Back in 1984, Honda drew up plans for the company’s first ever sports car and subsequently commissioned legendary Italian designer Pininfarina to sketch out the designs of the internally-codenamed HPX (Honda Pininfarina eXperimental) project. The aim of the project was to beat the Ferrari of its day – the 328 GTB – yet make the car forgivingly fun and easy to drive. Honda initially reckoned that it could do the job with a tuned 2.0-litre VTEC mill but later abandoned it for a bespoke built 3.0-litre V6 VTEC engine, but then they’ve set a new target to beat – the Ferrari 348 TB.
After years of research and development, the project was christened NS-X or New Sportscar eXperimental and was the first production car to feature an all-aluminium semi-monocoque body – utterly revolutionary and years ahead of its time, all thanks to the trickled-down technology learnt from the company’s foray into the pinnacle of motorsports, Formula One. The NSX finally debuted in 1989 with performance figures to stun and looks that could kill. Patience truly is a virtue.
Many moons have come and gone since that momentous mark in history and the reign of the Honda NSX came to an end exactly a decade ago. Everyone wondered if there would ever be another NSX model to succeed Japan’s first-ever sports car, and we wondered for years. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, fans and the world were stunned some seven years later in 2012 when Honda unveiled a concept of what could possibly be the next-gen NSX. Earlier this year, Honda confirmed that the NSX will commence production at their plant in Ohio – weirdly, where approximately 100 highly-skilled low-volume production specialists will conduct full body construction, paint, and final assembly.
But that’s not why we brought you here, so let’s get down the facts and figures of this second-gen icon. Rumours abounded that the concept car was going to house a great big V10 lump that was slated to make out over 500 horses, but with the advent of vastly-improved hybrid drive systems, the engine need not be of such calibre. The mill that will be making its way to the production floor is a more manageable dry sump 3.5-litre V6 that churns out 500 bhp thanks to the beauty of twin-turbocharging. The byproduct of such marriage makes a tad of over 550 Nm of torque.
Now, because the Honda NSX is a mid-engine hybrid, the Twin Motor Unit (TMU) are tasked with driving the front wheels and this effectively makes it an all-wheel-drive runner, or Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). The TMU up front is responsible for an additional 75 hp which makes a grand total of 575 raging horses. But why would Honda electrify the NSX? Better mileage? That reasoning seems to elude sense for the bare fact that if all you wanted is economy and speed, buy a Prius – we’re kidding about the speed, obviously.
In an interview with Top Gear Magazine, chief engineer of the NSX, Ted Klaus tells us the purpose of the electric gubbins isn’t economy but instant response. The electric motors mask turbo lag; the vectoring helps agility. There are no official quoted economy figure anyway, but Klaus says the NSX will drink like a Porsche 911 Turbo, the most economical non-hybrid supercar with quoted economy around 9.4 litres per 100km. Only time will tell, we supposed. But that being said, it’s almost perversely heart warming to see that manufacturers are using hybrid technology for the sole purpose of speed.
All that power has to be channeled out via a cog-box of some sort and Honda has elected to run with – get this – a nine speed wet-dual-clutch gearbox that works in concert with the engine and Direct Drive Motor to make full use of the broad power band, thus producing lightning quick gear changes that support the NSX’s almost-zero-delay response. The gearbox has been ratioed brilliantly to accommodate various driving situations. With the 1st gear ratioed toward acceleration while 2nd thru to 8th are ‘power extractors‘ but oddly the final drive has been geared towards economy and cruising.
Honda has also paid a keen eye on driver visibility in this new model just as they did with the previous. Back in the day, Chief Engineer Shigeru Uehara even studied the design of an F-16 fighter jet’s cockpit in terms of visibility so that the NSX wouldn’t be as hard to see out of as compared to other sports cars such as the Lamborghini Countach or Ferraris of the time. Similarly, the engineers of this revival model worked tirelessly to ensure exceptional forward visibility, not to mention outstanding comfort and ease of access for the driver and passenger.
Speaking of design, the advent of carbon-fibre composite technology has not only enabled engineers to build lighter and more rigid body and cockpit cells, but also primarily make them safer beyond all else. For that matter, McLaren says that the design of their P1 GTR monocoque design is so strong that it effectively eliminates the need for roll cages to the point that it is FIA compliant.
The NSX’s body utilises a space-frame design – an internal frame constructed of aluminium, ultra-high strength steel and other advanced materials. Anchored by a carbon fibre floor, torsional and bending forces are taken up entirely by this ultra-rigid structure which also utilises advanced joining technologies. The NSX features a world-first casting technology that combines the design and manufacturing flexibility of a casting process with the strength and elongation properties of a forged material, enabling significant weight reduction.
Now we all know what’s the best part of a lightweight sports car – handling. The NSX utilises a fully independent, all-aluminium front and rear suspension setup and its immense power hits the tarmac via a set of sticky ContiSportContact rubbers that measure an astounding 245/35Z R19 at the front and 295/30Z R20 at the rear. Braking is dealt with by a six-piston front and four-piston rear callipers squeezing on an ultra-high performance set of carbon-ceramic brake discs.
With all that said and done, the word excited seems to be understating our unbounded anticipation of this icon’s revival. Just like how the Nissan GT-R firmly and quite equivocally put the fear of God back into the giants that once held the high ground on big-boy toy playground, the NSX is billed to give German, Italian and British sports cars a proper run for their money. Much like other specifics, prices have yet to be announced, although Top Gear Magazine estimates it to be north of £150,000 (RM982k). If the car’s price is far out of reach, fret not, there’s always driving it in the upcoming Gran Turismo Sport.