The new Honda NSX is here


Seven years after ceasing production, Honda has not only publically committed to building a new NSX, it has this week unveiled a concept of what it might look like at the Detroit Motorshow.

Actually don’t pay too much attention to the appearance of the slick slice of avant garde automotive exotica sitting on plinth in the middle of Detroit’s Cobo Hall – from this far out it is highly unlikely the finished article will bear more than a fleeting resemblance. Focus instead not on what it is, but what it might mean.

First and most simply it means the return of one of the names most missed by supercar cognoscenti. I know the NSX sold in Sinclair C5 numbers in the UK, but that says everything about our endemic badge snobbery and nothing whatever about the greatest supercar of the late 20th century.

Few cars can consider themselves a work of genius but the old NSX could. While Ferraris of the era were tricky to drive and impractical to use, the NSX was no more difficult than a Civic to master. And it demanded that you used it everyday. Yet, and this was where it was so clever, that sense of the exotic, that frisson of excitement you feel when approaching any true supercar, was not only present in the NSX, it was there in spades.

The car I most liken it to is the 1973 Porsche 911 2.7 Carrera RS which had the same ability to fit into your life yet left you in no doubt at all that on the right road it would be absolutely mesmerising. And the NSX did not disappoint.

I remember my first drive in one. It was 1990 and that day it seemed we had the Welsh mountains to ourselves. One of the most blissful afternoons I’d spent in a car was interrupted only by the photographer sitting next to me letting me know that if I insisted on driving like that, he was going to walk home.

This, of course, is the car trumpeted as having been developed by Ayrton Senna which is, of course, rubbish. The great man did drive it a few times and provided some worthwhile input into the car, but nothing should be allowed to detract from the job done by Honda’s passionate, perfectionist engineers. One look at its forged aluminium wishbones is all you need to know how much care went into this car. I’ve heard it said that Honda lost money on every one it made which I can quite believe.

So what of the new car? Well we know it too will be powered by a mid-mounted V6 engine, but that it will also have a hybrid drive providing power to the front as well as the rear wheels courtesy of two electric motors mounted either side of the nose of the car. We know too that Honda is not going to be joining the power struggle – the new NSX will achieve its performance through lightweight and efficiency, not brute force.

But consider also what this car means to Honda. It smacks to me quite strongly of a car company rediscovering its mojo and remembering that it has one of the proudest engineering heritages of any car company not just in Japan, but the world. Of course very few will have the money to buy an NSX but the attitude which says it can be built cannot help but shine down on more affordable Hondas of the future.

Though time alone will reveal the true significance of the NSX, it would now not surprise me at all to discover that Honda has decided its days of building nothing but worthy and dull cars are over, and that the time has come to go back to doing what it does best. And for that we should all be very happy.

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