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Here's Why This Acura NSX Is Worth $125,000

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author photo by Doug DeMuro January 2017

I recently had the chance to drive a 2003 Acura NSX in showroom condition. When I say "showroom condition," I don't mean it had been detailed before I got behind the wheel. I mean the thing had only 8,000 original miles on it, and I legitimately believe the interior was cleaner than many laboratories used to test lifesaving drugs.

This opportunity came about thanks to my friends at LBI Limited, a local purveyor of some of the finest cars you can possibly imagine. Their inventory has included, at one time or another, a Ferrari F40, a Porsche 959, and various Lamborghini Countaches. I once filmed a video with a Lamborghini Jalpa they had, and I recently drove their Ferrari F430 Challenge race car on the street.

But this time, I wanted to try the NSX, and here's why: The Acura NSX has suddenly become a very, very, very expensive vehicle.

Here's what I mean: When I asked my friends at LBI Limited what they thought this particular NSX would sell for, I was stunned to hear their answer was $125,000. One hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars? For an NSX?! I thought they were out of their minds -- until they sent me a link to a car auction last year where a 2005 NSX in similar condition with just 4,600 miles went for $144,000.

Oh.

In other words: If you haven't been following the NSX market lately, well, things have changed a bit.

I say this because I remember, less than a decade ago, when I was in college, and you could easily get an early used NSX for $25,000 to $35,000. A rarer fixed-headlight 2002-2005 model from the NSX's final model years was a $75,000 car -- if that. But now, things have changed dramatically: Early NSXs are easily cresting the $40,000 mark, while fixed-headlight cars are apparently selling for $144,000 in perfect condition. And so you have to wonder: Is it worth it?

I had no idea, for one simple reason: Until I spent the day with this NSX, I had never driven an NSX before. I've heard hype about this car my whole life, but I've never actually climbed behind the wheel. So I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

The first thing you notice when you drive an NSX is just how freaking practical everything is. This isn't like an Italian exotic, where they hide the exterior door handles so the beautiful flowing lines are uninterrupted, and they put the window switches in some weird spot just to be quirky, and they condense a series of interior buttons into a few mysteriously labeled knobs inexplicably placed near your knee. In the NSX, everything is exactly where you'd expect it, everything works as it should, and nothing makes you sit around and wonder how the engineers could've possibly been this stupid.

This, frankly, is a little worrisome. Can a car that's this practical and simple -- even if it's a midengine sports car -- really be any good to drive? Don't you need some quirks and flaws for the thing to have charm?

I've never really subscribed to the theory that the quirkier a car is, the more character it has, and the more you can really fall in love with it. Instead, I subscribe to the theory that a car that drives well is awesome. And the NSX drives really, really well.

I'll start with handling, because that's the most exciting thing about this car: It's just. Freaking. Perfect. The steering is weighted perfectly -- not too heavy, not too light -- and you just feel like you're so in control when you're taking a corner. And the car helps deliver you that feeling, going exactly where you point it and delivering absolutely zero body roll in the process. I don't want to say the NSX feels like a go-kart, because it's definitely bigger than that -- but I really do think the driving experience is almost completely perfect. It's how you, as a car enthusiast, would design the perfect car's steering and handling -- and I think that's an objective fact.

Less objective is the engine situation. The 2002-2005 NSX used a 290-horsepower V6, which is absolutely gutless in comparison to the powertrains in other midengine "exotics" from the same time period -- the Lamborghini Gallardo and Ferrari F430 both offered 500 hp. But I think, once again, that it's completely perfect.

I've never been a big believer that cars need to have mega horsepower in order to be great -- and, in fact, I think quite the opposite: All this stupid horsepower escalation seems to go on solely so people can brag to their friends about how much power their vehicles have. It's not like they can actually use all that power.

It's a totally different story with the NSX. Since it has only 290 hp, you can use every bit of it. You can floor it on highway on-ramps in first, in second and in third. You can push it around corners without worrying about the rear end coming around because you gave it too much gas. And you can drop the pedal at a stoplight and accelerate for a while without reaching stupidly illegal speeds before you can really react. In other words: You get to use the whole car around corners, and you get to use the whole car in a straight line. And in many of today's 650-plus-hp supercars, well, that's just no longer the case.

And then there's the shifter. Why didn't anyone ever tell me just how perfect the NSX's gear lever feels? It slots right into gear oh so smoothly, with a perfect precision I've rarely felt in any other vehicle. It's wonderful. It's satisfying. You just want to play with it at every stop light, or in traffic, or when you're just driving down the road. In fact, I did this. A lot.

So I've been heaping praise upon the NSX, and this brings us back to the original question: its value. The NSX is great, sure, but is it $125,000 great? Can you really justify spending $125,000 for a V6-powered Honda?

Maybe you can't. But I can promise you this: As more enthusiasts -- formerly focused on Ferrari and Porsche, whose values are also stratospheric -- start to drive these things, interested in a bargain, they'll experience exactly what I felt when I drove it. And then, in not too long, we won't be debating whether a perfect NSX is "really worth" $125,000. Instead, you'll be talking about how you remember -- once, way back in 2016 -- that you could get a perfect NSX for $125,000. If only you had bought it then.

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.

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Here's Why This Acura NSX Is Worth $125,000 - Autotrader