The comeback king

The original NSX conquered the supercar world. Now Honda wants to do it again with a hyper-hybrid aimed at the Germans

DAMION SMY

THE Honda NSX is back.

Well, almost. After years of static motor show displays and heavily camouflaged test mules, the 2015 global launch of Honda’s reborn supercar is closing fast. Then, finally, we will discover not only whether this high-tech Japanese hybrid has the firepower to battle Germany’s elite, but also whether the struggling carmaker has indeed rediscovered its mojo.

The stormtrooper-white NSX in our pictures is the production version of Honda’s reborn Ferrari-fighter.

Wheels sources tell us that, when it lands Down Under next year, it could carry a $350K price tag – crucially undercutting its Euro rivals.

Unlike the original NSX, which hunted high-priced Italian stallions, this time it’s the Germans that are in Honda’s crosshairs.

“The key competitors are 911 Turbo, [the Audi] R8 V10, as well as looking up to the Ferrari 458 Italia,” NSX project leader Ted Klaus told Wheels.

The large and lucrative North American market will be the first to welcome the 21st-century NSX, with pricing expected around $US150K.

Right-hand drive markets like Australia will most likely have to wait until 2016. But if everything we know and understand about Honda’s reborn supercar is true, the wait will be worth it.

Honda hasn’t left anything to chance to ensure the NSX has the tech weapons to nail its targets. Indeed, one reason details have been scarce is that Honda has been continually refining the vehicle’s parameters during its very public development.

For example, at the Detroit show in 2007, then-CEO Tetsuo Iwamura confirmed Honda would build a new supercar based on its Advanced Sports Car Concept with a V10.

The January 2012 NSX concept – the first to wear that name – featured a transversely mounted V6 engine. The production version on these pages has a longitudinally mounted V6, assisted by two turbos and three electric motors, pushing outputs well beyond the original’s thenimpressive 206kW and 294Nm.

How far beyond? Honda isn’t saying, exactly. Just that it will boast a total system output in excess of 410kW.

Engine power will be fed exclusively to the rear wheels via a nine-speed double-clutch transaxle, boosted on demand by an electric motor. Two additional motors will drive the front wheels, effectively making this the first all-wheeldrive NSX.

This hybrid drivetrain is expected to propel the NSX to 100km/h in well under four seconds; it will have to if it’s to match Porsche’s 911 Turbo claim of 3.2sec.

The NSX will be capable of running purely on electric energy during more sedate driving, but we don’t know what accelerative punch this mode will offer, or what range.

Plug-in recharging of the NSX’s lithium-ion battery pack is not part of the plan.

Underneath the NSX’s striking supercar silhouette sits a lightweight carbonfibre floor, aluminium spaceframe and super-thin high-strength steel

A-pillars. Aluminium is another inter-generational touchpoint: the 1990 original was the world’s first aluminiummonocoque production car.

The NSX rides on 19in front and 20in rear wheels that house carbon-ceramic brakes.

Inside are body-forming race seats and a steering wheel designed to fit the human hand like no other; Honda claims the NSX is designed to reward drivers of all skill levels.

More aluminium is used for the suspension, which will be ‘conventional multi-links’ with magnetorheological dampers.

Honda’s R&D and motor sport chief, Yasuhisa Arai, told Wheels the NSX, and indeed the company’s entire road car business, will benefit directly from the technology being tested in F1 by Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.

“The hybrid sports car is one part of Honda DNA, and the Formula One regulations have more stringent, environmentally friendly issues,” Arai said. “We want the challenge to develop the new power unit, and apply that to future road cars.”

Honda has also agonised over packaging. This production NSX is 80mm longer than the 2013 concept, primarily to accommodate the engine reorientation, even though the body design had already been signed off by company chiefs.

And don’t think for a moment it will be a one-model range.

Project chief Ted Klaus says this car is just the beginning of the NSX story.

“Our team is focused on this model, but at the same time we would personally dream ... the next team will come in and take what we’ve established to another level,” Klaus said.

The new NSX is Honda’s way of shifting the focus from the past to new glory. Later this year we’ll know if they’ve been successful.

Honda claims the NSX is designed to reward drivers of all skill levels

The Legend

Built: Layout: Engine: Transmission: Power: Torque: Weight: 0-100km/h: Price: Tochigi, Japan (1990-2005) Mid-engine, rear-wheel drive 2977cc 90-degree V6 5-speed manual 201kW @ 7100rpm 284Nm @ 5300rpm 1351kg 5.6sec $159,900 (Feb 1991) B Lay Eng smiss Po Tor We 100k 100kP Trans 1

Local hero

HONDA Australia boss Stephen Collins knows what the original means – his first job at Honda NSX product manager. remember driving it home, parking it on my gravel driveway didn’t have a garage or even a carport – and it was worth more than my house!” he says.

For me, it showed what Honda is capable of, and really left a lifetime impression on me in terms of technology and performance. It was all-aluminium – I’d never driven a car it before – and ever since time I’ve loved sports cars. I do have choice of what I drive, and every time I can, I pick a sports car.”

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