The received wisdom is that supercars are made for weekend jaunts or track days, not as everyday transport. So how would the Honda NSX handle real-world British conditions, from country lanes to supermarket car parks? Toby Keel found out.
‘Well I’ve never seen anyone do that before,’ chuckled Honda’s mechanic early one morning, as he watched me put a child’s car seat into the passenger side of the NSX he was about to let me loose in.
Maybe he hadn’t, but to me it seemed fitting. Just because you’re driving around in a £150,000 supercar doesn’t mean you’re excused from picking your daughter up from swimming. And I actually can’t think of a better encapsulation of the Honda NSX: this is a hell-raising 191mph machine that has nine gears, four engines (seriously), can hit 60mph from a standing start in three seconds, and yet is a stunningly comfortable, usable car.
I live on the northern edge of the South Downs and commute to Country Life’s offices through the leafy, rolling Surrey hills. And while that makes for a route that is pretty much as picturesque as you’re probably now imagining, it also means that I navigate a succession of B-roads so crumbling that you sometimes wonder when the holes will end and the pots begin.
The NSX soaked up the whole lot without batting a headlight and just as importantly without making you worry that bits were about to start falling off – unlike certain Italian cars we could mention with horses on the front. It also breezed over the speed bumps at the leisure centre and happily negotiated the local supermarket car park.
That’s no mean feat. I have a strong memory of getting behind the wheel of a Ferrari for the first time and finding it challenging merely to drive round in circles on a deserted airfield. So to have a car of equally stratospheric dynamic abilities that you can also reverse park without sweating was a joy.
The key to all this is an absolute mountain of clever technology. This being Country Life rather than Petrolhead Life I’ll spare you the how-and-why (Honda’s website will talk you through the lot, should you feel so inclined). But here’s one example for you: the Honda mechanic explained to me on that first morning that there wasn’t a single physical connection between me and the car – everything but everything is electronic, even the steering wheel. Frankly, I found that a terrifying thought at first; but so convincing is the digital trickery that it was forgotten within seconds. In fact I don’t remember feeling so instinctively connected to a car’s every since I owned a Mk1 Golf GTI.
Another example: most of us will have come across an automatic gearbox that boasts a ‘sports’ mode; the NSX’s equivalent has four modes – quiet, sport, sport+ and track – which change all sorts of things about the car, from acceleration and braking to steering and suspension. ‘Quiet’ will run the car on the three electric motors – one for each of the front wheels plus another direct drive motor to the rear two – and only bring in the 3.5-litre V6, twin-turbo petrol engine when absolutely necessary.
At the other end of the scale, ‘track’ turns all the dials up to 11, turns the traction control off, and may God have mercy on your soul because myyyyy goodness this car is quick.
At one point during the five-day test I happened to line up at a set of traffic lights on a dual carriageway with a dead-straight bit of road – clear, dry and empty – awaiting for when the lights went green. Let’s give this a go, then, I thought, and planted my foot to the floor.
Oh wow. So quickly did the landscape pass by that my eyes and brain seemed to be at war with each other, the latter refusing to accept that the former’s visual information could possibly be accurate. I literally couldn’t process how fast I was going, and how quickly.
And it wasn’t just straight line speed that impressed: a little later the NSX was proving its worth on the back roads, zipping round corners as unerringly as a particle flying round the Large Hadron Collider.
Fast forward another few and I found myself crawling in a queue of traffic on the M3, the NSX’s nine-speed automatic happy to burble along and take care of the shifting as if was an automatic diesel estate. Ah well. Even Ayrton Senna, who helped Honda design the original NSX, probably got stuck in traffic round here on his way to McLaren during the team’s late-‘80s, Honda-powered glory years.
Senna envisaged the original 1990s Honda NSX as a gadget-laden supercar which would be easy enough to drive as an everyday car, and which would protect its driver from getting into trouble with electronic gadgetry. The original spec also had another element that didn’t come from Senna: Honda’s then-president insisted that the boot be large enough to fit a set of golf clubs. Both men’s dreams remain true in the NSX’s latest carnation.
It really is a car that can do everything. The Honda NSX is a genuine supercar that can terrify the life out of you with its speed while also feeling safe, comfortable and secure when you’ve got your most precious possession strapped in next to you in a child’s seat.
And don’t sneer at that child’s seat: it means you’ll be able to safeguard the natty blue paint job by parking in the parent-and-child spaces at Waitrose.
- Priced: from £149,950, including three years servicing
- Engine: 2x electric motors on the front wheels; one direct drive motor on the back wheels; and a 3.5-litre, twin-turbo V6 petrol engine also powering the back wheels.
- Gearbox: Nine-speed, dual-clutch transmission operated either automatically or manually via steering paddles
- Peak power: 581bhp Peak torque: 681nm (476 lb/ft)
- 0-60mph: 3sec (estimated – Honda hasn’t released official figures)
- Top speed: 191mph
- Combined fuel consumption: 25mpg
- Dimensions and weight: 4,487mm long, 1,939mm wide, 1,204mm high, 1,800kg kerb weight.
- More info: www.honda.co.uk
N.B. The options on our test car pushed the price to £180,000. Among them were a £4,800 ‘Andaro’ paint finish; various exterior, interior and engine bay carbon fibre options totalling over £10,000; and an interior gadgets pack that included sat nav, CD player and parking sensors, worth it for the parking sensors alone at £1,700.