A Careful Analysis of Honda NSX

RIDE AND HANDLING

The original NSX set a spectacularly high standard in this department, being to this day one of the most absorbing and perfectly judged fast road cars you’re ever likely to drive.

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The new version is 400kg heavier. It needs much stouter suspension settings, wider tyres, more power steering assistance and a host of other things just to level with its current crop of rivals on handling response, lateral grip and body control. The chances of achieving all that, and matching the car’s legendary predecessor on fluency and tactile feel – even accounting for the low centre of gravity conferred by the new NSX’s low-set electric motors and the engine’s dry sump – were always vanishingly small.

And so, sure enough, the new NSX isn’t quite as fluent-riding, tender­handling or easy to place as the old one was. It’s much more directionally responsive than its forebear, being flatter handling, quicker steering, better balanced and more adhesive through any corner – enough in every case to feel every bit as agile, poised and hunkered down as an Audi R8 or a Mercedes-AMG GT, despite that near 1.8-tonne kerb weight.

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But the Honda is also more trustworthy and confidence- inspiring than either of those rivals, thanks to steering that’s as weighty and communicative as it is direct, and fine on-throttle stability.

In Sport+ and Track modes, you’ll find the ride quite aggressively damped and abrupt over sharper intrusions. It’s not enough to make it bump steer down a B-road taken at any sane speed, but it will make you aware of how hard the suspension has to work to keep the car’s mass in check. In Sport, those dampers allow more vertical body movement, making the car quieter and more comfortable but a little too soft for our tastes. The upshot? That the ideal on-road ride compromise for a car like this isn’t quite on offer here.

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Never mind, because what you do get is damned close to brilliant in any case: handling that’s pin-sharp but still predictable and natural feeling once you’re acclimatised, manners that are a wee bit coarse at times but never wearisome or wayward, and lots of connectedness and reward.

BUYING AND OWNING

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The NSX falls well within the category where we consider ‘buying’ and ‘owning’ mere adjuncts to ‘possessing’ and ‘driving’, but it’s worth reiterating where the sticker price has landed it. As mentioned, the NSX is eyeball to eyeball with a McLaren 570S, which means it’s significantly cheaper than a Ferrari 488 in the mid-engined supercar stakes and significantly more expensive than a BMW i8 in the hybrid sports car equation.

Similarly, it manages to emit considerably less CO2 than the Ferrari – some 32g/km of it – but nearly five times as much as Munich claims for the i8. Being in the middle of these two examples is probably where the NSX belongs and how one should think of it in efficiency terms.

For the record (not, sadly, the True MPG one, but our testers’ own experience), the Honda guzzled its super-unleaded at a rate of 7.2mpg at the track – roughly the same as a Porsche 911 Turbo – and returned 31.7mpg at a constant cruise, again loosely matching the Porsche.

RIVALS

VERDICT

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Honda returns to the supercar fold as if it had never been away

The last thing you expect to get from a cutting-edge hybrid super-sports car is an abiding sense of familiarity. And yet, where a less carefully considered car maker might have used the NSX’s pioneering powertrain to create tricks and gimmicks in the driving experience and force it onto the fringes of its class, Honda has managed to deploy world first powertrain technology with a superb lightness of touch.

It has used unconventional means to perfect, rather than reinvent, the conventional junior supercar. And it has produced a very rare breed of mid engined exotic as a result: one that doesn’t shout about its potential or impose itself on your senses but is instead a very mature and complete driver’s car that simply says: “I’vegot the bases covered. Go on, enjoy yourself.” Which, albeit via different routes, is exactly what the last NSX did.

It could be better equipped, nicer to travel in and a touch more luridly exciting at times, but for its fusion of remarkable pace, innovative technology, dynamic sophistication and natural, tactile driver appeal, the NSX gets our nod over every rival but one.

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