And it’s the same with the new NSX, which was shown as a concept only recently, in Detroit. Now, it’s proportions might be exactly the same as an Audi R8 from a distance, but they chose a really strange hybrid drivetrain. That made me scream out loud “please don’t do that”, and I’ll tell you why. Because that’s not how the supercar game is played. What the Japanese car otakus don’t know is that supercar buyers want most of this fancy technology hidden under a wall of prestige, pomp and performance.
That’s why the Audi R8 is sticking with normal aspiration, even though the 2.5-liter could be turbocharged to produce… anything. That’s why Lamborghini took the time to develop a brand new V12 engine for the Aventador, and say there won’t use turbochargers until 2020. And i could go on like this forever.
The old NSX paid for its mistakes. Even though Honda wanted to make it as light as possible to make the most of what power it had, it was still heavier than the Porsche 911. And if they’re going to bother with technology that’s too hard to develop they are going to lose. Right now, a Porsche 911 Carrera S costs 96,400 in the USA. It’s a brand new car - very economical for what it does, perfectly refined as well, plus it will sprint to 60 mph in 4.3s. When Honda executives decided to give the NSX the go-ahead, they told engineers they would have to make something better than the Germans and Italians, and this is still the challenge. Yes, price is going to very much be an issue if Honda hopes to sell more than a couple hundred each year.
So let’s get a bit geeky with what we know about the 2015 successor to the NSX. Back in 2011, before the concept had been revealed, Honda let it be known that they were working on a mid-engined supercar that would incorporate an electric drivetrain to give the gasoline engine a boost. The hybrid drivetrain was supposed to be not only fun to drive, but also environmentally friendly. Now, you’ll forgive me for showing concern, since that’s also what they said about the CR-Z hybrid hatch, and we don’t want the NSX to imitate that in having green lights on the dash telling you how greenly you’re driving.
The Acura NSX makes use the SH-AWD system that incorporates one electric motor in a dual-clutch transmission, and the supercar could also have two more electric motors installed that send negative or positive torque to the front wheels in the corners. Now doesn’t that sound too complicated? Wouldn’t you rather have the German geekiness hidden in your car than Japanese otakuness? What I mean is that the new Porsche 911 might have direct injection and a seven-speed gearbox for economy’s sake, but all this is never evident. Audi also makes the R8, which bottles quattro technology and sprinkles it with a bit of Lambo looks, but you’re never asked to drive put up with hybrid tech, complicated batteries or lights on the dash that tell you drive more economically. In fact the biggest decisions you’re facing with the 911 or the R8 is whether or not to get ceramic brakes or what sort of leather to spec.
It’s not all bad news though, and I’m glad to hear of the NSX’s second coming. The original one had an aluminum body, chassis development input from the likes of Ayrton Senna and it was reliable. But Takonobu Ito, president and CEO of Honda, said it would be build in the US, in Ohio in fact.
I’m sorry, but I don’t know of any leatherwork tradition in at the Marysville Auto Plant in Ohio. Nor do I know anybody who would swop a German sportscar for one of these. In fact, I bet that European or US consumers would much rather put up with a supercar from the Korean at Hyundai than the Japanese.
Honda used to be a byword for reliability and technological advancements. But their image has steadily getting worse, as their designs got bland, prices crept upwards and reliability dropped. The temple of the rev-head is not what is used to be, with the relative flop of the CR-Z, the death of the S2000 and their incapacity to reinvent the Civic.
If within the next three years or so they come up with a game-changing car that sprints like the Nissan GT-R, handles like a Porsche and is as economical as a bicycle, they can even have autoevolution’s money. Even the Honda fans are saying “sorry, this isn’t IT”, and the bar is now much higher than it was 22 years ago. A hybrid V6, built in America, overcomplicated, potentially overpriced and looking as silly as a space ship: the second coming of the NSX is probably not worth the wait!