If you live somewhere temperate, a place where the worst weather you're likely to encounter is the odd spot of rain, I feel like you're not getting the full driving experience. I feel like you haven't really tested a car until you've seen how it handles each of the four seasons, and if you find one that's as good to drive in the snow as it is in the dry, you know you've got something truly special.
That's one reason why long-term tests of cars are so important, but sadly we can't keep everything we evaluate for a full trip 'round the sun. Beyond that, most makers of supercars send their press fleet examples to warmer climates during the winter months. Thankfully, Acura is not one of those companies.
2020 Acura NSX shines in the snowSee all photos
A week after the new year dawned and a couple feet of snow fell, a lovely Indy Yellow Pearl Acura NSX came rolling up my driveway. In electric mode, it was as silent as a ray of sunlight with a similarly warming effect on my mood, which I confess was a bit dour given the considerable political strife dominating the news that week. Rarely am I so eager to get out and test a car as I was this one.
That's despite my having had a bit of history with the current NSX. When it was first released I confess I just didn't get it. It seemed over-engineered and over-complicated compared to the lean machine that came before. But, after an extended track session in the NSX, I started to warm up to the thing and, by the time the 2019 model rolled around, I had truly fallen for it.
This year marks the first time I'd driven one in the winter, and thankfully it came dressed for the job, clad in a set of Pirelli Sottozero 3 winter tires. Thanks to their availability in big and wide sizes plus their capability of handling big power, the Pirellis are the inclement tire of choice for many supercars.
The right tires are crucial this season, but when it comes to winter performance it isn't all about handling. My first concern with the NSX was keeping warm. With no app-controlled preconditioning or the like I was stuck doing things the old fashioned way: climbing in and firing it up. The heated seats were blissfully quick and effective but I'm glad I brought gloves, as there's no heated wheel. Thankfully the touch controls still worked with thin gloves on, which is important as the NSX is still making do with that awful capacitive volume control Honda binned on almost all of its cars years ago.
Ground clearance this time of year is also a concern, one that's obviated by a lack of snowfall during my loan. The NSX has a generous amount of room beneath the nose compared to, say, a Ferrari F8 Tributo. Still, you'd want to make sure your driveway is cleared before heading out, as that carbon splitter up front could quickly turn into an expensive snowplow.
My final worry before hitting the road regarded the lack of a wiper on the near-horizontal rear glass. As it turns out, the midmounted 3.5-liter V6 provides ample help to the rear defroster. Morning ice quickly cleared, and so I hit the road.
It was a gritty, grimy road, too. Everyone thinks that winter driving is all about ice and snow, but the reality of the situation is much filthier. Most winter driving is on dry, but utterly filthy roads caked in salt and sand. Less slippy than frozen stuff, yes, but still conditions that are a real test of confidence.
It can also be a test of corrosion. Only time will tell on that front, but since the bulk of the NSX chassis, particularly the lower portion, is made of aluminum extrusions, I expect it will handle the elements quite well.
As far as confidence goes, there are few cars on the planet that manage to be this ridiculously quick yet are so damn supportive while doing so. The NSX will sprint to 60 mph in well less than 3 seconds yet dawdles around town as calmly and comfortably as an Accord.
As I didn't plan on driving this one like an Accord, I was thankful for its bulletproof handling. On snow tires, the NSX lost a bit of its razor-sharp edge. That lightning-quick, light steering felt the tiniest bit more sluggish thanks to the softer, blocker tread on the winter Pirellis. Surprisingly, that softness, plus the reduced grip from the gritty roads, conspired to make the NSX feel more playful. Under full acceleration, the tires squirmed and wiggled just a hint more, giving the car a different, likable feel.
I sadly didn't get a chance to test the car in any fresh snow, but I did seek out a stretch of iced-over road to get a feel for how its electric front-axle handles things. In Quiet mode, which relies on the electric motors, the front wheels quickly spun up and it took a moment or two for the rears to catch up. This is not the way to be for low-grip driving, but in Sport Plus and even Track mode the power distribution was more appropriately managed across all four wheels. Even on ice, the car made rapid progress without much drama.
This was echoed on the road, where a loss of grip never resulted in the car giving up into understeer or swinging into wild oversteer. It always felt balanced, the rear stepping out just enough to keep things playful.
Perhaps the best part of a blissful few days with the NSX wasn't the drive, it was when a trio of kids walking on the side of the street just about fell over backwards when they caught sight of the Acura. Their excitement was contagious. In a sea of filthy, beige SUVs, this yellow supercar was a wonderful sight, one that brought a big smile to my face whenever I grabbed the key and headed out.
And that is perhaps the most telling thing of all. Driving in the winter can be a chore. The comfort of a big, tall, warm SUV can be hard to resist. Compared to a tall rig like that the NSX gives up a fair few conveniences, but as a four-season plaything it is delightful. Better yet, it might just be the cure to your winter blues.