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We review the 2019 Honda NSX

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The Car.co.uk verdict:

4.1

The 90s NSX was a special kind of dream machine – it was packed with out-and-out racing pedigree at a fraction of Italian supercar costs. The new NSX keeps this achievable-supercar daydream alive. £140,000+ might not feel like a bargain, but the 2019 NSX is packed full of next-generation technology – the likes of which we rarely see on sub-£1m hypercars. 

Unlike the raw, unbridled power of some European competitors, the Honda feels surgical and precise. It’ll glide effortlessly on its electric motors around town – before considering a mass of driving data to make sure those same motors provide optimum power coming out of a bend at 70mph. Hands-down best in class? Not quite. A glimpse into the future of supercars? Very possibly. 

Pros

  • Cutting-edge next-gen technology makes driving hard effortless
  • World-class aerodynamic performance with stunning angles and lines
  • Incredible versatility – from electric around town gliding to furious track performance

Cons

  • Slightly cheap feeling interior doesn’t quite match Audi or Porsche competition
  • Painfully impractical – even for a supercar
  • Despite proud motorsport heritage, the Honda badge won’t appeal to everyone

At a glance

  • Looks
  • Practicality
  • Engine & power
  • Reliability
  • Equipment & options
  • Interior
  • The drive
  • Cost
  • Safety
  • Why buy

Looks

4.5 out of 5

A beautiful and understated supercar

The new NSX doesn’t have the iconic, unmistakable shape of the original 90s poster car that started the name – but that doesn’t mean it’s not fantastic to look at. At a glance, the lines and silhouette are similar to the McLaren 570s – although Honda has kept bare the gorgeous carbon roof.

When you buy an NSX, you’re not buying into a world of wings, spoilers, and downforce-generating fins – you’re getting a chiselled, low-slung, sleek machine that doesn’t require ostentatious additions to prove its performance capabilities. The Honda design team have started development in the wind-tunnel – but emerged with a car that surpasses the enduring good looks of an R8.

Interestingly, the look of the NSX splits opinion somewhat – there’s a definite ‘Honda look’ to the car – and there are plenty of people who’ll tell you that you don’t want looks that are reminiscent of a Civic when you’re buying a supercar. In reality, this way of thinking is back to front: Honda isn’t an affordable car manufacturer that’s created a supercar – Honda is a company with motorsport coursing through its veins that also create affordable road cars. The NSX is a beautiful car – and it’s got a Honda heritage any driver can be proud of.

Practicality

2.5 out of 5

Impractical – even for a performance-focused supercar

I know, you’re not reading this expecting to read about how an NSX would make a practical alternative to an SUV – but with an asking price of around £143,000, it’s not completely out of the way to think that the NSX might take high-flying executives to work. If you are planning to use the NSX as more than just a weekend toy, you might be a little disappointed with the practicality of the car.

In terms of comfort, there are no complaints. You could happily sit in the driver’s seat for hundreds of miles in as much comfort as you’d expect from a Grand Tourer like an Aston Martin or a 911 – but that’s where practicality ends. There’s about enough room to put your phone and wallet down, but upon acceleration (and there’s plenty of that) your shallow cup holder will eject your latté backwards at a significant speed.

In the boot, there’s a surprising amount of space. If you’re foolhardy enough to brave a supermarket carpark in your NSX, you’ll squeeze a couple of bags of shopping in – but you won’t want to buy anything you want to keep cold, because the lack of insulation between the exhaust and the boot space won’t just defrost your fish fingers – it’ll probably cook them too.

Engine & power

5 out of 5

3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 complemented by 3 electric motors

Back when the original was launched, NSX was revealed to stand for ‘New Sportscar eXperimental’ – and it’s a name that continues to ring true when you consider how Honda have decided to produce and deliver the car’s 581bhp

The 3.5-litre twin turbo engine works harmoniously with 3 electric motors – 1 driving each front wheel, and another mated to the petrol engine. The result is nothing short of amazing. Firstly, there’s an absolutely seamless transition between electric and combustion engine use – then, secondly, there’s the compensation that the rear mounted additional electric motor offers the engine. Turbo-lag is a largely unavoidable consequence of physics – but Honda has completely mitigated the issue by having their electric motor smooth-out any deviations in power delivery. The fact that electric motors can immediately deliver their full power is capitalised upon – making acceleration blisteringly quick – whether you’re going from 0-60mph or putting your foot down at 100mph and working toward the NSX’s 191mph top speed.

It’s difficult to find definitive 0-60mph times for the NSX. Independent tests generally land somewhere around 3.0s – putting the Honda about 0.3s behind the McLaren 570s. While seemingly slower off the mark, the lightning-fast and endlessly-smooth throttle response means the NSX can give competitors a solid run for their money coming out of corners at speed.

If you do plan to use your new NSX around town, you’ll probably be pleased to discover that up to around 30mph, you can rely entirely on electric to carry you. While that means you miss out on a fantastic exhaust note you get in Sport+ mode; it does mean you can drive a supercar without shouldering too much guilt about CO2 emissions – at low speeds at least.

Reliability

4.5 out of 5

Handmade cars with Honda reliability

It tends to be difficult to talk about the reliability of supercars – especially because many of them come from manufacturers that simply do not create the kind of vehicle numbers that are needed to fine-tune that reliability. This isn’t the case for Honda; we already know their mass-production vehicles are generally floating around the top-5 and top-10 reliability lists in any class – so what can we expect from the NSX?

Well, we know that every engine has been handmade by 1 of 6 master builders – and we know that there’s a world of next-generation composites and revolutionary materials that are holding the car together. If you had to place a bet on Honda vs McLaren or other rivals in the reliability stakes – the sensible money would be on the NSX.

Equipment & options

3 out of 5

A range of colour and interior options

The vast majority of the money that you spend on your new NSX goes on the tech that makes it such an incredible machine on the road or track – rather than making it the most gadget-laden vehicle. The 8-inch TFT infotainment system runs a Garmin satnav system and offers both Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto synchronisation. Honda has never really stood out as a manufacturer that’s got infotainment exactly right, so it feels a bit clunky – but with induction noise piped into the cabin in Sport+ mode and upward, you might not be too concerned about controlling music and calls.

You can choose from 8 colours, 4 different trim types, 3 different leather options, and 4 different wheels for your NSX – and, if you’re ready to dip deep into your funds, you can add some lovely carbon fibre goodies. The standard engine cover, black front and rear diffusers, black sills, and chrome exhaust surround can be upgraded to carbon and dark chrome versions for around £10,000. If you’re not satisfied with the already excellent brakes, you can upgrade those too – carbon ceramic versions are yours for hefty £8,400.

Disappointingly, the standard Honda NSX spec doesn’t include parking sensors. If you’ve ever driven a car that’s quite as low and enclosed as most supercars are, you’ll know that parking can be a real pain. Want to add them? That’ll be £1,800 – a lot of money, but infinitely preferable to hearing one of your carbon diffusers getting friendly with a carpark bollard.

Interior

3.5 out of 5

A functional supercar cabin – with a few cheap details

If you asked your 10-year-old self what sitting inside a futuristic sportscar would be like, you’d get the NSX interior. There’s a squared-off steering wheel, nice looking digital dials, plenty of buttons and knobs, and chrome details cutting through it all. In truth, if you’ve even glanced through the window of any Audi RS model, you’ll realise the inside of the NSX feels a bit cheap. It’s not an unpleasant place to be – but it’s not quite up there with rival European cars.

If you can get over the chrome plastic bits and pieces, the interior is actually very functional – certainly from a driving point of view. The dash is nicely shaped and offers great visibility – giving you clear line of sight toward the apex of the corner you’re aiming for. The development team at Honda have also worked hard to significantly reduce the width of the car’s A-pillars too, again offering slightly improved visibility.

The drive

5 out of 5

A hybrid supercar – without having to spend the best part of £1m

Ultimately, the drive is where iconic supercars cars earn their stripes – and, on the road, the NSX more than makes up for any misgivings you might have about practicality or interior trim quality.

In terms of cost, it feels appropriate to compare the NSX to the McLaren 570s, the new Porsche 992, and the Audi R8 V10 – but actually, the NSX is a different breed. This is a hybrid – with tech and race pedigree that you really need to be looking to the Porsche 918, McLaren P1, or LaFerrari to see matched on an out-and-out performance car. When you’re boasting similar tech to the most prestigious next-gen cars in the world, you can expect an incredible drive – and the NSX doesn’t disappoint.

As previously discussed, the engine and electric motor delivers what feels like endless power. Sure, the NSX only hits 191mph, and 0-60 is hovering somewhere around 3-seconds – but that’s only half the story here – when you’re behind the wheel, it’s a different experience to driving the 570s; you can feel compensation from the 3 electric motors as the onboard CPU factors in a host of variables and makes up for power on the wheels that need it. In effect, you’ve got different motors driving the different wheels – but this tech doesn’t remove the thrill of driving the car – it just removes the white-knuckle effort that supercars usually need. The NSX isn’t a wild snarling beast when it’s pushed; it’s a precision weapon that will do exactly what you want it to.

The NSX weighs somewhere in the region of 1,800kg – but the sheer agility of the car will make you think it’s half that figure. When you’re holding the wheel, you get the feeling that the car is wrapped around you; doing exactly what’s needed to keep it glued to the road – before you’ve even thought it. The 9-speed dual-clutch transmission is faultless – in fact, everything about the way the NSX drives is seamless. The car’s aerodynamics are some of the most sophisticated you’ll find outside of top-flight motorsports too – pinning the NSX to the ground and simultaneously feeding the 9 strategically placed radiators.

The original NSX was a dream car that didn’t require Ferrari money – but it had all the magic you’d expect from a car that had been developed hand-in-hand with Ayrton Senna. This new generation of Honda supercar keeps that same spirit alive - it’s very hard not to fall in love with the NSX when you’re driving it.

Cost

4 out of 5

A lot of hybrid technology – but is it as good as similarly priced Porsches and McLarens?

Before you start adding options, the Honda NSX price tag is around £143,000. If you’re a dedicated motorsport fan, driving a race-spec Honda is likely to take you back to the glory days of the marque and the original NSX – but there are going to be plenty of people who’d rather have a more prestigious badge for their money.

The truth is, the NSX probably doesn’t quite match the traditional driving experience you’ll get from a similarly-priced 911 Turbo or 570s. It’s not quite as quick off the mark and won’t keep up with its rivals as they edge over 200mph – and that’s likely to see potential buyer numbers drop off again.

If you’re buying an NSX, it’s because you understand what it is. It’s a blend of 90s sporting heritage fused with 21st-century technology. Both the new 911 and the 570s give a purer driving experience, but they’ll wear you out if you hurl them around a track for an hour. The NSX won’t wear you out, it’s an intelligent drive and really encapsulates what Honda are all about. If you want bragging rights and traditional motorsports guts, spend your £140,000 on a European car; if you want to be one of the first to drive the next generation of practical hybrid supercars, the NSX is for you.

Safety

5 out of 5

A supercar backed by excellent Honda safety

Honda produces safe vehicles – and there’s no reason to think the NSX should be any different. Of course, its small manufacture numbers mean the folk who make Euro NCAP assessments probably won’t get to destroy one in the name of safety – but it’s fair to assume it would perform well.

Even without upgrading to the carbon ceramic option, braking in the NSX is exactly what you’d expect from a supercar, and, should you ever need them, there’s a range of airbags around the cabin that’ll keep you and your passenger safe. The intelligent power and braking balancing systems that control the electric motors and fly-by-wire braking systems will always do their best to keep the car facing in the right direction too – so you’ve got a very sophisticated CPU on your side in that respect.

Why buy

4 out of 5

A truly unique and affordable supercar

The new NSX is something really special. Sure, there are competitors that are also thrilling to drive, but a few years ago, the kind of technology that you get in your £140,000 NSX was reserved for £1,000,000 cutting-edge hypercars. Whether you’re silently rolling through traffic on just your electric motors – or feeling the gentle encouragement they offer when you’re planting your foot out of a corner; you get a real sense that you’ve got an edge on other cars around you.

There’s a bit of an issue with practicality for Honda to think about going forward. You will be making compromises if you decide to take the NSX to work or for a long journey, but when you’re floating along on electric power, you might be able to forgive that. Again, the cockpit isn’t quite what you’d get in an R8 or a 911, but you won’t feel short-changed either.

All in all, the NSX is an aggressive, angular, carbon-clad samurai sword that’s a few years ahead of the competition from a tech point of view. What it lacks in brute force it more than makes up for effortless precision. On paper, it might not be as quick as the competition, but in reality, it’s smart enough to help you outpace virtually everyone.