Honda’s new NSX has been so long in the making that the launch has taken place this month despite the fact that we had two brief track laps of it eight months ago and it was first shown at Detroit last January.
JUL 13th 2016
On Track In The Honda NSX – A Moving Science Lab?
Now it’s finally ready to go, on road and track, so Goodwood Road and Racing had the arduous task this week of putting the hybrid supercar through its paces at Estoril and on the surrounding roads.
What took Ted Klaus, NSX project leader, and his team so long? The answer is: a car that is so complicated that it makes neurosurgery look like a walk in the park.
There are three motors, for a start: one supplementing torque for the mid-mounted V6 engine and two at the front, powering each wheel. The battery is more like a capacitor, charging and discharging very quickly. There are four modes of power, ranging from “Quiet”, in which the car can run on electric power only up to 50mph, to “Track”, which still maintains about 75 per cent of traction control but can constantly calibrate on so many differentials that you can slip the car from its moorings and drift it round a circuit happily. The braking is largely regenerative, with only the final stopping hydraulically activated.
It’s the ultimate engineering lab, destined to be driven by men in white coats. Oh, and the car is designed by a woman. What next, for goodness’ sake?
So does it feel like a science lesson to drive? Nope, it feels joyously visceral, exciting, aggressive and, well, different. It feels more like a sports car than a supercar; tight, punchy and full of intent. A driver’s car, not a poseur’s car.
The noise, for a start, is incredible, and strange: full of air whooshing past from the two turbos and that mechanical noise from the V6 engine sitting behind your head. No lyrical grand-touring supercar tunes here; it’s far too serious for that.
Get a bit lairy on track and the car will let you go so far in “track” mode before it pulls you back on line. Or you can have hours of fun with launch control: come to a halt on the pit straight, left-foot brake while fully depressing the throttle. The revs will hold at 2,500rpm; come off the brake and boom….
Out on the road, you can trickle round in EV-only mode, drive it like a standard supercar in Sport mode, or increase the noise, the responses and the suspension stiffness by selecting Sport Plus mode. There’s a little something for everyone; the Quality Streets of supercars.
And inside, the cabin is capacious, with wide seats and footwells, and an ergonomically excellent centre console full of buttons and the inevitable touchscreen for satnav and so on.
The new NSX now stands for New Sports Experience, we’re told, and the car is just that. It’s the perfect shop window for everything Honda stands for, which is engineering excellence, in a nutshell. With the NSX, Honda has opened up a new technical frontier. There aren’t many cars that you can say are true trail blazers, but the NSX has gone straight to the top of the list.
The top 7 things you need to know
- Above 120mph NSX is effectively RWD as the front motors are at max torque
- Those bonnet grilles are an engineering request, to let air out for downforce
- A set of golf clubs fits in the boot
- The engine banks are set at 75 degrees to lower the centre of gravity
- It takes a minute of normal driving to recharge the battery
- The battery can only operate up to 0.2g
- It’s 300 per cent more torsionally rigid than the Ferrari 458
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