1991 Acura NSX: R8 vs. NSX Revisited
March 30, 2012
Photo by Scott Jacobs for Edmunds
Perhaps you remember Josh Jacquot's comparison between our long-term Acura NSX and an Audi R8? Jacquot would say, "How could you possibly not remember?"
I was lucky enough to join him for that awesome, if brief, encounter on Glendora Mountain Road. Brief because we had photos to do. As I like to say, this job would be perfect, if not for the constant need for photos, video...and writing.
But I digress. In case you haven't noticed in my recent posts, I love driving the NSX. And that day on GMR was a day I won't soon forget: Two great cars on an absolutely stupendous road.
It was also memorable because it showcased the performance gap between the 21-year-newer R8 and the classic NSX.
It probably didn't help the NSX's cause any that I drove the R8 first. Audi's supercar has been a favorite of mine from its entry into the market. Sure, it's all-wheel drive. But it acts, for the most part, like a rear-driver. I like that.
Everything is immediate in the R8, the steering is precise, there's tons of grip, loads of power. And then there's that beautiful "clink-clinking" of the gated manual. The speed with which you approach each corner is shocking, it gobbles up pavement like crazy. And the suspension tuning is perfect.
The other reason it didn't help to get into the NSX second was that Jacquot, a notorious left-foot braker, had already overheated the NSX's weak binders by the time I got into the Acura. Thanks buddy!
Other observations: The R8 is filled with feedback, the NSX even more so. The NSX's non-assisted steering is constantly changing, from heavy to light back to heavy (and it's slower-reacting than the R8's), depending on throttle input, braking and where you are at that exact second in the corner. It's fun, but certainly far more work than the R8 to drive really quickly. It's not as easy to teeter on the limit like you can in the R8.
The other big difference is that the NSX's tall gearing and lack of low-end power had me thinking I was for some reason in fourth gear in a couple corners, when of course I was in second. Hit the throttle at exit, with that V6 spinning only around 4,000 rpm, and very little happens. It almost makes you want to downshift to first for the tightest hairpins. The solution? Drive faster.
Of course the NSX's gearbox is fantastic, near perfect really.
So what's my point? The point is that I love both cars. The R8 is technically superior, utterly phenomenal in what it does, and effortless in the way it goes about its task of streaking up a mountain road. All the while, still keeping the driver heavily involved.
The NSX is considerably slower on said back road, while requiring more concentration (not necessarily a bad thing) and a good set of biceps. For me, the R8 is actually more fun, more exciting, largely because it's capable of so much stinking speed. And its brakes don't heat up prematurely and force us to slow down.
But the NSX is an invigorating and intoxicating experience, too. It's also a look back at a different time. And a look back at a company that was once all about engineering.
I'd like to have both cars in my garage.
Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 53,230 miles.