Behind the wheel of Acura's reborn NSX

It's been a long time coming, but we've finally had a turn in the driver's seat of Honda's hotly anticipated 2016 Acura NSX.

Tim Stevens Former editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
Tim Stevens
3 min read

TOCHIGI, Japan -- No, you still can't take one home, but we're thrilled to report that the new NSX is a real, working car, and we've finally driven it. At an event at Honda's R&D facility in Tochigi, Japan, the company had two of its next-gen supercars operational, one with the steering wheel on the left (and an Acura badge on the nose), and another with the wheel on the right (and a Honda badge, naturally).

As we learned at its global debut in Detroit earlier this year, the new NSX matches a twin-turbocharged, 3.5-liter V-6 engine with three electric motors: one at the rear, and two up front. This means that all four wheels are driven, with one electric motor for each of the front two. Thanks to that, the system can not only vector torque across the front axle, speeding up the outside wheel to pull the car around turns, it can actually apply additional regenerative braking to the inside tire, again helping the car to turn.


A pair of NSXs in Japan.

The system on the front is similar to what the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid features on the back, but tied together with a more advanced (and aggressive) dynamics system optimized for performance.

A nine-speed, dual-clutch transmission sends power to the rear wheels, with the ninth gear optimized only for highway cruising. Dry-sump lubrication means mounting the motor lower, for better cornering, while ensuring oil pressure in high-speed cornering. Meanwhile, all the electric motors help to negate any sensation of turbo lag, while also enabling limited battery-only driving -- though Honda still hasn't specified a maximum range in EV mode.

And the performance is indeed good. With a combined 573 horsepower, the car accelerates from a stop quite quickly, and with nine ratios at your disposal selected by (unfortunately cheap-feeling) plastic shifters behind the wheel, keeping inside the power band is not a problem.

The car offers a series of driving modes, selected by a large, dedicated silver wheel situated between the seats. Sport+ is the sportier of the road-focused modes, which stiffens the suspension, sharpens the throttle response and relaxes the stability and traction control somewhat. It also opens a port running from the engine's intake into the cabin (as found on the new Porsche 911), a direct pipe for some sweet induction sound.

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And it is sweet. The NSX has a very refined, almost muted song when heard from the outside. It's more mechanical than maniacal, but on the inside it's rather more loud and raucous. As loud as a civilized driver would ever want, anyhow, plenty enough to keep you from having to look down at the tachometer on the LCD dashboard, which reconfigures based on which mode you're in.

There's also a somewhat hidden Track driving mode, accessed if you hold the knob to the right for a few seconds. This allows for even more slip and slide before the electronic nannies step in, also changing the reactiveness of the brake pedal for extra sharp response. I'm used to systems adjusting the steering and throttle response, but to adjust the brake response too is a step beyond.

Unfortunately, you will not be able to individually tune these systems (for example, selecting a sharp throttle but soft suspension), and given the limited time in the car I wasn't able to truly sample the difference between modes, so it's too early to say just how effective the car is at truly living up to its design as an "everyday supercar." We're also still lacking important details, like EV-mode range, 0-60 time and formal price (we're expecting roughly $150,000, which is about £100,000 or AU$185,000). Of course, there's also the question of delivery date.

Though some mystery remains, it's encouraging to say that the NSX is indeed a very real car that drives great, sounds great and should make quite an impact when it finally hits the market next year. Patience, Honda fans, it can't be long now.

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