2018 Acura NSX Review

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2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Kirk Bell Kirk Bell Editor
May 2, 2018

The 2018 Acura NSX is an engineering tour de force that blends hybrid components with a turbocharged V-6 to create a track-ready supercar that can also be driven daily.

The new 2018 Acura NSX supercar eschews the formula that put the last version on bedroom walls. In the 1990s, the NSX was all mechanical, with 270 horsepower coming from its V-6 planted midships, and comfortable seating for two.

This new NSX skips all that. It's a high-tech wonder of turbos, motors, servos, clutches, and batteries to create an all-wheel-drive supercar that synthesizes driving feel instead of delivering it naturally.

And yet, it’s also comfortable and it delivers performance that first-generation car could never approach. That’s because Acura engineers have done a masterful job of integrating all those systems to create an even-tempered supercar that scores a solid 8.4 in our book. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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In the second model year after its release, the 2018 Acura NSX carries over unchanged. That’s just fine because Acura put a lot of work into all that technology. In fact, the NSX’s only rivals in terms of complexity are the McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 Spyder, both of which are no longer sold and cost way more when they were available. In the real world, think more in terms of the Audi R8, Porsche 911 Turbo, or even the Ferrari 488 GTB.

The supercar styling is unmistakable. Low and wide, the NSX flows to the rear in a wedge shape borrowed from other supercars. The body is made up of aluminum and composite panels and can be ordered with a carbon fiber roof. Designers sculpted the body to balance downforce front and rear while minimizing aerodynamic drag and taking in the air needed to cool the performance bits.

Those bits are extensive. It all starts with a turbocharged V-6 engine mounted longitudinally on the rear axle. Between it and the 9-speed dual-clutch transmission is an electric motor, and two more electric motors are located on the front axle. The front motors provide motive power that enables all-wheel drive, as well as torque vectoring. A lithium-ion battery sits in front of the rear motor. Total system output is 573 horsepower and 476 pound-feet of torque.

How does all that tech come together? The NSX is a well-ordered supercar with handling as progressive as its worldview. It melds electric and gas power into a seamless stream of scorching performance. The NSX likes to be driven rhythmically, with even inputs. It can push a bit in a turn, but once you lift off the throttle the electric motors cut that corner tighter with their torque vectoring magic.

The NSX has an astonishing performance envelope, which ramps up through four driving modes: Quiet, Sport, Sport+, and Track. The NSX is capable of a 3.0-second 0-60 mph time and a top speed of 191 mph. Despite the hybrid system, fuel economy is just OK, at 21 mpg combined.

The cabin blends luxury and technology. It is covered in leather, with carbon fiber trim optional, and has a pair of digital displays, but the same shift buttons as the Honda Pilot. Oddly, power seats cost extra, though it is has plenty of space for two adults. A blocked view to the rear makes a rearview camera and parking sensors necessities.

That’s about as much safety gear as Acura offers. No active safety features are on the menu, and the NSX will probably never be crash-tested.

You can option it up, though. The base price is around $158,000, and adding options can make it push $200,000. Among the expensive options are carbon-ceramic brakes, the carbon fiber roof, carbon fiber interior and exterior kits, a Technology package, and an Alcantara headliner.

10

2018 Acura NSX

Styling

Low, wide, and menacing, the NSX embraces technology and luxury with a sleek, modern supercar attitude.

The 2018 Acura NSX is a neat riff on the supercar playbook. Though inspired by a host of supercars, it doesn’t copy them, and it introduces a few tricks of its own. The shape is largely dictated by aerodynamics. Inside, it provides a luxurious environment that embraces the high tech as well as the high end. It's striking from every angle inside and out, easily earning a 10 for styling. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The NSX cuts a low, wide shape that sits a few inches from the ground. The nose is a takeoff on the now outgoing Acura “beak,” but it is more subtle and less awkward than the worst of that breed, toned down by its prominent mesh grille, which spreads out to incorporate the LED headlights into its corners.

While wind determines the basic shape, not everything is determined entirely by airflow. Big air intakes are located up front, along the sides, and at the rear, and its side mirrors are mounted on stalk-like arms similar to a Testarossa.

At the back, the stubby tail is broken up by a large Acura badge, flanked by telegraphic LED taillights.

Inside, the NSX is missing some sports car cues. The center console has a camelback shape, and where you would expect a shifter there isn’t one. Shifting is done by satisfyingly large paddles or the same pushbuttons as the Honda Pilot.

Further tech is found on the dash, where an 8.0-inch display sets digital gauges on an odd plane tilted slightly away from the driver. A tach dominates the virtual gauges, which come in color schemes ranging from blue to red, depending on the chosen driving mode.

Another screen—either 7.0 inches or 8.0 inches—handles the audio and navigation, while switches and rollers run secondary systems from the steering wheel.

The overall ambience is that of luxury. That center console is covered in leather, as are the seats (which also feature Alcantara synthetic suede), door panels, and parts of the dash.

Big swashes of metallic trim outline portions of the dash, and customers can go full-pimp with a carbon-fiber trim kit.

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10

2018 Acura NSX

Performance

The 2018 Acura NSX blends the electronic and the mechanical amazingly well, delivering scorching supercar performance on a track and tame manners on the street.

The 2018 Acura NSX couldn’t be any more different than the first-generation NSX. That car was purely mechanical, with manual steering and a naturally aspirated engine. This generation is a marvel of technical wizardry, with three electric motors and a turbocharged engine. Still, it works, and it scores a 10 for performance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Despite its complexity, the NSX delivers on the promise of supercar performance teamed with driving clarity.

Powertrain points

Mounted behind the driver is a 75-degree, twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 that puts out 500 horsepower on its own thanks in part to 15.2 psi of boost regulated by electric wastegate control. It has both direct and port injection for optimal fuel delivery. The sound from outside the car is somewhat flat and uninspiring, but from inside the tubed in noises provide a more muscular ripple, especially in Track mode.

The engine is mounted to an electric motor, which, in turn, connects to a 9-speed dual-clutch transmission and a limited-slip differential. The 9-speed has paddle shifters, but the shift programming will get the car around a track in the quickest manner.

Speaking of which, the NSX is fastest in Track mode, where it holds gears longer and uses the electric motors on the front axle for torque vectoring to help the car rotate through corners.

Hybrid complexity

The direct-drive motor between the engine and transmission adds 47 hp to net output, charges the battery pack, and smooths shifts.

Mounted in front of the engine is a lithium-ion battery pack made up of 72 cells.

Up front is a dual-motor unit with one motor for each front wheel. Each motor supplies a maximum of 36 hp and 54 lb-ft of torque to its wheel. In fact, the car can move under light loads on that power alone. That power can also be used for the aforementioned torque vectoring.

Down the center of the car is a power drive unit that regulates battery electricity sent to the front motors.

Together, the motors and engine create 573 hp and 476 pound-feet of torque, resulting in supercar-type performance numbers of 3.0 seconds for the 0-60 mph time and a top speed of 191 mph.

The rear engine design gives the NSX a 42/58-weight bias that favors the rear, but the additional motors and batteries make it somewhat heavier than a two-seat supercar; it weighs in at 3,803 pounds.

Ride and handling

The NSX translates electronic forces into mechanical action. It’s very good at all of it, from regulating the suspension’s ability to deliver a ride that ranges from firm to comfortable, to the steering’s range of quick to careful responses, to the powertrain’s relaxed to high-strung behavior.

The suspension features front and rear aluminum wishbones, as well as springs wrapped around magnetic ride control dampers. The steering has electric variable ratios. Both systems change their behavior based on the chosen drive mode, which ranges from Quiet to Sport to Sport+ and finally to Track.

In Quiet mode you could almost mistake the NSX for a Honda Accord from behind the wheel. The car runs on electric power as much as possible and the engine revs are capped at 4,000 rpm. The driving character is relaxed, subdued, and comfortable.

Sport mode is the default. It lifts the rev limit, pipes some noise into the cabin, and delivers sportier but not high-strung throttle and shift mapping.

In Sport+, the NSX puts down maximum motor torque, adds more weight to the steering, and pipes in more sound.

Yet more sound arrives In Track mode, with the sound pipes wide open. This mode also blocks out touchscreen access to the A/C and audio systems, enables launch control, and maintains battery charge at 60 percent, even if it means cutting engine power to charge the battery pack, for consistent lap-to-lap performance.

The NSX may most impressively blend the electric and the mechanical in its braking system. The brakes are Brembo 14.5-inch ventilated rotors with six-piston, two-piece calipers up front and 14-inch ventilated rotors with four-piston monoblock calipers at the rear. Of course, the NSX also incorporates regenerative braking from the motors, and it's also governed by the drive-mode selector.

Regenerative and friction braking are blended by an electric servo that consistently delivers an even, predictable brake feel, whether you choose the base or carbon ceramic brakes.

On the road and track

All of the NSX’s electronic and mechanical components come together to deliver scorching supercar performance.

The motor-enable all-wheel-drive system practically prevents sloppy driving, though pinpoint precision may suffer in the process. Drive too deep into a corner and it can understeer a bit, but once you brake and lift, the front motors do their torque vectoring magic, cutting the corner tighter, blending torque to the outside wheel smoothly with the electronically assisted steering. Add a bit of trail-braking and it responds beautifully by tucking in even tighter.

Exit the turn, get back on the gas as you unwind the wheel, and the NSX feels natural as it charges to the next corner. The limited-slip differential puts down the power, while the front motors switch to a regen mode.

The amount of grip it has depends on the tires chosen. The standard tires are Continental Conti-Sport Contact 5Ps, 245/35ZR19s up front, 305/30ZR20s out back. Optional Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R treads provide plenty of traction, and for ultimate grip, the NSX can be fitted with Michelin Sport Cup 2 tires.

The NSX never feels nervous or twitchy. It is truly a tame supercar. It is a highly synthesized driving experience, but it provides fidelity. Acura’s engineers worked hard on the algorithms to provide that fidelity, and they did an excellent job.

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2018 Acura NSX

Comfort & Quality

The NSX is subdued in its Quiet mode and comfortable for two, but power seats cost extra and it lacks storage space.

The 2018 Acura NSX only accommodates two, but it has plenty of room for those occupants, and it is beautifully appointed. We rate it an 8 out of 10 for comfort and quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Acura builds the NSX to a high standard. Thick glass with an acoustic glass rear window helps block out sound, though an exhaust tube feeds intake noises into the cabin. This is basically a supercar, so it’s not subdued unless you choose the Quiet mode that uses the battery to drive the car as much as possible. That’s alright, though, because it should sound mean.

The leather is thick and supple, but, oddly, Acura makes the seats manually adjustable unless you pay extra. The bottom cushion angle of the driver’s seat also isn't adjustable on any except the most expensive seats.

Acura also applies leather to the dash, door panels, and center console. Options include carbon fiber trim and an Alcantara headliner.

Dimensionally, the NSX is short and wide. The numbers show that it is 176 inches long, 47.8 inches tall, and rides on a 103.5-inch wheelbase. That means its wheelbase is shorter than that of a Civic sedan, but its width is equal to that of the RLX sedan.

That gives occupants good room in all directions, and head room is especially generous. The driving position is excellent.

With all of its electronic driveline components, the NSX lacks trunk space. It has just 4.4 cubic feet in its front trunk, which is enough for a couple soft-sided bags at best.

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2018 Acura NSX

Safety

The NSX lacks the typical Acura safety gear, has no crash ratings, and suffers from a poor view to the rear.

The 2018 Acura NSX doesn’t offer as many safety features as other Acura models. In addition, high-end sports cars are not crash-tested, so we cannot give the NSX a score for safety. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Standard safety features include a multi-angle rearview camera, hill-start assist, front and front side airbags, curtain side airbags with rollover sensors, a driver’s knee airbag, and the rest of the usual government-mandated items.

For such an impressive piece of technology, the NSX does not offer such active safety features as adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, or active lane control. That’s strange for Acura, especially at this price.

Vision to the outside world is a mixed bag. The view ahead is aided by a low cowl, a flattened steering wheel, and a large windshield. It's fantastic.

To the rear, however, the view is miserably obscured. The rearview camera is a necessity as the rear deck and fenders obstruct the view astern.

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2018 Acura NSX

Features

The 2018 Acura NSX is priced like a supercar but it has the features, performance, technology, and options to back it up.

The 2018 Acura NSX is priced like a supercar, topping $150,000 to start, but Acura outfits it with plenty of features. On top of that, Honda’s luxury arm makes a variety of pricey options available, making it possible to reach $200,000. Still, with all that technology and performance on board, the NSX is worth the price. We rate it an 8 out of 10 for features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The NSX is offered in just one trim level, and it comes standard with a full roster of goodies, including leather upholstery, a leather-trimmed instrument panel, leather and Alcantara seats, dual-zone climate control, power accessories, keyless ignition, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, ambient lighting, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, HD radio, a multi-angle rearview camera, an eight-speaker audio system, two USB ports, and staggered 19-and 20-inch alloy wheels. The NSX does not offer AM radio.

Start playing with the options list and you can go crazy.

Most buyers will opt for the the Technology Package, which adds a nine-speaker ELS audio system, navigation with real-time traffic, AcuraLink, and front and rear parking sensors. Another version adds satellite radio.

Carbon fiber is also sure to be popular, and separate buyers from their cash. A simple carbon fiber engine cover runs $3,600; a Carbon Fiber Trim Exterior Sport package costs $9,000 and includes carbon fiber pieces for the front spoiler, side sills, and rear spoiler, as well as a dark chrome exhaust finisher; a carbon fiber roof panel will set you back $6,000; and a Carbon Fiber Interior Sport package costs $2,900 with its carbon fiber steering wheel spokes and upper rim, carbon fiber instrument panel hood, and brushed aluminum pedals and footrest.

Other pricey options include carbon ceramic brakes at $9,900, and special red or blue paint at $6,000.

Also available are full power seats, an Alcantara synthetic suede headliner, painted brake calipers, and versions of the Carbon Fiber Exterior and Interior packages with lesser materials.

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2018 Acura NSX

Fuel Economy

In absolute terms, the 2018 Acura NSX isn’t frugal, but it is efficient given its performance capabilities.

The 2018 Acura NSX may have three electric motors, but it doesn’t drive on electricity alone often or deliver unbelievable fuel economy for a car with more than 500 horsepower.

Instead, it returns what can be considered average fuel economy for any daily driver. It is EPA rated at 21 mpg city, 22 highway, 21 combined, and that earns it a decent 6 out of 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Compared to a Honda Accord, that’s not impressive. But when you consider that the NSX can launch from 0-to-60 mph in 3.0 seconds and reach a top speed of 191 mph, it’s a feat.

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The Car Connection Consumer Review

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$156,000
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8.4
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 10
Performance 10
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety N/A
Features 8
Fuel Economy 6
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