- Exotic, mid-engine sports car for less than $100,000.
- Not much faster than the new Corvette.
An new Alex Zanardi Edition of the 1999 Acura NSX is available, but only 50 will be made for sale in North America. The special-edition car features a fixed roof, lighter rear spoiler and manual steering in its quest to shed nearly 150 pounds. The Zanardi Edition adds BBS alloy wheels, a titanium shifter and softer red-stitched leather seats. And it wouldn't be a tribute to the CART champion without a stiffer suspension and lower height.
Since its introduction eight years ago, the Acura NSX has been heralded by much of the motoring press as the best sports car ever produced. We're inclined to agree. With its 24-valve V6 engine, all-aluminum body, mid-engine layout and traditionally Honda-correct ergonomics, the NSX is one helluva car. In a word, it's awesome.
Well-balanced, perfectly poised, easy to drive, powerful, graceful -- the NSX is a precision instrument that is forgiving enough to make drivers of diverse skill feel like pros. The 3.2-liter engine cranks out 290 horsepower and moves the car to 60 mph in about five seconds. While other cars may be faster, no sports car handles so well as the NSX. Though largely unchanged from the 1991 introductory model, the current NSX is still a dream ride. The mid-engine design provides excellent weight distribution, keeping the wheels securely planted around turns. Braking is also an NSX strong point, at 122 feet from 60 to zero.
Inside, the NSX is as comfortable to drive as the Honda Accord. All controls are logically placed, the seating position is nothing short of perfect, the targa top is easily stored and visibility is better than any other sports car in the world.
If you can overlook the fact that the car's styling has not been touched since it was born, the NSX is still quite attractive. In fact, rather than revise the appearance, Acura has decided to treat enthusiasts to a special Alex Zanardi Edition NSX for 1999, available in one color: Formula Red. Tipping their hats to their two-time CART champ, Honda has developed the special edition with performance in mind: the car loses 150 pounds of weight and is further enhanced with a stiffer suspension and manual steering. Only 50 of the special edition cars will be built for sale in North America, and Alex Zanardi himself will be honored with the first one off the assembly line. So act now while supplies last.
As a purist test of automotive excellence, the NSX is unsurpassed. Shift action is simply amazing, the clutch and brake pedals are well-placed and provide excellent feedback, and steering is razor-sharp. Where the car fails, however, is in the price of greatness. It's simply too expensive. For the same price as a three-car garage complete with Chevrolet Corvette, Jeep Wrangler and Honda Accord, one can afford a single Acura NSX.
While the future of the NSX is not certain, it's still a car worth considering. Its rev-happy powerplant makes it appealing for those desiring a supercar, while its livable interior and excellent ergonomics make it practical enough to live with on a daily basis. And it's sure to set the stage for quite a tailgate party in the parking lot of Laguna Seca on race day.