The Honda NSX – Was it worth the wait?

Honda NSX

The original Honda NSX of 1990 was renowned not only for its speed and handling but also its reliability and how easy it was to drive – traits not usually associated with a supercar. To that formula the all-new NSX can add some kind of green credentials, for this is a supercar with a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain that’s designed both to improve performance and reduce the amount of fuel the NSX uses.

Rivals for this mid-engined supercar include the Audi R8 and Lamborghini Huracan, as well as the rear-engined Porsche 911 Turbo. The question is, does Honda’s hybrid represent an evolution in supercar design, or is it merely a gimmick?

Here’s a list of pros and cons.

Space in the Honda NSX

Ah.

Those in the market for a supercar won’t have practicality as a number one priority, but the Porsche 911 Turbo proves you don’t need to completely abandon the notion of ever using your supercar for day-to-day duties.

The Honda is less spacious, missing out on the Porsche’s rear seats and making do with a significantly smaller boot. Not only that, but the location of the NSX’s load space behind the twin-turbocharged, 3.5-litre V6 engine means your bags get rather hot on a long journey. Not one for a frozen food shop, then.

In-car storage is adequate, with a small glovebox and room in the centre tunnel for a mobile phone, and there’s ample head and elbow room for tall passengers.

Comfort in the Honda NSX

The biggest impression of comfort portrayed by the NSX is in how quiet it is. For that you can thank its ability to run on electric power – in fact, there’s even a Quiet mode that maximises the use of the car’s three electric motors as well as closing flaps in the exhaust to reduce the volume of the V6. True, running in silence is not necessarily part of the supercar experience, but it does give the NSX a neat trick, much in the same way as the plug-in hybrid BMW i8 can slip along without burning any petrol.

The NSX also rides bumps well thanks to its adaptive suspension. It might lack the ultimate suppleness of a McLaren or an Audi R8, but there’s still enough day-to-day comfort to continue Honda’s trick of building a supercar that anybody could drive. A perfect driving position helps here, and while the large tyres do generate some noise on poorly surfaced roads, the NSX is still quieter than a Porsche 911 Turbo.

Dashboard Styling of the Honda NSX

You might well expect something a bit special when climbing into your supercar, so it’s a little disappointing to see the NSX uses the same touchscreen as the Honda Jazz. This is made worse by the fact it’s not even a very good system in the Jazz, let alone a car costing 10 times as much, there being too many icons to navigate and only a basic (not to mention optional) Garmin satnav.

The quality of materials is plush by Honda’s standards, but arguably still not up to what you’d expect of a car with a six-figure price tag. The main driving mode rotary control that sits in the centre of the dash does at least move with slick precision, allowing you to access the default Sport mode as well as Quiet, Sport+ and Track.

In addition, the digital instrument display is crisp and clear, and the controls on the steering wheel make it easy to scroll through the trip computer’s various functions.

Driving Ease of the Honda NSX

The latest NSX might be a significantly wider car than its predecessor, but it is still simple to drive once you are accustomed to its size. The large wing mirrors and a decent sized rear screen help with seeing traffic behind, plus there’s a reversing camera to make parking a less nervous affair, but a Porsche 911 still beats the NSX in terms of visibility.

The standard nine-speed automatic gearbox and precise controls also help with ease of driving, allowing you to place the NSX with confidence, whether travelling at low speed through a town or at a higher velocity on your favourite country road.

It’s also impressive how Honda has managed to create a braking system that can recover energy without the pedal ever feeling anything less than perfectly modulated. It’s a testament to how well engineered the NSX is, much like the way the hybrid system switches so smoothly between power sources.

In addition, because the NSX uses four-wheel drive it can put its power to the road without ever feeling overly twitchy, provided of course you leave it in the default Sport mode with the stability systems fully engaged.

Select Track mode, hold your left foot on the brake pedal and your right foot flat on the accelerator and the NSX’s computers active a launch control function that primes the electric motors and petrol engine to propel you away the line as quickly as possible. The immediate acceleration is of the kind that leaves your stomach behind, and the way the NSX pulls through the gears is deeply impressive. Honda doesn’t quote a 0-62mph time, but reckon on it being about three seconds.

It’s not just from a standing start that the NSX leaves you breathless. Touch the accelerator at any time and it’s a terrifically fast car, particularly if you are in Sport+ mode with the petrol engine and electric motors working together to give the maximum 573bhp and 476lb ft of torque. The only shame is that the V6 doesn’t sound nearly as good as the V10 in the R8 and Lamborghini Huracan, either in the mid range or at high revs.

Grip is plentiful and the NSX responds instantly to steering inputs. It’s a more remote experience than you get in the very best supercars, with limited feedback, but make no mistake the NSX is still a fantastic car to drive.

Reliability of the Honda NSX

As a completely new car with a complicated petrol-electric drivetrain, it is hard to say how reliable the NSX will be. However, if you are buying a supercar with the expectation of bulletproof reliability, choosing a Honda is arguably one of the safer bets. Certainly having driven an NSX that has covered close to 20,000 miles, including a lot of time on the race track, people are very impressed with how solid it feels.

The NSX comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty, matching what you get with an Audi R8, but falling behind the unlimited mileage cover provided by McLaren and Porsche, let alone the four-year warranty offered by Lamborghini.

Just as nobody chooses a supercar for the amount of space it offers, so fuel economy is likely to be a secondary concern for buyers of this particular Honda. That the NSX’s hybrid system allowed it to return 28mpg in tests is therefore unlikely to impress, nor the fact that if driven gently it will actually exceed that figure by a few miles per gallon.

What is useful is that, unlike BMW’s i8, the NSX doesn’t need to be plugged in to charge in order to benefit from its electric capabilities. You simply drive the car and it works out how best to harvest (and then deploy) battery power.

The drawback, as with any hybrid, is that all of these systems add weight to the car. In the case of the NSX it results in a kerb weight of 1800kg, which makes it significantly heavier than any of its rivals. It is perhaps ironic, therefore, that despite all of Honda’s hybrid technology a Porsche 911 Turbo is actually marginally more economical.

Safety in the Honda NSX

The car’s incredibly strong structure has been designed to lead the class in terms of impact absorption, and there’s no shortage of safety systems to help prevent you from coming a cropper in the first place.

Chief among these is the car’s Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system, which works in conjunction with traction control to prevent any wayward behaviour that might result from clumsy driver inputs.

It is perhaps surprising that Honda didn’t add an autonomous emergency braking system when one is available on other cars in its range, but to be fair none of the NSX’s rivals use one either. What you do of course get is a full complement of airbags including one for the driver’s knees.

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