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Acura NSX an Affordable Ferrari Fighter: Chief Engineer

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Acura NSX an Affordable Ferrari Fighter: Chief Engineer

To creatively paraphrase NSX chief engineer Ted Klaus, the upcoming Acura supercar will be like a Nissan GT-R, but built for drivers.

Exactly what does that mean? In essence it will deliver truly world-class performance without an ultra-exotic price tag. It also will maintain the brand’s core man-machine synergy principle.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?

Acura-NSX-Chief-Engineer-Ted-Klaus

Speaking during a recent round-table with journalists Klaus would not, however, reveal anything (or at least not much) about the car’s projected price. In fact, he wouldn’t even provide a give-or-take-$50,000 estimate.

Instead he chose a wider spread commenting that it will fall within the range of the Porsche 911. Hardly helpful, that currently covers a range from $80,000 to just over $180,000.

Perhaps suggesting it won’t be near the top of that range Klaus revealed that the, “person excited to own and drive this vehicle will have a tremendous sense that they got back a … sports car experience at a price that is a fraction of those vehicles.”

HOW FAST WILL IT BE?

As for what “those vehicles” are, Klaus elaborated, commenting that benchmarked cars range into the truly exotic, including the Ferrari 458 and McLaren MP4-12C. Less pricey, though equally capable rivals include the Corvette, Audi R8 and perhaps the car the NSX will be compared to most (based on factors of performance and price) the Nissan GT-R.

SEE ALSO: Acura NSX II Concept, First Look Video

Not set to launch for two more years and with the first concept being shown over a year ago there’s some worry that with the ever increasing horsepower numbers of modern cars and their heightened capabilities, what would have made the NSX a winner a year ago simply won’t stack up when it finally hits the street.

“One of the challenges for a product at a future date is to set the bar quite high,” said Klaus. But not to worry. “We had to benchmark these brilliant existing targets (again, cars like the Ferrari 458) and set the goal above them.”

acura advanced sports car concept

The original NSX was compared to the Ferraris of its day, and Klaus intends that the new NSX will be no different.

He explains that early proposals (like the Advanced Sports Car Concept, right) were shelved, in part, due to their lack of ambition. Executives told him, “if you’re not going to have intentions to build a halo product, don’t even bother.”

SO EXACTLY HOW MUCH HORSEPOWER?

On the horsepower figure Klaus is vague, but even his circuitous words highlight certain aspects of the car.

“When investing money, do you want a quick return or a comfortable retirement,” he analogizes. Explaining himself, Klaus goes on to indicate that the new NSX will carry on the original car’s ethos of delivering an amazing driving experience rather than just big horsepower numbers for the sake of bench racers.

Still he says, “We’re not unaware of how important those numbers are both to customers and the public at large.” The performance of the NSX, Klaus assures, will be “tremendous” looking good on paper and from behind the wheel. “We’ll have the right balance of bragging rights for the customer and for the brand.”

WHAT WILL IT BE LIKE TO DRIVE?

acura nsx interior

While the word hybrid brings to mind notions of dull throttle response, the new NSX will most certainly not be a Prius. Rather it aims to be one of the very first of a new wave of sports cars using electric power to add not just power but driving enjoyment. Both Ferrari and McLaren have already rolled out such products in the LaFerrari and P1, though with ultra limited production and seven-figure price tags.

There’s a worry that all that technology could detract significantly from driver involvement and the purity of the experience that the original car delivered. There’s also the inherent issue of electrical components adding weight.

While the exact layout isn’t confirmed the NSX is expected to use a mid-mounted hybrid V6 engine that will power the rear wheels, while individual electric motors will add torque to the front wheels for added power and unique all-wheel drive capability. Called Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive Klaus says the car will reincarnate and continue the original’s “authentic legacy.”

He elaborates saying the goal is to build a car that will be amazingly capable in the hands of a novice but that more experienced drivers will be able to “peel the onion” revealing new levels of capability.

As well as benchmarking all-out performance of its rivals, Klaus says they also used them to set the bar in terms of driver feel and interaction. All of the rivals were driven with the NSX development team asking themselves the question. “Are these the best they can be?”

2005 Acura NSX

As for the engine itself, Klaus indicates it will provide a broad powerband as well as a “high specific power per liter”. That, after all, is “part of our DNA” he says.

On the issue of weight reduction Klaus acknowledges the inherent disadvantages of heavy hybrid components and batteries but says offsetting mass is something the development team is “going about systematically, benchmarking each system and component.”

However, rather than just tossing in light weight materials wherever, he says they want to “use the right materials in the right place,” focusing not just on rigidity and strength but also reliability – another hallmark of the original NSX.

WHERE WILL IT BE MADE?

The work of putting all that together will be performed at an all-new facility that, surprisingly, is not in Japan. Rather, Honda has elected to build the new NSX in a new Performance Manufacturing Center in Ohio, closeby to the brand’s Honda R&D Americas facility.

There, says Klaus the team of 100 will strive to find a, “Unique balance in terms of human craftsmanship and highly accurate and repeatable manufacturing techniques.” He also promises “worlds firsts” in how the monocoque and chassis are developed.

MANUFACTURING: WHY OHIO? WHY AMERICA?

Apart from leveraging the close proximity of the brand’s R&D facility and its factory in Ohio there’s a bigger reason why Honda chose to build the NSX in the US.

Honda PR boss Sage Marie says it’s a, “Testament management has in North America, to entrust the leadership of sch a globally important product to the North American team.”

Klaus adds that the reception the original NSX had on US customers factored in to the equation while Honda has a history of developing products close to their main market. And the NSX he says, “first and foremost, is an Acura.”

HITTING RESTART – MOTORSPORTS

As evidence the very first concept was unveiled not in Tokyo but at the Detroit Auto Show. While it will still be branded as a Honda in Japan and much of Europe, it will help build the brand in emerging markets like China, Russia and Brazil.

SEE ALSO: NSX Concept to Go Racing in Japan Next Year

Helping put further focus on the NSX and the Acura brand in general will be a considerable motorsports effort. Honda has already confirmed it will hit the track in Japan in 2014, with the possibility that it could do the same in the newly combined United SportsCar Racing series (formerly the Grand-Am and ALMS series).

Honda-NSX-GT1-race-car

Racing will help Acura not only create a better performing NSX, but build interest and awareness of the car. Klaus confirms that motorsports is a “unique aspect of development,” saying that, “a wining track car will improve the breed of the road car.”

“Success on the street is tied to success on the track,” he reiterates.

IS THERE A DRIVABLE PROTOTYPE?

In short, yes. Has it been tested on the Nurburgring? No.

Described by Klaus as a “finishing school” significant development must first occur before it tackles Germany’s famed ‘Green Hell.’

“It is in a state right now where the potential is there, but as you know the challenge is bringing all the pieces together.”

WHEN WILL IT FINALLY ARRIVE AND WHAT WILL THE FUTURE HOLD?

That won’t happen for two more years with Klaus confirming the project is on target for a 2015 launch.

Beyond that Klaus was reassuring that the new NSX will not be treated like the old car; left to grow stale over a decade with minimal improvements.

“There’s a different attitude this time around than maybe the first generation NSX,” he admits, with a “plan to grow performance.”

acura nsx concept

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