Acura likes to boast that its powerful, precise NSX is “the only supercar designed, developed and manufactured in the U.S.”
With no apologies to Chevrolet’s Corvette, Ford’s Mustang GT or Dodge’s Charger, Challenger or Viper, the Acura folks say their second-generation NSX, new for 2017, combines classic sports car sensibilities with cutting-edge car technology to create an entirely unique driving experience.
That may be overstating things. But the 2017 NSX is one awesome automobile.
Assembled at Acura’s high-performance plant in Marysville, Ohio, the NSX chassis uses space-age combinations of ultra-high-strength steel and very lightweight aluminum, married to a largely aluminum body, driven by a hybrid drivetrain with a 3.5-liter, twin-turbo V-6 engine and three direct-drive electric motors.
Together, through a nine-speed dual-clutch transmission and the NSX’s “sport hybrid super handling AWD,” those attributes make a combined 573 horsepower and 476 pound-feet of torque, on a nimble vehicle that weighs just over 3,800 pounds.
Result: Zero to 60 mph in under three seconds.
It’s a mesmerizing mix. The NSX is fast without being furious, and fun to drive — right up to the point at which you gain the attention of law enforcement. With a reported top speed of 191 mph, the NSX is begging to be street-raced or taken to the track.
Built with great attention to aerodynamics and air flow, the NSX sits sports-car low to the ground, with only five inches of clearance at the nose and no hydraulic system for maneuvering steep driveways or tall speed bumps.
That requires a slight limbo move to get into and out of the car. But once inside, the NSX cabin is tidy, neat and not terribly cramped. The race seats are comfortable, and the visibility is much better than many low-slung sports cars.
The driving mode selections are Sport, Sport +, Track and Quiet. There is no Normal, or Standard, or Boring.
In Sport mode, the acceleration is snappy but smooth, and the car is very quick.
Because of the electric motors, there is turbo boost but no turbo lag. The power comes on low and builds beautifully.
In Sport +, increased acceleration teams with the AWD system — which monitors and manages steering, acceleration and braking — to create the grabby sensation of being pulled through the turns and twisties.
But even in Sport +, the power feels entirely manageable and undramatic, without any of the intoxicating audio track that accompanies the exhaust report of a Ferrari, Aston Martin or Lamborghini.
Quiet mode is, in fact, very quiet. You won’t wake up the neighbors firing up the NSX for a pre-dawn Angeles Crest run, and you won’t disturb the sound system, even on the freeway — where you also may not have the sensation of going very fast. At 80 mph, the NSX may not have even gotten to eighth or ninth gear yet.
The interior comes equipped with up-to-the-minute tech — from Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to Pandora radio interface to LCD touchscreen and rearview cameras — and was designed with utility in mind. The layout is spare, and the ergonomics allow for minimal distractions. Everything is within easy reach and helps keep the driver’s attention on the road.
That will be necessary. The NSX, while docile on the freeway and around town, creates a deeply involved driving experience. It demands and rewards engagement. Like most supercars, it made me feel like a better driver than I am. It also made me long for a track day, where I could really experience how much more the car can do than I can.
The 2017 model, about 370 of which have been sold in the U.S. since the mid-2016 introduction, has been a winner on the awards circuit, taking prizes in such disparate competitions as Road & Track’s “Performance Car of the Year,” Automobile magazine’s “All Star” and Green Car Journal’s “Luxury Green Car of the Year.”
And though the electric motor and hybrid system were built in Japan, as were about 30% of the parts, the vehicle’s roots are pure American.
The look and feel of the rebooted NSX came from the pen of local designer Michelle Christensen, profiled here when the new model was announced in early 2015.
The first-generation car, sold in North America from 1991 to 2005, was a much-loved, if not well-known, alternative to more expensive European supercars. Long seen as a bargain for classic car collectors, the first-gen cars are hot again. The auction house Gooding & Co. sold a 1991 model at its Scottsdale, Ariz., sales event in January for $66,000 — about what the cars sold for when new, and double what they were selling for a decade ago.
But it’s harder to see the second-generation car as an inexpensive ticket into supercar status.
The base NSX costs $157,800. The model I borrowed, laden with carbon fiber roof, engine cover and exterior and interior sport packages, ran $201,500.
2017 Acura NSX
Times’ take: Return of a highway hero car
Highs: Supercar specs without the supercar cost
Lows: MSRP is still too high for most enthusiasts
Vehicle type: Two-door, two-passenger sports car
Base price: $157,800
Price as tested: $201,500
Powertrain: 3.5-liter turbocharged gasoline engine teamed with three electric motors
Transmission: Nine-speed dual-clutch automatic
Torque: 476 pound-feet
EPA fuel economy rating: 21 mpg city / 22 mpg highway / 21 mpg combined