There aren’t many Japanese sports cars that enthusiasts and collectors can expect to become genuinely valuable. Clean third-generation RX-7’s are one, as are the first Mazda Cosmos and the Toyota 2000GT. The GTR? Yes, probably in time. The Lexus LFA is up there, but that car was so expensive when new it hardly exists. You’ll see a Bugatti Veyron in the wild before you’ll ever see an LFA, so it almost doesn’t count.
One car that does count is the Acura NSX. The first examples of this car are highly collectible and prices are certainly on the way up, so you hardly ever see one at a NASA weekend. Owners are risking a lot by putting them on track, and every gearhead openly wondered when Acura was going to build another one. Well, it has, and although it’s quite a bit different from its predecessor, it’s a wild ride.
First of all, the new NSX is not nearly as light as the first ones. The new model weighs 3,803 pounds, which is more than the 3,655-pound Ford Mustang GT350 reviewed last month. The first-gen NSX weighed in around 3,000 to 3,150 for regular models and 2,800 for the 2002 and up NSX-R models.
Both iterations make extensive use of aluminum in the chassis, and the new NSX even has a carbon-fiber floor, so why the increase in curb weight? Well, this being 2017 and all, the new NSX incorporates electric motors in the drivetrain, and it has them in the front and the rear. That’s where the bulk of the weight comes from.
So when, I had the chance to ride in the new NSX at the Streets of Willow at the Motor Press Guild’s Track Days event — Acura sent its own driver — I expected the car to feel heavy. It didn’t. In fact, it was highly convincing as a track car and it’s due in no small part to those same heavy electric motors.
First, let’s consider the electric motor that powers the rear wheels. It’s a permanent-magnet water-cooled electric motor that doubles as a generator. It’s a direct-drive setup, located between the engine and transmission and attached directly to the crankshaft. It’s good for 47 horsepower and 109 pound-feet of torque.
Now, the front motors — right and left — are where things get interesting. They are oil-cooled permanent magnet motors that double as generators. They work independently, but are built as a single package with a planetary gear set and a one-way clutch and brake. Through these motors and the twin-turbocharged 3.5 liter V6, four driving dynamics settings, quiet, sport, sport plus and track, and an onboard computer that is pure magic, the NSX makes a convincing argument for itself. This thing is a ball to drive, er, ride in.
Acceleration is brutal and the exhaust note sounds beautiful to the ear. It doesn’t comport itself like an electric car, but it’s because of the electrics that it’s so lively on track. The front electric motors drive the front wheels independently, which means they can add power to the wheel with the most traction available. Conversely, the motors can go into regenerative mode under braking, also independently.
As a result of that motor action, the car feels drawn into corners and catapulted from turns. It feels wonderful, and the brakes are as good as it gets, and for good reason. On the test car, they were carbon ceramic discs with an aluminum center, and the stopping power was prodigious.
From the passenger seat, it wasn’t the best way to get a driving impression, but Acura said no, so we didn’t get to drive it. I can tell you that the interior was on par with European sports cars and sedans, with suede inserts and carbon-fiber accents and French-stitched dash panels and brushed aluminum surfaces.
For racing, Acura has prepped the car with custom body work and aero bits, but it uses the same engine design specifications as the production car, including the block, heads, valvetrain, crankshaft, pistons and dry-sump lubrication system. There’s no mention of electric motors in the press information for the GT3 car, so presumably they were omitted from the racing car. Developed by Honda’s Japan racing engineering arm and Honda Performance Development in Santa Clarita, Calif., the NSX GT3 underwent testing for homologation in the FIA’s GT3 global racing specifications.
It’s anyone’s guess whether the NSX will be another appreciating asset in a collector’s rolling stock, but first impressions indicate that Acura certainly improved upon the breed and delivered something that will satisfy enthusiasts, collectors and racers. By supercar standards, it’s not outrageously expensive, but I still doubt you’ll see one at a NASA weekend anytime soon — but it sure would be fun.
|Twin-turbocharged DOHC 3.5-liter V6|
|500 @ 6,500 to 7,500 rpm|
|406 @ 2,000 to 6,000 rpm|
|Aluminum double-wishbone, double joint lower control arm|
Rear axle ratio:
|3.58:1 limited slip|