I know it's been in development so long it was accused of being vaporware. I know Acura bungled its launch hard over a period of years. And I know it now runs the risk of being "just another" hybrid performance car. I don't care, I'm still excited and optimistic about the 2016 Acura NSX.
I just have two questions, and they're kind of big ones: What is the NSX supposed to compete against, and who are its buyers supposed to be?
I'm not questioning the value of an NSX resurrection. I'm a fan of the original, so I'm glad it's coming back, and I can even understand why it's such a different car this time around. Like the first NSX did in the late 1980s, this new one will use the best technology of its time, and that means an all-wheel drive, twin-turbocharged, hybrid, dual-clutch setup.
I'm just genuinely curious about what Acura's strategy will be in selling it. We're still light on actual specs, but we do know it was benchmarked against the Ferrari 458 Italia and will cost somewhere in the $150,000 range.
If that ends up being true, it makes the NSX a hell of a performance bargain. But $150,000 will get you a lot these days.
That price makes it quite a bit more expensive than the Nissan GT-R, which now ranks among the fastest cars in the world and is probably the best speed bargain out there (even if it's kind of homely.) I could see the NSX appealing to prospective GT-R buyers: younger guys and gals who grew up fetishizing high-performance Japanese cars and can afford it since their startup went public. The young, newly rich tech crowd seems to love the GT-R, and I think they'll dig this too.
The $150,000 range also pits it against the BMW i8, another high-tech hybrid performance car. That may just be the car on the market that the NSX is closest to, though the NSX will have a much beefier gasoline engine and the entire package is less of a kind of science experiment than the i8.
Then there's your more established performance machines: $150,000 is about the base price on a Porsche 911 Turbo, though just barely. We don't know the pricing on the Mercedes-AMG GT yet, but everyone expects that to be at least $130,000 or so. Don't forget Audi is cooking up a new R8 as well, and even the current one is no slouch.
So that's where I think it fits in. The question is, why would you buy the NSX over those cars?
You'll spend a bunch of money either way, but when you go with one of the Germans you get loads more prestige and esteem among other rich folks than if you bought the Acura. Honda's luxury brand never quite developed the cachet that Mercedes, BMW and Audi have; hell, it doesn't even have the cachet Lexus has. Don't think for a second that factor isn't important among premium car buyers.
Speaking of Lexus, this reminds me of that time Richard Hammond tested the LFA. He found it to be an incredible machine, but you're never gonna get over it when someone comes on the PA system and says "Will the owner of the LEXUS please move it..."
On the other hand, maybe performance speaks for itself. The Corvette Stingray has gotten to the point where nobody says it's "Just a Chevrolet" anymore, and the GT-R is badass enough that it doesn't matter that it's "just a Nissan." If the NSX is good enough, maybe nothing else will matter.
This has always been the case with the NSX. Back in the day it was the ultimate upstart move for a nascent Japanese automaker to build something that could challenge Ferrari, and it did.
The NSX trumped the 911 Carrera 4, Ferrari 348, Lotus Esprit Turbo and Corvette ZR-1 back in this 1990 Car and Driver test. Even when it wasn't the fastest car, it was always one of the best. It just suffered from a lack of updates that made it mostly irrelevant by the time it was finally killed off.
So I have high hopes for the new NSX. I'm hoping it will signal a return to the performance-minded Honda we used to know and love. I'm just wondering if it will be good enough to compete in a crowded and premium-minded landscape. — it kind of has to be.
What do you think the NSX will run against?
Photo credit Jalopnik