Not to be outdone on the supercar stage by the Ford GT, the long-rumored and brand new Acura NSX was unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show. The NSX is finally coming back to the market after a long absence, having been mothballed in 2005, and will officially be available for the 2016 model year.
“After three years of intensive development work we are excited to reveal this next-generation supercar — the Acura NSX — to the world,” said Ted Klaus, chief engineer and global project leader over NSX development last month in a press release. “We’ve developed a human-centered supercar that responds to the will of the driver and that builds upon the NSX heritage.”
Though it’s not the only supercar to be unmasked before crowds at the Detroit Auto Show this year, it might just be among the most heavily anticipated. The original NSX has become somewhat of a legend in its own right, gaining a cult following, as there are a relatively small number of them that made it into consumer’s hands. As Acura prepares to enter a new phase in its business operations, Acura division senior vice president and general manager Mike Accavitti says, why not let a storied name with a fresh face-lift lead the charge?
“The next-generation NSX will deliver a ‘new sports experience’ true to its heritage and to the supercar concept that originally gave rise to the name NSX,” said Accavitti. “The NSX will serve as the ultimate expression of Acura performance that is fueling a reenergized brand.”
As we’ve known for some time now, the new NSX will be a mid-engined hybrid vehicle, utilizing a twin-turbo V6 and a 9-speed dual-clutch transmission. While we’re still unclear on the exact specifications and expected performance numbers, drivers can expect the NSX to kick out more than 550 horsepower, and for it to come with a price tag in the $150,000 range. That power is sent out to all four corners, using Acura’s proprietary “Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive.”
While the auto world is justifiably excited to see the NSX return to the market, it’s fair to wonder how it will stack up to its precursor. The original NSX started out as a Honda model, which famously paired aluminum construction (much like we’re seeing today in vehicles like the Ford-F150), with an enormously powerful V6 engine. According to The Detroit Free Press, Honda sold around 18,000 NSX models over a 15-year span, under both the Acura and Honda brands. When it finally left the market in 2005, the NSX was selling for around $90,000 — well below the expected price of the new model, even in today’s money ($108,000).
What the NSX truly did for Honda was establish the company as a world leader in innovative engineering and design. As we see some of the features of the original NSX being adopted by automakers and implemented today into a variety of vehicles — like aluminum construction and smaller engines — it’s clear that the NSX was ahead of its time. But building on those original innovations from so long ago, Acura is clearly ready to take things to the next level. The car’s design and interior features have been revamped, giving a futuristic feel to an old favorite.
Even with the new aesthetic features and interior updates, Acura designers were keen on keeping one of the most important aspects of the original NSX’s driving experience intact: Visibility. Speaking with Autoblog, interior design project leader John Norman said that a goal of his was to make it feel like there was little between the driver and the pavement. “It was like the invisible car,” he says, referring to the original NSX. “You’re driving the car and then it just – it goes away, and it’s just you and the road. We realized that that was just incredibly vital. If this was going to be an NSX, it had to have that feeling.”
Once the NSX finally does roll off of the assembly lines and hits the road, it will face a much different market than it did in 2005. There are a slew of new competitors to deal with, including the just-announced Ford GT — which coincidentally re-entered and then promptly left the market during 2005 as well.
But in addition to the GT, the NSX will also be up against cars like the Corvette Z06, which is not only insanely fast, but considerably less expensive than many other cars in the performance segment. Of course, the NSX will be going up against some of the high-end luxury sports car makers as well. Ferrari, Lamborghini, and even McLaren will be paying close attention to the reintroduction of the NSX, and it will be interesting to see if Acura can put some pressure on any of those future rivals.
On paper, the NSX does stack up well to models from all of those companies, even Lamborghini and Ferrari. While we don’t have track data for the NSX yet, the fact that it generates north of 550 horsepower puts it in the ballpark with models like the Ferrari 458 Italia, or the Lamborghini Huracan. It certainly matches up with the Corvette Z06, and looks to be right in line with what is expected from the new Ford GT. Its biggest rival in the public psyche, though, may very well be the 545 horsepower Nissan GT-R.
Acura’s reintroduction of the NSX is another example of a performance model that had previously been sent out to pasture coming back to much fanfare. Again, the market is different than in 2005, and perhaps that could result in more success in terms of sales than the first-generation experienced. Either way, there hasn’t been a more perfect market climate for Acura to give it another shot. What do you think?