N THE years since the original NSX, Honda has been struggling to find its performance groove.
Not just a waste of time and money, the NSX’s elongated gestation is a sign that Honda had a hard time figuring out what its own flagship should be.
But that’s all water under the bridge. At last, we have a car – and some specs. A 3.5-litre dry-sump twin-turbo V6 revs to 7500rpm and makes 375kW and 500Nm, but thanks to a pair of front electric motors and a bigger, single electric motor mounted in the rear (much like the BMW i8’s set-up) the NSX is good for a combined output of 427kW and 646Nm. No 0-100km/h claims yet, but with launch control and nine tightly-stacked gears in a dual-clutch ’box, expect the NSX to shuttle its battery-laden 1725kg to triple figures somewhere around the 3.0sec mark.
It’s hoped the weight penalty is offset by the NSX’s tech. Torque lag was a risk with 15psi boost, but the electric motors jump in at lower revs and gift the power delivery with an almost naturally-aspirated linearity.
The front electric motors can also operate independently of engine and each other, offering true torque vectoring ability. Electric-only mode is also available, but Honda isn’t saying what the car’s range is yet. It’s not a hybrid of the plug-in sort, either.
The interior at least is sumptuous and hardly feels related to a Jazz. The car has great straight-line grunt, and the electric motors work with the turbo donk to provide almost lag-free thrust – at lower revs at least. And the V6 sounds okay, even if it won’t really have you winding down the windows in tunnels. But, like most hybrids, the NSX is dead silent when you fire it up and, after the first little while driving it on the road, we were a bit worried.
The steering won’t be winning awards, bereft of feel and needing more work with the way it loads up, but Honda has engineering reasons why this is the case (to make all the I tech in the front-end work). Still, not entirely confidence inspiring.
All-’round grip levels are low-ish, too, owing perhaps to the unusual decision to fit sporty, rather than racy, Continental ContiSportContact 5Ps (though the bewitching Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s are optional). It was to make the NSX more daily friendly, Honda says. Instead you’ll find understeer that arrives a little too early, and is not as easily fixable on the throttle as its torque-vectoring claims might lead you to believe.
'Try it in Track mode,' encouraged the engineers. So we did.
We hesitate to use the word transformed, but that’s exactly the effect this mode has on the car, turning the NSX from something mildmannered into an animal. Suddenly the engine barks an octave higher, the transmission borders on explosive and the chassis gains bite. It really is an entirely different car. In Track mode the NSX handles like an NSX ought to, mostly neutral but open to a sideways, corner-exit power-wriggle.
Still, the NSX is strangely unfulfilling. Its handling is sometimes inconsistent at the ragged limit, with the hybrid systems not able to keep up; the NSX defaulting for all intents and purposes to a rear-drive machine.
The engineers made a car to be stable and safe at the limit for novice drivers. They wanted it quiet enough so that it didn’t attract dirty looks from pedestrians. They nailed their target. But it was the wrong target.
The NSX is what happens when the world’s most rational car company builds the world’s most irrational vehicle, a supercar. For entertainment purposes Honda should’ve built-in some more irrationality.
Yes, the original NSX was supremely liveable. But it also hid a wild side.
Contrary to original impressions, there’s nothing wrong with this NSX, except for that lack of confidence.
Apparently a quarter of the NSX’s final tuning is still to be done before it goes on sale next year (late 2016 for Oz, for around $250K) – so there’s still time for some extra mongrel to be engineered into it, at least in any of its modes that aren’t Track.
We’re hoping, much like the case of Honda showing the world its new supercar way too early, that they’ve also let us drive it way too early. M
Track mode is exactly what the doctor ordered.
More of that...
Trying to please the wrong crowd; give it proper mongrel, please