1991 Acura NSX: The Way Hondas Used To Be
December 16, 2011
Last week, I posted on how Mike gave me the Acura NSX for a week with the understanding that I'd be Mr. Nice for about 500 miles. No problem, I thought. But after a few days of just dawdling around town, I was getting antsy. And the NSX wasn't helping. "C'mon," it'd whisper in my ear. "School drop off is booooorrrring. I need to rev. Let's go have some fun." Well ...OK. But just don't tell Mike, OK?
So on Wednesday I took a couple hours and headed up to one of my favorite driving roads. And I'm glad I did. This car is rad.
Even if you haven't driven an NSX, there's probably an idea in your head (from reading various stories over the years) that you know what the car is all about -- all lightweight aluminum construction, mid-engine, high-revving, etc. But the actual experience of driving it on a curvy road is like going from a black-and-white photo to full-color HD IMAX in 3D and surround-sound.
This NSX represents everything that used to be golden about Honda.
The V6 is glorious. It's like you have your own personal F1 engine wailing behind your head as you nail the throttle. But it's more than just that. You get to savor it. With a long throttle pedal travel, an 8,000 rpm redline and only five gears, each run through a gear is drawn out. It's sort of cliche to say that a sports car's soul is its engine, but it's very much true for the NSX.
The shifter is a delight. It falls right to your hand, and has a great combination of lightness and direct positive action. There's a connection here to the NSX that will always be missing with a modern dual-clutch automated transmission.
The view from the windshield is still incredible. I remember reading long ago how Honda wanted the NSX's view to seem like an F-16 fighter's. I haven't sat in an F-16 (what, and you have?), but it seems like a good analogy to me. You're low to the ground, and the nose just drops away, letting you see the pavement rushing up to meet you. The A-pillars are thin, too, in a way that you don't see anymore.
I didn't drive the NSX hard around corners. But my pace was good enough to get a sense of the steering and balance. The steering certainly has some heft to it in that old-school car kind of way. You have to muscle the NSX into a corner a little more than with any modern car. But there's plenty of feedback through the wheel, and the NSX just seems so purposeful and enjoyable.
I suspect that when we test our NSX, the hard numbers will not be all that amazing in modern context. Heck, it's likely that our long-term Mustang GT is just as quick, or even quicker. But the NSX is so much more involving to drive. No turbos. No airbag collections. But it's still comfortable and harmonious. It's a driver's car.
I was talking to Scott Oldham yesterday, saying how the NSX is a great reminder on how cars (or Hondas) used to be.
"No, the way they should be," he replied.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor
Update: In my original copy, I said our NSX had electric-assist power steering and lacked stability control. Wrong. No power assist for manual-trans cars in 1991, I'm told, and editor Josh Jacquot says it does have stability control.