Honda NSX - 2016
The second coming has been an on/off affair, it was cancelled due to the financial crisis, had its power plant changed, been on fire at the Nürburgring when testing…but finally I’m standing in front of one with the keys in my hand.
Starting at £143,950 it’s now a fully blown supercar. In that price bracket it’s going head to head with the likes of Ferrari. But can it hold its own?
The NSX that was mine for a day cost a whopping £166k. Finished in Valencia Red Andaro pearl paintwork, a cool £4,800 it also had a £2,900 carbon fibre engine cover, carbon fibre rear spoiler - £2,400, Carbon Ceramic Brakes - £8,400, Garmin Nav with front and rear parking sensors at £1,700 and the full leather, heated power adjustable sports seats - £2,000. That’s a serious wedge of money for a Honda.
That Andaro pearl paint isn’t particularly pleasing either. The pearl catches the light well, but when it’s coupled with the Transformer like angles of the NSX it just looks a bit like a patchwork car. Walking across a car park toward it and the rear bumper looked a completely different shade, as if it had been rear ended and colour matched by someone with cataracts. I’d save your money and go for a flat colour.
But forget the paint, this car looks incredible. It’s as though it has jumped off the designer’s sketchpad, angular lines intersect across its bodywork. Flying buttresses aid the aerodynamics across the rear, the downforce is so much that the need for clever trick aero is completely negated. There are clever hidden vents above the rear lights and just below the rear hatch to allow the engine bay to be cooled sufficiently. Sound is piped into the cabin via dedicated sound tubes. The increase in volume from its quietest to loudest mode is a whopping 25dB.
Hopping in and firing it up the twin turbo 3.5 litre V6 burbles into life. There’s no starter motor, the engine is poked into life by the electric motor attached to the 9 speed DCT gearbox.
In its default mode ‘Sport’ the NSX is audible, but still on the quiet side for my liking. Switching up into ‘Sport+’ and the aural intensity increases dramatically, the gearbox shifts quicker, the steering weights up and the beast feels more alive. Most of my time in the NSX was spent in ‘Sport+’, but there is a ‘Track’ option which turns everything up to 11 and sets the electronic safety net to halfway, allowing slip but still catching you if you get it really wrong.
Taking the NSX through some twisty flowing B roads, it’s hard to think of another car that corners so well. Due to the clever electric trickery the front wheels can torque vector at any speed to suck you down into the corner. Unlike some cars that do this – ahem…Ford Focus RS – you barely notice the NSX working beneath you, it just feels natural and pretty well connected.
Acceleration is also aided by all the volts hidden in the battery pack behind the driver. The two electric motors up front combine with the one in the gearbox to torque fill the dips in the V6 petrol’s output. This gives you instant acceleration when you touch the pedal, it also boosts acceleration until the revs get to around 5,000 then the motors lose puff.
Honda pitch it as a cut price Porsche 918, but all those motors and batteries add weight. A lot of weight. The NSX tips the scales at nearly 1.8 tonnes, that’s Nissan GT-R sort of heft. It may look sleek and low, but it hides a lot of fat beneath those shapely angles.
You don’t notice the weight, thankfully. I’m sure if you were on track the back end could be a handful, but with a 42/58 front to rear balance it handles superbly across the back roads of the New Forest.
Turn in is sharp, body roll isn’t present and the steering is direct. Even minute movements result in a change in direction but when cruising on the motorway it stays perfectly stable. Normally a rack with such fine detail results in a twitchy feeling at higher speeds. Not in the NSX.
The ride is also sublime as a GT car. Sitting at 70 in the outside lane you’d be fooled for thinking you were in a comfy saloon, especially when you select ‘Quiet’ mode and all the drama of that V6 just fades away.
Braking is looked after by the eight-thousand-pound optional carbon ceramics. The feel is progressive and measured, it’s not the sort of digital on or off sensation you normally get with carbon ceramics. It allows you to brake later and deeper into the corners - couple that with Sport+ and manual mode, you’re led into an ever quicker flow turn after turn.
That 9 speed DCT is pretty special too, 1st gear is a crawler and 9th gear is a cruiser. In between those the close ratio ‘box can be changed in the flick of an eyelid, it really is gunshot quick in reaction and when in manual that V6 really sings.
Inside is where the NSX doesn’t feel so special. It’s a very nice place to be, the squared off steering wheel feels amazing in hand, the seats are comfy and there’s some lovely alcantara detailing over the central tunnel.
But then you look at the door handles…gloss black plastic that feels flexible and looks as though they are from a high spec Jazz. There’s a distracting piece of honeycomb plastic across the top of the dash that constantly reflects on the windscreen, overall it just doesn’t feel special enough for a £150k’s worth of car which it needs to be if they want to be compete in this marketplace.
Honda are trying to bring hypercar hybrid tech to the supercar, but that ups the buy in price and adds weight. I think they could’ve got away with a 3.5 litre twin turbo V6 and still ended up with a worth NSX successor.
The instant response and torque they talk about is barely noticeable when you compare it to that of a McLaren, and when push came to shove I’d much rather a carbon tubbed 650S than a space frame constructed NSX.