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Hammond drives the icons: Honda NSX

  1. From the fuss made by Audi and the smug ‘early adopters’ who rushed to
    buy them and be first to commute to work in them, you could have believed that
    the R8 really was the first ‘everyday supercar’. Except it wasn’t.  More than two decades ago, Honda
    introduced the NSX. The name stood for New Sportscar eXperimental.

    Words: Richard Hammond

    Pics: Justin Leighton

    This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of Top Gear magazine 

  2. I know, snappy title – maybe it’s a language thing. But, naming aside,
    with an aluminium V6 mid-mounted in the aluminium chassis and all covered with
    that wedge-shaped body made of, you guessed it, aluminium, there was no
    doubting it was a supercar. It looked more supercar than some supercars of the
    time. And if the naff name stuck in your craw, there was another name closely
    associated with the NSX that more than made up for it. Ayrton Senna helped
    develop it, particularly the chassis, and was seen driving the things all over
    the world. That kind of stuff helps sell a car.

  3. The engine featured Honda’s Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic
    Control, VTEC system (I know, I know, that’s VVTLEC, but, as I think we’ve
    worked out, it’s a language thing), which lets the car operate with reasonable
    civility in normal circumstances or scream its head off and go completely
    mental should the occasion demand.

  4. Damn, it
    still looks good. It really does. This is a 20-year-old car that hasn’t so
    much dated as become more subdued – it doesn’t scream and demand that you
    look at it among modern traffic, but when you do, you can only admire the
    considered, stylish form. It’s long, low, wide and sophisticated.

    The interior has aged less well. Suddenly I’m in a land of late
    yuppiedom, Psion handhelds battling for superiority with Filofaxes and
    unbelievably bad clothes. The leather feels glossy, too shiny, and the two
    switch binnacles either side of the steering wheel remind of those in a Citroen
    BX. Not particularly good things, any of them.

  5. But, look
    up, and you realise that you really are perched down low between the front
    wheels. The noise is, as the looks would suggest, pretty subdued, especially
    pulling away, but there is all that howling V6 business available at the prod
    of the throttle. Not all good news when you stamp on that particular pedal,

    Sure, 60mph comes up in just five seconds, but tip it into a corner, and
    there is smeary, dreary understeer. Get more jiggly with the pedal, and it’ll sort
    itself out though, and, let’s not forget, tyre technology has moved on a hell
    of a lot since Del Boy was king, and a new set of rubber might just cancel out
    the disappointment. Get past that, and it feels tight, taut and balanced.

  6. The ride is really impressive, smooth and composed – within minutes, I
    found myself thinking, “Wow, this is a supercar you could use every day.” And
    it is. It’s got the looks, the pedigree – thanks to the Senna connection – and
    the performance. You can find them from about 10 grand, but it would be worth
    saving up, maybe selling a pet or living in the shed and going for the later,
    larger-capacity version (3179cc, 290bhp) or even a post-facelift model where
    the pop-up headlamps were deleted and replaced with something a bit more modern.

  7. I know I’m a
    911 fan, and, yes, the Porker is truly the best sports car in the world and
    something you can use every day. But it’s not, and never has been, a
    supercar. It’s a sports car.

  8. This, with its mid-engine, ally construction,
    wedge body and Senna connection is an everyday supercar. Sorry, Audi – Honda
    was there first.

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