Honda NSX Review: The Spectacularly Geeky Supercar I’d Have Over An R8

At long last, the European version of the NSX is here, and after a cheeky trip to Portugal’s Estoril circuit, we can tell you exactly what it’s like…
Honda NSX Review: The Spectacularly Geeky Supercar I’d Have Over An R8

It’s always difficult to drive a new car without the opinions of other road testers rattling around your brain. For instance, when I finally secure a drive in Aston Martin’s new manual V12 Vantage, I just know that another journalist’s observation about the gear-shifter surround looking like a toilet seat will be at the forefront of my mind. Seriously, do a Google image search - you’ll see what I mean.

The problem is exacerbated when you’re a little late to the party in sampling the car in question. And late to the party we are with the new NSX. Sure, we’re among the first journalists in the world to be given a shot at the European market Honda NSX, but those pesky ‘Muricans are a little ahead of us with the Acura NSX, which motoring hacks first drove way back in October last year. And the long-awaited second-gen version of the Japanese supercar has come in for a little flack from some corners. Some took exception to its complexity, others labelled its V6 as uncharismatic, and more than a few reviewers compared it unfavourably to its worshipped predecessor.

Honda NSX Review: The Spectacularly Geeky Supercar I’d Have Over An R8

But you know what? Sod the lot of them. They can all GTFO of my head, because as far as I’m concerned, the NSX has a clean slate. And since we have a bone-dry, empty Estoril circuit pretty much to ourselves all morning, the New Sportscar eXperience (the X no longer stands for ‘eXperimental’, by the way) is in a damn good position to make a good first impression.

Highly unflattering balaclava and open-face helmet combo donned, I wander out into the belting hot pit lane, where I’m greeted by two NSXs. The pair are two of the only five NSXs in Europe, the other three sitting in the paddock ready for us to take out on the road later. Best not bin it, then - a sentiment shared by Honda, who choose to send us out on sighting laps to start with, behind a pair of Civic Type Rs.

Honda NSX Review: The Spectacularly Geeky Supercar I’d Have Over An R8

A 573bhp, mid-engine, hybrid supercar behind a front-wheel hatchback with little more than half the power output? Sounds like a recipe for frustration, but trust me, a pro-driven Type R ain’t easy to keep up with when you’ve fists for hands. We quickly get through ‘Quiet’ mode to ‘Sport’ then ‘Sport+’, which sees the electro magnetic dampers stiffen, the steering speed up, and the 3.5-litre turbocharged V6 get a little shoutier.

So far, so good: I was expecting something numb-feeling and detached what with all that technology under the NSX’s skin, but that’s just not the case. I’d like a little less power assistance in the electric steering, but communication from the tarmac is impressive, and the chassis is giving me a decent idea of what it’s up to.

Honda NSX Review: The Spectacularly Geeky Supercar I’d Have Over An R8

We’re ready to ditch the Type Rs now, with the NSX in ‘Track’ mode - the angriest driver setting available. The traction and stability controls sink into the background, and will only step in if I do something really, really daft. Now the NSX starts to properly come out of its shell and reveal its party animal side. Getting too excited and booting it out of a fast right-hander, and an armful of opposite lock is needed to bring the car back in line. Track Mode clearly needs you to be a little more on the ball, but that’s fine by me. Most importantly though, when the rear does break away, it’s beautifully balanced.

So, a rear-biased all-wheel drive car shaking its arse under a greedy application of throttle - nothing out of the ordinary, is it? A few corners later though, I’m treated to something a little more unusual. Steaming much too fast into a tight right-hander, I manage to miss the apex by the length of Fast 6’s runway and find myself washing wide as I back off the throttle. With my foot only tickling the right-hand pedal, the twin-motor unit springs to life and does its torque vectoring thing, killing the understeer dead while sparing the life of the rapidly approaching cone that would have otherwise been turned into a plastic pancake.

Honda NSX Review: The Spectacularly Geeky Supercar I’d Have Over An R8

Unnerving? Certainly, but it’s nonetheless effective. And besides, you’re unlikely to experience such drastic intervention unless you’re driving like a chump. For the most part, the electric motors - which each put out 37bhp - go about their torque vectoring business in a subtle but effective way. They work together with a more conventional brake-delivered torque vectoring solution at the rear, plus a mechanical differential, trimming your line and getting you round a little bit tighter and tidier.

"The trio of motors give the NSX an incredible responsiveness, and absolutely no lag despite the V6 running just the one single-scroll turbo"

Cone scare behind me, I place the car a little better for the next corner, winding off the steering lock while giving the throttle full beans. It’s on the more committed corner exits that you feel the full force of the hybrid drivetrain. Yes, there’s the twin-motor unit at the front that we’ve already talked about, but there’s another character in this little ensemble: the direct drive motor. This shoves its 48bhp output directly to the crank, giving what’s known as a torque fill. I must admit, I was expecting it to give a feeling of truly shocking acceleration, but it’s not quite so dramatic. ‘Effortless’ is a better word, as the trio of motors give the NSX an incredible responsiveness, and absolutely no lag despite the V6 running just the one single-scroll turbo.

Lapping Estoril is thirsty work...
Lapping Estoril is thirsty work...

Getting a little braver on Estoril’s more demanding braking zones, and I’ve decided that the NSX’s brakes - 381mm up front with six pistons and 361mm with four pots at the back - get a thumbs up from me. Not because of the braking force on offer or the fade resistance from the jolly expensive (£8400 please) carbon ceramic discs, but because of the pedal action. Braking in a hybrid car with brake regeneration usually goes something like: nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, OH MY GOD MY SPINE HAS BEEN SPLIT IN TWO, but here, we have progressive and consistent braking action. Good.

I flick the NSX’s drive selector to the left to knock it out of sport mode, and try to process all the information thrown at me in the last few laps. One thing’s clear: we need some time on the road to make a meaningful conclusion, partly because the track cars are shod in ultra-sticky, optional Pirelli Trofeo Rs, and partly because Honda has been drilling into us over the course of the day that the NSX is intended to be a road car first and foremost.

Honda NSX Review: The Spectacularly Geeky Supercar I’d Have Over An R8

With my body well and truly settled into the optional, electrically adjustable driver’s seat of a Curva Red NSX - 19/20-inch rims wrapped in the standard-fit Continental Contact 5s this time - I head out onto Estoril’s surrounding roads. On what seems to be a reasonably smooth bit of tarmac, the ride’s surprisingly busy in ‘Quiet’ mode, but it’s nothing you couldn’t live with. So long as you can cope with only having the small amount of luggage space behind the engine (there’s no frunk here thanks to the twin motor unit living under the bonnet), this is a car you could daily quite easily.

Pretty soon a dull motorway cruise - nicely livened up by being in a badass convoy comprised of 60 per cent of Europe’s NSXs - is dispatched, and we’re turning off onto some minor roads. Sport + mode engaged, and this time I want to stick the slick nine-speed dual-clutch gearbox into manual mode. Foot hard down, and away from a wide, empty track, and the NSX’s linear, damn near instantaneous delivery finally gives that shocking forward momentum I’d originally been expecting.

It’s a sucker punch in the kidneys that hurls you forward with abandon, and it’s bloody addictive. Honda hasn’t given any acceleration figures, but judging by our (admittedly crude) testing, you’re looking at just over three seconds for the 0-62mph sprint. Keep on going, and you’ll see 191mph flash up on the dashboard.

Honda NSX Review: The Spectacularly Geeky Supercar I’d Have Over An R8

Slicing through the next series of bends, the NSX feels nimble, light on its feet, and devastatingly quick. I’m appreciating the bespoke V6 engine more too; it’s far from the most characterful six-banger, but it’s a joy to buzz it round to the 7500rpm red line, and it barks out a genuinely decent, throaty din. Out here this car feels lively, eager to please, and above all, entertaining.

"It’s not just a quirky also-ran you’d go for just because you want to be different - it’s an intriguing, genuine rival to the likes of the McLaren 570S and Audi R8."

There are things that annoy, though. Although I think it’s an attractive, well-proportioned car, it’s maybe a little too understated. The interior is solid and amazingly well put together, but it just doesn’t feel like the cabin of a £137,950 car. Finally, there’s the weight to think about. Although it doesn’t feel like a heavy car, you can’t help but feel irked that the NSX’s porky, near-1800kg mass is blunting performance.

Honda NSX Review: The Spectacularly Geeky Supercar I’d Have Over An R8

I could live with all that though, because of how the NSX goes about its business. Just like the original, it’s going up against its rivals in a completely different, futuristic manner. And it’s not just a quirky also-ran you’d go for just because you want to be different - it’s an intriguing, genuine rival to the likes of the McLaren 570S and Audi R8.

As to whether your average entry-level supercar buyer should get the Honda over the McLaren is a tricky one - the 570S is more delicate feeling, but doesn’t have the relentless shove of the part-electric NSX. With the R8 though, it’s much more clear-cut. The NSX feels connected where the R8 is detached and lively where there R8 seems inert. Yep, Honda has managed to make a useable supercar you’d genuinely want over something with a screaming V10. Sounds like a job well done to me.


Max Schröder

They should make a TypeR-version, without the heavy hybrid-tech and (maybe) a stripped-out interior.

07/12/2016 - 12:02 |
8 | 0

Yeah, put a sequential or manual gearbox, instead of single put twin turbo, and remove that hybrid-tech

07/12/2016 - 12:20 |
7 | 1

Some like the older one more

07/12/2016 - 12:06 |
235 | 3

In reply to by RoyP

This is my image of wealth not always new cars

07/12/2016 - 15:38 |
13 | 1
Outlaw 1

In reply to by RoyP

Old NSX: Sub 3000lbs, RWD, Manual
New NSX: Sub 4000lbs, AWD, Auto, Hybrid

It’s no contest. I’ll take the older one any day.

07/12/2016 - 16:45 |
57 | 2
Brake Caliper Specialists

that is a brilliant review!

07/12/2016 - 12:14 |
35 | 0

Great review!!
I’d still take the R8 though :(

07/12/2016 - 12:24 |
33 | 3

Same here

07/12/2016 - 16:07 |
6 | 0

You can’t beat that v10

07/12/2016 - 16:57 |
9 | 2

came here to say just that, A good tried and tested chassis and engine combo with a mother of god sound can’t be beaten. The new NSX is good but i wouldn’t put it at R8 levels

07/12/2016 - 21:25 |
5 | 1

Same here + I don’t like at all how it looks + the interior of the R8 is one of the best looking supercar interiors of our time.

07/13/2016 - 08:07 |
2 | 0

Not the new one tho, i would go with first gen v10 plus. You cant get a manual with the new r8s

07/30/2016 - 20:52 |
0 | 0

For the most of us,we’d just take both of them for good measure.

07/12/2016 - 12:51 |
34 | 0

In reply to by Ian.L

Old as a weekend car and new as a daily

07/12/2016 - 13:48 |
21 | 0

Excellent write up and attitude, you should escape the RSS feeds more often…

07/12/2016 - 13:18 |
8 | 0
Matt Robinson
Matt Robinson

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Excellent back-handed compliment sir :p

07/12/2016 - 18:06 |
1 | 0
AmilBRZ 🌐

Amazing car, just dont think of it as a succesor to the old nsx.

07/12/2016 - 13:32 |
22 | 3

Why wouldn’t you?

07/12/2016 - 15:02 |
7 | 4


07/12/2016 - 14:08 |
0 | 0

Man, GTA 5’s Dinka Jester really got the appearance of the new NSX spot on before it was even unveiled.

07/12/2016 - 14:46 |
1 | 1

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Lol, it’s been revealed for like 6 years now

07/12/2016 - 15:12 |
2 | 0

Came to comments to se the Aston Martin gear shifter.

07/12/2016 - 14:48 |
1 | 1



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