I recently had the chance to drive the all-new 2017 Acura NSX. Admittedly, I have driven the NSX before; it was on an all-expense-paid Acura press trip to Southern California, where I took it around a race track following behind Graham Rahal. Back then, the NSX seemed pretty great, but everything on that trip seemed pretty great, as I was staying at the Ritz-Carlton and they gave me endless cheese.
This time, I drove it courtesy of a man named Tim, who runs DCH Acura Montclair in Verona, New Jersey. Tim e-mailed me because he has a 2017 NSX for sale, and it’s painted Curva Red, and he wanted to know if I wanted to review it. So I drove to Verona, and I filmed a video with the NSX, and it’s just as sweet as I remember it being, even without the cheese.
Before I get into my feelings on the NSX, let’s cover the basics. The original NSX debuted in 1991 as a more practical, more reliable rival to the Ferrari 348, which is one of those cars where you have to remove the engine every few years as part of a routine servicing procedure. The NSX was originally received warmly, but then Acura didn’t update it enough — and by the time it ended in 2005, sales had totally dried up, and Acura was basically giving them away, because (by then) the NSX had approximately half the horsepower of the equivalent Ferrari.
And then, for the last 12 years, Acura promised us they’d be coming out with another one.
So we waited, and our expectations grew, and we waited some more, and our expectations grew some more, and finally, a couple years ago, they released the production NSX at the Detroit Auto Show, on the very same day Ford surprised everyone by revealing the new GT. The result was a collective “yawn,” because we had heard about this car for so long, and our expectations were so high, and because we were all so excited by the new Ford GT — and that yawn is pretty much how the market has treated the NSX ever since.
For proof: Right now, there are nearly 180 new examples of the NSX listed on Autotrader, sitting for sale at dealers around the country. You know how many new Ferrari models are listed on Autotrader? Zero. Zip. Zilch.
Simply, put, the NSX isn’t moving.
And so, with this knowledge in mind, I went up to DCH Acura Montclair — which has already managed to sell four new NSXs, probably some kind of record — and I drove the new NSX, and I rediscovered what I remembered the very first time I got behind the wheel: this car is good. This car isn’t partially good, or sort of good, but really and truly good. And more importantly, I think it’s kind of a bargain.
So let me start with the whole “good” thing. The numbers tell part of the story: The new NSX has 573 horsepower and 476 lb-ft of torque; it does zero to 60 in a blistering 2.9 seconds, and it’ll hit 191 miles per hour. For comparison, the Lamborghini Huracan is slower to 60 (3.3 seconds), though it has a higher top speed (199 mph); the Lambo also has more power (610 horses), but less torque (412 lb-ft). From the perspective of numbers alone, the NSX can hang with a Huracan.
But then you get out on the road, and you find out that it can’t.
Not really, I mean. The Huracan is so amazingly precise, and so tremendously quick around corners, and the NSX just isn’t as spry. It’s also worth noting that the NSX’s impressive 0-to-60 time is only achieved in “Launch” mode; in real life driving, it simply doesn’t feel as quick as its Italian counterpart. So you drive this thing and you start thinking that maybe numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Except for this number: $50,000. That’s how much cheaper the NSX’s base price ($156,000) is, compared to the Huracan’s. The NSX is also about $100,000 cheaper than a base-level Ferrari 488 GTB, and it’s something like $120,000 cheaper than a McLaren 650S. Put simply: In a world of massively expensive exotic cars, the NSX is kind of a bargain.
And when you think of it that way, the whole thing starts to make a little more sense.
On the road, for example, the NSX doesn’t have Ferrari precision — but it’s still tremendously precise, with sharp steering and predictable handling that never really makes you feel like you’re going to end up anywhere you shouldn’t be, even if you’re going into a corner too fast for comfort. The NSX is also wonderfully balanced; it feels like a tossable sports car, and not a six-figure exotic, which is one of the highest praises I lavished on the original model, too. And while the sound certainly can’t rival the best exotic cars on the planet, the styling can: I personally think the new NSX looks just as daring and as cool as anything currently built in Europe. Plus, while the acceleration can’t quite match the best exotic cars in the world, it’s still the amazing: the NSX delivers brutal speed, even though it’s “just” a V6 — largely due to its turbochargers, which you can hear a lot of the time when you’re driving it.
In other words: It’s tremendously fast, and the sound is pretty good and it’s very precise, and it looks great — and while it may not do any of that stuff better than a car that costs another hundred grand, who was ever expecting it to? Do we complain that the Ferrari 488 doesn’t perform like a Ferrari F12?
Here’s something else to think about: the NSX also has another quality you can’t get in a European exotic; namely, sometimes, you can just chill out.
You see, the McLaren 570S and the Lamborghini Huracan and the Ferrari 488 never really let you relax; they always remind you that you really should be going faster; they’re always loud, and they always have strangely laid-out interiors, and they always rob you of visibility, and they’re usually brightly colored, and they’re always difficult to get into, and they’re often uncomfortable at low speeds. And even if you finally figure out how to relax in a McLaren or a Lamborghini, other road users will zap you back to the showy, in-your-face reality of your ownership experience, when they pull out their camera phones and camp out in your blind spot to snap photos.
Not the NSX. The NSX is a car you could use to drive to the track while you’re listening to music, chillin’ in the slow lane, thinking about coastal erosion, relaxing. Then you could arrive at the track and beat virtually any other car that might show up. Then you could drive it home, once again relaxing all the way. In fact, you could stick it into “Quiet” mode, and sort of forget that you’re driving anything other than a smaller version of the Acura RLX luxury sedan.
With that in mind, the NSX would probably make my personal short-list for exotic sports cars, simply because you don’t have to be “on” all the time: Yes, you can be, if you want, but you can also just cruise around like it’s a normal car, as you could also do in a Porsche. In the same vein, there’s the reliability benefit: When you get in the NSX, you don’t feel like you’re driving something fragile, like a European sports car, where the transmission might grenade at any second and cost you twenty-five grand. You feel like you can abuse this thing, and the Acura dealer will take care of it, because that’s how Japanese cars are.
Indeed, the NSX is the car for the person who only has one exotic car, not 20; the person who wants an exotic, but also needs reasonable practicality and comfort. It’s not the car you stick on a battery tender because you drive all your cars 79 miles a year; it’s the car you drive often, because you can, because it lets you. It’s also the car for the business owner who drives the supercar to the office, and doesn’t want his employees to know how much money he’s really bringing in, lest they all ask for raises.
And all this, unfortunately, is also the NSX’s chief drawback. Because while it manages to provide a more laid-back driving experience, and while it promises an easier ownership experience, and while it somehow delivers 22 miles per gallon in city and highway driving, and while it’s cheaper than virtually every rival, it does all these things largely because of that badge on the front: Acura. And who really wants to drive an Acura supercar?
Most people absolutely don’t. More importantly, Acura — who presumably expected some sort of “halo car” effect from the NSX, like the Audi R8 when it first launched — simply hasn’t followed up the NSX with enough sporty products in order to justify its enthusiast reach. Say you like the NSX, but you can’t afford one — so you want to drive a slightly lesser member of the Acura family, just to show your solidarity. What are you going to get? An RDX crossover? An ILX, which is a small sedan based on the Civic? A TLX, painted in Fathom Blue Pearl Metallic?
And so, I really believe the NSX is the perfect car for a lot of people: it’s exciting, it’s sporty, it’s gorgeous, it offers amazing handling, roadholding, performance and it boasts some great modern technology — and yet, at the same time, it isn’t as frenetic, and frenzied, and dubiously reliable as most of its foreign rivals. In fact, it boasts virtually everything people loved about the original NSX: a reliable, V6-powered, Japanese take on the exotic sports car … with enough room in back to fit a set of golf clubs. It’s the practical supercar, without being the boring supercar.
Unfortunately, it seems that “Japanese take” is exactly what’s turning away buyers: most people just can’t overcome the little Acura logo on the hood of a car that costs $175,000. I think they’re missing out, but I’m not complaining — because I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this leads to mediocre resale values. That way, I can pick one up in a few years, before prices start to skyrocket, just as they’ve done with the original NSX — the last Acura supercar that nobody seemed to want when it was new. Find an Acura NSX for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.