Article by Brendan McAleer, photos by Brendan McAleer, Mark Stevenson and courtesy of Acura. Update: Ronnie Fung
UPDATE: Acura released a bunch of new technical details this morning. Up first is the confirmation of its powerplant. As expected, the long-awaited NSX will be powered by a 3.5L twin-turbo V6.
The original NSX boasted an all-aluminum monocoque body that was considered far ahead of its time. It was lighter than anything else out there in its class, it was stronger and more rigid. For the all-new NSX, they realized they had to once again stay ahead of the curve and they set out to build the supercar to be the most rigid, lightweight chassis in its class once again. Shawn Tarr, principal engineer and Acura NSX body development leader says, "For this new NSX development, anything and everything that could offer incredible base rigidity and lightweight design was on the table. We considered all-aluminum unibody, carbon fibre monocoque and space frame designs and ultimately engineered a multi-material space frame because it offers the lowest weight and best rigidity, precision and hybrid powertrain packaging capability of any design.”
This led Acura to be the first auto manufacturers to use "ablation casting." This advancement in casting technology allowed the NSX development team to "realize a quantum leap in body design, for the first time being able to engineer a vehicle with castings in key locations for rigidity, that also support the ductility necessary for placement within crush zones."
While I'm not familiar with ablation casting, I am familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of traditional casting. Traditional casting provides all the strength and rigidity needed, but with the drawback of the castings becoming brittle. The NSX team needed to find a new method to attain the rigidity and strength for the NSX but without any of the drawbacks. The NSX team combined the traditional casting methods with ablation casting to optimize the structural integrity while keeping weight down.
Acura have employed what they call a new "total airflow management strategy". This encompasses the cooling, aerodynamic performance (drag and downforce). They say they've accomplished this with great success at a very high level without the use of active aero technology, while also contributing to even more dynamic styling.
To keep things cool, the new NSX employs 10 air-cooled heat exchangers! That's a whole lot of cooling. 10 you ask? The NSX needs all 10 to cool the front twin-motor unit (TMU), the mid-mounted V6, the rear direct-drive electric motor and 9-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT).
As far as keeping the new 3.5L twin-turbo cool, three radiators are needed. One central unit and two side units to maximize efficiency and cooling, while twin intercoolers located in the signature side intakes keep the intake charge fresh and cold.
Stay tuned for more info as it comes up!
You know the schtick Jerry Seinfeld did whenever Newman (Wayne Knight) threw a wrench in his plans? "Newman!" Seinfeld'd hiss under his breath, clenching a fist.
Well, that's pretty much what Acura's brass had to be doing, just an hour or so before the debut of their NSX halo car. "Ford!" they all grimaced, as a Liquid Blue mid-engined machine took to the stage early and pulled the carpet out from under the NSX. In terms of PR damage, it was a broadside where every cannonball went home - but Acura still had the ability to strike back a little.
The new NSX looks great, in a red that seems to indicate that crosshairs were placed on Ferraris, not Fords.
Seinfeld himself was seated front and centre for the NSX reveal, and Acura's sponsorship of his Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee was bound to draw in a few eyeballs from folks who have no idea that the original Ford GT40 was 40 inches tall, and haven't a clue as to the Le Mans history Ford's trying to leverage. You know, people who actually buy cars. Even with Ford launching a salvo early, the NSX still had eyeballs, and as this new car launch had been coming for so long, it was still Acura's ball to drop.
Mostly, they didn't. The new NSX looks great, in a red that seems to indicate that crosshairs were placed on Ferraris, not Fords. The styling is all knife-edged sharpness, and while the front end still remains a bit beaky and over-grilled, the rest of the car looks the business. Think Audi R8, stripped of its ovoid grille and handed over to an anime illustrator, and you get the general idea.
But we've seen this shape again and again in preliminary forms, so the big news is what's under the skin. Yes, it's a hybrid, but those electric engines aren't mated to a naturally aspirated V6. Calling the move akin to open-heart surgery while running a marathon, Acura's engineers elected to switch from transverse V6 to longitudinal twin-turbo V6 right in the middle of development. Be glad they did.
Mark my words: Honda's future is going to be turbocharged (just like everyone else's). Having embraced the boost, the NSX now gets a total output of "North of 550 hp" doled out by the twin-turbo V6 and three electric motors. Each front wheel gets a motor, and there's one driving the rear wheels as well.
The transmission is a new nine-speed dual-clutch unit, and there are four driving modes in total: Quiet, Sport, Sport+, and Track. Presumably Quiet is an all-electric mode for sneaking back into the neighbourhood after a late night out, and if three other modes seems excessive, at least they're all easily controlled through a central dial.
The cockpit – Acura calls it a Human Support Cockpit, which sounds a bit like a psychoanalyst's couch – has very good forward visibility, and is relatively simple when compared to the button-happy Italians. During the presentation, Acura kept harping on about a driver-focused experience (and really, who offers a sports car and doesn't say that), insisting that all the electronic trickery aboard their flagship wasn't there to get in the way, but merely enhance the experience. They don't want the car to drive for you, they just want to provide supercar performance in an everyday package.
Weight, cornering, exact power output, 0-100km/h time and any other objective performance figures were not forthcoming. Acura notes that the NSX has an aluminum spaceframe, and that the batteries are mounted low and central for better control of weight during high-speed driving, but the display video of the concept roaring around the streets was clearly digitally rendered. It'll be out on a track again soon enough, and going toe-to-toe with the mighty Ford, as well as all the other really fast sheetmetal out there these days from Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Audi.
Tough crowd. The original NSX launched into a world where Ferraris were so problematic to own most people just parked them, the 911 Turbo was still a hooligan, and cars like the mighty GT-R were only really whispered at in overseas market. These days it's much-more cutthroat out there.
However, if they've managed to capture the everyday practicality of the NSX, if the new car rides comfortably over crappy pavement and still has usable trunk space, and basically provides an R8-like ownership experience without the fear of Audi supercar servicing costs, then they'll still have a hit on their hands.
It's not going to be cheap, though. Projected price is expected to cross the $150,000 mark, meaning the built-in-Ohio NSX will be priced right alongside its more-exotic rivals.
However, the old NSX never sold in any appreciable volume, and did much to move plenty of Integras and TLs. If Acura can simultaneously renovate the rest of their range - and putting an eight-speed transmission and proper engine in the ILX is a good start - then the after-effects of the NSX should spread out to those cars they actually sell.