Honda Offers First Look at Next-Gen NSX Drivetrain

Pricing to nudge high end of Porsche 911 range.

by on Nov.19, 2013

An Acura NSX prototype -- shown here in testing at Mid-Ohio Raceway earlier this year.

With development rapidly moving forward on the development of the eagerly awaited Acura NSX, Honda offered a handful of journalists a first look at the supercar’s complex, hybrid powertrain during a visit to its Tochigi R&D center.

After years of debating whether to adopt a traditional, more European approach to powering the next-generation sports car, such as going for a big V-10, the automaker ultimately decided to go with a more futuristic performance hybrid approach, it announced when showing off the first, early prototype of the Acura NSX nearly two years ago. But until now, it has revealed little else.

With functioning prototypes now running around test tracks in both Japan and the U.S.,

Performance News! was able to get significantly more details about the new powertrain – notably including the fact that the Acura NSX will be the only vehicle using Honda’s new three-motor hybrid technology that also will make use of a conventional turbocharger to further boost performance.

This mock-up shows the basic layout of the Acura NSX powertrain, including the two motors up front.

A mock-up of the new NSX underpinnings shown at the Tochigi proving grounds confirmed what this publication previously reported: the supercar will essentially reverse the basic layout of Honda’s new Sport-Hybrid Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive, or SH-AWD, system making its debut later this year under the hood of the Acura brand’s flagship sedan, the RLX.

(For more on the Acura RLX Sport-Hybrid SH-AWD, Click Here.)

After more than a decade focusing on its original Integrated Motor Assist, or IMA, hybrid drive, Honda has begun rolling out three new gas-electric powertrains, including the simple, single-motor layout that is being used in Japan on the all-new Fit Hybrid, a two-motor system just launched in the U.S. on the Accord Hybrid, and soon, a three-motor design that will put more emphasis on performance and be targeted to the Acura brand.

The new version of SH-AWD in the Acura RLX has the heart of the powertrain – a V-6 paired with a hybrid transmission system — mounted up front in an East-West configuration.  Two additional motors sit in the rear where a differential would be, one driving each of the back wheels.

This closer look provides more detail of the V-6 engine, sitting just north of the rear axle, and the hybrid transmission and motor system to the rear.

For the new Acura NSX, however, the powertrain will straddle the rear axle in a North-South layout, the V-6 itself largely in front of the axle and slightly above the combination gearbox and electric motor package. The two additional electric motors will drive the front wheels.

(Click Here for the review of the new 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid.)

One of the advantages of this layout will be the ability to deliver taut torque vectoring. Entering a sharp, right hand turn, for example, the electronic control system will reduce power to the right front wheel while increasing current to the motor on the left, helping improve the NSX’s cornering.  That is a much less complex approach than the brake-based process used with the current, mechanical version of SH-AWD.

Another advantage of electric propulsion might surprise those who associate hybrid power solely with improving fuel economy at the cost of performance.  While that has traditionally been the case, starting with products like the old IMA-based Honda Insight and Toyota Prius hybrids, electric motors actually can be programmed to emphasize acceleration. That’s because they develop their peak torque the moment they start spinning, unlike a conventional internal combustion engine.

Notably, several other makers are also adopting hybrid systems to boost performance, including the LaFerrari, the McLaren P1 and the Porsche 918.

(Honda hoping hybrid version can kick-start sluggish sales of ILX sedan. Click Here to learn more.)

The most recent concept version of the NSX.

But the revived Acura NSX will get yet another dose of adrenaline from a turbocharger, Honda engineers explained in Tochigi, which should trim launch times even further.

While Honda provided a glimpse of how the new Acura NSX will operate, the maker was far more reticent to provide hard numbers. It wouldn’t reveal, for example, the displacement of the V-6 in the new supercar, nor horsepower and torque, nor would it provide figures for the three electric motors.  Also kept out of sight: launch and top speed figures.

But considering the niche the new NSX will compete in, 0 to 60 times in the mid to low 3.0-second range would appear to be essential for the reborn sports car to be taken seriously, perhaps even dipping into the high 2.0-second range as the next Nissan GT-R is expected to achieve.

Pricing for the new NSX has also been a matter of conjecture, though a senior Honda official whispered that the supercar will be targeting the upper range of the Porsche 911 family.

As for timing? Senior U.S. marketing executive Mike Accavitti has hinted to that the production model would make its appearance before the January 2015 Detroit Auto Show, or just slightly less than three years after the public got its first look at the revived supercar’s first concept model.

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