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Opinion: The Acura NSX Is The Best American-Built Supercar For Grand Touring

The list of supercars built in America is very short. Here is a look at how well one of the few works as a grand touring car.

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We’ve just wrapped up some time experiencing the incredible Acura NSX supercar. This is the second of two supercars we were fortunate enough to enjoy this year, the first being the McLaren GT. We do test supercars on track sometimes, but these were on-road tests. Our aim was to determine how satisfying the Acura NSX is on public roads in a grand-touring role. A role in which many owners will likely use the car. We’ll break down our overview into a listing of the many things we love about the NSX, and then add a few things we would like to see in the next generation or update.

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We Love Where the Acura NSX is Built
Before we begin, we should highlight that Acura builds its NSX in a dedicated plant in Marysville, OH. The majority of its powertrain is built in Honda of America Manufacturing’s Plant in Anna, OH. Like most of the world’s best supercars, Acura blends a high-tech automated processes with hand-built elements to craft the NSX. Honda/Acura employs thousands of Americans in Ohio. Its Anna location alone has 3,000 workers. All supercars are luxury items for their buyers, and it is nice to buy local when one buys such goods. By our count, the Chevrolet Corvette and upcoming Tesla Model S Plaid are the only other supercars built in America. The Ford GT is imported, and SRT discontinued the Viper.

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We Love the Driving Sensations Of the NSX
The NSX is a car that exhibits an abundance of pure emotion when you drive it. Let’s run down the feelings one gets when the car is driven.

The amazing NSX engine is located just behind your ears and is a pleasure to listen to. Or not listen to. Around your neighborhood, the NSX can glide silently using its three electric motors. No need to be “That jerk” with the loud, obnoxious car. Unless you opt to. There is even a Quiet Mode, that helps you enjoy the highway stretches of your tour without getting a headache from unwanted engine racket. When you give the NSX full throttle, it screams like a racecar, and it is a hard sound not to return to again and again.

The NSX also has incredible seat of the pants vibes. You can feel the energy of this car in a way that you can’t in a typical sports car. It feels like a bow you’ve pulled back. That energy is there and you can feel how badly it wants to be unleashed. There is a sense of urgency and an immediate need to GO that you get when headed into a nice stretch of road.

Your fingertips and hands are also rewarded by the NSX. It has the best steering wheel in any car I’ve ever tested, and I’ve tested thousands. There are many elements that make this wheel feel better than most. First, it is flat on top and on the bottom. This is helpful for getting in and out of the car, and when you cruise, there is more space or legs under the wheel if you like it adjusted to be down.

The steering wheel in our test vehicle was coated carbon fiber on the top and bottom and had grippy leather in the center sections. The wheel’s girth varies. At the 9 and 3 positions it is at its thickest and formed to offer the driver a secure grip. It begs to be squeezed. The paddle shifters add to the involvement in the NSX, and they are ideal for this car’s personality.

Your back is where you feel the thrust. The NSX can accelerate from 0-60 MPH in under 3 seconds, something that only a handful of cars available today can accomplish. Adding to the thrust that the 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged gas engine provides are an electric motor in the rear and two up front. Acura calls the effect of these four motors working together “torque fill.” The idea is that the electric motors add to the available torque when the combustion engine is not at its peak. It works. The car has incredible torque in every situation.

Your eyes are also rewarded both in and out of the NSX. Over five days, I could not stop looking back at this car when I parked it. The lines are beautiful, and the car looks very different in front of you than it does in pictures. It seems much lower, flatter, and wider than the images convey. This is also not a quick-glance car. You can slowly look over the many elements and find new things days after you first look it over. For example, the see-through rear C-pillar sections on both sides. The engine is also in view, and it looks futuristic and bad-ass.

Image of NSX welding courtesy of Acura

Inside, your eyes enjoy one of the thinnest A-pillars in a modern vehicle. Acura employs six different alloys in the structural elements of the NSX, and two are used in the A-pillar. The process and material by which the thin A-pillar is formed is called robotically articulated, 3-dimensionally bent & quenched ultra-high-strength steel. The underlying structure is as thin as a quarter. The big upside is improved outward vision.

The NSX steers sharply. One way to describe it is “Miata sharp.” If you have driven an NC or ND Miata you will know what this means. The steering is also very quick, meaning you don’t need much of a turn to generate a lot of wheel angle. A yoke instead of a circular wheel would work in this car.

The ride quality is superb. The NSX turns in with zero body roll, and it feels very predictable in a turn with a radius you can’t predict, like an on or off ramp you don’t know. Even at speeds that are thrilling, but still won’t land you in the clink, the NSX is a joy to steer. Most supercars we test are rock-hard over road imperfections, but not this car. We do need to mention that our tester was fitted with high-performance winter rubber, which may have been a bit more forgiving. Still, normal potholes and moderate road damage cause no harsh sensations.

The optional carbon-ceramic brakes our tester had were very good on-road. They behave normally around town, and when you want them to, they bite and slow the NSX at a rate you won’t experience in many cars. Having the engine behind you has advantages in braking, and the NSX being a true rear-mid-engine layout has big advantages for the car’s handling and stopping ability.

Our happiest surprise was that, when cruising, the transitions between the all-electric drive mode and blended electric and combustion-powered modes was smooth and almost imperceptible.

NSX Visual Impact
Every supercar needs to have supercar looks, and the NSX delivers. Pedestrians stop and snap photos as you pass. Kids shout and point. Neighbors come over for a chat. On the highway, you are followed, and folks pull alongside to capture some quick video. Like the BMW i8, Alfa Romeo 4C, Maserati Gran Turismo convertible, McLaren GT, and Audi R8 Spyder, the Acura NSX is a beautiful car with looks that make a strong statement.

NSX Areas For Improvement
Bear in mind that we are still talking about using the NSX as a grand touring car. For that role, this car should have either a removable roof or be a convertible. Having owned a couple of great convertibles, I know owners miss the open-air sensation one offers. To compete as a grand tourer vs the Corvette, i8, Maserati Gran Turismo, or R8 Spyder, the NSX needs a roof that goes away.

The infotainment system is good but can also use an update. There is wired Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and a good sound system. However, the screen is too small, and the NSX has no head-up display. When touring, the ability to know your road’s current speed limit at a glance, and to see upcoming navigation turn instructions without taking your eyes off the road is a big plus. One small thing we would add is a grab handle for passengers. More than one passenger I took for a ride instinctively reached for one above the side window.

Why We Rank the NSX the Best American-Built Supercar
There is only one supercar built in America by a company with a reputation for quality and with a four-year bumper-to-bumper warranty. The Acura NSX is a supercar that any owner can enjoy as a grand touring car. We found it ranked high when compared to the i8, McLaren GT, Audi R8 Spyder, and the Maseratis, Alfa Romeo’s, and Corvettes we have tested for this use. It may not matter to all buyers, but for us, the fact that Acura builds the NSX in America is also something that would tip the scales in its favor if we were shopping for a car in this class.

NSX Fast Facts:
Price Range - $150K - $200K (As-tested price $197,000)
Seats - 2
Layout - Rear mid-engine
Powertrain - 3.5-liter Twin-Turbocharged 75-degree V6 with three electric-assist motors, all-wheel drive, and a 9-speed dual-clutch transmission. Rear limited-slip differential.
HP - 573
O-60 MPH - 2.9 seconds (Source - Acura)
Top Speed - 191 MPH (Source - Acura)
Cargo Volume 3.9 cu ft

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. Following his engineering program, John also completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin

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DeanMcManis (not verified)    March 25, 2021 - 9:19PM

I've always liked the NSX, and I am very glad that Honda finally came out with the newest version of the car. I agree that it looks great, and deserves to be recognized as a supercar. But you really are stretching the definition to call it the best American-built supercar. First off, even though the Ford GT is built in Ontario Canada, it was fully designed in America, and has an American drivetrain. Further, the NSX is clearly a Japanese car. Being conceived and designed in Japan by it's Japanese maker, Honda/Acura. Like so many of your articles, the title is of course a pointed affront to the upcoming Tesla Model S Plaid, and later Plaid+ and Roadster. The Plaid Model S promises to be the quickest production car sold in the world, and that includes multi-million dollar hypercars, only to be beaten later by the Model S Plaid+ and finally the Roadster. The NSX looks better, sleeker, and is a closer match in sight, sound, and design focus to traditional supercars. But it doesn't make it American, and doesn't make it quicker. Or even a better Grand Touring car. I am glad that Honda decided to keep the NSX's mid-engine design, because many NSX prototypes looked like they were going to reimagine it as a 2+2 luxury coupe. In a couple years when the 1000HP Zora C8 hybrid Corvette comes out, and the Tesla Roadster hits American roads, it will be impossible to try and compare a Japanese NSX to those American supercars (hypercars?). Until then I'd put the Tesla Model S Plaid as a true American supercar placeholder for the title. Actually being designed, engineered, and built by Tesla, an American automaker.

John Goreham    March 26, 2021 - 8:34AM

In reply to by DeanMcManis (not verified)

Hi Dean, Sorry that you saw a story about an Acura in my driveway as an insult to Tesla's future vehicles. My counterpoints are these: The NSX was designed, developed and is manufactured in the U.S. Full space frame construction and vehicle assembly are conducted on-site at the Performance Manufacturing Center (PMC) in Marysville, OH. The majority of the powertrain, which is unique to the NSX, is also built in Ohio. The NSX was developed by a global R&D team led by designers and engineers at Honda R&D Americas, Inc. located in Los Angeles, Calif., and Raymond, Ohio. Key players were Ted Klaus NSX Global Development Leader, Michelle Christensen, NSX exterior design project leader, Johnathan Norman, NSX interior design project leader and Clement D' Souza, associate chief engineer at Honda of America was the manufacturing lead. Even the wind tunnel used to shape the body was in Raymond, Ohio.

I'm glad you look forward to future, but not yet created, Tesla vehicles. I'm sure if, and when, they are produced they will be very special. Someday, GM will also have a more impressive Corvette. The company who told us the electric future is now 18 months ago must have a new all-electric drivetrain ready to go for it, and that will be exciting. The one GM delivers today is amazing enough, particularly at its price point, and if you like gasser V8s.

Future vehicles always compare well to the ones in our driveways and on our racetracks today. Their rough rides, poor handling, poor quality, and other attributes not found on a predictive spec sheet don't reveal their downsides. Acura has made the NSX available to Torque News staff on many occasions including at Monticello Motor Park and in my driveway. GM has done the same, but not yet with its newest Corvette. When Tesla shows me in person how great its cars are, I will offer up a review that points to their many pluses. My exposure to Tesla vehicles so far has been in its dealerships' stark and mostly deserted showrooms located in strip malls with boxes pilied all over the haphazard service area. The ownership experience and the thrill of a great ride for me starts with the actual vehicle, not a preview or a prediction.