving in and in the center console there are buttons for park, neutral, reverse, and drive instead of a shift knob. Even your 16 year old kid can’t accidentally go into reverse while driving in here.
After adjusting the seat, steering wheel, and mirrors like a responsible driver, I pushed the button to start the 500 horsepower 3.5 liter twin turbo’d V6 and hear it growl. Nothing. “Is it on?” I asked. It turns out that the NSX was in Quiet mode which turns off the engine when you’re stopped and allows you to drive on electric power until you go over around 2000 rpms. That was neat and all, but I wanted to get down to business so I switched into Sport+ mode and took off.
The first thing I noticed is that this car is built rock solid. Nothing is loose, nothing rattles, nothing shakes. Honda stayed true to the original NSX mantra by making it feel like it can, and probably will, last forever. It’s also like driving multiple cars wrapped into one. While driving down a normal road in Sport+ mode you can feel every single bump, crack, and pebble in the road just how you would expect in a car like this. But once you flip back down to Sport or even Quiet mode, it’s just as comfortable as a TLX. And in Track mode… let’s be honest, I stayed away from Track mode. But I can’t emphasize enough on how seamless switching between modes is. It’s truly amazing technology.
That’s not to say I didn’t have any fun at all! It turns out that the same technology that allows you to drive around silently also allows you to drive way faster… 73 horsepower faster! There are three electric motors in the NSX that allow for quicker acceleration and sharper handling. The first two electric motors are in the front and they power the front wheels. They can deal out torque instantaneously for quick pulls and sharp, precise turning. The third electric motor is attached to the driveshaft and fills in any lagging gaps in the turbo or while shifting. Finally, the heavy battery is mounted low and in the center for amazing car balance. This is million dollar technology found on McLaren P1s and Ferrari LaFerraris for 1/10th of the price!
How does that equate to driving on the road? It’s fast. It’s not as raw as the Ford GT or as brutal as the McLaren 12C, but it’s really fricken fast. It’s “make a Nissan 370Z look like it’s standing still from launch” fast (Not that I would know…). When you do a pull you hear the V6 snarl and the turbos spool and ultimately blow off to send shivers down your spine. It also handles like how I wish every car handled. Testing it on a curvy road doesn’t even make the NSX sweat. It goes exactly where you point it and asks, “Is that all you got?”. But bring the NSX back onto a normal, construction ridden Sioux Falls road and throw it in Quiet mode and you’re back in a completely different, much more comfortable car.
So I’ve given this car a ton of praise, but is there any downside? Some may groan about the trunk space but I’d be willing to bet your trunk is empty 95% of the time anyways so that’s a non-factor to me. The NSX definitely looks more Japanese and less Italian exotic, but some would argue that’s a good thing. The only gripe I might have, and it’s slightly petty, is that something seems a little “plasticy” about the nose. I know there’s a ton of aero and purpose to it, but there is opportunity for improvement there. Perhaps the new grille design coming on the 2018 Acura models? Hint, hint.
Unlike many supercars I’ve either driven or ridden in, the 2017 Acura NSX is the one I’ve least wanted to end my time with. A McLaren 675LT is just too fast for the brain to handle and a Maserati Gran Turismo just isn’t quite exiting enough to perform in every situation. The NSX is an incredible supercar but also has a certain tameness to it. Kind of like a kitten lying on its back. It likes when you’re gentle but is also is ready to wrap its claws around you and bite at an instant (cat owners will know what I mean). I really didn’t want to end my time with this car and I would love to drive one every day.
This 2017 Acura NSX was courtesy of Tom Borchard at Vern Eide Acura in Sioux Falls, SD and is for sale right now. If you have the means, and are on the fence about the NSX, go see for yourself today!