The Honda NSX was a Japanese mid-engined masterpieceThere is a new Honda NSX on its way, but before we get our hands on it, lets look back at what made this car such a favourite amongst real and virtual drivers the world over.
This is a Honda NSX, and so is this, and this. The NSX is a super car of choice for the officianados. People who valued incredible engineering. A certain legendary test driver, and handling prowess over big flashy badges, and over abundances of power. It's easily one of the coolest super cars ever made. And here's why. [MUSIC] Japan's first proper mid-engine super car was supposed to be a best of a worlds affair, fast enough to make a Ferrari feel foolish and easy enough to drive that you'd have to be a proper spanner to crash one. The year is 1984 and Honda wanted to make something a bit special so it commissioned [UNKNOWN] Farina. To design a concept car, the HPX Honda Pininfarina experimental. It came with a two liter V6 and it was designed to beat anything that came out of Italy or Germany. As the concept turned into a prototype it got a new name, the NSX And its target cars were the Ferrari 328 and later the 348. That's how it ended up with a three litre V6. [BLANK_AUDIO]. You know how the NSX looks a little bit like the one you get in a fighter jet? Well, that's not entirely unintentional. You see, Honda's designers used the F-16's bubble. As a bit of an inspiration because it gives 360 degree visibility. As such, the cockpit is nice and far forward and there's loads of glass in it so you can see really well. And that also means that the deck in the back is nice and long, which gives better high-speed stability. [MUSIC] The NSX made its public debut at the 1989 Chicago Motor Show, then again at the Tokyo show of the same year. It went on sale in 1990 in America as an Acura, in Japan and Europe as a Honda. It was a flagship to be proud of. Built to highlight F1 tech, the NSX is loaded With interesting things. For example, its all aluminium body saves 200 kilos over an equivalent steel one. Things like aluminium suspension arms saves even more weight on top of that. Then there's all the toys. For example, four channel ABS brakes. [INAUDIBLE] I know that doesn't sound too exciting today, but in the 80s and 90s that was quite something. Oh, and it's development driver, one of them at least, was a certain Mr. A. Senna. And when he drove it, he told one of his engineers to make it shift And they did because [UNKNOWN] told them to. Honda [UNKNOWN] didn't just engineer the crap out of it. It also made sure it was solid as anything. Each car was assembled by a hand picked team of 200 people each with 10 years experience under their belt. Even the paint had a 23 step process, one of which was actually designed. For aeronautics, the paint on this early model still looks good today. The first [UNKNOWN] came with a three litre V6 with two-hundred-seventy horsepower, two-hundred and ten pound foot and a naught to sixty-two times six seconds. And it's top speed was nearly one-hundred seventy miles an hour. A Porsche Boxter today would smash that. Really stickly, it would walk all over it. However, for the early 90s, that was mental. That was proper, proper quick. So this is the baby, the first NSX, the original one. What's it like to drive? Well, this is an automatic and the gearbox is horrible. I really, really don't like it. Removes a lot of engagement from the car, because it doesn't really like changing gears. However, the steering almost saves it because it's a little bit willy to start with. But once you pop it in, you get lots of feel. The car grabs and away you go. Throttle is strong. Thanks to the gear box seems a bit lacking. The interior for a 90s car is actually held up remarkably well. This one being immaculately looked after by Honda is beautiful. It's so clean. The lines are so lugged. There's no cracks anywhere. In all, the original effect, This one. It's rather nice. It doesn't feel that quick because gear box but Honda prided itself on the fact the the NSX was easy to drive, that anyone could get in it and still have a great time. And it really is easy to drive its not to heavy but it still gives you feedback you know whats going on [SOUND] [INAUDIBLE] This isn't a hard car to drive quickly, at all. Even with this horrible gear box. We're going nice, straight, foot down. Come on, car. [UNKNOWN], there we go. [LAUGH] And brake. Harder than that, please, car. There we. Weekend. Brakes are very much in the narrow, but it is very quick. It's a lovely, lovely thing. It's so easy to drive. Easy to see out of. Easy to control. But for my next trick, I've got something a little bit more hard core. [MUSIC] [NOISE] In 1992 Honda decided to make a harder edged NSX for customers who wanted something a bit more focus, something with more bite. Engineers worked to lose 120 kilos from a standard car. So the type R weighs in at 1230 kilos. In car terms, nothing. How it was done, however, is when the all gets fun. [SOUND] It came with no sound deadening. No air con. No stereo. Covered in Kevlar seats rather than something comfy, tweaked suspension to solve some early discovered surprise [UNKNOWN] issues. And it's engine was blue-printed as well so it was properly put together, like the race car. Honda made less than 500 of them and they were supposed to be for Japan only but a few escaped and this is one. One of them. [MUSIC] This is a 1992 car. One of the proper NSX Type-R, and there are a few little things to it, as well as the no sound [UNKNOWN] and what have you, because it is quite noisy in here, especially compared to the early one. You can hear the engine because the glass in between the cabin and the engine bay is very, very thin. Everything that could be removed was, to make this a proper hardcore lightweight thing. The steering on this is absolutely phenomenal It's so precise, that you can just bang it into the corner and feel everything. You feel the front, you feel what it's doing. You're dragging it, you're pushing it. But you know where the tires are. Oh man. The ride is a lot harsher than the other car. It feels a lot stiffer, but as a result, this feels more like a proper supercar and less like a sofa. While the other one is very usable, and you can use it everyday and you still get some lovely thrills out of it, this isn't a daily driver. Its three liter engine is allegedly unchanged from when you get In the normal NSX. However, because it was looked at and put together and properly blueprinted and all that, feels a lot more spritely. That said, this has a proper gear box. A five speeder. And it makes an hell of a noise. Oh! And we're doing 100. 110, 120. [INAUDIBLE] [NOISE] Because there's less weight in here, because of the work [UNKNOWN] engineers did to ensure it was a proper lightweight special, it feels so [INAUDIBLE]. It flies, this thing. It just throws itself along the road. It feels fantastic. Why isn't Honda making a car like this today? This is [UNKNOWN], this feels good, man. It rides a bit hard. The gearbox is beautiful. The steering is beautiful. And the noise It makes. Who needs sound deadening when you can drive along with this thing [UNKNOWN] along behind your head? This is perfect. [MUSIC] [NOISE] There are many varieties of NSX's that appeared over the years. There is a Japan only Type R which I'm in right now. Then there was the aforementioned target of the U.S. only Alex Zanardi edition which was built to celebrate many, many, many children Championship wins, and then the frankly mental sounding lightweight special NFXS and S0 Edition, which I guess sound quite scary to me. 1997 saw some performance upgrades. The engine gained 200 cc, upping it to 3.2 liters, and it also got a dollop more power. It goes 6-speed manual, with better ratios, while the auto cars Kept the same old three liter set up. A new aluminum alloy was used allowing for thinner panels that retained the strength of the old car. And it got bigger brakes. As such naught to 60 fell into the five seconds zone. Even for the harder roof versions in some test under five seconds were managed for the coup though. In 2002 the NSX changed shape and lost its pop up headlamps, it got wider rear tires, and modified rear suspension. In the US you're only allowed to buy a target top whereas everywhere else well they've got the right to choose between a T top and [INAUDIBLE]. So how does this feel compared to the original one? Well the steering is markedly different. This is very much assisted and it doesn't feel great to start with. But then once you pitch it in. It feels nice. It feels good. The bigger engine 3.2 also feels a lot freer. It feels a lot nicer. A lot smoother. A lot happier to rev that might be in part then to the gear box though. These have a lovely, lovely manual. It just feels nice and light, and easy to use. The shift isn't too laborious, the clutch isn't too heavy. Which often kills super car. And, because of the bigger engine, and the lovely gears, you can do this. [SOUND] Brake. It needs all the extra power as well. It does feel a lot fresher than the earlier car. It feels more like a car that made it's way into the [UNKNOWN]. The other one did feel very very 90's. It's just a little difference here that make it a little bit. The throttle response is beautiful. The brakes, again, wonderful. You can tell this is quite light. You can tell it moves around a little bit, but not too much. It feels stable where you want it to feel stable. And if you do something stupid, well it'll let you know about it. It's not too hard sprung, either. It is a bit soft and squeezy. It's still got a little bit of give in it, which might not be ideal for people who love a bit of track work. But it is ideal for people who want to see it engage but also enjoy their spines and don't like giving money to chiropractors. Usability is something that supercar manufacturers kick about all the time now. The keep banging on about oh, it's very usable. There's lots of space and there's lots of movement in the car. You can out everything in it and you can use it and it's all wonderful but actually, a lot of the time, that's after altered touch. Driving something like a 911 GT3 on a daily basis is tedious. You come to hate it because it's not practical [INAUDIBLE] It's too uncomfortable, it's too noisy, well this will give you the noise when you want the noise, it will give you the hard drive that you want and it doesn't overwhelm you. I love the noise the V6 makes, 3.2 liters of fun that is. It's fantastic, it's not quite as hardcore as the R this might be a little much for idiots like me. This is the NSX. This is the easy to drive, usable super car. It's a wonderful thing. I can see why people absolutely adore [NOISE] In 2005 the NSX was killed. It was a 15 year old car and wasn't selling all that well. And its innings had been pretty stellar. However, before it went the way of Betamax, Honda had one last trick up its sleeve. The second generation NSX Type R. [MUSIC] The second generation NSX-R. They lost the Type bit because, well, they like losing things in. A lot of weight, for example. It's current weight was 1270 kilos. There was carbon fiber pretty much everywhere. No sound deadening, no air con, no stereo, no nothing, really. It was a balls to the wall track car. And here's the thing, even though it was 15 years old at the time, It still managed to do the ring in the same time as a Ferrari 360 Challenger Tali. Today a Honda Civic Type R, the new one, would humble it quite happily but. That is a serious bit of kick. [NOISE] Over its 15-year lifespan, the NSX gained a lot of fans, from kids playing with them in Gran Turismo to grownups who wanted an alternative to the regular German or Italian fare. It's quite telling just how good the NSX was when Gordon Murray was on the customer list, and Jack Nicholson. Hero. The NS6's run was long enough for 50 years that's fair to say, and while it was around it kicked all kinds of ****. There's a new one on the way but it's been delayed well lots. I don't think though that's because of any developmental issues I just think Honda wants to get it 100% straight out of the box so it can have another 15 years at the top. [MUSIC]