After a slow, three-year striptease, Japanese luxury maker Acura has finally opened its kimono to reveal the production version of the reborn NSX supercar.
Like the original that debuted a quarter-century ago, the 2016 Acura NSX is intended to put a halo around the brand by proving the Honda subsidiary can take on even the best of its European rivals – and do it in innovative fashion.
The new NSX uses a unique, three-motor hybrid drivetrain that not only provides incredible, off-the-line torque, but which also delivers the sort of fuel economy more associated with econocars.
“It’s just badass – in a luxury kind of way,” joked Acura’s U.S. chief Mike Accavitti.
Gone from production since the original model was dropped in 2005, the new Acura NSX will serve as a lynchpin in the effort to revitalize a brand that has struggled to draw consumer attention in a very crowded luxury market, said Accavitti.
Quietly under development for several years, an early prototype of the NSX was unveiled at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, with several updates following. But the goal was to “stay true to the concept,” stressed design team leader Michelle Christensen during a media preview of the new two-seater.
For Christensen, who joined the project about the time the first prototype was shown, that goal was to prove more difficult than initially anticipated. About that time, the designer revealed, Acura engineers decided to go from an “East-West, or transverse,” powertrain layout to a North-South, or longitudinal, design that could be made more powerful – and more competitive.
But that move required the design to be stretched by about 3 inches in length, while the original concept vehicle was widened by an inch. Despite that, the final production debuting in Detroit is all but indistinguishable from the first concept.
There are some changes. A few more LED bulbs in the distinctive slit headlights, for example, and the size of the scoops behind the doors has almost tripled in order to gulp air for the NSX’s new engine and complex cooling system.
The mid-development powertrain switch was “like running a marathon while undergoing a heart transplant,” suggested the project’s leader, Ted Klaus. But it was necessary to take on the sort of competitors Acura was aiming for, notably including the Porsche 911 Turbo.
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The new mid-rear-mounted powertrain is certainly nothing if not complex. It starts with a twin-turbo V-6 that is paired with a nine-speed dual-clutch transmission integrating a single electric motor. There are two more motors, one driving each of the front wheels.
The combination results in what Klaus dubbed “zero-delay acceleration.” That’s because electric motors develop maximum torque the moment they start spinning, even while the turbos and V-6 are still building RPMs. While Acura officials declined to discuss specifics, knowledgeable observers anticipate 0 to 60 times of around three seconds or below.
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But the new 2016 NSX is about more than just handling. The layout of the motors allows an exceptional degree of torque vectoring. In a tight turn, for example, the front outer wheel will get more power to effectively help push the supercar around the corner.
Acura’s goal, said Klaus, was to enhance the skills of all drivers, from pros to ambitious amateurs. They will be able to switch between four settings that regulate a variety of vehicle functions, such as steering and suspension stiffness. A “Quiet” mode will operate primarily as an electric vehicle for short runs. There’s also a “Track” mode for turning laps.
The interior of the new NSX is both high-tech and refined, with sport seats done up in a ticket-me-red color for the Detroit show.
The new NSX was developed largely in the United States, combining the resources of Honda design and engineering operations in California, Ohio and other parts of the country. The supercar will be assembled at a new, specially built facility in mid-Ohio, the plant blending high-tech and hand-made operations.
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Plans call for the maker to begin taking orders for the new 2016 Acura NSX over the summer, with first deliveries expected “later this year,” according to Accavitti.
At least one fan is already putting in an early bid, and may have a leg up on other NSX aficionados. It helps that comedian and car collector Jerry Seinfeld has actually done a widely seen commercial for the NSX. On hand for the official debut at Detroit’s Cobo Hall, Seinfeld was asked if he’s confirmed NSX number one is his.
“Not yet,” he said, with a trademark smile. “Working on it.”