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Acura’s new all-wheel drive NSX takes hybrid tech to the next level

Video: kayvan ghavim

I climbed out of the all-new 2017 Acura NSX and sat next to the Thermal Club race track outside Palm Springs, California in a huff.

The reason for my snit was simple: After four laps of the track, the car hadn't performed as I hoped it would.

The exhaust note wasn't deep, crackling or throaty. Instead, it was droning and slightly buzzy. And what the engine lacked in spine-tingling bass-y tones, it overcompensated with ear-shattering sound levels inside the cabin.

Although the new NSX is fast, it isn't DNA-reordering or gravitational wave-altering fast. It is just…fast.

Moreover, with a bright white helmet on, my lanky six-foot-five-inch frame didn't fit inside the car. In order to drive, my knees were wedged against the dash and my head pressed against the roof lining.

As foul a mood as I was in, racked with of disappointment and neck pain, it was short-lived. Though I didn't know it at the time, I would later have the NSX out on the open road and come face-to-face with its charms.

2017 Acura NSX review

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    The 2017 Acura NSX

    The 2017 Acure NSA might be the most technically advanced car on the road. But does that mean it's also one of the best to drive?

    Image: Nick Jaynes/Mashable

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    The previous NSX

    The previous NSX debuted in 1990. A lot has changed since then.

    Image: Nick Jaynes/Mashable

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    I included this wider version of the picture because I'm just so proud of how that location turned out.

    Image: Nick Jaynes/Mashable

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    Looks low

    But it actually has enough ground clearance that you won't have to worry about scraping the nose at every driveway.

    Image: Nick Jaynes/Mashable

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    In the back

    Although there are two electric motors in the front, the rear houses the turbocharged V6 as well as another electric motor.

    Image: Nick Jaynes/Mashable

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    No bad angles

    I've said it before but the NSX has no bad angles.

    Image: Nick Jaynes/Mashable

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    These are the lightweight wheels for the NSX.

    Image: Nick Jaynes/Mashable

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    Bigger air

    Designers had to improve engine air flow once they bolted up turbochargers to the V6.

    Image: Nick Jaynes/Mashable

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    Not bad

    It's not a bad interior but it's not quite at the supercar level, if you ask me.

    Image: Nick Jaynes/Mashable

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    Drive modes include Quiet, Sport, Sport+ and Track

    Image: Nick Jaynes/Mashable

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    I ran into another NSX on the drive and it happened to be at sunset. I had to snap a pic.

    Image: Nick Jaynes/Mashable

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    Like before

    I was so proud of this one, I decided to share another angle, too.

    Image: Nick Jaynes/Mashable

That's because the NSX, though competent on the track, isn't best at full-throttle straight-line runs or clipping circuit apexes. Instead, it shines brightest as a mountain road carver. In fact, it might be one of the best.

Thankfully, there's so much more to the NSX than just spirited driving performance. It's also one of the most technically advanced cars on the road and one that will leave an indelible technological mark on every car — not just super sports cars — from here on out.

Technically advanced

It's not hyperbole when I say the NSX all-wheel drive hybrid powertrain is one of the — if not the — most technically advanced systems on the road today. For example, it's arguably more advanced than the $1 million Porsche 918 Spyder. And that's saying a lot.

The NSX has two electric motors up front, one driving each front wheel. Behind the passengers in the mid-rear of the car, it has three more powertrain components: A twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine with another electric motor bolted to it. The power from those two are routed to the rear wheels by a 9-speed dual-clutch transmission, which is also sandwiched in the back.

2017 Acura NSX

Image: Nick Jaynes/Mashable

With all three electric motors and the V6 engine turning at full tilt, the NSX produces 573 horsepower and 476 pound-feet of torque. Normally, this is the part where I'd tell you how that power translates into 0 to 60 miles per hour times and a top speed. However, Acura hasn't given us those figures.

That said, after testing the car's launch control (the mode that allows it to accelerate off the line as fast as possible), I'd wager it does 0 to 60 miles per hour in around the 3.8-second mark. Granted, that's just an educated guess.

The braking system is also advanced. In a regular car, the brake pedal is mechanically connected to the hydraulic braking system. That means there's a direct link between the brake calipers and your foot. Not in the NSX. Its braking system is brake-by-wire.

The brake-by-wire system is extremely complicated. Suffice it to say, they are both extremely effective at rapidly slowing the car and also capable of recharging the onboard batteries at the same time. Certainly, most hybrids can do this. None, however, do it with the same level of smoothness or forcefulness as the NSX.


As I tore through the turns of Highway 74 just outside of Palm Springs, the stretch lined with mountainous lumps of rock, all the technical wizardry seemed to melt away. This left me feeling completely in sync with the car. Admittedly, this is a sensation I never thought I'd experience in a thing that — on paper — reads more tech gadget than car.

The quick but lightweight steering was so intuitive in its movement it seemed as though all I needed to do was look to where I wanted the car to go and it would follow. Even in the mountains, the car didn't feel super fast in a straight line. In the corners, however, with the engine revving near its peak and the electric motors supplying precise amounts of torque, it pulled through with more speed and agility — while remaining calm and planted — than anything I can recall.

2017 Acura NSX

Image: Nick Jaynes/Mashable

That's because the car's electric motors can add and subtract torque to the wheels in the blink of an eye. Rather than hoping the special sticky tires can overcome physics to keep the car planted, the NSX uses technology — called torque vectoring — to hunker down and grip and pull through the corner.

If I did overcook a corner, the computer-controlled brakes brought the car back to a manageable speed in a virtual instant — again, with help from the electric motors. I felt like a king on a throne of future performance sitting on top of a soft leather sport seat, hands gripping the thin but perfectly shaped steering wheel of the NSX.


2017 Acura NSX

Image: Nick Jaynes/Mashable

While the powertrain performance is important for the NSX, it's perhaps more significant for the rest of the Acura lineup — if not the industry as a whole.

Certainly, Acura wasn't the first to create a performance hybrid. The $1 million Porsche 918 Spyder, for example, has a similar — albeit slightly less advanced — all-wheel drive hybrid powertrain. That said, the NSX only costs $156,000. And while outwitting Porsche for one ninth the price is impressive, the tech has broader implications.

Acura plans to implement this incredibly advanced all-wheel drive hybrid powertrain in its other models as well. That means your next Acura could be as quick-handling and efficient as the NSX — maybe just not with as much horsepower.

2017 Acura NSX

Image: Nick Jaynes/Mashable

Since it was designed by Acura, a subsidiary of Honda, you know it will be reliable, too. A chief Acura engineer told me the NSX has the same maintenance as the MDX crossover SUV. I'd like to see Ferrari make such a claim about one of its cars.

Regardless of where its tech will end up, the NSX is an impressive driving machine in its own right. As I said earlier, it's not the most lively or enrapturing track-car. But that's okay, because simply being good on the track misses virtually everything else that's fun about owning and driving a supercar.

The Acura NSX has the looks and the open-road driving prowess to go toe-to-toe with the biggest names in the biz. However, it does so with a technical sophistication we've never before seen below $800,000. Sure, it's not exactly the unbridled supercar we thought it might be. But that's a good thing. There's already a Ferrari 488 GTB and a Audi R8 V10 — we don't need another.

Acura has built exactly what the world so sorely needed: Another NSX.

2017 Acura NSX

The Good

An exterior design that will be a head-turner for decades • High-speed corner carving capabilities • A powertrain that should make even Porsche envious

The Bad

The interior trim needs a re-think

The Bottom Line

Acura's all-new NSX is not the spine-tingling supercar I hoped for. Instead, it's something better: An all-wheel drive hybrid that will change powertrain tech forever.

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James Bong

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