Reviews

2017 Acura NSX Driving Impressions


Acura says that their engineers spent years working on algorithms that simulate the truest driving signals, to develop the car that synthesizes those signals. We have to scratch our heads to figure that one out. We know, after driving the NSX on the track, that the seat-of-the-pants experience is real enough. But it was created, copied from paper and computer readouts, it didn’t come naturally? Is there anything wrong with that? Is it the future?

The handling is progressive, which is how the car can be both a tame grocery-getter and scorching supercar. It can be driven in traffic at 30 mph without being difficult, and it can be driven quickly without feeling loose, pushy, or twitchy. It’s seamless between the two places. On the track it likes to driven rhythmically, early turn-in and throttle lift, stable under braking while turning.

Of course, given that there are four modes, there are four driving behaviors.

In Quiet mode, the NSX runs on electric power as much as it can, under 4000 rpm. Sport, the default mode, quickens throttle and shift response, raises the revs, and begins the piping of engine sounds into the cabin.

In Sport+, the display around the tach changes from blue and grey to yellow and red, and the car offers up the full 474 foot-pounds of torque, more sound into the cabin, and heavier steering.

In Track mode, the sound pipes open wide, the air conditioning and audio system goes blank, and launch control is enabled. Track mode maintains the battery 60 percent of full charge, to keep the performance the same from lap to lap. The transmission holds the lower gears in corners, and only upshifts on the straights. It’s programmed so well that it’s hard to be quicker by using the paddles. We accept it, but we’re not sure we like it. It reduces the driver to a point-and-steer robot. Well, the driver is still allowed to gas and brake, but with stability control and anti-lock brakes, the car prevents him or her from going too far. Maybe a better word would be that it protects the driver.

The big Brembo brakes impressively combine mechanical and electric power, regenerated from the motors and regulated by the mode. And electric servo combines the motor braking with friction braking to provide predictable and steady braking. Sensors translate the speed and pressure of the driver’s foot to the resistance of the pedal, and it’s nearly perfect.

The all-wheel-drive system covers for unsmooth or over-aggressive driving, trading off some pinpoint precision. A misjudged turn-in point can induce some understeer, but the stability systems quickly catch. If your rhythm is correct, the car will respond with precision. Lift, brake, steer smoothly, and the front motors cleanly blend torque to the outside wheel.

Coming out of a turn at speed, you roll on the throttle, unwind the steering wheel, and the NSX will race away from the apex feeling totally neutral. The front motors provide torque or limit spin, while the limited-slip rear differential keeps the rears planted. You can choose how sticky you want to get, with the tires; like in Formula 1, you have hard, medium, and soft, with Continental, Pirelli, or Michelin.

**Based on current year EPA mileage ratings. Use for comparison purposes only. Your actual mileage will vary, depending on how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, battery pack age/condition (hybrid models only) and other factors.

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