by Ian Wright
With a 0-60 mph time of under three seconds, the ability to hit 100 mph in seven seconds, and Acura's Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) distributing the power, the Acura NSX is an engineering and performance powerhouse. The 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged engine is mounted behind the driver and combines with three electric motors to deliver 573 horsepower and 476 lb-ft of torque, delivered through a lightning-fast dual-clutch transmission (DCT) and distributed by the SH-AWD system. When the corners arrive, and they arrive quickly, the taut and balanced chassis combine with the SH-AWD system to deliver a level of grip and handling usually reserved for high-end sports cars with European badges. The Acura NSX, however, is designed and built in the USA.
The NSX isn't perfect, though. While it delivers physical drama all day long, and with Acura reliability, it doesn't have the aural drama of many of its gasoline-only powered contemporaries like the Ferrari F8 Tributo. Acura is delivering a tremendous amount of car for the money, but some will be disappointed by the craftsmanship in the cabin of a car costing the best part of $160,000. It's also about to enter its fifth year of production for this generation, so the question is: Is the NSX still relevant in the world of the supercar?
Supercars like the Acura NSX often aren't subject to the same comprehensive updates during their life cycles as cheaper models. That's why the second-generation Acura NSX isn't vastly different from the version that was launched back in 2016. However, the hybrid missile hasn't been untouched, with updates in recent years including a few exterior styling tweaks, chassis updates that included stiffer stabilizer bars, and more equipment being fitted as standard. For 2020, a new paint color called Indy Yellow was added to the palette, while for 2021, Long Beach Blue has been added to the roster.
3.5L Twin-Turbo V6 Hybrid
The mid-engine layout of the NSX has dictated its proportions to an extent, and that's no bad thing since this remains Acura's most arresting product by far. It's aggressive, modern, and looks made for high-speed driving, yet stops short of the flamboyance - or gaudiness, depending on your perspective - found in Italian supercars. The body includes ten functional intakes that improve aerodynamics and provide cooling for the powertrain, such as those on the hood. Standard features include Jewel Eye LED headlamps, automatic power pop-out door handles, staggered 19-/20-inch alloy wheels, power-folding side mirrors, and LED taillights. An exposed-weave carbon-fiber roof panel and a decklid spoiler in carbon fiber are available.
Like other supercars of its ilk, the NSX sits low to the ground with a height of just 47.8 inches and a mere 3.8 inches of ground clearance. Its other key dimensions include a 103.5-inch wheelbase, a length of 176.1 inches, and a considerable width of 87.3 inches. This makes the NSX quite a bit wider than an Audi R8, for example. Without any extras equipped, the NSX has a curb weight of 3,878 pounds, with the battery no doubt adding to the car's heft.
A total of nine colors make up the palette of the Acura NSX, ranging from stealthy shades like Berlina Black to the hard-to-miss Indy Yellow Pearl and Long Beach Blue, with the latter two adding $1,000 to the base price. The other colors that will add $1,000 to the bill are Thermal Orange Pearl, Source Silver Metallic, and Casino White Pearl, while Valencia Red Pearl and Nouvelle Blue Pearl carry a cost of $6,000. Finally, Curva Red and 130R White are another two standard shades. The NSX is a striking machine in any color, but Nouvelle Blue Pearl and Thermal Orange Pearl are the shades that seem to stand out the most.
The NSX's hybrid powertrain was truly astonishing when the car appeared back in 2016, and even though high-performance hybrids/EVs have become more commonplace, one still has to admire what Acura has achieved here. By combining a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine and three electric motors, the NSX's combined system outputs are 573 horsepower and 476 lb-ft of torque. The brand's Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive system and a fast-shifting nine-speed dual-clutch gearbox will help the NSX hit 60 mph in 2.7 seconds and power on to a top speed of 191 mph. If these superb numbers aren't quite sufficient and you must go faster, the Porsche 911 Turbo S will do the job. Or, you can bring your friends along and out-accelerate the NSX in the Tesla Model S Plaid sedan. But there is no denying that the NSX is a viciously capable sports car in a straight line.
At the heart of the NSX is a mid-mounted 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine that features variable timing control and dry-sump lubrication. On its own, the V6 produces 500 hp and 406 lb-ft, but it works in concert with three electric motors for total outputs of 573 hp and 476 lb-ft. In front, a twin motor unit powers the front wheels which Acura says dishes out immediate torque to the front wheels, improving the NSX's passing power. At the back, a direct drive electric motor works together with the V6 to provide stupendous acceleration off the mark. On its own, this motor manages 47 hp and 109 lb-ft. The final piece of the puzzle is the lithium-ion battery which is positioned low-down and behind the seats.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the NSX is how the complex powertrain's parts work together seamlessly; as the driver, all you are aware of is a constant, sustained surge of power that firmly presses you into your seat. The nine-speed DCT is also effective, shifting through its ratios quickly and allowing for passing maneuvers that are over in a flash. Some other sports cars with more conventional powertrains sound more engaging and provide a more visceral experience, but the NSX turns in a thoroughly polished performance.
The NSX is blisteringly quick off the line and gets faster from there. No matter what mode is selected, mashing the throttle into the carpet results in instant torque from the electric motors propelling it forward while the turbos spool up. There's little drama as the SH-AWD system is impeccable at getting the grip down, and the twin-turbo V6 doesn't wail like a banshee. There's just an overwhelming sense of velocity, punctuated by being pressed firmly back into the comfortable bucket seats. The brakes are smooth to go on, but create the kind of stopping power needed for a car that can get you a night in jail in seven seconds flat. Corners are a physical sensation as there is so much grip available mid-corner, and the drivetrain is more than happy to spit you out the other side with aplomb. The steering is pinpoint precise, the chassis remains flat and calm, the tires grip like high-end summer rubber should, and the active vector system can manage power individually to each wheel to keep traction consistent. This means the NSX flatters the not so experienced driver, and an experienced driver has to push things extra hard to start finding the limits.
In the performance-orientated Sport modes, the NSX defies physics as a supercar should and inspires a sense of confidence they, perhaps, shouldn't in inexperienced hands. The NSX really separates itself from the competition when you drop into comfort mode and leave the back roads to enter civilization again. Through the suburbs and around town, the NSX is incredibly civilized. The steering lightens, the throttle becomes less sensitive, and the suspension is no less comfortable than a mildly sporty sedan. The amount of visibility around the cockpit comes into its own, although the engine behind the driver is an expected hindrance. The seats keep you in place when the car is trying to press your face against the side windows but are still comfortable enough for a long road trip. For a car that can dedicate itself to shaving tenths of a second off lap times, it's an incredibly civilized daily driver.
The latest available EPA figures indicate that the Acura NSX will return 21/22/21 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. The hybrid powertrain's biggest benefits are to be found in city driving, where rivals like the Audi R8 (13 mpg) are far less efficient. Out on the highway, the gap is a lot narrower. With a 15.6-gallon capacity between its twin fuel tanks, the NSX will be able to travel about 327 miles between visits to the gas station.
A mix of high-quality leather and Alcantara materials surround the driver and passenger in what is a comfortable and surprisingly spacious cabin. There are no massive compromises here once you're seated and forward visibility is excellent. However, the NSX costs well over $150,000 and that opens up the interior to further scrutiny. From this perspective, it doesn't feel quite as special as some other competitors in this segment and there are too many similarities to everyday Acura sedans. The infotainment system isn't as easy to use as it should be and the absence of a physical volume knob will frustrate some. However, there are many features equipped as standard such as front/rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable front seats, and a multi-view rear vision camera.
The NSX is a two-seater and a comfortable one for driver and passenger. There are 42.9 inches of legroom, which compares to a mid-size sedan. The headroom isn't luxurious, but our six foot one reviewer didn't bump his head and. That also means track day warriors won't have a problem wearing a helmet inside the NSX. Also crucial for comfort in a supercar is hip and shoulder room, of which there's plenty of both. The center console isn't big, and the NSX comes with a clip-on double cup holder as a result, but there's enough elbow room that a driver and passenger won't get on each other's nerves over long distances. It's also easy to get in and out of, despite the large door sills that owners will learn to keep clean if they don't want to end up with dirty pants, skirts, or dresses.
The NSX's sport seats are trimmed in a combination of semi-aniline premium leather and Alcantara. There are a number of other sporty touches like the leather-wrapped steering wheel, a leather-covered dashboard, aluminum sport pedals, contrast stitching on the door panels and dash, and a glovebox lid in Alcantara. Interior color schemes include Indigo, Ebony, Orchid, Saddle, and Red, with each choice adding the selected color to the seats, lower door panels, and center console. However, Milano leather can replace the semi-aniline leather/Alcantara combo, or, for an added cost, full semi-aniline leather seats can be equipped. Lighter, manually-adjustable seats are also offered. However, the type of color affects which seat it can be matched with; for instance, full semi-aniline leather can only be paired with Ebony or Red. Carbon-fiber trim can additionally be added to the meter visor and the steering wheel garnish.
At a mere 4.4 cubic feet, it seems like a stretch to refer to the NSX's cargo area as a trunk. Two smaller bags are all that will fit in the space which is sandwiched between the rear bumper and engine compartment. Even worse, this tiny trunk area is susceptible to heat buildup because of its positioning close to the engine, so it isn't an ideal place to store certain food items. The NSX doesn't have a frunk because space in front is taken up by the twin electric motors.
Interior storage space leaves much to be desired, with not much more than a glovebox and minimal space between the seats by virtue of a small multi-function console. Detachable cupholders are offered but these will take up space on the passenger-side of the cabin, so aren't quite ideal.
The Acura NSX comes standard with features such as electric air conditioning with dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless access, push-button ignition, an electronic gear selector, a frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror, 12-volt power outlets, and a tilt/telescoping steering column. Both occupants benefit from four-way power-adjustable sport seats with heating, along with interior ambient lighting. Other driver convenience items include hill start assist, cruise control, front/rear parking sensors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and an automatic brake hold function for the electric parking brake. A digital gauge cluster is placed ahead of the driver and is dominated by the tachometer, with smaller analog displays for engine temperature and gas levels. The driver gets a multi-function steering wheel with transmission shift paddles.
For a car costing just under $160,000, the infotainment system is not a stellar experience. The seven-inch touchscreen is fine, but clearly from the Honda/Acura parts bin. That means the same complaints apply here, particularly as it's not from other 2021 models that have improved. The user interface is dated, and the menu system is not intuitive. Thankfully, the NSX does come with a powerful 508-watt ELS premium audio system that sounds fantastic despite the confined space not giving the soundwaves room to breathe.
At the time of writing, the last recall on record for the Acura NSX affected the 2019 model. According to the NHTSA, the issue was for a fuel pump that may fail, which could lead to an engine stall while driving. Other than this, the NSX appears to be trouble-free. Acura sells the NSX with a four-year/50,000-mile warranty and a six-year/70,000-mile drivetrain warranty. The NSX's hybrid components are covered for eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Crash-testing the Acura NSX would be a prohibitively expensive exercise, so neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has yet evaluated the supercar for crashworthiness.
To keep both the driver and passenger safe if the worst happens, the Acura NSX comes with a grand total of seven airbags, including side curtain airbags and a driver's knee airbag. Along with these, the car comes with traction control, auto high beams, tire-pressure monitoring, a multi-view rear camera with dynamic guidelines, front/rear parking sensors, cruise control, and LED daytime running lights. Unfortunately, more advanced driver-assist technologies like rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring aren't available, although this is common on high-performance sports cars like the NSX. The twin fuel tanks are positioned between the rear bulkhead and the engine, a setup that improves safety should a rear-end crash occur.
Should you buy the Accord? Yes or no, better value options, consider alternatives. Is this a good time to buy (e.g. approaching end of lifecycle so good deals to be had, first MY of the new generation may want to wait to see what problems the new car has before buying etc.)
The NSX is a stunning car and much underrated. However, it speaks to a certain type of supercar buyer. It doesn't have the drama of some of its contemporaries in dynamics and noise, but it does have breathtaking performance and an understated style about it. Its drivetrain was ahead of its time when the NSX came out but, although other automakers build hybrid supercars, the NSX still beats them on price and, therefore, accessibility. It also beats everyone out on the refinement of the powertrain, despite not being the new kid on the block anymore.
The NSX has been described as the Porsche 918 you can actually buy, and the statement still holds water. Acura's supercar is still a technological and performance marvel. It's also unique in that there are supercars that can be daily driven; however, the NSX is one you'll still want to daily drive three months into ownership.
An MSRP of $157,500 will allow you access to Acura NSX ownership, a lofty sum of money that puts it into the same territory as the Audi R8 and the Porsche 911 Turbo, both of which start at around the $170,000 mark. The NSX's price excludes a destination/handling charge of $1,995, along with tax, registration, and licensing costs.
Although a Type R version of the NSX has been hinted at, for now, it is offered in just a single trim. Power goes to all four wheels and the combination of a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 engine and three electric motors provides outputs of 573 hp and 476 lb-ft of torque. A nine-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox with paddle shifters is standard, along with a wet multi-plate limited-slip differential.
Outside, the NSX comes with full LED lighting, including distinctive Jewel Eye LED headlights. Adding to the alluring look are staggered 19-/20-inch alloy wheels, flush automatic power door handles, and a rear spoiler. The cabin features two sport seats trimmed in a combination of semi-aniline leather and Alcantara, with both seats featuring four-way power-adjustability. The standard list of amenities includes cruise control, front/rear parking sensors, heated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, an electronic gear selector, and push-button ignition. A seven-inch touchscreen takes care of infotainment duties and comes with HD Radio, navigation with 3D view, and a nine-speaker ELS sound system.
Many high-performance sports cars offer carbon-fiber upgrades and the Acura NSX is no different. An available Carbon Fiber Exterior Sport Package adds well over $10,000 to the base price as it also requires the fitment of a carbon-fiber engine cover. With this box ticked, trim pieces like the rear diffuser, side sills, and lower front lip are made from the exotic material. A carbon-fiber decklid spoiler can be separately equipped. Similarly, a Carbon Fiber Interior Sport Package can be added to the cabin, with elements like the steering wheel and gauge cluster cover receiving this material. Finally, a carbon-fiber roof can be equipped. Beyond aesthetic enhancements like different wheels and lightweight manually-adjustable seats, the NSX's feature count can't be significantly enhanced by way of any packages.
A single trim makes the buy decision a simple one, and then it boils down to how much you value carbon-fiber, then what wheel choice and paint color you like. The base MSRP is below the NSX's closest rivals, so even splashing out an extra $10,000 on the Carbon Fiber Exterior Sport Package doesn't feel over the top. We would have a long hard think about the carbon-fiber roof and hood if the car is going to get regular workouts at the track or back roads, but we don't believe any of it is a must.
The Audi R8 is a more conventional supercar in the sense that it boasts a large-capacity, naturally-aspirated V10 screamer. With up to 602 horsepower but less torque at 413 lb-ft, the R8 isn't as quick to 60 mph, but the sheer aural theatrics from that V10 will make you think it is. It can also reach the magic 200-mph mark if that matters. Both cars stick to the road like glue yet are comfortable enough to live with every day. In the cabins, the R8 wins with superior materials and much better infotainment tech, whereas the NSX feels outdated in this area. Although the NSX's hybrid powertrain makes it the more efficient sports car, this same high-tech approach removes a layer of emotion with the Acura that is prevalent in the louder, brasher R8. The NSX is far from a boring machine, but it's the R8 that does a better job of stirring the soul.
Although discontinued, the BMW i8 also offered a revolutionary hybrid powertrain, but a comparatively meek 1.5-liter three-cylinder turbo motor and just one electric motor means that it isn't as powerful or quick as the NSX. However, as a plug-in hybrid, the i8 is far more efficient and has a combined MPGe rating of 69. Both of these cars handle well, but neither is as awe-inspiring to drive as conventionally powered sports cars at similar prices. The i8 perhaps looked even more breathtaking and has a well-designed cabin plus extra packing space via two small rear seats. There are also a few more safety features available to the i8. If it comes down to a secondhand purchase between these two, we recommend a drive in each to determine which is best. The NSX is a better performance car, but the i8 is an even more alluring machine to look at and can be genuinely thrifty. Both are thoroughly unique offerings in this segment.