The Honda NSX is the modern supercar you'd actually want to buy
If you’ve watched any Formula One in the last three years, you’ll know that McLaren-Honda isn’t the most competitive combination around. For the last three seasons, McLaren has suffered with its underpowered Honda engine, and the sight of Alonso retiring from races has been far too common. In fact, things got so bad this year, that both McLaren and the Japanese manufacturer agreed to part ways at the end of the 2017 season.
However, rewind back to the 80s, and the McLaren-Honda combo was one to be feared. Between 1988 and 1991, the partnership won every driver’s championship, with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost fighting amongst themselves for the title. And it’s in this period of utter domination that the original NSX came to be.
It was always going to be good: The original NSX’s styling and aerodynamics were influenced by an F-16 fighter jet, and the handling was developed by none other than Ayrton Senna - arguably the greatest F1 driver of all time. As you’d expect, the NSX went on to be a classic, forcing Honda into the same arena as Ferrari, Porsche and the other usual suspects.
In the following years, Honda’s performance in F1 seemed to drop, as did its interest in the NSX. There were a few facelifts and an R edition, but the NSX seemed to be an afterthought for Honda.
Fast forward to 2017 and the long awaited second generation of the NSX is finally here. A brand new car from top to bottom, the new NSX features incredible Transformer-like styling and the performance to mix it with the best supercars out there. But it faces a seriously uphill battle.
The new NSX is a hybrid that uses a 3.5-litre twin-turbo engine and a trio electric motors to produce a little under 600bhp, propelling it to 60mph in a little under three seconds. But Honda’s latest supercar is full of technology, and that makes it the antithesis of the pure supercar it follows. For some people, that means it’s likely to be diluted, and not what a sports car should be.
What’s more, with the BMW i8 Roadster and other amazing hybrid supercars around, the NSX needs to be a whole other type of special. So, the new NSX has a lot to prove, but after taking it to the New Forest – and Bromley – I think it delivers.
What's the NSX like?
I feel supercars should tick three main boxes; looks, performance and excitement – and the NSX nails all three. But let’s start with the looks.
The new Honda NSX is one of the best looking supercars on the road right now, and apart from the odd concept from Lamborghini, it’s one of the most extreme, too. Firstly, the Honda is so low, that its proportions are always going to look extreme. It’s a car that you basically need to fall into, and it’s dwarfed by all other traffic you encounter.
What’s more, the overall styling of the car is extremely unique, too. Featuring sharp angles, lines, and thin, cutting headlights, the front of the NSX sets the tone for the rest of the car. It’s so brutal and so forceful, that it reminds me of Honda’s RC211V MotoGP race bike.
Look around the car and you’ll continue to see bits of detail everywhere. From the flying buttresses that channel air around the car, to the cuts behind the front wheels that help reduce turbulence, the NSX is full of amazing design. And alongside those lines and tweaks, you’ll also find an incredible, triple-exit exhaust and an exquisite carbon fibre engine bay – both hinting at the car’s performance. As for the cabin? It’s like any other Honda you’ve been in, sadly.
Most supercars attract some interest, but the design of the NSX and its relative unpopularity makes it a magnet for attention. When driving it through South London, I either got the thumbs up, people taking pictures, or bystanders just asking about it. Unlike the BMW i8 or a more traditional supercar, most people don’t know about the NSX – and that makes driving it much more fun.
Of course, all this would be useless without some serious performance, and thankfully the NSX delivers that in spades. The Honda offers a few handling modes that you can dial in depending on how ridiculous you’re feeling, but Sport+ is easily the best. In that mode, gear changes are more aggressive, the car’s dampers are stiffer, steering is more direct and the noise from the V6 behind your head is even more noticeable. Unlike the i8, that’s not fake noise, either: In Sport+ mode, the Honda bypasses a silencer and also opens up hatches from the engine bay to the cabin.
Driving the NSX on fast roads in this configuration is a next-level experience. Everything is immediate and direct, and because you’re so low to the ground everything feels faster too. The Honda communicates every angle of camber in the road, along with every bump - and the slightest amount of slide is also felt through your hips – giving you the chance to correct.
Like most people, I was expecting the NSX to sound fairly muted, as that’s what turbocharging tends to do to these hybrid cars. However, at full throttle, the NSX roars. After stamping on the throttle, you’re first greeted with incredible EV torque, and then the sound of the V6 in full-flight behind you. Lift off, and you’ll hear the hiss of the turbo wastegates, and the faint whirring of the car’s regenerative systems. No, this isn’t the same pure sound of something like an Audi R8, but it’s an entirely new and exciting one.
And the silliest thing about the NSX? When you feel like calming things down, a flick to Quiet Mode makes the Honda favour electric-only power, so you can slink around in total silence.
So, is the NSX the fastest, best handling supercar on the road? No. Is it the prettiest, and the most desirable? Of course not. But it’s still the one I’d want to buy right now. The new NSX has extreme performance, but it also has the originality and the character to make it one of the best supercars on the road.