March 28, 2016 @ 03:26 PM

Review: The Honda NSX – After 11-years, the prodigal son returns

Having big numbers may be awesome but the NSX is more than just horsepower and torque

At the moment, there is an S660, a Civic, a Jade, an RLX and the Acura NSX running somewhere in this four-kilometre long oval, which is part of the Honda R&D’s Tochigi Proving Ground. I have no doubt that all of the cars that are on track are either close to or running at maximum speed. All cars but one; the Honda NSX that I am driving has just come to a complete stop in the middle lane of the track, just a few metres out from the high-speed embankment. The digital readout confirms that I am travelling at a grand zero-kph and I allowed myself a second of indulgence to wonder how long will it take for any of the above-mentioned cars to rear-end me.

Nothing wrong with the car, I brought the NSX to a full stop solely by choice. I wanted… no, needed to feel just how punchy this car can be going from zero to 100kph and there isn't any better time to do it. Already, the first lap of two laps has been completed within the span of just under a minute and that was accomplished without me flooring the pedal. At least, it felt like that. I better make Lap 2 count for more.

The first lap wasn’t a complete waste, mind you. The NSX started in moving from the makeshift facility to the pit lane then onto the exit with hunting cat-like quietness. Honda’s supercar was set to draw electricity from the lithium-ion battery to power the motors for forward motion; the 3.5-litre V6 was left out of the equation. Put more pressure on the pedal, however, and the high-pitched whirl, which sounded something from an aircraft, got louder as the speed climbed into the tripled digits. And then crescendoed to a loud and emotional growl as the rev needle jumped and the 3.5-litre twin turbo engine roared to life.

I checked the tiny rear wing mirror looking for approaching traffic — there was none. Pressure on the pedal and the car propelled straight from around 60kph and into the mid-triples without so much as a blink of an eye. By the time I hit the embankment, I had carried enough speed to make the engineer sitting shotgun reminding me to lower my speed.

Now that I am stopped, Engineer-san is fiddling with the large dial on the centre console and pressing a few buttons to take the car into its sportiest but safe setting. And that would be Sport+. There is one higher but we’re not going to that place today. He gives the go-signal and I focus my force on the small contact patch that links me with the car and kick the pedal all the way to the floor.

Without warning, without any waiting time for the turbo to spool or a warning growl that the engine is gathering power, the NSX snaps into high speed which buries me deep inside the bucket seats. The engine, two front motors on each wheel and a crankshaft-mounted motor are working in cahoots to send the car to 100kph from zero in X.X seconds. Inside, the g-forces pressing against me feels like a large toddler sitting on my chest. The rapid-fire shifts of the nine-speed dual-clutch transmission push the car higher up the speed ladder without fuss. In no time at all, the world becomes a blur and the speedometer appears to jump 10 kilometres per hour within a span of an eye-blink. I wonder which gear I am in now. Certainly not nine because that’s the cruising gear. Seven, maybe eight? There’s still a good half way to go before reaching the embankment when the NSX hits the speed limiter and the computer takes it down from 190kph and holds it steady in 188kph.

Just for fun, I bang down two gears. The engine pops, revs drops but the speed remains on the plateau close to 188kph. I never got to try out the car’s handling and its renowned SH-AWD that supposedly gives the NSX on-rails handling. You can only learn so much on an oval track; I lower my speed.

Trying to go slow in the NSX isn’t as punishing as you’d think; there are supercars that become rubbish at any speed below 100kph. So it performs comfortable at lower speed, turning low revs despite the car going at a healthy 140kph. Even so, I completed the next embankment without thinking and slip silently back into the pits.

The previous generation NSX was Honda’s statement that a supercar can be driven daily without the need to sacrifice its supercar looks or drivability. The new NSX takes the same daily-driver characteristic and improved it further while also focusing on the human aspects of the vehicle. I could, at this point, throw at you marketing jargon about how the interior was designed around the human and the interface between metal and flesh. But I won’t. Instead, I’ll tell you that getting into the NSX and just as easy as slipping into a Honda CRZ. Once snugged, you’ll find every important dial and button within a swivel of the elbow. The digital readouts are displayed in the meter cluster, where it should be. The ergonomics are shaped to encourage placing both hands on the wheel. Is it comfortable? Check. Is it easy to steer? Check. Good visibility out of the greenhouse? Check.

On the whole, unlike other supercars, the interior doesn’t intimidate. In fact, if you take a closer look at the window and wing mirror buttons, you can tell almost tell which Honda car it was taken from. Nothing wrong with sharing parts to save cost, the problem with this is that the NSX loses some of the supercar shine that future owners will come to expect. Having said that, I wouldn’t dwell on that too much because the shape is supercar-stunning, so much so you’ll quickly forgive the inclusion of the mass produced parts.

The NSX has just the right amount of lines, curves and angles that stir emotions, nothing here is overdone. You have your low bonnet, flared wheel arches, a well-defined cockpit, large air intakes in the middle — the engine is in the middle — solid-looking rear haunches and very short overhangs all around. The car has the shape that garners the oohs and the aahs without effort.

This car is going to be a future classic, and I want one.


Honda NSX

3.5-litre V6, DOHC, Dual VTC, twin turbocharged, 500bhp @ 7000rpm, 550Nm @ 2000-6000rpm
Twin Motor Unit, Direct Drive Motor
System Power:
573bhp, 645Nm
9-speed DCT, all-wheel drive
0-100kph in 2.9 seconds, 188kph max speed (limited)

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