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Honda – or
rather, its posh American relation Acura – has just whipped the sheets of the
latest version of the NSX Concept. You may recognize it from the car we first
saw in Detroit last year
, only this time someone remembered to fit some seats
and a steering wheel and other useful things inside. Which is why we elbowed
our way through the scrum at the Detroit Show to be the first through the low,
grey doors.

The theme? Simple and swoopy. The seat bolsters, grab rails and transmission
tunnel seem to pounce forward, as if they’re making a break for the windscreen.
But where most concept cockpits are works of fantasy with nowhere to put your
cup of coffee, this one has a traditional rear-view mirror and storage
compartments. You can see out quite easily. There’s an oblong screen in the
middle of the dash, under which is a straightforward cluster of buttons for the
gearbox, handbrake and sport modes. The steering wheel is round-ish, with three
spokes. The seats are thin and beautifully sculpted. Actually, the whole thing
feels very much like the inside of the McLaren 12C.

You could imagine it going on sale looking just like this, when it reaches
showrooms in about two years from now. Honda’s people weren’t giving much else
away, but we’ll eat our origami swans if it doesn’t have the petrol-electric
powertrain and 4WD we speculated on last year. The petrol engine, mostly likely
a 3.5-litre V6 with 400bhp, will be correctly placed in the middle of the car
and power the rear wheels. Then there are two electric motors up front: one for
each wheel, operating independently to sniff out grip and see-off understeer,
plus another one in the transmission at the rear to boost engine power when
asked. Together, the electric motors will most probably add about 100bhp to the
powertrain, bringing the new NSX to 500bhp overall.

This version – probably one or two steps away from the final production model –
is also slightly smaller than before, but we’re talking about a few millimeters
trimmed here and there. Overall, the proportions are as low and taut as an
Audi R8. In fact, standing beside it, with the roofline just above your waist,
it’s hard to fathom how they’ve crammed all those motors inside. If it stays
like this, you could be looking at one of the most exciting cars we’ll drive
this decade. Here’s hoping, anyway…

Dan Read

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