What's the used Honda NSX coupe like?
When, in 1990, the first Honda NSX was released, it changed the way we perceive supercars. Never before had cars like this been so accessible, so reliable, or indeed, so usable on a day-to-day basis. It influenced every supercar that followed it, and proved that truculent low-speed driving dynamics and iffy reliability didn’t need to be a feature of supercar ownership.
Its successor was a long time coming. But after a development process that was repeatedly delayed in order to allow for its ambitious technological specification to be realised, it finally arrived in 2016.
There’s only one model of NSX available, and only one powertrain. At its heart sits a 3.5-litre V6 petrol with not one, but two turbochargers, which powers the rear wheels, as well as an electric motor providing 47bhp of assistance. But you also get a small electric motor on each front wheel, each capable of producing 36bhp on its own; cleverly, these can act independently, providing more power at each front corner depending on where the most grip is, or together with the main power unit in order to provide maximum acceleration.
When they do, the way the NSX goes is little short of mind-bending. In a straight line it’ll edge out most things this side of a Ferrari 488 GTB. There’s simply no let-up in acceleration, the electric motors filling in the flat spots you might usually get from the petrol engine, and providing astonishing and instantaneous punch. And while it’s true that the Audi R8 offers a more rousing soundtrack, the NSX’s growling, gurgling V6 just inches behind your head sounds pretty good in its own right – and, refreshingly, doesn’t resort to the sort of gauche pops and crackles you’ll find with many performance cars.
The NSX is a sure-footed handler, too; give it its head on a twisty back road and you’ll soon find yourself doing distinctly antisocial speeds, as the amount of grip on offer and the way the nose can be tweaked into an apex with those individual electric motors are addictive. True, you don’t get as much steering feel as an Audi R8 or McLaren 570S, and nor do you get such a playful chassis, but unless you’re being truly stupid, the NSX always feels utterly unflappable and extremely precise.
But as good as the NSX is, it isn’t perfect. The problems start when you climb aboard. The snug seats are excellent and the dash design appealing, but some of the materials are, in terms of quality, far below what you’d expect from a car that cost so much new. What’s more, the NSX’s infotainment system is strikingly similar to that which you’d find in a Civic or a Jazz – which wouldn’t be a problem if it worked well. Sadly, it doesn’t, with a combination of labyrinthine controls and juddering sluggishness that make it infuriating, if not impossible, to use.
And while there’s plenty of room for both occupants, the same can’t be said for their accoutrements. Boot space amounts to a small, oddly-shaped cubby behind the engine that suffers from heat soak, and there’s little space for bits and pieces inside. If practicality and usability are important in your ideal supercar, a Porsche 911 Turbo S – which even has rear seats – does it better.
For 2019, Honda treated the NSX to an in-depth update that focused on its steering, suspension and complex hybrid system, all in a quest to create a car that could finally stand toe-to-toe with its rivals.
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