It’s one of few numbers, despite the 100 pages of bumf it gave us, that Honda is willing to put its name to. “It’s extremely competitive in its segment,” is the standard Honda response to a number of questions; mostly with good reason, sometimes without.
Engineers say it’s slippery through the air. How slippery? “We know a European wind tunnel which will give us a 20% better reading, so there’s no point comparing with other cars. It’s extremely competitive in its segment.” Ditto the amount of downforce it makes front and rear. “It is extremely competitive in its segment.” It’ll get from 0-60mph quickly. “Though because all magazines have their own way of testing it, we’ll let them do it.” But? “But, well, it’s extremely competitive in its segment.” Okay. I get it.
That 0-60mph time, by the way, ought to start with a two. The top speed is 191mph. A test of performance, and the handling too, is my first chance to try the NSX, in a dozen laps of a circuit. You can’t judge its external size easily here – though at 4470mm long it’s about 1cm longer than, and at 1940mm precisely the same width as, an Audi R8 - but you can sense it’s built to accommodate. The seats don’t adjust for height, which is a pity, but there’s plenty of space between the driver and passenger, and the driving position is fundamentally sound.
The interior’s mostly good, but there are a few niggles; a few things that give it away as a Honda: a distinctly average infotainment touchscreen, some plastics masquerading unconvincingly as metal, a shortage of storage cubbies. Stuff that Audi gets right, but stuff that’s easily forgotten when you thumb the starter and roll down the pit lane.
That’s accompanied by a soundtrack of the 3.5-litre V6. It’s quite a rich sound – not as soulful as an original NSX’s, but that’s no surprise – a fairly smooth sound, overladen with wastegate chatter but no noise from the electric motors. They’re fairly modest in capacity but Honda’s engineers say they fundamentally affect the NSX’s cornering balance once you’re near the limit.
The NSX rides on two-stage magnetorheological dampers, but even in their firmer setting, it feels compliant over bumps and kerbs. They’re not ‘road’ and ‘track’ settings; more like ‘any road’ and ‘smooth road’. So you have to give a thought to body movements, but I don’t suppose more than you would in, say, an R8.
And the NSX is capable of pulling a) huge speeds in a straight line and b) significant cornering forces. Although you can’t hear the motors doing anything, you can sense their work in either case. At low revs they fill the torque gap while the turbos spool, so acceleration at any revs feels supercharged-strong. Not 488 GTB-fast, obviously (that’s lighter and almost 100 horsepower more powerful), but there’s sonority to the noise and real purpose to the acceleration. Gearshifts are fast both up and down – the electric motor actually helps pull up the revs quickly during downshifts under braking, which is spectacularly cool.
Given there’s so much tech to the drivetrain, it would be easy if it felt non-linear. Even the brakes are by-wire because there’s energy recovery from the motors. But everything feels utterly integrated: the digital supercar feels entirely analogue.
It does in its handling, too. The steering is, at 1.9 turns, almost as quick in ratio as a Ferrari’s but far less nervy. There’s little in the way of feel, but it’s pleasingly weighted (in either of its settings) and nicely accurate.