2020 Honda NSX Review: The Supercar For A Future That Never Happened

The criminally underrated NSX has been updated, and it’s better than ever. Time to cancel that R8 order?
2020 Honda NSX Review: The Supercar For A Future That Never Happened

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.

2020 Honda NSX Review: The Supercar For A Future That Never Happened

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.

2020 Honda NSX Review: The Supercar For A Future That Never Happened

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.

2020 Honda NSX Review: The Supercar For A Future That Never Happened

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 75-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.

2020 Honda NSX Review: The Supercar For A Future That Never Happened

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.

2020 Honda NSX Review: The Supercar For A Future That Never Happened

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.

2020 Honda NSX Review: The Supercar For A Future That Never Happened

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.

2020 Honda NSX Review: The Supercar For A Future That Never Happened

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.



ill wait for a 20% discount to buy it, it would be much worth it at that price

12/15/2019 - 10:43 |
6 | 0

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I mean you can get older 2017 models with barely 2-3k miles for almost 100k.

And THEN it makes such a compelling story.

Would you get a Base 380bhp 911 Carrera, or a Full fat 570bhp Hybrid Supercar?

Cmon. Be honest

12/15/2019 - 16:42 |
16 | 0
Tomislav Celić

The issue with plug-in hybrid setup for a supercar is that, while it does give the advantage of both the electric motor and internal combustion, it still gives the disadvantage of both.

You end up with a heavy car, that looses it’s power, and still has a high center of mass.

KERS supercars, ICE Supercars and EV Supercars make sense, because all of them have their own advantages, and disadvantages, while Hybrid tech tends to, well have more disadvantages than advantages.

12/15/2019 - 11:31 |
14 | 0

It’s a closed hybrid system rather than plug-in, but yes, those points are all still very valid! You can see why hybrid supercars are being ‘skipped’ by most

12/15/2019 - 14:39 |
8 | 0

Another problem is how competitive the Supercar class has become, back in the original NSX’s time, it really only had 1 or 2 competitors, the Ferrari 348 and Porsche 911 Turbo, but today it has nearly 20 different competitiors in its Price Range, all of them with more desirable engines and more prestigous badges (cuz that matters in the US for some reason)

12/15/2019 - 17:39 |
8 | 0
RWB Dude

I mean NSX really stands for New Sports Unknown Variable but that’s ok and great article

12/15/2019 - 14:25 |
2 | 2

Honda has said both in the past, confusingly…

12/15/2019 - 14:43 |
2 | 0

This generation NSX will become just as much of a unicorn in 30 years time as the original one, I’m sure of it

12/15/2019 - 14:26 |
32 | 0

I agree. Despite its flaws, it really is a gem.

12/15/2019 - 15:46 |
6 | 0

I bet in 5 years, you can get a 30k mile car for barely 40k

12/15/2019 - 16:43 |
2 | 2

Big difference between the original and this generation. The original was a V-6 RWD. Very simple. Because of the simplicity it’s relatively cheap in the long run to own.
The current generation has 2 turbos, awd, and battery. That will be very expensive to own long term vs the original.

12/16/2019 - 01:56 |
6 | 0

“So, supercar buyers of the world, I implore you” Respectable..but useless effort..as a 200k€ sportcar buyer will never put his snob eyes on a Japanese proposition. 99% of those guys are badge whores who intensively car about the image they communicate to their closed VIP social group in everything they purchase. I would say that 100k€ (GT-R..) is the psychological price point where those buyers consider they should, at least, have a german product. And over 150k€, only a Porsche (or a exotic Italian/Brit brand) remains reasonable.

12/15/2019 - 23:04 |
0 | 0

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Tu parles de clients du 16eme, le stéréotype du Parisien friqué. Certes il y en a ailleurs des gars comme ça, mais piur cotoyer ceux du sud (Montpellier et la cote d’azur), on en a bcp moins que sur Paris. Faut chercher le type de client aussi, tous ne sont pas qu’à le recherche de la Porsche comme signe extérieur de richesse (à l’image d’une Rolex pour leur 50 ans ;))

12/16/2019 - 14:10 |
0 | 0

“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.”

Correction. Honda says that the “X” in “NSX” originally meant Unknown World, referring to the symbol of “x” as it means unknown variable in mathematics.

12/16/2019 - 02:49 |
0 | 6
Matt Robinson
Matt Robinson

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

As mentioned above, Honda has said both in the past.

12/16/2019 - 08:25 |
2 | 0

I’m not convinced that the author drove the car, and if he did perhaps he hasn’t driven many others of this caliber. Having recently driven the NS-X, I find it to be soulless and disappointing. It’s a technically exact interpretation of the Japanese definition of speed. Impressive on paper, but lacking any sort of real impact. A supercar is the sum of its parts and the way that it connects to you at place inside where your inner child still hids. It’s stirs you deeply. The NS-X was only intellictual and gray.
Picking on the R8 is a mistake. It’s the love child of Italian passion and German perfection. The naturally aspirated V10 is a masterpiece that adds to your quality of life each time it hits redline, seeming to vibrate at the exact pitch of your aura. The NS-X hasn’t done well because the various translations of automotive soul that you can get in the same price range are SOO much better…. Even those that are slower.

12/16/2019 - 03:59 |
2 | 2
Matt Robinson
Matt Robinson

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

This year alone I’ve driven:

Lamborghini Huracan Evo
Lamborghini Aventador SVJ
Audi R8
McLaren GT
McLaren 570S
McLaren 720S
McLaren 600LT
Ferrari F8 Tributo
And yes, an NSX, which I did about 400 miles in.

I think I have a fairly good idea of what’s out there ;)

12/16/2019 - 08:24 |
8 | 2

Just because people stare at something doesn’t mean they want it. For $160k, good-looking isn’t good enough. It has to be pure joy every time you see it. It has to have lines that you can close your eyes and remember. The original nsx was the price of 2 Corvettes, 4 miatas. In 2020, that translates to 100k. Worse looking, more expensive. That’s a tough sell.

12/16/2019 - 04:33 |
0 | 0
Chewbacca_buddy (McLaren squad)(VW GTI Clubsport)(McLaren 60

If this debuted in 2009 along with the Ferrari 458 it would’ve been a game changer no doubt

12/16/2019 - 11:14 |
0 | 0

Or just put in an order for the C8…

12/16/2019 - 14:16 |
0 | 4



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