Reborn Acura NSX Set for Detroit Debut

Redefining the supercar – again.

by on Dec.17, 2014

Expect a six-figure price tag for 2016 NSX.

When it made its debut in 1990, the original Acura NSX changed the way supercars were supposed to look and feel. And now, with an all-new version of the Japanese rocket set to make its formal debut at the Detroit Auto Show next month, Acura hopes to pull off the same magic.

Set to reach showrooms late next year, likely as a 2016 model, the reborn Acura NSX aims to show that hybrid power isn’t just about boosting mileage. The sports car’s unusual drivetrain will pair three electric motors with a turbocharged six-cylinder internal combustion engine to deliver the sort of performance typically associated with exotic European brands, promised a senior company official.

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“The performance is spectacular…an other-worldly experience,” suggested John Mendel, the top U.S. executive for Acura’s parent Honda Motor Co. “It not only puts a smile on your face but helps you pucker in the right place.”

Acura offers a tease of the 2016 NSX.

At a background session, Mendel and other Honda and Acura executives would only speak of the next-generation NSX in broad strokes, promising that specific details, such as horsepower and torque, will be revealed during the luxury brand’s news conference at the 2015 North American International Auto Show at 11:50 AM EST on January 12th.

The setting is appropriate, as Acura signaled its plan to revive the NSX nameplate when it debuted an early concept version at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show.

(Acura hopes to gain traction in booming compact luxury market with restyled ILX. Click Here for a closer look.)

The shape has been refined significantly since then, though the production car will stay true to the basic silhouette revealed three years ago – as this teaser image suggests.

Acura showed off this concept version of a reborn NSX in January 2012 at the Detroit Auto Show.

Among the subtle details this teaser image reveals: there now appear to be six LED bulbs in each headlamp, versus the five in the 2012 NSX concept.

Some other facts have already been revealed during the supercar’s three years of development, while others are being widely speculated at.

A critical detail is the basic NSX drivetrain. At its core, it uses the same basic approach, dubbed Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive, found in several other Acura models – but with its layout reversed. The SH-AWD system in the MDX has the utility vehicle’s gas engine and a single motor up front, with two other motors in the rear. In the NSX, however, the turbocharged V-6 is in a mid-rear  position, with two electric motors for the front axle, another driving the rear.

The front motors not only provide balanced torque distribution but can shift power left to right, as needed. That helps improve traction on uneven surfaces while also allowing torque vectoring, pumping more power to the outer wheel to slice more aggressively through corners.

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

How much power the 2016 Acura NSX will make remains to be seen. The three electric motors are expected to be bigger than those in other SH-AWD models, and the instantaneous torque they provide will deliver an immediate punch during launch. In all likelihood, the new NSX will deliver in the mid-500-hp range, perhaps higher, and torque could be among the highest in its competitive class, according to several knowledgeable insiders.

Considering the numbers delivered by other affordable models with supercar aspirations – such as the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and Nissan GT-R – one can safely expect the new NSX to deliver 0 to 60 launch times in the low to mid-3-second range.

But today’s supercars also must go well beyond that and follow up with top speeds approaching or exceeding 200 mph. Braking and handling will also need to stand up to some of Europe’s best.

“We’ve developed a human-centered supercar that responds to the will of the driver and that builds upon the NSX heritage,” said Ted Klaus, chief engineer and global project leader handling NSX development.

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An early version of the original Acura NSX.

Significantly, the NSX is the result of a development program largely based in the United States. Design was let by a team operating out of California, engineering in Ohio. And a special assembly line has been set up next to the maker’s original U.S. plant in Marysville, Ohio to handle production.

As to price, Mendel confirmed the new NSX will cross the six-figure threshold, though the new car is expected to be significantly less expensive than comparable European competitors, in keeping with the approach taken by the original Acura supercar.

When the NSX was first introduced in 1990 it served as an example of what Honda and, in particular, its then-young Acura brand, could accomplish. By the time the two-seater faded from production in 2005, however, it seemed to underscore the loss of direction at the luxury brand.

With its rebirth, insists Acura’s new boss, Mike Accavitti, “The NSX will serve as the ultimate expression of Acura performance that is fueling a reenergized brand.”

Volumes will be low, company officials acknowledge, but in classic form, they’re hoping the new NSX will create a halo brand that can bring buyers back into Acura showrooms to check out its more mainstream models.

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2 Responses to “Reborn Acura NSX Set for Detroit Debut”

  1. Paul Kerivan says:

    The picture depicted above in the article of the original NSX is incorrect. It is not a 1990 model. The Original model had hidden head lamps that fold into the hood/fascia area of the body. The model depicted is a later Model year.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      Thanks for the heads-up, Paul. We went to a supposed archive for the image and they apparently had this one mis-filed. We’ll revise…and look for a good shot of the original.

      Paul E.