The term ‘supercar’ conjures the names of Ferrari, Bugatti and Lamborghini, pedigree brands manufacturing some of the most cutting-edge, spectacularly daring vehicles money can buy.
By contrast, Acura and Ford are reputed for selling more mundane cars and trucks to mainstream customer bases. Yet, both are competing for the attention of the supercar buyer with two of the most hyped entries in the segment: the Acura NSX and Ford GT.
The brands' executives, engineers and employees regard their supercars as demonstrations of their talents, with the practical benefit of the technology ultimately filtering into the mainsteam vehicles.
“The NSX is meant to represent the best of us,” explains Emile Korkor, Acura’s senior manager and brand leader. “It’s the pinnacle of our brand, and it’s about achieving everything to the absolute limit with style, performance, refinement, engineering and technology, all working cohesively together.”
Unlike failed supercar attempts from Vector Motors, DeLorean or the Japanese-brand Dome, Acura and Ford have the funds, factories and partners to achieve a variety of goals with their supercar programs.
Why are large chunks of capital invested into the supercar projects? Korkor says the NSX is a “marketing machine. ... It showcases everything you can possibly do: strategy, technology, advanced design and performance, and trickling that down into our mainstream products.”
Lance Mosley, Ford’s performance marketing manager, says the GT "means our very best in technology, innovation and ngineering capabilities, but also our past history, especially with our wins at Le Mans [starting in 1966 and again, 50 years later, in 2016].”
A perfect example of trickle-down tech "can be traced back to the previous-generation Ford GT,” Mosley adds. “We used a capless fuel [filler] and a push-button start that’s now incorporated by so many automakers in mainstream vehicles. It just takes time for technology to show up, but it eventually will.”
The current GT’s features are already being implemented in Ford’s roster: an all-digital dashboard now seen on the 2018 Mustang and soon to others; specialized drive modes for particular conditions found in the Mustang’s track mode and F-150′s Baja off-road mode; carbon fibre potential for future products.
The smaller engine in its supercar, the 3.5-litre, twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6, is also installed in mainstream vehicles such as the Explorer and F-150, giving those products greater lustre. Of course, it is boosted for the GT with high output power numbers – 647 hp and 550 lb-ft of torque – though similar to the one found in the F-150 Limited trim or high-performance Raptor, which shares almost 60 per cent of its parts with the GT’s engine.
The NSX technology, incorporating three electric motors in its twin-turbo V6 to produce 573 hp and 476 lb-ft of torque, is seen in mainstream products such as the RLX Sport Hybrid.
In 1990, Acura broke the mould by creating an easy-to-drive supercar experience suited to the track and everyday roads. Likewise, the current NSX’s greatest impact on the brand may be psychological, reviving a perception of passion and excitement that’s been missing of late from the Acura brand.
“The NSX can best be described as a catalyst, it’s always been that spark, and as doubters to the brand emerged, Acura knew it needed to be revived,” Korkor says. “The NSX has not just brought back the return of Precision Crafted Performance throughout our entire lineup, it brought back pride.”
The 2019 Acura NSX starts at $189,900, ranging to $242,000. The 2019 Ford GT starts at US$495,000.
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