2017 Acura NSX: Invincible Supercar

By Frank A. Aukofer, July 16th, 2016

The long-awaited 2017 Acura NSX doesn't disappoint. Its unique design and supercar persona attract superlatives like metal filings to a magnet. NSX promises a top speed of 191 mph, according to Acura, with a 0-to-60 mph time of about 3 seconds.

It's a mostly mid-engine hybrid. Driving all four wheels are a 3.5-liter V-6 engine with twin turbochargers, along with three electric motors. Two of them are packaged together to drive the front wheels and the third connects with the gasoline engine mounted behind the driver and forward of the rear wheels. It also functions as the starter motor. All together, the system delivers 573 horsepower and 476 lb.-ft. of torque.

The transmission is a nine-speed dual-clutch automatic with paddle shifters on the steering wheel for manual operation. Even the steering wheel, with a flat top and bottom, is custom-designed to frame the instruments and enhance outward visibility.

Though the paddles accommodate drivers who want to shift for themselves, they are not needed. The onboard computer reads a multitude of inputs and shifts more accurately than any human can.

This is only Acura's second NSX model. The first was introduced in 1990 and was so good it continued almost unchanged for 15 years until 2005. Since then, Acura has tantalized enthusiasts with concept cars, including one that would have had a V-10 engine, but that idea died with the 2008 recession.

The new 2017 NSX might puzzle some observers because of its hybrid design, which is associated in popular culture with enhanced fuel economy. But it makes sense for a supercar because of those three electric motors. The main performance characteristic of an electric motor is that it produces maximum torque -- or twisting force -- immediately. Internal combustion engines attain maximum torque as engine revolutions increase.

Electric torque gives the NSX an instant jump off the line and then combines with the rpm of the gasoline engine to maintain steady power. It's stunningly apparent if you use the NSX's launch control to rocket away from a standing start.

Select track mode, hold your left foot tightly on the brake pedal, then floor the accelerator pedal and release the brakes. There's no burning rubber because there's no wheel spin. All four tires grab the pavement and the NSX snaps off the line like a ball bearing from a slingshot. Seconds later you're up to three-digit speeds.

Of course, any number of drag racers can rapidly reach high speeds. But in this era of high-tech motoring, a supercar must excel not only at acceleration but braking and handling as well.

The tested 2017 Acura NSX came with carbon ceramic brakes that felt powerful enough to stop a runaway steam locomotive -- it ought to, these brakes are a $10,600 option. They include a regenerative function that produces electricity and contributes to acceleration and handling.

The NSX incorporates a custom version of Acura's super-handling all-wheel drive (SH-AWD), which delivers yaw control and torque vectoring to help a driver maintain a tight line around curves.

strong>Four driver-selectable dynamic systems are available: quiet, sport, sport plus, and track. Each mode adjusts torque vectoring, steering assist, transmission shift points, electric brake assist, and suspension damping according to pre-set algorithms. Though it may come across as frivolous, they even control the exhaust sounds that are piped into the cabin.

The electric quiet mode enables an owner to go home quietly late at night. At the other extreme, the track mode attunes its systems for all-out racetrack driving, though it does not allow the driver to fully disable the safety of automatic stability control.

Inside, the NSX coddles the driver and one passenger as comfortably as if they were infants in a car seat. Bolsters hold the lower torso in place but also allow free movement of shoulders and arms.

As a supercar with Japanese reliability and U.S. build quality, the NSX doesn't come cheap. It starts at $157,800, including destination and handling, and the heavily optioned test car came to $204,700.

My overwhelming recollection of the original 1990 NSX was of a car that performed so perfectly, it felt invincible. You sensed that nobody, in whatever vehicle, could catch you; a brief drive in a 2005 model brought back those memories. Yet that first NSX felt old-fashioned next to its 2017 descendant, which should be labeled as invincible to the nth power.

Specifications

Base price $157,800 (as tested: $204,700)
Curb weight 3,803 lbs.
Displacement 3.5-liter
Engine type turbocharged V-6 with electric motor
Epa mileage rating 21 mpg city, 22 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 15.6 gal.
Horsepower (net) 500 at 6500 rpm (combined total: 573)
Overall length 176 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 406 at 2000 rpm (combined total: 476)
Transmission 9-speed dual clutch
Vehicle type 2-passenger RWD supercar
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