Stairway to Heaven – Porsche 911R vs Honda NSX

I go faster in the NSX, crack the magic 300kph (186mph) barrier as the evening sun, glowing like a poker tip behind, drops below the horizon. It’s stable at speed, the V6 sings clear and hard at high revs, it feels accurate and uncomplicated. Until you back off. Then the twin-turbo V6 loses its tonal definition, you catch hints of turbo whoosh, of e-assistance and the car becomes no more demanding or eventful to drive than the CR-V that John Wycherley is thrashing along in the NSX’s wake.


My senses are on high alert, so even the scenery seems punchier

The trouble is that, aside from the usual supercar tropes of a suitably cramped cabin, a rear boot that smells like an old Lotus (honestly, the heat soak appears to be softening the glue) and low-slung seating position, the NSX’s interior is, well, cheap. The plastics, the design, the graphics, the beeps, the sluggish infotainment – none of them belong in car costing this much.

Because the NSX is modern and comfortable and everyday usable, it’s hard to forgive these indiscretions, whereas the 911R doesn’t have the kit to get frustrated by it in the first place. But the NSX is a simple car to operate. There’s a mode dial that cycles through Quiet, Sport, Sport+ and Track settings, and that, you have few choices to make. You can’t choose to lock it into electric, or select noisy exhaust with comfort suspension – the car is in charge of the decision-making.

On the whole, the decisions it makes are good, and at dawn the next day as chase NSX-mounted creative director Andy Franklin up the Grossglockner in the Porsche, it looks rapid and composed, and with twin electric motors vectoring front-wheel torque, it jets out of hairpins, leaving me working the balance, traction and grip to keep the 911 R in touch. But that’s the fun, isn’t it? The Porsche acts on your inputs, requires you to manage the situation, to do the brainwork and master the car. And it does take some mastering. The rear-wheel steering is aggressive, a mid-corner lift will significantly change your trajectory, the ride is firm, the engine only does its best above 5,000 rpm. It takes effort, concentration, and nerve to drive quickly. But the overall effect is magnified by the work you have to put in, so you get to the top, some 2,500 metres up, fizzing with energy and enthuziasm. My senses are on high alert, so even the scenery seems punchier, more magnificent in scale and grandeur after driving the 911 R. And what scale, what grandeur. New vistas open, others close, it’s like Stanley Kubrick has directed what I’m seeing through the windscreen. It’s a visual bombardment, relentlessly stunning.

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