My first drive of the new Honda NSX would be on a racetrack, at speed, with the man who has spent the last four years of his life making this car a worthy successor to the legendary, 25-year-old original. Crash this and Honda’s Ted Klaus would personally kick me out the Circuito do Estoril. It’s a car so new, there are just five to share between Europe’s entire press corps. No pressure, then.
Luckily, the new NSX is a car so fiendishly complex, so laden with electronic systems, that it’s taken Honda boffins in three continents four years (without much sleep, says Klaus) to perfect it. They could have done something simple: powerful engine, racy chassis, swoopy body, bish, bash, bosh. They didn’t. They instead created the most high-tech sports car on the planet; one that’s idiot-proof even for journalists.
The new NSX has an all-new turbo V6 engine in the middle. An electric motor is attached to it, and an all-new nine-speed paddle-shift gearbox is connected to that. There are two more electric motors in the front, one for each wheel. Lithium-ion batteries sit between the two passengers, mounted in a structure made from exotic materials an F1 engineer would approve of. Explaining everything else it has would fill this newspaper: even the condensed press kit is 70 pages.
When Klaus gives me the thumbs-up to set off, we do so under silent electric power alone. The second-generation NSX is a hybrid, see, which can do a mile in EV mode if you’re easy on the accelerator. That’s how this 581hp car averages 28.2mpg and emits 228g/km CO2. It’s not until the end of the pitlane that the V6 kicks in with a howl and Ted tells me to go for it.
The original NSX is legendary. The chill it sent through Maranello was a large part of the reason Ferrari ditched the dross it was selling in the late 80s and started making the brilliant machinery it offers today. Legendary F1 driver Ayrton Senna was a fan, and if it’s good enough for him… So it’s fitting my test drive took place on the track where he won his first F1 race, back in 1986. And despite the 37 degree heat and 150mph speed, I wasn’t even breaking a sweat.
It was making my brain hurt, though. The amount of electronic wizardry at work here makes rivals like the Porsche 911 Turbo and Audi R8 look basic. But once you start to understand it, or at least do everything that Klaus suggests, the car becomes brilliant. You start to confidently power-oversteer out of corners (usually a no-no in mid-engined cars), flicking around fast bends with glorious speed. Even hairpins are press-on rather than clumsy, thanks to the NSX’s NASA-level wizardry. This makes it sound a bit autopilot and remote, but it’s not: it’s thrilling.
Looks-wise, this low, ultra-wide, super-sharp machine packs a hell of a punch, and the wailing engine doesn’t disappoint either. It makes the 911 seem dowdy. It’s divine to drive on the road, too; compliant when you need it to be and razor sharp when you’re away from town. It’s a driver’s car, as much of an all-rounder as the original was back in the day.
The list of reasons to love it goes on: the fantastic forward visibility, the relatively lush interior, the 100-litre boot (it sounds tiny but will still take full-size golf clubs). It may be a rather sensible super car, but you’re never far away from thrills (the launch control comfortably took me from 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds, for instance). The pressure’s off, Klaus, this car’s a corker.