Cape Town - After a 12-year absence, the Acura NSX has returned in 2016 as a petrol-electric hybrid supercar, mixing exotic looks and sports-car handling with the latest engine and electric power technology.
The Acura might have been absent for 12 years, but it first made its debut 25 years ago in 1990. It won't be reaching local shores says Honda SA.
A twin-turbo V-6 behind the seats works in tandem with electric motors between the front wheels and at the back of the car to generate 437kW and 645Nm, all while wearing the fuel-efficiency crown for a high-performance, petrol-powered sports car.
READ: Bad news SA, we're not getting the Honda NSX
The federal government rates the 2017 NSX at 13.5-litres/100km in city driving and 12.8 litres/100km on highways, which is a 17% improvement over the last NSX. These mileage ratings help the 2017 NSX avoid the federal government's gas guzzler tax and surpass pricey, two-seat supercar competitors — such McLaren, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Mercedes-Benz.
But the new NSX is more than a fuel-efficient sports car. The electric motors that independently drive the left and right front wheels also provide torque vectoring for all-wheel drive taken to a new level of cornering precision. The electric power adds fast off-the-line starts, then smoothly transitions to robust engine power. And every tap of the accelerator brings instantaneous torque from the electric motors, too, so the NSX feels quick and responsive across a wide driving range.
With a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, of $157 800, the 2017 NSX undercuts many competitors, but the price can exceed $200 000 upon adding options such as carbon fiber pieces and carbon-ceramic brake rotors.
On sight, the NSX has a low-slung, sleek body. Ground clearance is just 9cm, and driver and passenger drop low into the sculpted seats, where they are perfectly positioned to look at the tailpipes of trucks and SUVs ahead of them. Drivers must watch that they don't bump the low NSX nose as they enter driveways.
At 2.21m wide, the NSX's cabin feels wider and roomier than expected. Legroom maxes out at a decent 1.08m, and headroom is a good 97.3cm.
Strong engine sounds emanate from behind the seats where the mid-mounted engine resides. But there's a "quiet" drive mode that tries to keep the car on silent electric-only power if the driver can creep along at less than 32km/h.
Good luck driving this car that slow
The 3.5-liter, double overhead cam, twin-turbocharged V-6 is longitudinally placed and is visible, under its engine cover, under the glass of the rear window. The engine, which is new for Acura and its parent company, Honda, has both direct injection for regular fuel delivery and port injection for additional power in high-performance driving.
It's mated to a nine-speed, dual-clutch transmission that can be driven like a typical automatic or shifted manually by the driver without the need for a clutch pedal.
The NSX rides firmly, feels solidly planted to the road and conveys even subtle road imperfections inside to the driver and passengers. Many bumps come through as vibrations, but some can be jarring.
The car stays amazingly flat in turns and curves, and while it can dart aggressively through a slalom, it doesn't feel lightweight. The new NSX weighs 1723kg, some 272kg more than its predecessor, because of its electric motors and lithium ion battery pack.
The NSX controls on the dashboard look like they were pulled out of another Acura. As an example, the NSX doesn't have an enlarged, vertically positioned display screen, like a computer tablet, the way such screens are in McLarens, the latest Volvos and the Tesla Model S.
The NSX also doesn't decouple the suspension and engine controls to allow drivers to mix and match their drive experience the way that a McLaren does.