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2019 Acura NSX review: Hitting its stride

Acura's new NSX didn't rock our worlds when it arrived in 2016, but a few years and a few tweaks later this thing is earning our respect.

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
6 min read

The new Acura NSX had something of a long, troubled entry into this world and, when it landed, didn't receive universal praise. The original, beloved NSX was a car that flourished in an era of raw, direct sports cars -- a tough act to follow any modern machine.

But it's a modern world in which we live and in 2019 the new NSX hasn't evolved much. For this model year, Acura made a few subtle changes here and there, minor revisions to suspension and tires and aesthetics to create a car that I figured wouldn't really strike my fancy any more or less than before. Imagine my surprise when those tweaks and a little extra time behind the wheel left me impressed. Genuinely enamored, even.


2019 Acura NSX

The Good

World-class handling and on-track performance backed by a dazzling drivetrain make for a unique driving experience.

The Bad

While the NSX excels in the day-to-day, it still sometimes lacks the emotional appeal of other mid-engined supercars.

The Bottom Line

The NSX seems to be getting better with age, and these subtle changes make for a more engaging, more appealing machine.

The Acura NSX is getting better with age

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Minor revisions to something radical

If you're a fan of gee-whiz componentry, the new-generation NSX is truly a car made for you. Sporting one of the most advanced hybrid powertrains on the road, with three electric motors scattered around the chassis, it's the sort of car that has launched a thousand forum debates.

Those motors are configured to provide two key features. First, they enable all-wheel drive by installing the first two motors at the front. Secondly, the trio of motors helps to fill the torque gap created by the forced induction on the 3.5-liter V6. Before the twin turbos hit their stride, the 47-horsepower "direct drive" motor at the rear works with the two 36-horsepower motors in the nose to give the throttle response you want in a car like this. Then, as the boost builds, the gasoline engine takes over, delivering the bulk of the thrust to the rear wheels through a nine-speed dual-clutch gearbox. 

How much thrust? 573 horsepower combined, and 476 pound-feet of torque. That hasn't changed from before, nor have the overall layout and use of these motors. But, the software controlling them has, and it's software that really makes a car go 'round these days. Those motors at the front work hard to help the balance of the car, providing more or less torque to the inside and outside wheels, enabling the car to pivot and dive for the apex like nothing else.

In less demanding times, those motors have the added benefit of letting the NSX stalk silently out of your driveway and go short distances entirely on electric power. That tiny, 1.3-kilowatt-hour battery won't get you far, but it does help this car deliver 21 miles per gallon city and 22 mpg highway ratings. Hardly Prius territory, but mighty impressive compared with the 16 mpg city.

So if that's all the same other than the software, what's actually changed? Well, I hope you like bushings, because the 2019 NSX has new ones, along with many adjustments to the suspension designed to get the most out of its new rubber Continental SportContact 6 tires. If that has you shrugging your shoulders, Acura says the combination is good for a 2-second decrease in lap times around the epic Suzuka Grand Prix circuit. That's serious business.

More important than lap times, the changes were designed to give the car more of the thing many people said the new NSX was sorely lacking: personality.

2019 Acura NSX

Begone, chrome nose. 

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

Subtle, but substantial

In addition to the suspension and software, Acura made a small but important update to the car. The nose formerly featured a prominent chrome piece of orthodontia, much in keeping with the family look and feel. For 2019 that shiny bit is painted, one little tweak that makes a substantial difference in my eye. It visually lengthens and lowers the car and that, combined with the luscious Curva Red my test car was dipped in, created a machine that I couldn't take my eyes off of.

Mind you, I'd probably pay the extra $700 for Thermal Orange Pearl instead of the Curva Red that you see pictured here, but either of those two shades works well with the gunmetal wheels and the still somewhat excessive amount of black cladding that remains on the nose. I was surprised at how many heads the NSX turned. It generated no shortage of positive comments from strangers in parking lots.

That allure is a big part of what makes or breaks a car like this, and I'll be honest that previously I wasn't feeling that with the NSX. Now, especially with the new orange, I'm a believer.

And what about the drive? On the road in the 2019 NSX I confess I couldn't feel any differences, and in the day-to-day I still struggle to be enamored by it. Put the car in Quiet mode and you can drive silently so long as you're extremely gentle on the throttle, but step too hard and the engine spins up, emitting the sort of mechanical drone that I can only describe as unfortunate.

Click on over into one of the sportier modes and things sound much better, intake and exhaust opening and the V6 finally developing a song that's businesslike but emotional. When you're deep in the throttle this thing can make your hairs stand on end -- I just wish there were even a taste of that aural flavor when tootling around town.

That's a shame because the NSX is so very good at doing exactly that. Though the 20-inch tires appear shrink-wrapped around the wheels, the ride quality is passably good, helped by the adaptive dampers. The seats are comfortable, the cabin roomy and the infotainment system comprehensive. It's a great space, though there is a fair bit of road noise to contend with, something I don't recall troubling me quite so much in the earlier car.

But more important is how the NSX performs when driven hard, and I'm glad to say it's very good. Since its launch I've been lucky to spend some extensive time on the track with the car, and every time I walk away more impressed than before. That's certainly true with the 2019, which handles unlike any other AWD car I've ever driven. The front motors, one per wheel, don't add power so much as agility, pulling the car around bends and rewarding an aggressive driving style. 

2019 Acura NSX
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2019 Acura NSX

Nothing else on the market offers a powertrain like this.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

Its performance is subtle -- even its sub-3-second launch from 0 to 60 miles per hour somehow feels mild -- but get brave and you'll quickly realize how truly fast the NSX is. The steering is razor-sharp and the brakes offer a pristine feel that never fades. Mind you, that feel is almost entirely synthetic thanks to the brake-by-wire system here, but when it works this well that's nothing to complain about.

All those attributes conspire to create a great car for crossing your favorite fast, flowing roads, with plenty of grip and handling to quickly adjust line midcorner in the face of real-world surprises. Yes, even on the quickest roads you'll know you're barely scratching the surface of what this thing can do, but it's still a rewarding and engaging drive, something that can't be said for all cars in this category.

Options and competition

Starting price for the 2019 NSX is $157,500. The carbon fiber wing you see here is expensive at $3,000, but worth it for the extra purpose it adds to the look. I'd probably skip the $10,600 carbon-ceramic brake rotors, however. The only other option on my tested car was $500 for the SiriusXM package, which I'd also decline, giving me an as-configured price of $160,500 -- plus $1,800 delivery.

You'd need to spend at least $45,000 more to get into something like a McLaren 570GT, a car that matches the NSX's day-to-day practicality while offering a more exotic look and feel, but lacks its in-cabin experience and, of course, all the the techno wizardry of the SH-AWD system here.

If AWD is important to you then you can get into a 911 Turbo for just over $160,000, but where the McLaren skews more toward the exotic, the 911 tends in the other direction. Plus, that car would require a few ticks of options boxes to deliver the same experience found here.

2019 Acura NSX
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2019 Acura NSX

Still not the most immediately seductive supercar on the planet, the NSX offers performance and capability that has to be respected. 

Tim Stevens/Roadshow


Confession time: I expected to be underwhelmed by the 2019 Acura NSX. Instead, I found myself quite taken by the thing. With each subsequent chance to get behind the wheel of an NSX I've started to warm up more and more. This time, it all finally clicked. At the end of my week with the 2019 I was left wanting more time, and I can tell you that's not always the case with many supercars. Even some of the greatest quickly start to feel like a chore. Not this one.

That day-to-day practicality does come at the expense of this still not being the most emotive of supercars. But finally, the NSX feels like a machine that I could truly love and not just respect. 


2019 Acura NSX

Score Breakdown

Performance 9Features 7Design 8.5Media 8.5