Seeking Supercar Rapture In Honda’s Baroque NSX

An interesting take on an interesting car.

via Wired: Autopia by Peter Orosz on 3/6/12

Sexy, defined. Photo: Peter Orosz

GENEVA — If you live on internet time, the NSX Concept has been around forever. Honda first mentioned it around the time Apple began building iPhones — not the iPhone 4S, but the original.

The original NSX, first conceived in 1984, was Japan’s take on the mid-engine supercar, a Ferrari disguised as Honda. When it appeared in 1990, it was a revelation. It was lightweight and sublime, everything worked and you could actually live with it. It even provided inspiration for the amazing McLaren F1.

There’s another connection with McLaren: Ayrton Senna, the phenomenal F1 driver who at the time was winning championships in his Honda-powered McLarens, helped fine-tune the handling of the NSX. The feat was immortalized in a famous video of Senna lapping Suzuka wearing loafers with white socks.

So when Honda CEO Takanobu Ito yet again trotted out the NSX Concept, this time at the Geneva auto show today, it was against that backdrop. For some people, the original remains a landmark, which is why the new one tends to induce anxiety. It’s a very different proposition from a very different company.

The original NSX was the pared-down essence of a sports car, with a naturally aspirated mid-mounted engine driving the rear wheels with no nannies or distractions. And it was built by a company building the best cars it knew how to build, proving it could compete with the finest sports cars in the world.

The new NSX is complex in strange and unknown ways, built by a company building the best cars it can get away with and hoping no one will notice. It has a mid-mounted V6 like the original, but it is augmented by three electric motors. One is at the rear, the others at the front. Everything works through a baroque all-wheel drive system Honda calls SH-AWD. The front-mounted electric motors will propel, or slow, the front wheels on demand, a trick Honda claims improves handling.

Honda’s already trotted the NSX Concept out at a few shows, but as shown in Geneva, it is an elegant take on modern, angular supercars. Look closely and you’ll see hints of the Audi R8, the McLaren MP4-12C and, strangest of all, the Ferrari 599 GTB. The NSX features flying buttress C-pillars, a minimalist and efficient way to improve downforce without using awkward wings.

That’s about all there is to know at the moment. Figures like power and weight are yet to be revealed, and who knows what will happen to the car’s exterior when it sees production. Honda promising a delivery date of 2015 for North America, a year when you’ll probably be able to see both the original NSX and the original iPhone in a museum of industrial design.

Photos: Peter Orosz


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