High-tech new Honda supercar with huge hybrid performance
- Huge, accessible power
- Ease of use
- Ride quality
- Eye-catching looks
- All--wheel drive
- Clicky gearshift paddles
- Interior lacks finesse
- Boot gets very hot
- Only one UK dealership
Honda is a carmaker most buyers associate with cleverly designed family hatchbacks and efficient SUVs – but at its heart it’s a high-performance brand with a racing heritage in Formula One, a popular line of Type R performance models and a back catalogue that includes the first NSX supercar, which went toe-to-toe with Ferrari when it was launched in 1990. That NSX survived, with revisions, until 2005. But we’ve had to wait until 2016 to see Honda launch another one.
That’s right: Honda has finally built a second-generation NSX supercar. This new one – which might as well have been beamed down from space, so far removed does it look from a regular Honda – features carbonfibre and aluminium construction, and a cutting-edge petrol-electric hybrid powertrain that immediately sets it apart from fiercely talented rivals such as the Audi R8, McLaren 570S and Porsche 911 Turbo S.
How far apart? Well, while each of those established competitors gets by with a conventional petrol engine alone, the NSX is powered by a twin-turbo V6 combined with no less than three electric motors, a nine-speed automatic gearbox and torque-vectoring all-wheel drive. From an engineering point of view, it is really quite astonishing.
The supercar that’s easy to use
The old NSX was perhaps the first user-friendly supercar, so easy to drive you could use it every day; the new NSX has taken up this mantle with conviction. The steering is light and quick at low speeds but slower on the motorway, so it doesn’t feel fidgety. An innovative braking system delivers huge stopping power but is still easily modulated around town. And you get clever magnetic dampers that offer serene comfort or race-car flat cornering, depending on the driving mode.
Stars of the show, however, are definitely the engine and all those electric motors. In fact, only the Porsche 918 hypercar has ever deployed this kind of drivetrain configuration before, and the NSX costs about six times less than that. Using such a high-tech solution is very on-brand for Honda, especially as a marque lacking in traditional supercar prestige – but it also brings a unique driving experience to the lower reaches of the supercar sector.
Including the ability to drive silently on electric power alone for short distances.
Striking looks a strong point
Quiet running may seem at odds with supercar ownership but you’ll attract enough attention at low speeds via the space-age styling. Though it may look futuristic and outlandish, all the scoops and vents on the Honda NSX have been sculpted by the advanced powertrain’s hunger for air, which it desperately needs in order to keep cool.
This is where the everyday proposition of the NSX starts to lose a bit of traction – those massive side vents add to the NSX’s already sizable girth, and the door mirrors need to be on lengthy stalks to see around them, so they stick out a long way. Narrow roads are instantly awkward as a result.
On top of which, supercars are all much less belligerent these days than they were when the first NSX hit the streets. Has this new car’s USP been eroded?