Review: Tear up the tarmac in Honda’s NSX hybrid supercar

Its a shame to put a number plate on the striking new Honda NSX

Its a shame to put a number plate on the striking new Honda NSX

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Bracknell. Recently. Honda’s Institute. This is where the company trains technicians and mechanics who service Honda cars, bikes and power tools. And where two cars were waiting.

A choice: a red NSX or a blue NSX. Actually, no choice. We were “given” the red one for a day. It is 26 years since the first NSX turned the tables on the world’s supercars, with its aluminium body, brilliant handling and acceleration in a car which was as easy to drive as a family saloon.

Then there was a gap. Then Honda admitted it was building another. Then that was delayed. The world financial crisis was one reason. Honda bought the best of the opposition to take them apart: McLaren, Ferrari, Audi R8, a Porsche – which had a greetings message under the bonnet. A nice joke. There was room for another member of the club. They all admired the first NSX.

Now new NSX is here. A glance at the two bodies shows the evolution of the Honda supercar. The first was smooth, long and low, but not overtly mad. Its vari-cam engine sounded glorious. It went like stink, too, which gave the chaps at Porsche and Ferrari some real opposition. While a modern 911 still looks similar to the 1990s model, the 2016 NSX looks nothing like its dad. The reason for all the holes and vents and curves is because it has four engines. The vents take cooling air in then get it out again, also avoiding body lift and applying downforce to make sure the 190mph car stays stable.

Testing within the rules of public roads is a vain hope. You get a sense of its acceleration and handling response and excitement but the car has been engineered to do so much more. What is provable is the usability. Honda has made sure that the driver and passenger do not feel overwhelmed. Thinner screen pillars supported by water-cooled steel which is pulled through the frame are surely worth a natter at the Camshaft Arms. I think I almost get it.

Indeed, the appeal of the new NSX is as much to do with its creation and integrity as what it can do. The design is accessible, the 190mph bit is not. Electric motors drive each front wheel. A bespoke twin-turbo 3.5-litre petrol V6 engine drives the rear wheels through a nine-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox in which bottom gear is only used for launch. There’s a third electric motor at the back which gives a whack of power to fill any lull before the V6’s 500 horsepower stampedes in.

The car has a selectable “quiet” setting in case you don’t want to sound like a show-off. You know, that Lambo Italiano 911 soundtrack which is almost unavoidable from start-up. On level roads NSX can manage a mile or more on battery power. We meandered in a loop around Bracknell, a moving target 
for camera phones. I think they liked it. For most it was a first snap. Only 60 will be sold in Britain in year one, then 40 in year two, and so on. It is sold out for the next four years.

Honda America created it, with input from Japan (which builds the engines and hybrid heart). The US factory in Ohio builds eight a day.

As promised by Honda’s Jason Widmer, an American who was project leader for the NSX’s performance. It is easy to drive. You press a button on the centre console and set off. If you want to reverse, you flick a switch. It’s as simple as that. A camera fills in the picture, no second-guessing, no nothings to confuse you. The gears can be set to change automatically, or using levers on the steering column.

Ergonomic fit is fine. Honda is good on that stuff. The trim is practical, racy and comfortable. There is a place for luggage beneath the engine cover. Under the bonnet is the radiator and you can see spars in the space frame construction, a screen washer bottle, the mechanism which pops the bonnet to reduce injury to a pedestrian.

So, away you go. The front motors give immediate torque. The one at the back peaks from 500rpm. There is no dithering – no wheel slippage. The petrol V6 engine supplies the rest, all 
of it, and the noises – piped into the cabin for your enjoyment.

The drive settings of quiet, sport, sport plus and track do what they say, adjusting the response of the engine, traction and slippage systems. Just go for Sport. And go.

Verdict: Super car for shopping, school run, racing. Pity the UK number plate spoils the front.

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