It’s taken Acura 11 long years to come up with a suitable successor to its high-revving, mid-engine NSX sports car. And with one quick drive, we can say it: The NSX hybrid was worth the wait.
Don’t be thrown off by the “hybrid” element of the new NSX, though. As with the original car, the new NSX is a thrilling driver’s car. This is not a hybrid in the Toyota Prius, 52-miles-per-gallon sense. The three electric motors in the NSX are more about putting power efficiently to the road than they are about scrimping pennies at the pump, with the motors supplementing the thrust from the turbocharged engine and motivating the front wheels to enhance traction out of corners. And while the NSX’s EPA-rated fuel economy of 21 mpg combined is decent for a car of this ilk, it’s no better than the nonhybrid Porsche 911 Turbo.
Another sign of the times is that there’s no more traditional manual transmission, a particular shame because the original NSX had one of the slickest-shifting gearboxes ever created. In its place is a smooth and quick nine-speed dual-clutch automated manual with paddle shifters. You can use the steering wheel paddles, but there’s almost no need. The NSX shifts superbly on its own, performing multiple, crisp downshifts as you brake hard for a turn.
There’s another politically correct side benefit to the hybrid: The car’s Quiet setting could be called “neighborhood correct mode” because it allows you to loaf along under electric power up to about 30 miles per hour. The car’s other three modes—Sport, Sport Plus, and Track—each ratchet up the intensity of the drivetrain, suspension, and sound levels. And the electric power works to smooth out the automated manual transmission’s tendency to stumble at low speeds.
Make no mistake, this hybrid is all about performance. The combination of the three electric motors, plus a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 mounted just behind your head, gives a total output of 573 horsepower and 476 lb.-ft. of torque. With all that power and the pavement-clawing traction, this mighty Acura thrusts forward instantly, snapping your unsuspecting passenger’s head back into his seat.
As is typical of mid-engined cars, turn-in response is immediate, making it a joy to carve out any winding road with the NSX. But in order to truly explore the car, you’d need a track. The spot-on steering makes it feel like your hands are connected to the front tires.
As with other Acura models, the fussy infotainment system and odd push-button shifter setup annoy. There’s also precious little storage within the cabin, and cargo space is limited in the tiny trunk aft of the mid-mounted engine. But floor the throttle or arc the NSX through a curve, and all is forgiven. Immediately.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to afford the NSX’s $157,800 starting price, you’ll be getting Acura’s first-ever “build-to-order” car. And that car is assembled here in the States, in Marysville, Ohio.
The new NSX is unquestionably a different animal than the car it takes over for—more powerful, high-tech, complex, and sophisticated. Yes, it’s less visceral to drive than the original NSX and perhaps some of its competitors. Purists would say it feels a bit video-gamey at times. But the new NSX has been elevated to a level where it can compete head-to-head with the world’s top supercars.