1991 Acura NSX: Introduction
October 11, 2011
This one is your fault. When we bought our long-term Ferrari 308, you laughed at its unreliability and said we should've bought a 1991 Acura NSX. When we bought our used BMW M3, Corvette Z06 and Porsche 911, you once again pondered quite raucously why we didn't buy an NSX.
Finally, when Editor in Chief Scott Oldham asked on the long-term road test blog which used classic Edmunds should buy next, it was an overwhelming landslide: "Buy an Acura NSX!" you shouted.
Message received. For the next 12 months, a 1991 Acura NSX will reside in the Edmunds garage. If we don't like it, we'll let you know. If you don't like it, well, take to our comment boards and let your fellow readers have it for suggesting it in the first place.
What We Got
Our new/old Acura NSX reached us by passing through an interdimensional time portal directly from its original delivery date of November 30, 1990. Well, at least that's what its meticulous condition would lead us to believe. Our other used classics were in nice shape for their age, but nothing comes close to this NSX. Save for a small scuff on the center console and a pair of trunk struts that don't actually work (a common NSX problem, we hear), you'd swear this is a brand-new car.
When it was actually a brand-new car, it was the 743rd NSX to roll off the assembly line at the Takanezawa R&D plant where a select group of Honda's best employees meticulously hand built, inspected and perfected it. They even wore white gloves. There were no options, and in our car the 3.0-liter 270-horsepower V6 is hooked up to a five-speed manual transmission. That also means no power steering, as only the automatic-equipped cars (and most post-1995 NSXs) came with electric power steering. No thanks.
The NSX was also the first exotic sports car that put a priority on comfort, usability and reliability.
According to the car's service records, its previous owner sank about $6,000 in maintenance during his 15-year ownership of the car. This included a new water pump, belts (timing, alternator and A/C), right window regulator, a new clutch, retractable mast antenna and oil pan gasket. Considering we spent about $4,600 during one year with a 1984 Ferrari, that doesn't seem so bad.
In 2002, its previous owner also installed a subtle $1,000 stereo upgrade that included Kenwood speakers, a 10-inch trunk-mounted woofer and four-channel amplifier. The Acura head unit (including its tape deck) remains in place.
When it was new, our NSX sold for $60,600. Twenty-one years later we paid $33,000. And yes, we know that's a little high, but in this case we decided to pay a little extra for the fact that it was a pristine car with only 45,886 miles on it that also happened to be right in our backyard.
Why We Bought It
Aside from our readers clamoring for the car, we wanted an Acura NSX because it represents a significant turning point for Honda and the automotive world. The NSX was the first production car to feature all-aluminum construction, titanium connecting rods and yes, even electric power steering. It was also the first U.S. production car to offer VTEC variable valve timing and the first and only car that Formula 1 legend Ayrton Senna had a hand in developing. Without him, the chassis would've been 50 percent less stiff and its suspension not as keenly tuned.
The NSX was also the first exotic sports car that put a priority on comfort, usability and reliability. Exotic cars of the time, like our old Ferrari, were all about passion and character. If the pedals were offset, the climate controls bizarre and it broke down on the road to Vegas, so what; that was just part of the charm.
Honda didn't follow that premise. It wanted its halo car to have the precision of a Ferrari, the comfort of a Corvette and the usability/reliability of a Miata. Senna certainly helped with the precision part, and its spacious accommodations were made possible by weight-reducing aluminum. Honda's men in the white gloves took care of the rest.
Perhaps what we most want to sample, however, is the purest example of a corporate philosophy that made so many enthusiasts fall in love with Honda. "As Honda sees it, driving isn't merely a method of achieving a destination," said the 1990 introductory press release for the NSX. "Cars, no matter their market niche, should be amply endowed with a large dose of driving fun."
No Honda or Acura has ever been so amply endowed as the NSX, and for 12 months you'll be able to experience it with us on the Long-Term Road Test blog.
Current Odometer: 46,451
Best Fuel Economy: 21.2
Worst Fuel Economy: 20.1
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 20.7
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.