Join Date: Feb 2016
8TH PLACE: 2017 ACURA NSX
PROOF THERE’S MORE TO A SUPERCAR THAN SUPER TECHNOLOGY
Perhaps no car in this year’s Best Driver’s Car lineup piqued more interest than the new Acura NSX. A hybrid powertrain with three electric motors. Active all-wheel drive with torque vectoring. Nine-speed dual-clutch transmission. More than 25 years after they shamed Ferrari, could Honda engineers do it all over again?
The short answer is, nope. Although technically interesting, visually arresting, and suitably fast, the 2017 Acura NSX isn’t a game changer. If it causes raised eyebrows in Maranello, it’ll be because the Ferrari guys, like us, were perhaps expecting all that technology to deliver more.
“Most of my drive … was spent eagerly waiting for the ‘aha!’ moment when I’d clearly comprehend what Acura’s new-age ‘new sports experience’ was,” Kong said. “There were no eurekas found, though.”
Nothing but the name leads me to believe it’s the successor to one of the most important sports cars in history.
Best Driver’s Car isn’t a numbers game, but the numbers provide useful context for a newcomer like the NSX. Against the other contenders, it recorded the fourth quickest 0-60 and quarter-mile times and tied for third in the 0-100-0-mph test: 3.1 seconds, 11.3 seconds, and 10.9 seconds, respectively. But it was only sixth fastest around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, more than two-tenths of a second behind the Shelby GT350R, a car with a DIY six-speed manual and performance technology old Carroll Shelby would have found familiar, and less than a tenth ahead of the less powerful two-wheel-drive Porsche 911.
Where’d the speed go? “The NSX is very sensitive on corner entry to weight management,” explained Pobst. “If I leave the weight forward, leave the weight on the nose a little too long on the way into the corner through trail braking, I get an entry oversteer that stays.” For Walton that translated to sideways fun for the cameras: “The car drifts like it was set up to do it: a slight flick, jump out of the throttle, then roll back on hard, but not to the floor.” But sideways is slow.
“The torque-vectoring front end should have completely redefined how a mid-engine supercar handles,” Cammisa said. “It does no such thing.” Instead, the NSX forces you to redefine your driving style. You have to learn to brake early and in a straight line to keep the rear end under control and then use a modicum of power to get the electrically driven front wheels to help you through the turn before rolling on the throttle. Finding the right balance is tricky, not helped by the numb steering and initial lack of bite from the carbon-ceramic brakes.
Where the NSX does shine is its talent at using torque-fill to emulate the response of a naturally aspirated engine. The integration between the electric motors and an internal combustion engine is as seamless as the shifts from the nine-speed transmission.
Driven with intent on a quiet, twisting two-lane, in Track mode, and while manually shifting the transmission, the NSX is deceptively, impressively fast.
But there’s always a part of your brain trying to figure out how to get around the artificially induced foibles in the handling, always trying to out-think the car. That makes the Acura NSX weirdly involving to drive. But not Best Driver’s Car. — Angus MacKenzie