by Frank A. Aukofer

Long awaited, the 2017 Acura NSX doesn’t disappoint. Its unique design and supercar persona attracts superlatives like metal filings to a magnet.

It has a top speed of 191 mph, according to Acura, with a 0-60 mph time of about three seconds. By the way, it’s a mostly mid-engine hybrid.

Driving all four wheels are a 3.5-liter V6 engine with twin turbochargers, along with three electric motors. Two of them are packaged together to drive the front wheels and the third connects with the gasoline engine mounted behind the driver and forward of the rear wheels. It also functions as the starter motor. All together, the system delivers 573 hp and 476 lb-ft of torque.

The transmission is a nine-speed dual clutch automatic with paddle shifters on the steering wheel for manual operation. Even the steering wheel, with a flat top and bottom, is custom designed to frame the instruments and enhance outward visibility.

Though the paddles accommodate drivers who want to shift for themselves, they are not needed. The onboard computer reads a multitude of inputs and shifts more accurately than any human can.

This is only the second NSX. The first was introduced in 1990 and was so good it continued almost unchanged for15 years until 2005. Since then, Acura has tantalized enthusiasts with concept cars, including one which would have had a V10 engine. It died in the 2008 recession.

Now, the new NSX might puzzle some observers because of its hybrid design, which is associated in popular culture with enhanced fuel economy.

But it makes sense for a supercar because of those three electric motors. The main performance characteristic of an electric motor is that it produces maximum torque—or twisting force—immediately. Internal combustion engines attain maximum torque as engine revolutions increase.

Electric torque gives the NSX an instant jump off the line and then combines with the rpms of the gasoline engine to maintain steady power. It’s stunningly apparent if you use the NSX’s launch control to rocket away from a standing start.

Select track mode, hold your left foot tightly on the brake pedal, then floor the accelerator pedal and release the brakes. There’s no burning rubber because there’s no wheel spin. All four tires grab the pavement and the NSX snaps off the line like a ball bearing from a slingshot. Seconds later you’re up to three digit speeds.

Of course, any number of drag racers can rapidly reach high speeds. But in this era of high tech motoring, a supercar has to excel not only at acceleration but braking and handling as well.

2017 Acura NSX
2017 Acura NSX.

The tested NSX came with carbon ceramic brakes (a $10,600 option) that felt powerful enough to stop a runaway steam locomotive. They included a regenerative function that produced electricity and contributed to acceleration and handling.

The NSX incorporates a custom version of Acura’s super handling all-wheel drive (SH-AWD), which delivers yaw control and torque vectoring that enable a driver maintain a tight line around curves.

There are four driver selectable dynamic systems: quiet, sport, sport plus and track. They adjust torque vectoring, steering assist, transmission shift points, electric brake assist and suspension damping. Though it may come across as frivolous, they even control the exhaust sounds that are piped into the cabin.

The electric quiet mode enables an owner to sneak home late at night. At the other extreme, the track mode attunes systems for all-out racetrack driving, though it does not allow the driver to fully disable the safety of automatic stability control.

Inside, the NSX coddles the driver and one passenger as comfortably as if they were infants in a car seat. Bolsters hold the lower torso in place but also allow free movement of shoulders and arms.

As a supercar with Japanese reliability and U.S. build quality, the NSX doesn’t come cheap. It starts at $157,800, including destination and handling, and the heavily optioned test car came to $204,700.

The overwhelming recollection of the original NSX in 1990 was of a car that performed so perfectly that it felt invincible. You sensed that nobody, in whatever vehicle, could catch you. A brief drive in a 2005 model brought back those memories.

Yet that first NSX felt old fashioned next to its 2017 descendant, which should be labeled as invincible to the nth power.

2017 Acura NSX
2017 Acura NSX.

Specifications             

  • Model: 2017 Acura NSX two-door coupe.
  • Engines: 5-liter V6 gasoline, twin turbochargers, with one direct drive electric motor for the rear wheels. Two independent electric motors packaged together for the front wheels. Total system power: 573 hp, 476 lb-ft. torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed dual clutch automatic with manual shift mode.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 44/4.4 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,803 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/22/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $157,800.
  • Price as tested: $204,700.

Photos (c) Acura