Going Back in Time: 2005 Acura NSX Impressions

By KBB.com Editors on June 16, 2014 1:19 PM

Back in 1984, Honda was busy at work developing a sports car, in partnership with Pininfarina, which could take on anything that came out of Italy or Germany. Originally known as the HP-X (Honda Pininfarina Xperimental) internally, it soon became known as the New Sportscar eXperimental, or NSX for short. The first generation Acura NSX ran from 1990 to 2005 before production was shelved for almost a decade. Acura has since announced that it is reviving the NSX name for a second generation and because of that, we wanted to brush up on what makes the NSX so special. Acura handed us the keys to a 2005 model and after spending some time behind the wheel, we've recorded some of our thoughts. Here are some of those impressions. 

"My first-mile takeaway was that it didn't feel quite as light or responsive as I'd imagined it all these 24 years since it came into being, and in fact the steering ratio is far slower than that of today's Honda Accord. Still, it's easy to drive around town, which was one of its groundbreaking traits when it debuted. Of course, it's a blast when pushed to its limits, offering better balance and feel than many of today's performance cars. No, a brand new but comparatively run-of-the-mill Porsche won't turn as many heads as an older, rarer NSX, but for drivers more into driving than nostalgia, exclusivity or the look-at-me factor, it's comforting to know they do indeed still make 'em like they used to. That amazing 2-to-3 shift notwithstanding."  - Jason Allan, Managing Editor, Features

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"The NSX's 3.2-liter mid-mounted V6 is small, but boy does it bite. It enables quick acceleration, and the power band is broad. That didn't surprise me. What did was just how good it sounds. The roar of its power and efficiency played a symphony behind my ears. And then there's the transmission. Simply put, the NSX's 6-speed manual is among the best I've experienced. Gear changes arrive with a satisfying click, and throws are succulent and short. The NSX is hardly the fastest car I've driven, but its handling is near the top. The car just does what you want it to do. In many respects the NSX reminds me of a Porsche Cayman, which also uses a mid-mounted 6-cylinder engine and has the precision of a ballet dancer." - Matt Degen, Senior Associate Editor 

"It's been nearly a decade since I last drove an NSX, and I couldn't help wonder if I had romanticized the car, glossing over its negatives. At the suggestion of one of my colleagues, I jotted down what I remembered before hopping behind the wheel, both good and bad, to see how rose-colored my glasses had become over the years. First, the sound of the V6 is as intoxicating as ever. It still handles beautifully, but the suspension doesn't beat you up in day-to-day driving. The seats remain comfortable and supportive, the shifter feel is still a benchmark, and modern sports cars dream of this kind of outward visibility. But I did gloss over some aspects. I don't know why I thought the NSX had decent trunk space, because it doesn't at all. The steering feels great, but it has a huge turning circle, making parking lots a bit hard to maneuver. And there's no getting around the anachronistic interior, which was dated even 10 years ago." - Keith Buglewicz, Senior Associate Editor 

"The V6 revs high like a proper Honda high-performance engine should. It also offers enough power for a good time, though modern standards make it hard to be dazzled by a horsepower figure that starts with a 3. The steering is a little slow but otherwise the car handles really well. Also, as a guy who owned a del Sol (Honda's Civic-based two-seater with the removable roof panel) but lusted after the NSX, I immediately had to pull the roof from our test car. The process was remarkably similar to the del Sol, just rotate two latches and lift off, so no problems there. But driving topless I actually have to give the nod to the del Sol. Air flow management in a roofless NSX isn't great. It's windy with the windows up or down and not in a charming way." - Micah Muzio, Managing Editor, Video

"The 2005 NSX we drove is still an amazing piece of work. It connects you to driving it with light -- even by today's standards -- pedal action, precise braking and steering response, and the feeling that you are piloting a feather-light arrow or stunt plane. The tight-throw 6-speed shifter didn't feel a decade old, and the clutch take-up would make 90 percent of today's cars flat-out jealous. It's rougher in spots than many modern vehicles, and noisier, and it's a tight little 2-seater not meant for tall drivers. The steering wheel is unnervingly skinny for a sports car. However, if you deposited that fighter-aircraft shape on a showroom floor tomorrow morning, it would still cause a riot and awaken desire, both in automotive design crowds and with the man on the street." - Rich Homan, Senior Vehicle Evaluation Editor

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"A genuine exotic that can easily serve as a legitimate daily driver, the Gen I NSX matches its purposeful appearance with a brilliant dynamic character. It might not have been the fastest or most powerful beast on the block when it first debuted, but the NSX's free-revving VTEC V6 delivered near instant response and was an ideal match for the quick and precise shifts served up by its superb manual transmission. Factor in things like its great sightlines, comfortable, user-friendly cabin configuration and a tendency for almost everything to remain fully functional over time - a trait not shared by a goodly number of its pricier peers - and it's no surprise why the Acura NSX stands fender to fender with the original BMW M1 on my personal list of all-time dream drives." - Bob Nagy, Senior Editor, News & Trends

"It only took about 2 minutes behind the wheel before I understood what all the hype was about. I had never driven an NSX before but since I don't live under a rock, I was aware of its legend. Then it hit me again. The sound that escapes from the 3.2-liter V6 when you lean in to the throttle forces a wide smile to spread across your face almost instantly. At almost a decade old, I wasn't surprised that the interior felt dated but I was taken aback by how crisp gear changes were. Going from second to third gear was like a hot knife cutting through butter - quick and easy." - Trevor Dorchies, Associate Editor 

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