by Karl Furlong
As a showcase of Acura's powertrain expertise and the brand's ability to create a properly emotive machine, the NSX sports car makes a fine impression in a segment filled with some of the world's most accomplished driver's cars. The Acura NSX is powered by a combination of a twin-turbocharged, 3.5-liter V6 engine and three electric motors to deliver a total system output of 573 horsepower and 476 lb-ft of torque. The mid-engine NSX uses Acura's SH-AWD (Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive) system and a nine-speed DCT (Dual-Clutch Transmission) to see off the 0-60 mph sprint in a rapid three-seconds dead on its way to a 191 mph top speed. While the NSX's performance credentials are unquestionable, the driving experience lacks the sheer drama of rivals like the Porsche 911 and the raucous, V10-engined Audi R8. More pressing is the NSX's cabin, which falls short of the craftsmanship expected of an exotic costing in excess of $150,000. Still, the NSX is lavishly equipped and remains a towering technical achievement.
Changes for the 2019 NSX have seen several enhancements to the exterior, tweaks to the chassis, a software update for improved performance, and the fitment of grippier Continental SportContact 6 tires, replacing the Conti SportContact 5P tires used previously. An eye-catching new color, Thermal Orange Pearl, has been introduced. Along with gloss black exterior trim and a body-color treatment for the front grille garnish, the NSX looks even more striking. Further updates see the Technology Package now being standard - this adds an upgraded sound system, navigation, and proximity sensors. Semi-aniline leather sport seats with Alcantara and power adjustment are now standard. The chassis gets stiffer stabilizer bars in addition to rear toe-link bushing and hub, and the SH-AWD system has been re-tuned. Overall, equipment that was previously optional and is now standard totals $4,700.
A further minor update for 2020 has seen the addition of a new paint color, an eye-searing shade of Indy Yellow meant to harken back to the old Spa Yellow of the original NSX.
See trim levels and configurations:
3.5L Twin-Turbo V6 Hybrid
The NSX boasts classic supercar looks, being suitably low-slung, wide, and with the requisite slashes and aggressive air intakes that demand attention. Standard exterior features include flush-mounted, automatic power pop-out door handles, LED brake lights, and Acura Jewel Eye LED headlamps. Front wheels are 19-inch forged aluminum items, with the rears measuring 20 inches. For 2019, gloss black finish for the exterior trim replaces the matte-black used previously, while the front grille garnish is now body-colored (previously, silver was used). A number of options are available to add even more clout to the already bold appearance. These range from striking orange calipers for the optional carbon ceramic brakes to a comprehensive carbon fiber exterior sport package.
The NSX's dimensions are mostly in line with supercar rivals, but it is wider than many of them, measuring 47.8 inches in height, 176.1 inches in length, and 87.3 inches wide. This makes the NSX marginally lower and longer than an Audi R8, but a notable 10.9-inches wider. The NSX's wheelbase is 103.5-inches long and ground clearance is a very low 3.8 inches, so owners will have to exercise caution when encountering raised intersections, speed bumps, and driveway dips. Curb weight is 3,878 lbs, making the NSX over 400 pounds heavier than an Audi R8 coupe primarily due to the addition of battery packs to power the electric motors.
The Acura NSX is available in a choice of eight distinctive colors for the exterior. Standard colors are Berlina Black (carried over from the original NSX), Curva Red, and 130R White. Optional pearl and metallic colors are Source Silver Metallic, Casino White Pearl, and newly introduced for 2019, Thermal Orange Pearl at $700 apiece. Finally, two optional and exclusive Andaro colors (using a special mid-coat technology for a striking level of color saturation) are available: Nouvelle Blue Pearl and Valencia Red Pearl, but at a jaw-dropping fee of $6,000 extra. Andaro colors are said to change subtly depending on the viewing angle. Nord Gray, part of the color palette for 2018, falls away in 2019. 2020 sees the inclusion of Indy Yellow, too, which is added to the heritage palette along with Berlina Black.
The only available version of the NSX uses Acura's Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive and a nine-speed dual-clutch transmission. Power is provided by the Sport Hybrid powertrain which uses a 3.5-liter V6, twin-turbocharged engine and three electric motors for a total system output of 573 horsepower and 476 lb-ft of torque. The combination means that the NSX provides dramatic and easily repeatable performance, completing the 0-60 mph sprint in just 3.0 seconds and reaching a max speed of 191 mph. The quarter-mile is dispatched in just 11.2 seconds and zero to 100 mph takes seven seconds. While these are exemplary performance figures, both the McLaren 570S and Porsche 911 Turbo are ultimately faster and make a more intoxicating noise. Still, there's no disputing that at full tilt, the NSX will effortlessly pin you back into your seat, whether from a standing start or on the move.
The NSX's advanced hybrid-electric powertrain is at the heart of Acura's flag-bearing sports car. The smooth, 3.5-liter V6 engine is longitudinally mid-mounted and revs all the way to 7,500 rpm. Aided by twin-turbochargers, it produces 500 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque for a power output per liter of 143 hp. The three electric motors (two up front powering only the front wheels and one at the rear, helping the V6 to power the rear wheels) raise the combined system output to 573 hp and 476 lb-ft of torque.
Off the mark, the NSX's acceleration is intense and unyielding, yet accomplished with a polish that is unusual in a segment filled with cars that feel a lot fierier from behind the wheel. Passing on the highway? The phrase almost does the NSX an injustice as it instead blasts past hordes of "everyday" cars without skipping a beat or feeling remotely unsettled. There is a deeply impressive ease with which the electric motors and the V6 work together to deliver crushing performance. The nine-speed DCT plays its part by executing fast shifts to effectively keep the engine operating within an ideal range, and mounted on the steering wheel are paddles that are pleasingly responsive. It's not the sharpest transmission in the segment, but it's close enough to add to - rather than detract from - the driving experience.
A number of suspension tweaks have further improved the dynamics of the already accomplished NSX. Feeding power to all four wheels, the hybrid system sees the NSX rocket out of corners at astounding speeds with unflappable stability and poise. An Active Vectoring System can control the power or braking sent to individual wheels, making for superb grip when taking corners at speed. Body roll is virtually non-existent, and the new tires not only offer improved grip but are longer lasting following repeated laps around a track.
Of course, sports cars at this price level are fully expected to deliver performance thrills and bend the laws of physics. What they often don't do is deliver a palatable driving experience around town. Here, the NSX remains a joy to pilot. The ride quality is genuinely excellent considering the performance on offer, with surface changes, rough patches of road, and even long distances all being dealt with easily. In traffic, and with Quiet driving mode selected, the NSX offers perhaps the smoothest, most refined experience you're likely to find in a supercar. In either Quiet or Sport Mode, the steering feels surprisingly light and makes the NSX an effortless daily driver. Sport Plus and Track Modes add some more heft, but the car always responds quickly and precisely to even marginal inputs from the driver.
Overall, the NSX may not be the most riveting drive in the segment, but it sure makes a strong case for itself as the most effective.
EPA mileage estimates for the NSX are 21/22/21 mpg in the city/highway/combined cycles. With a 15.6-gallon capacity (split between twin fuel tanks), the NSX's mixed driving range maxes out at 327 miles. It's easy to fall short of this mark, however, as the surge of acceleration waiting at the beck and call of your right foot is often simply too seductive to ignore. While the NSX's consumption in the city is significantly better than competitors since it is able to run on electric-only power at lower speeds, it loses this advantage on the highway and ultimately returns a combined figure in line with the class average. Premium 93 octane gasoline is the recommended gas type, with 91 being required at a minimum.
The NSX's interior is distinctly Acura in its presentation. That means solid materials, comfortable seating for both passengers, and a plethora of features fitted as standard. However, the NSX is not just any humdrum Acura and, with a price of over $150,000, one might argue that the cabin doesn't feel special enough. It relies more on a mix of varying materials and colors than it does on a particularly dazzling design to set it apart. The infotainment system failings of lesser Honda models have frustratingly found their way into the NSX as well, with the various menus simply not being intuitive enough to work through. While the materials are very good, they're not exceptional in this segment and one feels that opting for the optional Alcantara headliner and carbon fiber interior sport package are necessary to impart a bona fide exotic car feel. Not lacking are the leather and Alcantara seats, which are supportive and comfortable, perfectly complementing the interior's airy feel - not always a given for a low-slung sports car.
The NSX seats two passengers and, unlike some other supercars, makes it fairly easy to get into and out of. Only taller people will have to stoop a bit lower than is comfortable to get inside, but this is an expected compromise for such a car. The cabin feels sports-car-snug without being claustrophobic, and space is good all-round. Legroom isn't overly generous, and all but the tallest of drivers should be able to get comfortable behind the wheel. Forward visibility is superb, and the NSX also offers adequate visibility to the sides and rear. While the seats offer standard power adjustment, a no-cost option swaps these controls out for manual adjustment, the benefit, of course, being lower weight and the ability to lower the seat more for taller occupants.
Five interior colors are available for the NSX: Indigo (newly introduced for 2019), Ebony, Red, Saddle, and Orchid. While a stylish combination of leather and Alcantara is used as standard for the seats, the Ebony and Red color options can also be specified with full leather. Color-matched leather surfaces adorn the armrests, door panels, and center console. When specified with one of the brighter colors such as red, the interior gets closer to matching the exterior design for drama. While semi-aniline leather and Alcantara power seats are standard, the NSX can also be had with lightweight, manually adjustable seats with Milano leather and Alcantara trim. A carbon fiber interior sport package is optionally available and brings with it an Alcantara headliner.
With an emphasis on performance, the NSX was never going to be your first choice for completing the weekly shop. Trunk space is limited to a tiny area between the rear bumper and engine compartment - it measures just 4.4 cubic feet. At a squeeze, this is enough for two small bags. Unlike other mid-engined cars that usually feature a "frunk", the NSX's electric motors occupy that space, leaving storage somewhat of an issue. Another issue is the trunk's proximity to the engine, where it is exposed to high temperatures. Cargo space is no better, with clip-on cupholders and marginal storage areas between the seats and in the doors being the sum total of the NSX's available packing space.
The NSX is equipped with all of the luxuries you can reasonably accommodate in a two-seater sports car. The attractive and comfortable seats feature four-way power adjustment, three-stage heating, and are trimmed in a mix of semi-aniline leather and Alcantara. Dual-zone climate control takes care of each passenger's temperature settings. A dynamic TFT gauge cluster suits the NSX's extroverted personality and displays a digital-analog tachometer, digital speedometer, and information such as the battery's level of charge. LED interior ambient lighting, push-button start, electronic cruise control, a customizable multi-information display, and a multi-angle rearview camera are all included as standard.
The NSX's infotainment system uses a seven-inch capacitive touchscreen as standard. While eschewing the confusing dual-screen layout of other Acura models, the NSX's system is very obviously sourced from Honda and lets down the NSX, feeling particularly second-rate in such an advanced and expensive car. The touch-sensitive slide to adjust the volume is especially irksome, making it difficult to change the volume to your desired level. While usability, therefore, falls far short, the infotainment is otherwise fully specified. The NSX boasts a powerful 508-watt ELS premium audio system with nine speakers and has brilliant sound reproduction. SiriusXM Radio can be added as a stand-alone option, but standard inclusions are HD radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Siri Eyes Free, Bluetooth streaming audio, Bluetooth HandsFreeLink, Pandora compatibility, USB audio interface, and MP3 with an auxiliary input jack. Acura's satellite-linked navigation system includes both voice recognition and HD digital traffic. AcuraLink is integrated as well (both in-vehicle and on a free-to-download mobile app) with features such as cloud-based navigation, assist service, and scheduled maintenance information.
No safety recalls have been issued by the NHTSA for the 2019 NSX while the J.D. Power's predicted reliability rating for the model is average. The NSX is covered by a basic four-year/50,000-mile warranty and a six-year/70,000-mile drivetrain warranty. 2017 and 2018 NSX models were recalled for a faulty fuel tank and a brake light malfunction, but overall the NSX appears not only more reliable than many competitors, but easier to service than complex supercars from Ferrari and McLaren. Our 2019 test drive of the NSX yielded no issues whatsoever.
The NSX has not been crash-tested by either the NHTSA or IIHS, but owners will find peace of mind in the model's comprehensive list of standard safety features and Acura's top-notch reputation for building safe cars.
The NSX features several safety features but lacks many of the more advanced driver-assistive technologies available in other Acura models. Front, side, and curtain airbags are all standard, along with a driver knee airbag, while Vehicle Stability Assist, Brake Assist, a multi-angle rearview camera, and LED daytime running lights are all included too. The unique twin-tank fuel reservoir was designed to increase safety should a rear-end collision occur - the tanks are positioned between the engine and rear bulkhead. Notable by their absence are adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, and rear cross traffic alert - however, these are common ommissions on sports cars and supercars of this ilk.
A tremendous powertrain, exceptional dynamics, and a stunning design are all highlights of the NSX package. While the current model continues to battle with the weight of expectation that came with the much-loved first-generation NSX, it does enough things very well to carve out a unique niche for itself in the high-end sports car segment. No rival can really match the NSX's powertrain refinement and ease of use as a daily driver, although whether these characteristics should be considered priorities for high-performance machines is up for debate. Still, the mix of power delivery and relative efficiency of the sport hybrid setup is admirable, and the NSX's ability to maintain its composure in a variety of conditions makes it truly versatile. The cabin doesn't match the mechanicals, though, with the NSX's dated infotainment system and average materials slightly diminishing the experience from behind the wheel. Rivals also offer more sonic thrills. It's still a phenomenally capable supercar and more than worthy of a place on your shortlist.
The 2019 NSX SH-AWD coupe is available in just one configuration at an MSRP of $157,500. The model uses a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 boosted by three electric motors, all-wheel-drive, and a nine-speed dual-clutch transmission. Pile on the options, however, and a fully-loaded NSX will quickly soar to $203,300, excluding the $1,800 destination charge and any licensing, tax, or registration fees applicable. It pays to shop around, however, as many dealers offer regional incentives that could see you walk away with an absolute bargain.
Only one model is available: the NSX SH-AWD using a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 hybrid. All-wheel-drive and a nine-speed DCT are standard.
The NSX is well-equipped and for 2019, the previously optional Technology Package is now standard. This package includes an ELS premium audio system with nine speakers, Acura's navigation system, and proximity sensors front and rear. Outside, the NSX is identifiable with LED daytime running lights, Jewel Eye LED headlights, striking forged aluminum wheels (19 inches for the front and 20 inches for the rear), a black aluminum roof, and flush-mounted automatic pop-out door handles with which are powered. The sporty cabin features standard four-way power and heated seats with a semi-aniline leather and Alcantara combination, leather-trimmed instrument and door panels, navigation with voice recognition, a seven-inch touchscreen, dual-zone climate control, and an electronic gear selector. Infotainment encompasses the full spectrum of connectivity features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, HD radio, Pandora compatibility, and Siri Eyes Free.
The driving experience can be adjusted with several controls which fall under the Integrated Dynamics System. An Intake Sound Control system can be used to enhance the driving experience by matching the sound volume and quality with the selected driving mode. Launch Mode Control provides maximum acceleration from a standstill, steering feedback can be adjusted, and the four driving modes range from the electric-only Quiet Mode to aggressive Sport+.
A number of packages and standalone options are available for owners to customize their NSX and, considering that the base MSRP starts below rivals like the Audi R8, Porsche 911 Turbo, and McLaren 570S, we expect more than a few of these optional boxes to be ticked. One of the priciest options is the Gloss Carbon Fiber Exterior Sport Package for a hefty $12,600 - the carbon fiber treatment is applied to the engine cover, side sills, front spoiler, rear diffuser, and exhaust finisher. The Carbon Fiber Interior Sport Package costs $3,800 and includes a black Alcantara headliner.
There are two carbon ceramic braking options ($9,900 with black calipers and $10,600 for silver, red or orange calipers), but this upgrade is only really necessary if you intend using your NSX on the track. Appealing individual factory options include a gloss carbon fiber roof ($6,000), exclusive interwoven wheels ($1,500), a carbon fiber decklid spoiler ($3,000), full leather seats ($1,000), and SiriusXM Radio.
With only one model to choose from, only the options list gives you some choice to create your unique NSX. By keeping options below the $170,000-mark, the NSX's value proposition over key competitors is maintained. Adding on one of the premium colors, the decklid spoiler in gloss carbon fiber, the carbon fiber interior sport package, and the exclusive interwoven wheels are relatively affordable ways to enhance the look and feel of the NSX, giving it a true sense of being an exotic without breaking the bank too much.
The R8 continues to be a success story for Audi, with the second-generation model introduced in 2015. Like the NSX, the pricier R8 offers a similar ability to provide driving thrills at the limit while also being perfectly capable as a comfortable daily driver. Performance is similar, the NSX getting to 60 mph a tad faster than the R8, but the R8's V10 engine does provide a more inspirational driving experience. The Acura's wider track means it is the even gripper car in the corners. Inside, the R8 outclasses the NSX for material quality and technology, with Audi's infotainment system being much easier to use and nicer to look at. The R8 also feels like it has a more focused, racier cabin. Overall, the R8 offers the more old-school driving experience with its huge V10, whereas the NSX feels like the smarter, more refined, but less visceral machine. Crucially though, the R8 elicits more emotion with its wailing V10, and aren't supercars supposed to be about emotion?
These two Japanese supercars are vastly different beasts. In Nismo form, the GT-R is all about extreme performance, noise, a stiff suspension tuned for cornering, and a colossal 600 horsepower from its 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged engine. While the handling and feedback are even more electric than the NSX's, the GT-R isn't nearly as refined and comfortable when you aren't pushing the limits. Road noise is also more prevalent in the GT-R, making it a more taxing machine to operate. Although offering four seats (in a 2+2 configuration) to the NSX's two, the GT-R's rear seats are only really suitable for children. Inside and out, the Nissan screams aggression but appears dated alongside the sleek and futuristic Acura. If ultimate performance is the goal, the Nissan gets the nod, but the NSX is the more rounded sports car for the forward-thinking enthusiast.
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