2017 Acura NSX First Review

Four years of waiting has ended. After a protracted gestation period extended by one major drivetrain rethink and one unanticipated delay to make sure everything was ready for prime time, our first encounter with the 2017 Acura NSX finally is at hand. Personal recollections of a similar outing behind the wheel of its forebear back in 1990 leave me both excited and a bit apprehensive about what’s in store. Given the opening act of a day-long encounter is taking place on an unfamiliar race track does little to quell those concerns. But within 15 minutes, it’s clear Acura has gotten its new supercar right. Quick, fast, responsive and rewarding, the NSX puts a distinctively modern spin on the man-machine synergy that was integral to the original. Despite being some 800 pounds heavier and way more complex, the iconic NSX has returned with a vengeance.

Dressed for excess  

The new NSX has got loads more presence in the flesh than in its photos. An ultimate form-follows-function exercise, the bodywork on this sleek GT is rendered in aluminum and SMC plastic panels that optimize airflow over, under, around that through the package. Bookended by efficient LED lighting, this aggressive, edgy design optimizes the car’s aero character and dynamic balance while providing cooling for all of the mechanical and electronic powertrain elements. Developing three times as much downforce at the rear than up front, it also eliminates the need for a supplemental wing to keep the tail planted as the NSX rolls onto its 191 mph top speed.

Inside, the new NSX takes a similar approach to enhancing the driving experience. Like its predecessor, the 2017 model provides good forward sightlines, helped by a low dash and super-thin but ultra-strong A-pillars. Trimmed in perforated Milano leather and Alcantara, the NSX’s deeply bolstered sport seats serve up serious comfort and grip occupants snugly without feeling the least bit confining. Extra padding softens critical contact points on the door panels and console sides. In typical Acura fashion, logically positioned primary controls put everything that really matters within easy reach. Complementing the flat-bottom multifunction sport steering wheel with finger-friendly shift paddles is a configurable TFT digital instrument cluster that clearly presents a full range of pertinent data. Rounding out the mix is a 7.0-inch high-res Display Audio capacitive touchscreen in the center of the vehicle that sits above the Dynamic Mode selector dial for the NSX’s Integrated Dynamics System.

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Serving as a solid foundation for all of this is a multi-material core consisting of an aluminum-steel space frame with a carbon fiber floor. Offering best-in-class strength and rigidity, the NSX’s platform also features unique aluminum connective nodes at the front and rear of the structure. Produced using an industry-first ablation casting method, they progressively deform rather than shatter on impact, allowing for more effective energy dissipation in a crash. The NSX’s aluminum-intensive coil-over suspension features the latest Gen III magnetorheological (MR) valveless dampers that deliver lightening quick response over a wider range than conventional MR alternatives. Keeping the 3,809-lb NSX linked to the pavement are staggered-size Z-rated tires: 19-inch, 245/35s up front and 20-inch 305/30s on the rear. Buyers can opt for the standard Continental Conti-Sport Contact 5P tires or considerably stickier but shorter-lived Pirelli P Zero Trofeo and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber recommended for track use only.

Four flavors of Sport Hybrid power

As we’ve detailed in an earlier tech dive on the SH-AWD components, the Sport Hybrid package is based around a new 500-horsepower twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 with direct-plus-port injection and a dry-sump lubrication system – a racing-derived feature that let Acura mount the engine deep in the chassis to give the NSX the lowest center of gravity in its class. A 47-horse Direct Drive Motor bolts between it and a quick-shifting 9-speed dual-clutch transmission with Drive/Manual modes and all three interface with a mechanical limited-slip differential and an appropriately named Twin Motor Unit at the front axle that adds 36 + 36 more ponies along with active torque vectoring and Direct Yaw Control to mitigate understeer/oversteer. The Sport Hybrid system collectively cranks out 573 horsepower and 476 lb-ft of torque while still delivering EPA-ratings of 20-mpg city/22-mpg highway. 

Regulating all aspects of that hybrid motive force – as well as mapping of the NSX’s steering, suspension, stability, regenerative braking and transmission – is the Integrated Dynamics System (IDS). Four driver-selected settings are on offer: Quiet, Sport - the default mode, Sport Plus and hard-core Track. Each also tweaks the Active Sound Control system that ports a defined measure of intake “whoosh” into the cabin well as an Active Exhaust system that uses electronically actuated valves to bypass the main resonators under high-load conditions, adding an extra measure of aural excitement to the mix. To optimize balance and weight distribution, the NSX’s hybrid power control unit sits in the center tunnel while its liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack and dual gas tanks are positioned immediately ahead of and behind the rear cabin bulkhead. 

Buckle up and hang on

The real moment of truth comes once you hit the start button on the NSX and bring its sophisticated Sport Hybrid SH-AWD powertrain to life, which happens via engagement of the Direct Drive Motor. Throttle response is impressively quick in any mode, as the electric motors dole out instant torque for the first 0.1 second to get the car in motion while the large single-scroll turbos on the V6 are spooling up. Although Acura has not issued a 0-60 mph time for the NSX, using Launch Control in Track Mode buries you in the seat with a level of sustained intensity that leads us to think it will reach that benchmark in less than 3.0 seconds.

Our street-and-circuit outing also brought several other key aspects of the NSX’s dynamic character into sharper focus. While it may lack the in-your-face edge of a Ferrari or Lamborghini, the NSX does an outstanding job of making its driver feel at home behind the wheel as part of its “New Sports eXperience.” Just like the Gen I version, this really is a car you can drive every day. And while its 4.4 cu ft trunk means you’ll be traveling light, Acura points out it will accommodate a regulation-size stand-up golf bag. The NSX’s adjustable suspension merits high marks for confident control regardless of the IDS setting, minimizing pitch and roll while maintaining good overall ride compliance. However, we found a bit less to love about the car’s electrically boosted/variable-ratio power steering. Remarkably facile when it comes to precision pointing and equally adept at banishing torque squirm, it tends to deliver more in the way of effort rather than communicative feedback.

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Not so with the NSX’s excellent brakes, which mix hydraulic with battery-replenishing regenerative electric force from its three motor/generators in a progressive and seamless manner whether the car is fitted with the standard steel binders or optional Brembo carbon-ceramic rotors that cost a heady $9,900 but trim 52 pounds off of the unsprung weight. Tire fitment also makes a notable difference in the NSX’s personality. We think most drivers will find the Conti’s offer more than sufficient grip for real-world needs as well as superior wet handling. But hard-core enthusiasts won’t be disappointed by the Pirelli/Michelin alternatives that markedly sharpen the car’s reflexes as well as absolute cornering in the dry.

Set to do battle with rivals like the Audi R8 V10+ and Porsche 911 Turbo, the 2017 Acura NSX will be produced in Ohio by master craftsmen at the automaker’s new Performance Manufacturing Center in Marysville. Only 800 units per year will be slated for the U.S. Pricing will start at $157,800, although adding a Technology Package with Acura ELS Surround Sound Audio and Satellite-linked Navigation, semi-aniline leather, heated power seats, various carbon fiber exterior/interior bits and custom paint along with the aforementioned wheel/tire/brake upfits can push that figure to just north of $205K. Even at that level, the new NSX qualifies as a must-drive piece for anyone fortunate enough to afford one.

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