Unloved & Ignored: The Intriguing Case of the Second-Gen Acura NSX
In August 2021, Acura announced that 2022 would be the last model year for the second-gen Acura NSX. The send-off was marked by the release of a limited-series NSX variant called the Type S. It is the end of what has been a rather unremarkable run for the hybrid supercar. Last year, the carmaker only managed to sell 123 units of the NSX in the United States.
By comparison, Porsche sold over 9,100 911s in the States over the same period. The picture is even worse in Canada, where less than 30 units were shipped to customers over the same period. It’s not just about 2021, too; the Acura NSX just never really did well in terms of sales.
The second-gen NSX was first introduced to the North American market in 2016, and its best year was 2017 when a paltry 630 units of the car were sold in both the United States and Canada. The dismal sales figures were mirrored in other global markets. It was one of the main reasons Acura decided to kill off the NSX. So what happened? Was it such a bad car that it just couldn’t cut it in a superheated performance car segment, or is there more to the story?
The Second-Gen Acura NSX Is a Great Supercar
The Acura NSX had its official debut at the 2015 North American International Auto Show. It was touted as the sporty halo for the luxury performance brand and poised to continue in the footsteps of the legendary first-generation NSX.
The reborn supercar was designed to convey the image of a performance machine that was still easy to drive daily. The cabin had ample room for two adults, and there were enough creature comforts to cope with the demands of modern-day driving.
The hybrid setup was such that you could turn off the internal combustion engine and cruise on electric power alone for short distances. The car also had serious performance credentials, and its docile demeanor could be turned off in an instant, replaced by something decidedly more potent.
Packed within the car’s frame is a sophisticated hybrid powertrain that combines a twin-turbocharged 3.5-litre V-6 with three electric motors for a total of 573 hp and 476 lb-ft of torque. The swansong Type S variant is even more powerful, with 600 hp and 492 lb-ft of torque.
The V6 engine works with the nine-speed dual-clutch automatic and one of the electric motors to power the rear wheels. The other two electric motors independently drive the front axle, effectively making the car an all-wheel drive. The NSX is no lightweight at 3,800 lbs, but it can still hit 60 mph in 3.1 seconds and max out at about 190 mph.
The drawbacks with the NSX include the tiny storage space, something that’s not uncommon with supercars. Then there’s the earlier-mentioned weight issue, which, admittedly, the car handles gracefully enough with a balanced chassis and light steering.
Yes, the Acura NSX played in a fiercely contested supercar segment with established rivals from the likes of Porsche, Audi and McLaren. However, its biggest threat and ultimately its downfall came from within—the fact that it could never quite measure up to the high standards set by its iconic sibling.
Revisiting an Icon: The First-Gen NSX
The first-gen Acura NSX, also known as the Honda NSX, sent a shockwave through the car community after its 1989 Chicago Auto Show debut. It completely redefined the notion of supercar ownership and affordability.
Here was a car that proved to be more usable and reliable than the hulking Ferraris and Lamborghinis of the same era. It wasn’t just about the reliability, though; the NSX could also square up against more traditional supercars in terms of performance.
Honda cut no corners in the development of the mid-engine supercar. It was the first mass-produced car to feature an all-aluminum body. The styling was inspired by the F-16 fighter jet, and its supreme aerodynamics benefited from active consultation with the late F1 champion Ayrton Senna and Indy Champion Bobby Rahal.
The engine unit, a naturally aspirated 3.0-litre V6, was developed from the ground up. The powerplant was good for 270 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque, enough for a 5.2-second sprint to 60 mph.
The NSX could also run the quarter-mile in 13.7 seconds at 104 mph. They were numbers that put it right in the mix with rivals like the Ferrari 348, Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1, and the Porsche Carrera 4 Cabriolet.
Automotive designer Gordon Murray points to the Acura NSX as one of the inspirations for the legendary McLaren F1. He felt the NSX could have handled more power but had nothing but praise for its aluminum suspension and drive-by-wire throttle—the latter of which he adopted for the McLaren F1.
What’s Next for the NSX Name?
Interestingly, the first-gen NSX also did not have a stellar sales record. About 18,000 units were sold worldwide during its 15-year production run. However, by the time it was discontinued in 2005, few people still doubted the car’s capabilities. It was clear that any replacement would have its job cut out in trying to fill the shoes left behind by the first-gen NSX.
It did not help that the pricing of the second-gen NSX pushed it right into exotic car territory. In 2017, the base MSRP was around $150,000, and for that price, consumers expected a car that could at least set the blood racing like its predecessor.
Sadly, the second-gen NSX failed to measure up. As impressive as it was, there was nothing spectacular about its performance. That kind of misstep can prove deadly in a market with no shortage of options. The fate of the second-gen NSX was sealed long before it was eventually discontinued.
The second-gen NSX might have been shown the door, but the carmaker still has plans to keep the NSX name alive. In August 2021, Acura Vice President and Brand Officer Jon Ikeda all but confirmed that there would be a third-gen NSX in the near future. In an interview with The Drive, he described the core idea behind each iteration of the NSX.
‘We make an NSX when there’s something we want to say,’ Ikeda explained. ‘The first-gen was gas. Second-gen was a hybrid. There’s gonna be another one.’ If you have been paying attention to the trends within the automobile industry, this pretty much means an electric NSX might just be in the works. Here’s hoping it fares better than its unfortunate sibling.