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The Cheapest Acura NSX vs. the Cheapest Porsche 911: Battle of the Bargains

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author photo by Tyler Hoover January 2017

Every fleet needs a flagship. For 18th-century Great Britain, it was the 104-gun HMS Victory. For the United Federation of Planets, it was the Starship Enterprise. Now comes the question that slightly fewer people care about: What should be the Flagship of Hoovie's garage?

While I haven't asked Doug which car he would consider his Flagship, the answer is pretty obvious. I imagine he would lose zero sleep if an asteroid pancaked his Nissan S-Cargo. Some might think it's the Viper, but I get the sense -- like with all his previous vehicles -- that he's not in love with it, and he's itching for the next Doug car vote-a-thon. That leaves the warranty-exploiting Range Rover. Of course the vehicle that caused the name DeMuro to be a dirty word at CarMax is the flagship. I imagine the bean counters at CarMax send out memos saying things like, "We need to re-analyze our warranty risk on Audi Allroads so we don't get DeMuro'd again."

Doug claims he'll sell his Range Rover the moment his warranty expires to avoid financial ruin, but I know he'll be blubbering like a baby when that moment arrives.

For me, the choice is not so easy. I have a deep bond with some of my cars, but I face a constant game of automotive Russian Roulette -- only the gun is pointed at my wallet -- and each time I turn the ignition, the trigger is pulled. My 1978 Lincoln Continental is a prime example of this, as it's left me stranded more times than any car I've ever owned. It even briefly caught fire once shortly after picking my daughter up from school -- so it's out.

My 1991 Dodge Caravan is an interesting piece of '90s nostalgia, but it's also a vinyl-wrapped piece of shoddy craftsmanship from the dark ages of domestic cars. Flagship? Ha!

To my absolute shock, the 2007 Mercedes S600 V12 biturbo I purchased for $4,500 with a bad motor has been totally reliable since I fixed it almost a year ago, but it doesn't hold a laser proximity key to my heart -- so it's out as well.

That leaves the two sports cars -- my 1999 Porsche 911 or my newly purchased 1992 Acura NSX -- as contenders to carry the banner.

Battle of the Bargains

I've lusted after both of these cars since they were new -- and now that I own them, I need to come up with some different life goals. Both were the cheapest cars of their type available in the United States, and I purchased both sight unseen from the West Coast. Figuring out a favorite of these 90s beauties is really hard -- like, as hard as choosing between a 1999 Jennifer Aniston and a 1992 Sharon Stone.

Let's get all the meaningless statistics out the way first -- where the 911 has 24 more horsepower and manages the 0-to-60 and quarter-mile a half-second faster than the NSX. The 911 also has a 6-speed gearbox, over the NSX's 5-speed, and the Porsche has a more spacious cabin with rear seats built perfectly for occupants small enough to qualify for a reality show on TLC.

As for the driving experience, the Porsche is a great mix of sport and comfort. It's one of the few cars that offers the best driving experience a modern car can offer while still making you feel nostalgic. It may have the face only a blind mother could love, but the timeless shape makes the car impossible to mistake for anything else.

I also love the theme of my 911. Like the NSX, I bought the cheapest one available with a clean title and manual transmission -- for $9,500. It has 244,000 miles on the original drivetrain and has been totally flawless for the last 90 days and 1,000 miles I've owned it. The longer this car lives, the more it becomes a giant middle finger to the classic Porsche purists, who love their air-cooled 911s -- and think the newer ones are water-cooled pieces of garbage.

This horrible reputation has made this era of 911s depreciate to very cheap levels, and there hasn't been much movement since they hit the bottom of the depreciation curve. This means it's a great time to buy, if you don't mind getting poo-pooed at the Porsche club meetings.

The NSX, on the other hand, is outperforming the S&P 500. According to Hagerty's valuation data, a Concours-level 1992 NSX has gone up in value $20,000 over the past year. If you had invested your NSX money in the S&P, you would have made only $5,400.

It's easy for me to see why these cars are becoming so desirable. Supercars suddenly became ultra-high-performance hybrids that go from zero to a suspended driver's license in under 3 seconds. It's impossible to drive a 2017 NSX anywhere near the limit on public roads without going to jail. Long-term prospects on maintaining these new high-tech supercars seem pretty bleak as well.

Enthusiasts are watching this new era of unbelievable technology and performance numbers -- and then running back to the cars they can understand, wrench on, and enjoy a spirited drive in without risking a night at the county lockup.

Even with the crazy price increases, the first-generation NSX is still the cheapest of its kind, and the least expensive to maintain. Shifting through the gears on its magnificent transmission will have you never wanting to flick a paddle shifter for the rest of your life. You get a tremendously satisfying mechanical feeling from this car's transmission, with easy shifts and short throws.

The handling capability of the NSX also makes the 911 seem like a boat in comparison. The lack of power steering gives you that same satisfying mechanical feeling -- and it also makes the NSX feel shockingly responsive. Even though the suspension on my NSX needs some attention, it still feels like I can pull enough lateral G-force while cornering to glue my face to the window.

The NSX is the more visually striking car of the two, but the interior is a big letdown of generic-looking Honda plastics. For a 1990s car, the quality of the interior in the 911 is very impressive, even though the red carpets in mine have faded to a somewhat Pepto Bismol-looking pink.

Now is the part where the reviewer is supposed to pick a favorite. As you can see, my initial feelings steered me towards the 911, but after days of pondering, I just can't decide. I find myself driving the Porsche more, since it's the better driving car to buzz around town -- but I have a lot more fun when I take out the NSX for a weekend blast around the countryside.

The Porsche 911 is the better car, but the Acura NSX is the better sports car. In other words, I would marry the Porsche, and do something else with the NSX. Can I have two flagships?

Tyler Hoover went broke after 10 years in the car business and now sells hamburgers to support his fleet of needy cars. He lives in Wichita, Kansas.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
The Cheapest Acura NSX vs. the Cheapest Porsche 911: Battle of the Bargains - Autotrader