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Review of: 2017 Acura NSX 2dr Cpe
2017 Acura NSX: Reinventing the NSX, or the sports/GT Car?
By G. R. Whale
May. 25, 2017
Both, really. Like the original the new NSX is Acura’s (and Honda’s) current take on a supercar with plenty of performance yet livable enough to drive every day. And it demonstrates cars full of technology don’t have to feel like the technology is driving it…you are.
Pros & Cons
- + Efficient performance
- + Comfortable enough for daily driving
- + Refined drive
- - Driving range
- - Steering column adjustment
- - Outdated infotainment
Even if you don’t choose a $6,000 paint option, the NSX looks the part from the LED headlights to the air-exit slats between the taillights and decklid at the McLaren-esque rear. Roof buttresses aren’t extreme as a Ford GT’s but were seen here first; every aperture covered in honeycomb flows cooling air in or out (there are ten heat exchangers); the 360-mm carbon-ceramic rear discs only look small in the 20-inch wheels because there are 380-mm rotors inside 19-inch wheels up front; and anything that looks like carbon fibre is.
Perhaps it’s the proximity to ground that makes this Acura nose more pleasing than any of them, and the cab-forward flowing lines have classic mid-engine proportions. Rather than beautiful or pretty, I find it attractive because every panel and element can be traced to engineering behind it, yet it doesn’t appear to have merely driven off the Mulsanne straight and had the decals peeled off.
More than any other aspect, the cabin speaks Acura, from the buttery-soft leather upholstery to clearly logical controls. It’s very comfortable for those nearing six-and-a-half feet tall, has plenty of room in the footwells and a terrific view save the 45-degree right rear if merging to a frontage road or front straight.
These are grand touring seats, easily comfortable for a tank of fuel and you don’t need skinny jeans, and the padded door and console side panels let you brace your knees without pain when the seat may not be retentive enough. As for that track mode, I do fit with a helmet on but the seats aren’t really harness or race ready.
I’d like a bit more travel in the steering wheel telescope and a seat cushion angle adjustment so I sat on more than the rear half, but I’m not 99th percentile anatomy and aware that any adjustment adds weight.
Materials are pleasant to the touch—a leather-wrapped wheel stitched on the inside, suede switch-plate, glovebox and headliner if you wish, and while not quiet it’s never harsh inside. The large silver dial below the entertainment screen changes only drive mode—no multi-dimensional controllers here, but the shift buttons and steering wheel controls feel straight off a TLX. As in other high-end cars they’re perfectly functional, but if you already have an Acura you may expect more for your much-pricier ride.
Cabin storage amounts to a couple of console bins, the glovebox and maybe a jacket on your seatback. Trunk space is 120 litres that doesn’t mind getting warm, and it’s almost twice as wide as the opening.
Engineered to the nth degree—they use different-weight flywheel bolts for balance, the brake–by-wire pedal travel will increase if the brakes get hot, and the “approximate” top speed is 307 km/h…not 305, 310, nor “better than 300”—the NSX is packed with components and code communicating like those marriages where one knows what the other is thinking with nary a word spoken. Yet it doesn’t feel like code is driving the car.
An NSX is constructed of multiple materials, including steel in key points around the passenger cell, firewalls and so on. The floor is carbon-fibre, many castings and opening panels aluminum (plus the roof if you don’t opt for carbon-fibre), and sheet-moulded compounds used everywhere from exotic cars to Toyota Tacoma pickup beds. The hybrid system adds weight, but so do modern conveniences, crash standards and regulations.
Suspension is contemporary sports car—rigidly mounted fully independent with hollow antiroll bars, coil springs and magnetorheological dampers than adjust continuously, with three-season tires on forged aluminum wheels. Steering is electric-assist variable gear-ratio rack-and-pinion so once on you’ll never have to hand-over-hand, whether it’s a mountain hairpin taken in anger or negotiating an urban garage.
The hybrid system consists of a small lithium-ion battery pack, two oil-cooled electric motors in front (one per wheel but connectable), and a water-cooled electric motor between the dry-sump twin-turbo V-6 and the nine-speed dual-clutch transmission. It won’t go very far on battery-only — I made it almost one kilometre with nominal elevation drop in quiet mode — but it is designed more as a performance aid than for economy, and there is no electric-only drive mode. Although city consumption is better than class-average, a BMW i8 prioritizes efficiency over performance.
The electric motors up front can pull for speed, retard for regen, or split one power/one retard to help the car turn. The engine switches off at stop and low loads unless in sport-plus or track modes and the simple launch control works very effectively without whacking your head back. On decent pavement, anyone can do 0-100 km/h in the low three-seconds and a quarter-mile in 11.2 seconds at about 200 km/h.
What’s typically called “technology,” infotainment and such, consists of the latest AcuraLink connectivity, CarPlay and Android Auto, Siri Eyes Free, text assistant and a seven-inch touchscreen (including volume). Navigation, 580-watt ELS sound system (load the phone with hi-res files) and parking sensors both ends comprise the Technology package, with or without SiriusXM and TravelLink. This all worked and while you’d think big, simple white lettering on a blue or white background would be ideal in a fast car, you won’t be messing with it while going fast so the graphics seem a bit bland for a $200,000 tech machine.
Of course, colours on the main instrument panel change with driving mode, and in sport-plus/track the tachometer reads to 9,000 rather than 8,000 but the redline doesn’t change. These two modes firm the dampers, tighten up the steering, open up the exhaust and intake-to-firewall sound connectors and keep the engine running, and while that’s not what I typically want when I leave the garage, it also adds oil temperature to the display, so I can get the (expensive) engine warmed up faster and know when it’s ready to work rather than leaning on it cold.
Unlike some vehicles where every parameter is adjustable or there’s a customizable setting the parameters here—steering, dampers, brake and throttle response, stability and traction controls and engine sound—are preset for the four modes and you can’t change them. Maybe your hacker could.
Settle in, hit the start button and the engine might start. It might not… there are numerous variables and the drive mode to choose from. It won’t even scare the neighbours when it does light off.
Four modes (quiet, sport, sport-plus, track… normal or economy don’t seem appropriate) offer distinctions but the major change occurs at that plus sign. Quiet is as stealthy as it gets, ideal when you don’t want to wake up the house or minimum consumption is required. Sport is for mundane roads and trips, soaking up bumps better—it’s firm but compliant, and often as comfortably fast on bad roads than sport-plus with the shocks stiffened up. The engine is on and off frequently and while not loud by performance car standards you do hear it at every restart. The NSX’s only detriments to daily driving are the low nose: The plastic skirt underneath scuffed at least three times from road undulations, low-profile tires and avoiding people who can’t drive and shoot phone video out the window simultaneously.
At sport-plus and up, the suspension buttons up for best performance on smoother roads, steering gets a little heavier—but the front of the car never feels heavy—brake response and pedal feel are crisper, the gearbox is always ready to crack off upshifts or drop three or more during heavy braking and the hybrid driveline does more for directional transitions. Track doesn’t change suspension but furthers other characteristics, including dialing back stability control. Given you can get the rear end out in sport-plus, I didn’t use track very often.
Despite all the wizardry underneath, the NSX feels far more conventional than it is. Every input does what an experienced driver expects, and despite most driver-to-car connections being electrical, there’s enough feedback to quickly gather a feel for what it’s doing. Too fast into a corner and it briefly understeers, too enthusiastic with the throttle and the back gets livelier (varying by mode of course). The hardest thing to adapt to is learning that it is indeed okay to get on the throttle, harder than you expect with nearly 600 hp, exiting a turn, because the electric front-drive’s 108 lb-ft is very good at pulling the car out of the bend rather than have it shoot off into the trees. This is still best to explore on a track, but I eventually worked my way up to squealing a tire, using a lot more throttle than I would with 573 horses driving the rear wheels, at which point my passenger observed “Do you know how fast we’re going?” That’s the problem with digital speedometers: 58, 88 and 98 are just a pair of bar segments different, and they change very quickly.
Launch control is dead simple, and once in track mode it doesn’t require a single button or lever. But even without launch, it is accessibly quick. Mat the gas and the electric motors get the car into motion, about 0.15 seconds later the turbos have joined in full boost, shifts are so quick you don’t feel — only hear — them, and in three more seconds you’re doing 100 km/h. My butt says the acceleration rate doesn’t really fall off til past the 200-km/h mark, and it sounds good doing it, neither the bellow of a big V8 or banshee howl of a 8,500-rev Ferrari or 911 GT3.
Against NRC ratings of 11.1/10.8 (city/highway), I managed 10.0 highway (quiet or sport) and averaged 12.5, which is quite good based on pace and conditions.
At $189,000 to start and approaching a quarter-million loaded, with no immediately direct competitors, this argument could go anywhere. The similar-perfomance Audi R8, Porsche 911 Turbo S, McLaren 570S and GT-R track begin at $214,000, $217,000, about $220,000 and $150,000 respectively, while the BMW i8 hybrid is $155,000 if you want to look wild on less gas. Closest-in-concept performance hybrids (if you could find one) include the McLaren P1, Ferrari’s LaFerrari and the Porsche 918—which many have compared NSX to, favourably—are a million more.
The NSX proves hybridization can deliver a car with modern technology and old-school driving feel, making you faster while still feeling in control, all the while keeping the class-relative practical qualities and comfort that made the first one a success. It could be the new benchmark in GT cars.