The 2017 Acura NSX is finally, finally here, much to the joy of enthusiasts everywhere. We recently had a chance toout on the track at Thermal Springs in California, but what about how it's made? Acura flew me to Marysville, Ohio, to take a gander at its new $70 million, NSX-only factory, the Performance Manufacturing Center.
Yes, that's right, while the original NSX was built in Tochigi and later, Suzuka, Japan, this ultramodern hybrid supercar is built in the rural Midwest. Fear not -- this all-new facility is an engineering feat, packed with more than enough tech to warrant the building of the world's next supercar.
Much of the new NSX will be built by hand, as one would expect of a car that starts at $156,000 and can easily hit $200,000 with options like a $9,000 exterior carbon fiber package, $3,300 technology package and $10,600 carbon ceramic brake rotors with red or silver brake calipers.
The NSX's nearly all-aluminum chassis starts off in the welding bays. If you think the machines haven't become self-aware, take a gander at the robots doing 100 percent of the welding on the NSX, and your tune may change. Watching these machines quickly and accurately move between welding spots is truly fascinating and frightening at the same time.
Each frame will spend eight to 10 hours in the welding bays and will then proceed to a quality check, where the frame is measured to within 30 microns -- one-third the width of a human hair.
Take a swim
Next up, the frame gets a dunk in a zirconium tank and an e-coat tank to help stymie corrosion. Other manufacturers use zinc phosphate, which creates a byproduct that must be disposed of in landfills. By using zirconium, Acura says it cuts more than 90 percent of that waste.
All frames are painted black, and panels are sprayed individually and then attached to the car during assembly. The paint bay is surrounded by glass so that eager customers can come to the factory and see their baby-to-be getting all pretty. Panels receive a primer coat, and then depending on the color, they get between five and seven applications of paint. Two clear coats are then applied, the panels baked to perfection, and then two more clear coats finish things up. The whole process takes four days. In the end, the panels are scrutinized under high-intensity LED lights to find any irregularities.
When it comes to assembly, it's all hands on deck. There are 22 build stations and each example spends 62 minutes at each station. Every NSX is completely hand assembled, with the exception of one robot that's necessary for the precision application of urethane on the exterior panels.
The assembly stations all work with wireless torque wrenches to get the perfect turn of the screw every time. When a technician bolts something into place, the wrench will vibrate when the correct torque spec is reached. Builders can then double-check that on their computers. If the torque value is wrong, the computer will not allow the next piece to be assembled.
The NSX is essentially put together from the inside out. The manufacturing technicians put in the guts of the car, including the engine, before applying the body panels. This allows Acura to guarantee the quality of the paint and the fit and finish of the interior. Perfection is the goal.
But what of the engine?
The twin-turbo V6 and its three electric motors -- this is after all, a hybrid -- are hand-built in Anna, Ohio. We didn't get a chance to visit that facility, but saw a nifty slideshow. In conventional manufacturing, an engine can take two hours to build and be touched by the hands of 120 people. The nearly bespoke NSX powerplant, however, takes 5 to 6 hours to build and is touched by the hands of one master builder, who starts all 547 engine bolts by hand before torquing them to specification.
All this attention to detail yields 500 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque from the gasoline-powered engine. The ante is then raised with the addition of the trio of electric motors, two acting on the front wheels and one mounted to the engine itself, for a total system power output of 573 hp and 473 pound-feet.
The engine is subsequently mated to a nine-speed VCT dual-clutch transmission (imported from Japan), and then it's off to the dyno for a one-hour break in, equivalent to about 150 miles. Acura wants customers to have fun with their NSX right away, and hopefully buyers will get to a track with a qualified instructor ASAP -- there's nothing worse than seeing a beautiful piece of machinery wrapped around a telephone pole a half a mile from the dealership.
After the break-in period, the engine and transmission are trucked over to the PMC and a few turns of the screw later, voilà! Another fully functional Acura NSX has entered the world.
Acura's final confirmation stage includes wheel alignment, brake checks at all four wheels and a weight and ride-height check. The car is then driven into a garage bay with a four-post shaker (active floor) to simulate driving on rough roads, to make sure the suspension is in proper order.
There are currently about 150 preproduction NSX models in existence, and the PMC plans on turning out eight to 10 cars a day for global distribution. Official production commences at the end of April. Assuming a seven-year product cycle, a four-day workweek and solid continued demand, we can expect around 13,000 of the supercars to be produced in total.
With all the cool technological advances in this factory, let's hope some of these processes trickle down to more mainstream Acura and Honda products. I mean, who wouldn't want to see their Civic Type-R engine hand-built by one person?
Okay, that may be pushing it, but the advances in anticorrosion processes and paint techniques, as well as the smart torque wrenches and the engineering of a nearly all-aluminum frame could certainly be applied to more affordable cars in the future.