I may be a professional race car driver, but my writing gig for Jalopnik doesn’t suck either. (Just don’t tell Patrick that or he’ll take away the peanuts he’s currently paying me.) Case in point: a snowy, hoon-filled test of the new Acura NSX. Is it good to blast a $150,000 hybrid supercar around an empty winter parking lot? Hell yes it is.
A few weeks ago my good friend Chris Sarian of Sarian Motorsports asked if I would help out at a driving event being held at Georgetown Lake, CO. For those of you outside the Rocky Mountain region, Georgetown Lake is located just off of I-70 about 15 minutes from Loveland ski area.
The lake, largely due to it’s valley location and elevation, is known for its ability to freeze to a thickness that can easily support a fleet of cars, making it a haven for ice racers and car clubs throughout the winter.
The event was to be put on by the lovely folks over at Rocky Mountain Red Line, and it happened to fall on the rare day that I was actually in town, so I agreed to help out. More out of my friendship with Chris than any desire to spend eight hours of my day standing on a giant block of ice in sub freezing temps while being pummeled by 30 mph gusts of wind.
As luck would have it, a spell of climate change managed to turn Georgetown Lake into, well… a lake. This meant that the event needed to find a new home. Which it did, in the overflow parking lot for the Winter Park ski resort. This was a huge upgrade from the outdoor wind tunnel that is Georgetown.
Now in typical Robb Holland fashion, I had agreed to do this event without actually finding out what the event was. I just figured it was going to be a bunch of locals looking to have a bit of fun on the ice.
Turns out that this was to be a media event attended by multiple manufacturers all bringing a wide variety of cars: Acura NSX, Porsche Macan GTS, Mercedes-AMG C45, Dodge Challenger GT AWD, Alfa Romeo Giulia & Stelvio, just to mention a few. All fitted with the latest in snow tires.
Of course, as an instructor I felt it was my duty to make sure that all of the cars were safe for the assembled reporters to drive, and so I tested them thoroughly:
You know what we say around here: safety third.
On the serious side now. The NSX was just brilliant to drive. This is my first time behind the wheel, and like my compatriots at Jalopnik, I came away really impressed with the car.
I was intensely curious on how the hybrid powertrain would work in a performance application and I have to say Honda nailed it. Super linear throttle response, and a well balanced chassis, made running through our parking lot snow autocross course a absolute blast.
The only downer on the car (that I could tell with my limited time behind the wheel) was the incomprehensible performance settings. I tried a half dozen times to get the nannies to full off, only to get half sideways through a corner to find that the setting I chose still had traction or stability control engaged. (This is why I couldn’t match Katherine Legge’s perfect NSX donuts). I finally got the Honda PR guy to get everything turned off, so it can be done, but by then it was getting dark and we had to head out.
I think shouldn’t take a computer engineering degree, a Voodoo High Priestess and the sacrifice of a live chicken to disengage all of the systems. Just give me an “Off” button and we’re good.
That said, even with the systems engaged, the stability controls were fairly permissive. Allowing a good amount of sideways action before stepping in. I’d be really interested to see how this translates onto dry pavement.
Like, say, on a race track. In case anyone’s up for that.
Other than the NSX, the other car that I came away impressed with was the Porsche Macan GTS. For a small crossover, the GTS was way sportier than I expected. Sliding the Macan sideways though our course required the least amount of thought and effort of any of the cars in attendance. This was the second GTS variant in Porsche’s lineup that I’ve been impressed with in recent times.
The snow performance of what should be the least sporty of Porsche’s lineup is welcome news for me, I’m soon headed off to Canada for Porsche’s Camp4 winter driving experience to sample the 991 C2 and C4 and see how Porsches’s AWD system copes in the deep powder of the Mécaglisse training facility.
Like I said, my gig doesn’t suck.