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Honda quietly announced at the end of September that the “all-new NSX, the new-generation supercar model” will be on display at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show.
However, the much-anticipated Honda/Acura NSX is given the short shrift in the press release, little more than an aside in a brand-wide announcement highlighting a new production fuel-cell vehicle, a handful of motorcycles and scooters, and a pair of wacky personal mobility concepts.
Those who have followed the laborious naissance of this much-anticipated halo car will wonder at the understatement – after all, enthusiasts have been waiting for a new NSX for a decade now. Those with only a mild interest in supercar matters will, perhaps, believe that the car is already for sale in Acura dealerships from coast-to-coast.
Sadly, it is not. But the confusion is understandable.
The original Acura NSX, produced from 1990 to 2005, was a brilliantly executed mid-engine, rear-wheel drive supercar with crisp styling and precise handling. The NSX also benefited from fantastic timing: By the time it debuted, Honda had become the dominant engine supplier in Formula 1 racing, powering teams to six consecutive constructors championships (1986-1991) and five consecutive drivers titles (1987-1991).
The NSX went on to become an undisputed automotive icon. By the end of its production run, though, the naturally aspirated 3.2-litre V-6 (with 294 horsepower) was down on performance compared with the competition. The styling also suffered from a regulatory requirement to do away with the pop-up headlights. Retirement beckoned for the NSX – but there were already plans for a second-generation version.
Fast-forward to January, 2012. At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the cover was pulled off the Acura NSX Concept: Mid-engine, all-wheel drive, hybrid powertrain, sick styling. The then-next NSX ticked all the right boxes for a 21st-century supercar. With the unveiling complete, the marketing machine kicked into overdrive.
A car that looked like the NSX Concept guest-starred in the first Avengers movie. A digital version appeared in GranTurismo 6. A racing version competed in the Japanese Super GT Series. A Super Bowl ad for the car featured famed motoring enthusiasts Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld.
And then … silence.
Fast-forward to January, 2015. At the North American International Auto Show, the cover was pulled off the production Acura NSX: Mid-engine, all-wheel drive, hybrid powertrain, sick styling. Again, the next NSX ticked all the right boxes for a 21st-century supercar. With the unveiling complete, the marketing machine … remained quiet.
At the reveal, the 2016 Acura NSX was promised for this calendar year, but seven months later, the manufacturer backed off on that commitment. In a statement in August, it cited production delays and made a new promise: deliveries for mid-2016 as a 2017 model.
The team at Honda of America responsible for the car is reportedly still tinkering with the interior trim, electrical components and the engine note. Skeptics contend that it’s working on the engine, all right – it’s rumoured to be attempting to extract more power from the trick hybrid powertrain.
The leader of the NSX global development team hinted at its challenge during the reveal in Detroit. “[The 2012] prototype was powered by a transverse-mounted normally aspirated V-6 and it was a good powertrain,” said Ted Klaus. “But for NSX, good is not good enough. And we recognized the need and the responsibility to do more to fulfill our goal of creating a truly iconic supercar.”
He went on to describe a major transition in thinking – a bold decision to create an all-new longitudinally mounted twin-turbocharged V-6. Klaus described the task as monumental: “Frankly, it was like undergoing a heart transplant while running a marathon.” During planning for the NSX, the competitive target was the Ferrari 458, which was powered by a naturally aspirated 4.5-litre V-8 and generated 597 horsepower in its most extreme form.
This was a lofty goal, to be sure.
But during the long gestation period, the goal-line moved. Ferrari has replaced the 458 with the 488 GTB, which is powered by a twin-turbo 3.9-litre V-8 that develops 661 horsepower. In a similar vein, Porsche last month announced that all of its new 911 models would be turbocharged.
Still, Acura Canada is optimistic about a spring launch.
“It’s been an evolutionary process to achieve our ultimate aims for this new NSX,” says a company representative. “And we believe that our customers will find it was worth the wait.”
When the designers and engineers first started the NSX project, the idea of a hybrid supercar was brand new. Now, there are viable entries in the market. Now, there are expectations.
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