There’s so much tricked-up tech jammed under the NSX’s Gundam-inspired lightweight skin that the technology blogger GQ shared a car with at the model’s Portuguese launch wept, openly, every time he pushed the buttons to switch between ‘Quiet’, ‘Sport5 and ‘Track’ modes. These options gradually engage the entirely electrifying combination of battery-packed motors and a good old screaming V6 engine for maximum intensity. That typically high-revving Honda engine is twin turbocharged to make 373kW, but the genius of the NSX is that when you plant your foot, the initial shove comes from an electric ‘Direct Drive Motor’ attached to the rear wheels, combined with a ‘Twin Motor Unit’ under the bonnet, with one for each of the front wheels.
Combine all four power sources and you have 427kW and 646Nm at your disposal, but the highlight is the way the EV torque fills the hole as the turbos are spooling up, meaning there’s a Tesla-like surge of initial g-forces, followed by an even more stupendous shove in the back when the old-school engine joins in. The result is a flurry of fantasticness that feels not unlike a small bullet train, accompanied by all kinds of whooshing, jet-turbine sounds and loud bangs as you’re fired swiftly between the NSX’s nine gears. Yes, nine – first just for launching, seven for driving, and the ninth purely for cruising. Of course, this new NSX had to be fantastic and technically advanced, because it follows in the sizeable footsteps of the greatest car to come out of Honda (or Japan, for that matter), the original NSX.
This legendary, and now highly collectable, Ferrari-beater was launched in 1990 and built in limited numbers until 2005. Fans have awaited its replacement ever since, through some fairly humdrum years for Honda. The pressure for it to be fast, and furious, is huge, yet Honda won’t say what the claimed zero to 100km/h time is, though it will admit it’s less than three seconds. To be honest, we wouldn’t be surprised if it came in under two – it feels that fast.
Better yet, the car’s superlight, super-advanced aluminium body shell is so taut (300 per cent more resistant to twisting forces than a Ferrari 458, claims the PR guff) and its steering so perfectly engineered that it’s possible to throw it around a track like a racing driver, even if you’re a novice behind the wheel. Or a tech blogger.
The ‘Twin Motor Unit’ is the key, providing instantaneous torque vectoring to each front wheel to help pull you through corners, even as the car is wagging its tail. With colourful use of the literal, Honda calls its system ‘Super Handling All Wheel Drive’, and, happily, it genuinely does what it says on the sticker.
Here, then, is a supercar that’s as easy to drive as it is to love – an absolutely ballistic and truly groundbreaking machine that combines the modern magic of EV thrust with the Japanese mumbo of a Nissan GT-R. Other than the fact that its ‘Quiet’ mode is as pointless as a gun that shoots fairy dust, it’s hard to fault (but pushed to, the styling will certainly divide opinions).
The final look of this NSX is the work of a bunch of Americans, because that’s where more than 50 per cent of sales will go, and its mean and extreme lines will no doubt be popular with video gamers and people who think Las Vegas is the classiest place on Earth.
Others will argue Honda can build a car that’s as good as a Ferrari, but it can’t design one that’s sexier. Those who like the style and have $420,000 laying idle can order one now for delivery in early 2017. Not cheap, but, compared to competitors like the La Ferrari or McLaren PI, it’s a bit of a bargain. Honda, finally, is back. And in a big way.