Review and road test of the Honda NSX (2018 - 2020)

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By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

This improved version of the second generation Honda NSX took the fight to Ferrari in the junior supercar sector. And, like NSX models always have, it went about the task a little differently. But how does it stack up as a used buy? Here, we look at the 2018-2020-era versions of this model.

Models

2dr sportscar (3.5 V6)

History

What should a supercar be? We know the European answer to that question, a formula personified by Ferrari, echoed by McLaren and lightly evolved by the handful of less exotic premium brands who've dared to enter this rarified segment. What you get in each case is a race car for the road. What you need, says Honda, is this, their second generation NSX, first launched in 2015, then upgraded three years on to create the lightly updated version of this car that we're going to look at here. The NSX name may resonate because the earlier generation of this model, launched back in 1989, had such a profound effect on its sector. Here was an exclusive junior supercar as focused as any Porsche or Ferrari, but a machine that could be as undemanding to own and drive as a Civic. The letters stood for 'New Sportscar eXperimental' and when Honda experiments, the automotive world sits up and takes notice. They certainly did with that early NSX. The styling was inspired by an F-16 fighter jet and the selling price was pretty much half the cost of the comparable Maranello product of that era, a Ferrari 348. Famously too, the chassis was developed with the help of Ayrton Senna - but crucially, you didn't need his talent to really enjoy it. We'd never seen a supercar quite like that. A machine an ordinary driver could take near to the limit on the road without frightening and possibly dangerous consequences. A car that wasn't awkward to drive in town. Or worrying in the wet. Small wonder that the original 'NA1'-series model stayed in production until 2005, Honda subsequently readying a V10-engined replacement that was supposed to celebrate the success of the brand's return to Formula One. It didn't happen. The F1 team floundered and fell victim to the period's worldwide recession, as did the replacement NSX. And that might have been that, had it not been for a dedicated band of enthusiasts within the company who refused to let this model line die. Finally, the Japanese management relented and a small team from the brand's American Acura division were tasked with reinterpreting what the 'New Sportscar eXperimental' concept should mean for the modern era. This was their response. Launched in 2015, then as we said earlier lightly updated in mid-2018 to create to car we're going to look at here, this 'NC1'-series model was as different from its market contemporaries as its predecessor had been from its competition back in the Nineties. The whole original concept behind this second generation model lay in the way it could take the hybrid performance technology we saw on £750,000 hypercars like McLaren's P1, the Ferrari La Ferrari and the Porsche 918 Spyder and make it available for Porsche 911 Turbo- money. As part of that, there are no fewer than four motors on offer - a 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo boosted by an electric motor, together powering the wheels out back, with the Sport Hybrid AWD system completed by two further motors powering the wheels up-front. This NSX can start and creep briefly on all-electric power, it can flash to 62mph in under three seconds, it can reach nearly 200mph flat out and it's everyday-usable enough to feel quite suitable if all you actually need it to do is to collect your dry cleaning. This, in Honda's words, is what an 'Everyday supercar' should be. And with this revised model, an extra layer of driving involvement was added too. Here, we're going to look at the post-facelift 2018-2020 models.

What You Get

It's an established mark of supercar styling that every exterior element should serve a distinct purpose. That's certainly the case here, as part of what designer Michelle Christensen calls the 'Interwoven Dynamic' approach to the sleek silhouette. In profile, you better appreciate the way that the bonnet line, roof line, floating C-pillars and rear quarter appear as one distinctive and unified curve. It all combines with remarkably short front and rear overhangs to create a sleek, yet muscular overall stance that properly conveys the required sense of purpose and power. The cabin design doesn't share much with European rivals, apart from the way that the large centre transmission tunnel flows between the seats into the centre console. It certainly feels like a place designed to do business with the road, the focus appropriately centred on the magnesium-fashioned wheel, through which you view a driver-focused 8-inch TFT digital display dominated by a central rev counter incorporating a digital speed read-out. Flanking this gauge are two digital charge meters reminding you of this Honda's electrified remit, with that for the main battery on the right, with the left hand one briefing you on the Sport Hybrid system's current rate of 'Assist Charge'. There's no conventional gearstick - just a McLaren-style narrow centre console strip incorporating gear change buttons and the electronic handbrake, collectively a set-up you'll quickly adjust to. All of this works pretty well, but quite a few of the materials used to trim this layout feel decidedly low-rent by premium supercar standards. The same comment applies to the 7-inch centre-dash Honda CONNECT colour touchscreen, just below which sits the large silvered dial you'll need to control the various settings of the car's 'Integrated Dynamics System' driving mode The boot is much wider than it at first appears - wide enough in fact to swallow the full-sized set of golf clubs that the Japanese maker insists will somehow fit.

What to Look For

One of the reasons you'd choose this NSX over, say, an Aston Martin or a Maserati in this segment is that you'd expect it to be much better built and more reliable. And, by and large that's true. There aren't many MK2 model NSX owners and amongst them, we struggled to find anyone who had much bad to say about their ownership experience. Obviously, you're going to want one with a fully stamped-out service history, looked after by the only two authorised UK NSX dealers, Chiswick and Crown Honda in London. But that should be a given. Otherwise, it's just the usual things - checking for parking scraped and chipped alloy wheels and so on.

Replacement Parts

You really need to be careful in replacing parts on such a specialist car. Best to liaise with the only two dealers that were authorised to sell it - Chiswick and Crown Honda in London.

On the Road

The post-2018-era facelifted version of this second generation NSX claimed to have been revitalised in terms of its driving dynamics. We'll get to that, but first, if you're new to the NSX, it'll be necessary to get your head around exactly what's on offer here. In considering this model, don't think of it as an expensive Honda: think of it instead as a cut-price hybrid hypercar - because that's what it is. An electrified supercar with a battery providing electricity to two small motors driving the front wheels as well also to a larger one at the back that assists a big 3.5-litre V6 powering the rear axle. Which makes this a 4WD hybrid powered by four motors. Yes, really. Continuing with the futuristic technology, the powerful brakes aren't actually connected to anything - the big pads are activated 'virtually'. And the e-steering works in much the same manner. If, as a committed driving enthusiast, you're seeking an ultimately involving junior supercar, it might not sound too promising a recipe, but it doesn't take long behind the wheel to discover that Honda somehow wove all of these elements together into a pioneering supercar that pushed class boundaries just as much as its iconic first generation predecessor did. This NSX inspires cornering confidence in a way most exotic rivals from its era simply can't match. And it's certainly fast enough, despite the inevitably prodigious weight that tends to afflict any car that mates electrical output with a turbocharged combustion engine. That twin turbo powerplant generates 500hp, with a further 73hp contributed by the combined efforts of the three electric motors we mentioned earlier. These work together to deliver an electrified boost that smoothes over the slight reductions in torque you'd otherwise find in the upper and lower parts of the rev range. The electric unit at the back, the so-called 'Direct Drive Motor' which is wedged between the twin-turbocharged engine and its nine-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, acts as both a flywheel and a starter motor. Up front meanwhile, lie the two further 38hp motors that together create this car's 'TMU' 'Twin Motor Unit', there to drive the front wheels, provide torque vectoring for extra cornering traction and complete the operation of this car's 'SH-AWD' set-up, the 'Sport Hybrid AWD' system. The 'TMU' also recovers braking energy during deceleration to supply power to the hybrid batteries. This whole SH-AWD set-up was recalibrated as part of changes made to this improved model, as were the settings of the adaptive dampers, which feel brilliantly judged in the way they feel purposefully compliant over bumps and racetrack kerbs. Plus, as part of those improvements, larger front and rear anti-roll stabilising bars were added, increasing stiffness by 26% at the front and 19% at the rear. The rear hubs and control-arm toe link bushings were also stiffened and grippier Continental SportContact6 high performance tyres added to the standard spec, all of this further boosting responsiveness through the chassis - to the point that Honda claimed the enhanced version of this car to be two seconds quicker a lap around its famous Suzuka Grand Prix circuit. It certainly feels slightly more involving, helped also by changes to the recalibrated steering. And of course the NSX remained in this form still fast: very fast. 62mph can be dispatched in just 2.9s en route to a 191mph maximum. Yet the electrification we've described aids frugality to the extent that a running cost improvement of around 10% is possible over this car's most obvious McLaren and Ferrari rivals. Expect 26.4mpg on the combined cycle and 242g/km of CO2 (NEDC figures).

Overall

The supercar segment from 2018 to 2020 is full of compelling supercars. But this updated MK2 model NSX offered something more from a model that already offered something just a little different. Just like the very first generation NSX did. There's so much technology in the hybrid drivetrain that this model might easily have become something of an engineering exercise rather than a raw, involving super-sportscar. That this didn't happen is due to the fact that it was developed by people who love their driving. It's a machine that's greater than the sum of its parts, a pioneering contender in this class that saw its creator once again pushing boundaries. Like the original NSX, this one reinterpreted what a supercar could be and delivered everyday usability that few competitors could match. It's unconventional. It's divisive. And it defines the spirit of its brand in a way that charmed us completely.

Honda NSX (2018 - 2020) review by Jonathan Crouch

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Overview

Car review: Honda NSX (2018 - 2020)
Manufacturer:Honda
Model:Honda NSX (2018 - 2020)
Category:Supercars
Rating:8 out of 10

Gallery

Car review: Honda NSX (2018 - 2020)

Scores

Performace:
80%
Handling:
80%
Comfort:
70%
Space:
50%
Styling:
80%
Build:
80%
Value:
70%
Equipment:
70%
Economy:
60%
Depreciation:
80%
Performace:
60%
Total:
71%