- Easily accessible handling for both novice and experienced drivers
- Hybrid engine/electric motor combination provides strong acceleration and high fuel economy
- Comfortable ride and great forward visibility makes it easy to live with on a daily basis
- Lacks the flair and personality typically associated with this type of car
- Very little cargo space
- Many of the latest advanced safety features aren't available
After a protracted development process, the Acura NSX has returned after a 12-year hiatus. It's fair to wonder, then: What exactly has Acura cooked up in those 12 years? Well, while the previous-generation car was an elemental midengine, rear-wheel-drive sports car, the new NSX is a much more complex machine, boasting all-wheel drive, a twin-turbo V6 and a trio of electric motors for a full gasoline/electric hybrid experience. It's still Acura's flagship car, however, looking to compete with the world's best.
This new 2017 NSX is built in an all-new facility at Honda's Marysville, Ohio, plant. Its Japan-developed 3.5-liter V6 and nine-speed transmission are purpose-designed and -built for the NSX. On the chassis side, the NSX is a mix of aluminum and steel and is underpinned with a double-wishbone front and multilink rear suspension with MR (magnetorheological) variable dampers all around. Carbon fiber is employed sparingly in the car's structure, but most of what you can see is used only for optional cosmetic dress-up items in the engine bay and cabin.
We're pleased to report that the NSX's advanced design doesn't detract from its mission. This is an exotic sports car that is easy to drive quickly every day. And it will accelerate to 60 mph in about 3.0 seconds while getting the fuel economy of what an Acura TL used to get back in the days of the old NSX. This organic driving experience in the face of its enormous complexity is probably the most striking accomplishment of the NSX.
And yet, as sophisticated as it is, the NSX lacks a sense of occasion. Its V6 doesn't have a particularly exotic sound to it, and the car's styling, while safe and well-proportioned, does not invite one to linger or admire. The NSX's creators chose not to showcase any of its extensive hardware. Consider that the NSX has a Quiet mode but not a Loud mode. The NSX has personality but not attitude. It's a supercar without swagger.
The question will be whether you see this as a draw or a turn-off. If it's the latter, you'll probably find the likes of the Audi R8 or McLaren 570S more appealing.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2017
The 2017 Acura NSX is an all-new car.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2017 Acura NSX is available only as a two-door, two-seat coupe. Standard equipment includes LED headlights, heated mirrors, adaptive suspension dampers (magnetorheological), 19-inch (front) and 20-inch (rear) wheels, summer tires, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather and simulated suede upholstery, manually adjustable seats seats with heating, an eight-speaker sound system (with two USB inputs), a 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration and AcuraLink.
The NSX's main optional package is the Technology package, which gets you a navigation system, parking sensors and a nine-speaker premium ELS sound system with satellite radio. A couple of packages that outfit the NSX with extra exterior and interior carbon-fiber trim are also available.
Stand-alone options include carbon-ceramic brakes, upgraded performance summer tires, premium paint hues, other various carbon-fiber components (roof panel, engine cover, rear spoiler), a different style of wheels, power seats in two leather choices and a simulated suede headliner.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
After you operate the fiddly little lever of a door handle, a wide sill extension is presented to the driver before you drop into the very low seat -- on the road, normal sized sedans tower above the NSX like Star Wars AT-ATs. There's no provision for seat height, only fore/aft, the seatback angle and lumbar adjustment, which is just the same since headroom is snug for drivers taller than 6 feet. On the plus side, they're exceptionally comfortable seats for hard driving or long stints behind the wheel.
A large, centrally located knob toggles among the NSX's four preset configurations: Quiet, Sport, Sport Plus and Track. Each mode offers increasing levels of aggression among the engine and transmission, dampers, steering, all-wheel-drive system and stability control. Quiet mode extends its electric-only operation, allowing one to stealthily trundle around at low speeds.
The interior trim is a mix of soft leather, dramatic swoops and Acura parts-bin switchgear. The shift paddles feel and sound cheap, and have too much travel when you pull on them, in our opinion.
The cabin is not especially spacious. Storage consists of a small glovebox, a cute cubby between the seatbacks and two tiny scallops in the top of the central tunnel, aft of the push-button transmission selector. That's it. There are no door pockets despite the very wide armrests. On the plus side, the leather feels nice and the driver footwell is amply sized. Cargo volume is limited to a small rear trunk (4.,4 cubic feet) that really heats up because of its location to the engine.
The NSX is equipped with the usual complement of airbags (including side-protecting airbags and a driver knee airbag), plus a rearview camera and front-and-rear parking sensors. The AcuraLink system is also standard and includes automatic collision notification, emergency assistance and stolen vehicle locating.
Somewhat surprisingly for an Acura, advanced safety features like blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation with automatic braking are unavailable.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The NSX's hybrid powertrain starts with a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6. Alone, it produces 500 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. When you add in the NSX's hybrid componentry, the NSX's maximum output rises to 573 hp and 476 lb-ft of torque. These are stout numbers, though they're tasked with moving the car's ample 3,803-pound curb weight. The V6's power is fed to the rear wheels through a nine-speed automated manual transmission.
Interestingly, the front wheels are not driven mechanically by the mid-mounted V6 engine at all. Instead, each front wheel is connected to its own electric motor. This twin-motor front axle gives the NSX all-wheel drive and, perhaps more significantly, considerable freedom in how and when those front wheels are driven. In a turn, for instance, the NSX can automatically add power to the outside front wheel while simultaneously slowing the inside wheel (via brake regeneration), which can enhance how eagerly the car turns in toward a corner. Or the NSX can do the opposite to help correct an oversteer condition.
A third electric motor is mounted to the engine's crankshaft to helps smooth out gearchanges and provide a torque-filling function at low revs when the turbos have yet to fully get up to speed. Not that they're asleep long, as the engine produces its max torque as low as 2,000 rpm.
Acura estimates that 0-60-mph acceleration will take just 3.0 seconds. If true, that would put the NSX neck-and-neck with the Audi R8 and Porsche 911 Turbo. Fuel economy, however, is where the NSX holds an advantage. The EPA says to expect 21 mpg in combined driving (21 city/22 highway), which is better than any other rival sports car. It's worth noting, however, that it's less of an advantage than you might think for a hybrid. The 911 Turbo, with its 20 mpg combined rating, isn't far back.
This is a precise, fast car that drives smaller and lighter than its curb weight suggests. The NSX is also a car that flatters its driver, whether a neophyte or an experienced shoe. Its tenacious traction as you power out of a corner as almost as surprising as the resolute faithfulness with which the NSX's nose follows the driver's steering input. In other words, the NSX goes exactly where you point it, and it exits corners as though attached to a centrifuge.
Forward visibility is outstanding. The NSX's low cowl and slim pillars help make it a terrific fast-road companion, since the driver can easily place the car on the road. And although the suspension delivers exemplary control, the damping is supple such that the ride quality is really quite comfortable even on bumpy pavement. Even the brake feel, which is commonly grabby and hard to modulate among hybrids, is so natural that you don't even think about it. This car could easily be driven daily despite its eye-opening pace on a back road.
Acceleration is comparatively anticlimactic. It's certainly a rapid car, but the sense of speed is deceptively muted by the flat torque curve. High speeds don't fluster the NSX, as it feels planted and secure. Shifts from the nine-speed transmission are terrifically quick and smooth.
But as technically accomplished as it is, the NSX lacks a sense of occasion. For starters, it sounds uninspiring in the cabin. Yes, a sound tube connected to the engine's intake directs the V6's sound directly into the driver's left and passenger's right ear. But a V6's sound is not as inherently captivating as what you might hear from a V8 or Porsche flat-6. We're glad Acura's engineers allowed a bit of the turbocharged personality to shine through (the turbo's bypass valves chuff audibly when you lift off the throttle) but the incessant hiss and synthetic bellow of the intake on a fast drive grows tiresome.
Rejoice, Acura fans. The NSX is back. Just as we did with the original, we love the 2017 NSX's sharp handling and driver-focused cockpit. And this time around, it's got a hybrid powertrain that satisfies modern sensibilities with its mix of power and fuel economy. If you're shopping for a premium sports car, you owe it to yourself to check out the 2017 Acura NSX.