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Acura NSX Concept: 2012 Detroit Auto Show

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The Acura NSX will punch its way back into the sportscar arena within the next three years, with a new car patterned closely on this concept, unveiled at the 2012 Detroit auto show.

Going on seven years on hiatus, and with one mostly abandoned revival behind it, the NSX is one of the cars that gave Honda's upscale brand sales leadership in the 1990s. The NSX first took flight at the 1989 Chicago auto show, and went into production for the 1990 model year with an aluminum body, a mid-engine-mounted V-6 engine, and to some, the best handling of any of the day's supercars.

Then it lingered, without much change, for the next 15 years. Save for the addition of targa models, an automatic-transmission model, 20 horsepower and an extra transmission gear, the NSX staggered along until 2005, when Honda discontinued it without a direct successor.

An effort to build a second-generation, 600-horsepower, V-10 NSX was ditched during the 2008-2009 financial crisis. No production cars ever were built, but Honda did race the fully-developed cars.

With the new NSX concept--like many recent Honda and Acura concepts, it looks nearly production-ready--Honda is keeping true to its latest corporate mission of favoring efficiency over enthusiast dreams of rear-wheel drive and big-displacement engines. Not only does the new NSX have a V-6 powerplant, just as it did in its first iteration, this one's also a hybrid that uses electric motors to give the car all-wheel drive. Acura says the new system can dynamically change torque to the front 19-inch wheels; the rear wheels on the concept are 20-inchers.

Honda promises a new direct-injected V-6 will be paired with a dual-clutch transmission with its own built-in electric motor, for even more drivetrain efficiency, but declined to make any horsepower or gas-mileage estimates.

The new NSX will measure 170.5 inches long, 74.6 inches wide, 45.7 inches tall, on a 101.4-inch wheelbase. That compares with the original car's 174.2-inch overall length, 99.6-inch wheelbase, 46.1-inch height, and 71.3-inch width.

The new NSX will also make extensive use of lightweight materials, but it's unclear if it will be an all-aluminum body, like the one sported by the first-generation car.

In a telling move, given Honda's recent problems with natural disasters and an unfavorable exchange rate with the yen, this NSX will be developed by its American engineering team in Ohio.

The new NSX is one of a slew of new models being issued rapid-fire by Honda as it tries to pull its luxury brand out of a sales and styling funk. Last year, Acura sales fell to below 100,000 units, while German luxury brands BMW and Mercedes each sold nearly 250,000 vehicles just under those hallmark brands.

It will be a battle for Acura to regain the luster it had in the days of the Legend, the Integra, and the original NSX. The company's confident its new trio--especially its new halo car--are up to the task.

“Acura will once again defy conventional wisdom to become one of the top luxury brands," said Jeff Conrad, vice president and general manager of Acura, "by creating luxury vehicles based on our own unique values.”

 
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