When Honda Motor Company’s luxury brand, Acura, brought the original NSX to North American shores in 1990, plenty of controversy was generated. It wasn’t the cheap and cheerful choice that many were used to from the Japanese automaker, but rather a mid-engined sports car with exotic styling and a six-figure price tag. That said, its visceral performance and second-to-none driving experience made it a motoring legend and instant classic. When Acura Canada offered up the chance to road test the updated second generation 2019 Acura NSX, the we were happy to oblige!
When the current iteration of NSX came out in 2016, it brought one very distinct difference to the table: a hybrid electric powertrain. Like the original, it also had a V6, except this time around, it’s twin-turbocharged. Two electric motors up front and one in the rear come together to provide Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) – complete with the ability to vector electric torque at each individual wheel in order to improve turn-in, traction, and handling. All of this is combined with exterior styling that’s distinctly beautiful (with Thermal Orange paint!), if not a bit polarizing.
The supercar Acura’s 3.5-litre V6 is longitudinally mounted just behind the two-seat passenger cabin. By itself, it produces 500 horsepower between 6,500 and 7,500RPM, as well as 406 lb-ft. of torque between 2,000 and 6,000RPM. The rear electric motor is good for 47 horsepower at 3,000RPM and 109 lb-ft. between 500 and 2,000RPM, and each front motor outputs 36 horsepower at 4,000RPM and 54 lb-ft. between 0 and 2,000RPM. Total system horsepower comes out to 573, and according to Acura, this is good enough for a 307 km/h (191 mph) top speed and a 2.7-second sprint to 60mph (96 km/h). All this power is routed through a nine-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT), and no conventional manual transmission is offered.
In practice, the twin-turbo V6 and three electric motors work with the DCT to make for a very special driving experience. Normally, turbocharged engines take a moment to bring the power on after initial throttle application, but that isn’t the case with the NSX. Immediately after putting the hammer down, there’s instant response and a metric ton of forward thrust up to the engine’s 7,500RPM redline. The six lets out a pleasant growl, and certainly lets on that it means business. The turbocharger spools up early, and even moderate acceleration results in a giggle-inducing blowoff valve sound when letting off.
In order to adjust various handling, and powertrain parameters, Acura has provided four driving modes on the NSX: Quiet, Sport, Sport+, and Track. Each offers varying degrees of aggression: Quiet mode emphasizes electric motor use and keeps the gas engine off for as long as possible. Sport is ideal for daily driving around town, and Sport+ firms everything up and ensures the battery is always charged by keeping the gasoline engine running. Track mode offers the most aggressive scheme, and has reduced stability and traction control functions for off-road use by people who know what they’re doing.
Considering that the NSX is a hybrid, fuel economy for the NSX should be a good bit better than some of its more conventional brethren. Official Natural Resources Canada numbers come in at 11.1L/100KM in the city, and 10.8L/100KM on the highway. Observed consumption with a lot of urban downtown Toronto driving and lots of hard throttle application came in at 11.7L/100KM. If drivers manage to behave, it won’t be hard to achieve the nominal numbers. As expected, premium fuel is required, and tank capacity is 59-litres.
With its wide stance and low roofline, the NSX also gets a few updates for the 2019 model year. Chassis, suspension, tire, and SH-AWD tweaks have aimed to make the Acura easier to drive hard. Namely, front and rear stabilizer bar stiffness has increased, and the magnetorheological shock absorbers have been adjusted. The NSX’s street tires are now the new-and-improved Continental SportContact 6, although the race-ready Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R can be a dealer-installed option.
On the road, the sum of Acura’s work makes for a car that’s just as fun in corners as it is in the straights. Turn-in response is sharp as a tack, and grip levels are incredible. The steering is well-weighted, but when driving a little more conventionally, the NSX will start to understeer at its limits. While it takes some practice to build up courage, adding more throttle is very effective at killing the understeer, and a little extra aggression can be rewarded with even more grip and mind-blowingly neutral handling. Even with the hybrid powertrain with electric motors, the integration is seamless, and there’s no point in which the car feels like it’s being driven by computers. The driving engagement manages to be wonderful, but doesn’t sacrifice ride quality.
Inside, the NSX is a little more conventional, and shares many of the basic design cues from more normal Acuras such as the MDX crossover or TLX sedan. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the clean design has impeccable fit and finish with fancier materials. The available Indigo colour choice with semi-Aniline leather is elegant, and complements almost any exterior colour well. The centre stack and infotainment don’t try to reinvent the wheel and are easy to use with minimal fuss, although a dedicated volume knob would have been nice. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity are standard issue, which helps make daily life easier.
The entry point for the 2019 NSX is $189,900, which is a relative bargain compared to the likes of McLaren or Lamborghini, which can cost many times more. The test car featured a full jam of all available options: All carbon fibre options were checked off, which included a carbon fibre roof with satellite radio antenna at $7,900 (Sirius XM by itself is $600), interior bits at $4,500, exterior and engine bay bits at $12,600, and a rear spoiler at $3,700. Carbon ceramic brakes are another $12,700, and interwoven wheels added $1,500. All told, this resulted in an as-tested price of $233,500.
The new C8 Corvette may be a better bang for the buck in a similar, non-hybrid format, but actual numbers and impressions remain to be seen. Both the original 1990 and 2019 Acura NSX are exotic supercars that focus on driving enjoyment, handling, and putting a smile on drivers’ faces rather than badge status or bragging rights. When comparing on paper, it may appear to be underclassed against other heavyweights in its class, but do not write off the NSX. It’s a wonderful showcase of Honda’s talent and is a true every day supercar that deserves to be fighting amongst the best of them.