The Honda NSX is back. And just like the original this is not just a sledgehammer supercar clone, but a fascinating, intriguing contemporary take on the genre.
OK, this is only a concept, unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show – and for geographical reasons it’s also called an Acura. The real thing is three years off. That time gap allows the engineers to be maddeningly non-specific about some of the details (like, er power, or indeed engine size). But the designers are promising it’ll look very much like this.
Good. It’s sharp, dramatic without being flashy, and refreshingly compact – actually shorter than the original. It’s edgier than the original too, as the passing years dictate. But it’s still got a few sly nods to its father, like the rear lights, and the overall proportions.
Under the skin, there’s a high-revving V6 engine, mid-mounted. That feeds a double-clutch transmission. So far, so predictable. But there’s more: it’s a hybrid.
Calm down at the back. It’s not the sort of hybrid that’ll throw a wet blanket over your inner tyre-melter. As Honda’s boss Takanobu Ito, says: “The NSX will enhance dynamic driving abilities without getting in the way.” And he should know. He was an important engineer on the first NSX, and he’s driven the decision to make a new one.
So there are two little electric motors at the front of the car, one for each wheel. That means independent drive to each wheel, and the ability to tighten or loosen the car’s cornering line for very effective torque vectoring. Meanwhile another electric motor is embedded in the gearbox to enhance the V6’s power.
It’ll be able to reclaim braking energy like any hybrid, so it’ll be efficient on fuel. But it’ll also have extra performance and supernatural cornering. In fact Ito said they’ll very likely make a racing version too.
Weight distribution should be good, with the engine and battery pack both mid-mounted. And in line with NSX principles of old (it was the first aluminium sports car), they promise overall weight will be low.
Of course the new NSX enters a very different world than the one the first one entered in 1990. Back then Ferraris were dramatic but a bit flaky – unreliable, heavy to drive and a bit evil-handling. The NSX made the Italians pull their socks up and build cars you could rely on, and use daily. So the new car has got some very hard competition.
But one virtue of the original car is even more relevant today: it was light and efficient, and concentrated on power to weight rather than absolute power. That’s what the new one will do too, albeit by different and rather 21st century means.