It seemed like the natural progression for supercars, and Honda was ahead of the curve with its NSX. The McLaren P1, Porsche 918 Spyder and Ferrari LaFerrari had shown the world how exciting hybrid technology could make a hypercar, so it seemed like only a matter of time before that kind of thing trickled down to ‘lesser’ mid-engined monsters.
Despite what many-a-frothy-mouthed keyboard warrior will furiously tell you, it’s absolutely right that the NSX went hybrid. The ‘X’ bit of the name stands for ‘eXperimental’, a box the original ticked by using clever tech and manufacturing processes to be a reliable, useable supercar. Since that sort of thing is now old news, the second-generation had to be different from the rest another way.
But three years on, the hybrid supercar revolution hasn’t happened. It may never. McLaren’s Ultimate Series has since focused on pure internal combustion shenanigans, there’s no sign of electrification happening to the rest of the range any time soon, and the P1’s successor will most likely be powered by batteries only. Porsche too is thought to be replacing the 918 with something fully electric, and although the LaFerrari’s hybrid stuff has been distilled into the SF90, that’s hardly a ‘normal’ supercar.
It’s the same story away from the providers of the ‘Holy Trinity’ that petrolheads were so giddy about a few years ago. Audi seems to be keeping its V10-powered R8 going as long as possible, with its eventual successor to be an EV. Lamborghini is flirting with hybrid tech, but the goal there seems to be low-power ‘mild’ solutions to stretch out the life of its big N/A engines.
Hybrids are merely a stepping stone, and a stepping stone many are choosing to skip. I get why - the idea of using a battery pack and electric motors to boost performance is a bit of a fallacy when such tech will struggle to counteract its own weight. But what this kind of set up can do is make a car like the NSX drive in a fascinating manner.
First, we have to consider response. A 3.5-litre V6 boosted by turbos to provide nearly 500bhp should be conspicuously laggy, but the response when you press the throttle is rabid. That’ll be the 48bhp motor attached to the crank.
"The NSX feels visceral and connected where an R8 is detached and uninvolving"
There are two more motors at the front axle - one for each wheel - putting out a combined 74bhp. As a result of the setup, it doesn’t really matter which of the dual-clutch automatic’s nine gears you’re in - put your foot down and you’ll go from here to that bit of scenery in the distance jolly quickly.
Total system output is 571bhp, making for a 0-60mph time under three seconds and a top speed of 191mph. Impressive numbers, but it’s not about the stats - a V6 doesn’t seem like the most exotic choice, but the 90-degree unit sounds fantastically angry as it’s revved up to 7500rpm.
That goes nicely with the general attitude of the NSX. There’s a furiousness to the way it drives. It feels visceral and connected where an R8 is detached and uninvolving. V10 be damned - the NSX is a far more exciting car to drive fast.
There’s no physical driveline to the front wheels - those two motors are the only thing providing propulsion. That means the vast majority of the NSX’s power output goes to the rear. The motors provide just about enough go to balance out proceedings in a straight line, meaning you can almost always get the full power figure down to the tarmac. And it means the NSX will step out dramatically at the rear and make you feel heroic while giving an (admittedly small) safety net.
The output of the front motors varies during hard cornering as the all-wheel drive system (recalibrated for this updated model) shuffles things around to most effectively get you around a corner. Admittedly, it does sometimes operate in ways you don’t quite expect.
This doesn’t matter all that much, as the fundamentals are all here, like great damping and fast, predictable steering which Honda has tweaked for this latest version. It loves to be lobbed about in tighter corners too - it never, ever feels anything as bulky as its 1770kg kerb figure suggests it should. It was already a great car to drive, but all of the tweaks - which also include fitting new Continental Sport Contact 6 tyres and fatter, bigger anti-roll bars - have sharpened up proceedings noticeably.
Downsides? Well, it’s not the most practical supercar in terms of load space - you get a tiny boot at the back, and nothing at the front due to all the hybrid gubbins. A shame, as with amazing all-round visibility plus a now softer and more serene ‘Quiet’ mode, this is a supercar you could use for pretty much anything without regretting it.
That’s forgivable enough. But you know what isn’t? The cabin. Save for the odd bit of carbonfibre and the heavily raked windscreen, you could be in a Civic or a CR-V. It’s a disappointingly dull space, and the infotainment system made me do many swears during our five-day test. This stuff matters, particularly in a car that costs £189,950 with options. Yes, £190k.
Perhaps this is why Honda has struggled to shift many NSXs. They’re an extremely rare sight in the UK, and the Acura model in the USA has been plagued by lacklustre sales from the off. Maybe it’s a badge problem - although despite not having the most exotic emblem on its bonnet and rump, trust me - this car gets plenty of stares.
Maybe it’s because of the way the NSX feels at odds with all of its contemporaries. I’m not going to say it’s ‘ahead of its time’, because it’s not - the NSX is of an era we all thought that was coming, yet failed to emerge. And that makes it interesting. Much more so than the aforementioned Audi R8, or the Lamborghini Huracan Evo, or even the Ferrari F8 Tributo.
So, supercar buyers of the world, I implore you - ignore the traditional options and consider the NSX. The world deserves more of these on the road.