November 30, 2012
Read the 1991 Acura NSX introduction to our long-term fleet.
See all of the 1991 Acura NSX posts.
What We Got
In its introduction we blamed you, our readers, for our purchase of a 1991 Acura NSX. You mocked the handful of classic used cars in our long-term fleet like the 308, M3, Z06 and 911. With each purchase we were instead reminded why we should have bought an NSX instead. We finally caved.
A year ago we bought a clean example of the first-generation Acura NSX. In fact, we found one from the first year of production. Our car, #743, was powered by a 3.0-liter V6, like all NSXs of its vintage. The aluminum engine generated 270 horsepower at 7,100 rpm en route to an 8,000-rpm redline. It was mated to five-speed manual transmission. The Acura lacked power steering and stability control, but their absence just made it cooler.
Our NSX had 45,000 miles at the time of purchase and it set us back $33,000 to get the title. Compared to other cars we saw, it was high. But this was a California car, and the previous owner maintained detailed service records. These extras made it worth the stretch from our perspective.
You wanted an NSX. Heck, we wanted an NSX. It was "the first exotic sports car to put a priority on comfort, usability and reliability," as far as we were concerned. So for 12 months we planned to drive it both as an exotic and as a daily driver. Here is how it went:
- "I like early NSXs best. And 1991 was the first model year for Honda's aluminum sports car. They have the black roof, the smaller 15-inch wheels and tires and no power steering. The NSX in its purest form." — Scott Oldham
- "I think the engineers may have attempted to make up for its lack of visual appeal by making it sound better than any other V6 I've ever heard. It's not the typical raspy exotic sound either. Think more like silky, precise and a bit high-pitched. With the engine sitting so close to the back of your head, you hear a mix of mechanical sounds from the engine, along with the tone of the exhaust. And it is shockingly good." — Ed Hellwig
- "I wouldn't say the NSX is terribly fast, but it sure is sexy. Though a veteran of the sports car scene, it hasn't lost any of its appeal. Its exterior design is still fresh, has a great driving position, a well-sorted suspension and it turns heads like it did back in '91." — Scott Jacobs
- "With the NSX, you're driving automotive history. This was a time when Honda/Acura built exciting, superbly engineered cars. It takes you back without constantly reminding you it's an older car." — Mike Monticello
- "You know the NSX is easy to live with. About the only things that constantly remind you that it is indeed an 'impractical' sports car are its low, low seating position and the front airdam that scrapes on everything. To be fair, this NSX's chin is less insult-prone than that sultan of scrape, our old Corvette Z06." — Jason Kavanagh
- "I remember driving the Acura NSX when it was new. Everyone liked driving it, but it never got any respect for style. It was the Acura NoSeX. We said it looked as if the designers got to the B-pillar and suddenly found out that the rest of the car had to be done by Friday.... Of course, now the NSX has miraculously become much better-looking. What is it about the way Honda designs — so bland at first glance — that enables them to live on with a freshness that cars from other brands can never manage?" — Michael Jordan
- "Throw in the fact that I not only fit in the NSX, but actually find an ideal driving position and it all adds up to a car I'd be happy to drive every day. Yep, even in crap L.A. traffic. Perhaps that's why I love it so much. If you can have fun even when commuting, you've got a winner." — James Riswick
- "And that gets to my only qualm about driving cool old cars like the NSX. They're just so short compared to today's machines. Were I to get broadsided by this 5 Series and survive my injuries, I still might not be smart enough to blog anymore." — Erin Riches
- "This leak was the result of rain. Not particularly hard rain, but still, water fell from the sky and mysteriously wound up in the trunk and then down the back of my shirt. The pattern here suggests that before it was on me, the water was in the trunk and evaporated up to the lid." — Mike Magrath
- "I was driving through a mall parking lot on Saturday, and as I pulled away from a stop sign a kid, no more than 7 years old, tugged on his mother's hand as I drove by and yelled, 'Mommy, that's a car from a poster.'" — Kurt Niebuhr
Maintenance & Repairs
We spent a total of $5,400 to keep the 1991 Acura NSX in proper operating condition. It never left us stranded. But it did occasionally make life awkward.
Routine maintenance remained affordable because we did it ourselves. We changed the oil at 5,000-mile intervals, replaced the hood struts when they failed, swapped a broken marker bulb, installed a new front airdam and repaired both driver and passenger door handles when they failed.
A call to the pros was required for some of our issues. First, the 10-year-old tires were upgraded to Yokohama S Drive rubber. Next, we addressed the ailing radio head unit. Along with these midlevel tune-ups came some higher-priority items. A "Check Engine" light pointed to a bad oxygen sensor, which we replaced at the same time we attempted to fix the trunk water leak. When the SRS control unit went out, we used the opportunity to replace ailing coolant hoses and recharge the air-conditioning system.
Prior to selling the NSX we brought it in for a routine emissions test. When it failed the smog test we opened our wallet. Ultimately, we replaced two oxygen sensors, two catalytic converters and an air intake temperature sensor before it passed.
We did not experience any recalls or TSBs during our test of the 1991 Acura NSX.
Fuel Economy and Resale Value
Observed Fuel Economy:
Fuel economy was not at the top of our list when we bought the NSX, but we tracked it nonetheless. We averaged 21 mpg over 12,000 miles of driving. Our best and worst tanks were 27 mpg and 14 mpg, respectively.
Resale and Depreciation:
We purchased our 1991 Acura NSX for $33K with a shade below 46,000 miles on the odometer. A year later the ticker read 58,000 and our test was over. At the time of sale, Edmunds' TMV® Calculator valued the Acura at $28,461 based on a private-party sale. We sold it for TMV, which equaled depreciation of 14 percent.
This added up to be our second most expensive long-term used car to date. Taking into account the purchase price, out-of-pocket expenses and sale price, the NSX cost us $10,000. A summary of cost by comparison: 1984 Ferrari 308 GTSi ($2,400), 1985 Porsche 911 ($4,700), 2002 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 ($5,000), and 2002 BMW M3 ($14,100).
Pros: Above 7,000 rpm the engine note is a Eustachian delight. Its iconic appeal remains. The NSX is comfortable enough, and nearly practical enough, for life as a daily driver.
Cons: In one year we spent more than $5,000 to keep our 40,000-mile NSX in proper running order. Add another $5,000 loss in depreciation.
Bottom Line: We spent $10,000 to drive a 1991 Acura NSX for a year, excluding fuel costs. It was a steep price to own a genuine classic. This car continues to garner attention at every turn. If only the resale value better reflected its street appeal.
|Total Body Repair Costs:||None|
|Total Routine Maintenance Costs:||$103.86 (over 12 months)|
|Additional Maintenance Costs:||$5,333.29|
|Non-Warranty Repairs:||Replaced 2 oxygen sensors, 4 tires, front and rear hatch struts, 3 coolant hoses, SRS control unit, radio head unit, air intake temperature sensor, 2 catalytic converters, front airdam, 2 door handle latches and serviced the air-conditioner.|
|Scheduled Dealer Visits:||None, all routine maintenance was DIY|
|Unscheduled Dealer Visits:||7 for the various non-warranty repairs noted|
|Days Out of Service:||16|
|Breakdowns Stranding Driver:||None|
|Best Fuel Economy:||27.1 mpg|
|Worst Fuel Economy:||14.2 mpg|
|Average Fuel Economy:||20.8 mpg|
|True Market Value at service end:||$27,837 (private-party sale)|
|What it Sold for:||$28,461|
|Depreciation:||$4,539 (14% of paid price)|
|Final Odometer Reading:||58,393 miles|
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.