With a new slogan, “Precision Crafted Performance”, Acura finally unveiled its king in slumber, the second generation NSX on Detroit Auto Show with a fizz, a buzz, and a poof.
The Acura NSX concept dated from three years ago is obsolete as the production model has bigger dimension and gain plenty of surface detail while losing some minor ones. Most notable is the bigger side intake pods and the bigger hood vents, now positioned more towards the middle of the hood. The rear loses some intricate detail but retains some unique details such as sculpted opening at the base of the trunk. The front fascia screams Acura through and through with the signature LED jewel eye headlights and the now sedated beak which now looks a lot like Mazda signature smile with massive openings. Many are as king about what the purpose of those three huge opening is on the NSX concept NSX chief engineer, Ted Klaus giving an explanation, it is to cool the electric motor and components as well to provide aerodynamic ground effect as the air comes out from the hood vents towards the back.
The unique floating c pillar, made famous by gothic church architecture dubbed a flying buttress serves both as structure and aerodynamic aid. It is stated that as air sucked into the front of the car, it comes out from the hood vent, flows through the flying buttress and give the rear an aerodynamic push. The NSX rear, largely unchanged from the concept, features a huge bottom diffuser and two openings near the edge of the bumper. This is also an aerodynamic aid as air exits through it to help with down force. By Ted Klaus statement, an active aerodynamic aid (mostly in the form of electronically controlled rear wing) is not needed for NSX as it achieved all of its aerodynamic function from just its design.
The biggest change and one that is very important for the car is the change of engine from a transversely mounted naturally aspirated V6 combined with electric motor, to longitudinally mounted turbo charged V6 combined with electric motor. Even though the combined output from the original design should be respectable, it would not be enough in the world of big V8 and turbocharged engines from the likes of Nissan GT-R and the new German performance line. Being transverse, the engine package will be compact to allow many utilities such as bigger trunk like the original NSX. But like the original NSX, it was damn hard to add more power to a transverse drivetrain, adding turbocharger is almost impossible without major change in the internal tubing, wiring, and mounting. There are even rumors about major infighting in Honda about the engine choice as the American team wanted a turbocharged engine while the Japanese team wanted a naturally aspirated one. Somehow, logic prevailed, and the NSX finally gets its much deserved turbocharged unit.
Why the NSX needs to go the force induction route? Because a lot of things really, but mostly it’s all about future proofing the car. The original NSX went through its 15 years of life with just two engine revision, with 20 horsepower increase between both. If somehow Acura didn’t go into the 6 year cycle to update styling and power, with a turbocharge engine, they can just increase boost, refine the engine mapping and get more power easy. For comparison, Nissan GT-R, was launched with “only” 480 horsepower back in 2009. The same engine now produce 545 horsepower in the base trim while the performance Nismo variant gets 595 horsepower, an increase of 115 horsepower in 6 years from the same engine.
Ted Klaus stated that the NSX will come “north” of 550 horsepower, and like the Civic Euro Type R, that number is a base estimate with production version gaining more power . With this route, Acura can easily offer an NSX Type S with around 600 horsepower.
The NSX utilizing a hybrid setup also should achieve great numbers on paper, especially for spec hunters who only see numbers instead of real life performance. An internal combustion engine achieves its maximum power at peak engine rotation, which takes time. Compounded with turbochargers which takes time to spool to boost the engine, you’ll have plenty of “where is the power” moment or the famous “Vee-TACH just kick yo!” when the engine finally reaches peak power. With an electric motor which provides peak power as low as 1000 RPM, it can help boost the engine power early before the turbocharger spooled and provides boost on the top.
Another technical aspect to note is the new dual clutch 9 speed transmission. Honda introduced its own developed dual clutch 8 speed transmission for the new line of Acura TLX and ILX. While there’s a ZF sourced 9 speed transmission that is being used on the V6 version of TLX and rumored to be available on the upcoming Honda Pilot, it is a single clutch design aimed to increase fuel efficiency rather than outright performance.
It’s too early to say that Acura is back to form of its greatest era, the nineties. The Legend, a car with classical design, performance and value that rivals the Germans. The Integra, a car that proves engine size is nothing without balance. The NSX, a supercar with sense, reliability and value. Those three cars opens up what defines Acura as a performance luxury brand. Over the years however, Acura became diluted, chasing an imaginary numbers which should be the domain of Honda. The pursuit of performance grinded and Acura became a Honda+ solution, down to its mechanics.
The NSX was not the start, Acura TLX was the breakthrough product for the brand. Yes it uses Accord engine and platform, but even just using a different transmission, it is enough for the car to differentiate itself from the supposedly “pedestrian” brand. It would be great if the Acura brand can get its own platform, but that’s another story, as everything starts now.
For an abridge design change for the NSX, here it is, in its 3 glory years of development.