2018 Acura NSX Review: Why Are People So Divided on this Supercar?

The 2019 Acura NSX debuted recently and while some were excited by the news, others were quick to point out that the brand’s supercar is not worth the effort.

With such a divided response, we drove the outgoing model to determine what’s right and wrong with this exciting car while trying to explain the spectrum of opinions people have about it.

How is the Powertrain?

The NSX’s powertrain is very good in many ways but comes up short in one important element.

Mounted mid-ship is a 3.5-liter twin turbo V6 that powers the rear wheels. It alone makes 500 horsepower and tops out at an impressive 7,500 RPM. That’s only half of the story though, as the gas engine is paired to some electric motors, with each front wheel getting its own power source. Total system output is 573 horsepower and 476 lb-ft of torque.

For the gearbox, there’s a direct drive motor and a nine-speed dual clutch transmission that feels excellent. It’s hard to actually imagine that this is a dual-clutch transmission when so many automakers are having issues refining their cog-swappers — Acura knocks this one right out of the park. It must have a lot to do with the electrified components, which help fill in any gaps between gear changes, ensuring that you always feel like power is being put to the ground.

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The only drawback to this car’s powertrain is that it doesn’t sound very good. We’ve had this complaint with other twin-turbo V6 supercars like the Nissan GT-R, but that car also had a lot of other noises going on, giving off a very mechanical vibe. The NSX’s engine doesn’t sound good (until you really rev it out), the electric motors have their own whirring noise, and the gearbox is mute. It’s a very disconnected experience.

See Also: Nissan GT-R Review – Video

Is it Fast?

Yes. The 0-60 mph sprint happens in about three seconds, which is impossible to argue with. The car feels refined during launch too, rather than harsh and clunky. Some cars can feel a bit brutal with the launch, but the NSX feels smooth, allowing you to fully experience the speeds it can achieve. It’s plenty fast around town, but one issue crops up with the top speed of the NSX. It tops out at 191 MPH, which is below the Nissan GT-R’s observed top speed, the Audi R8 V10’s top speed, not to mention the peak performance of the Mercedes-AMG GT, Chevrolet Corvette, and Porsche 911 Turbo. It’s not a big deal in the real world, but supercars don’t really exist in the real world, do they? Buyers want top performance, and when the NSX doesn’t have that one number above others, people notice.

See Also: 2018 Audi R8 RWS Review

Design

Then again, people will notice the NSX for many good reasons, thanks to its sharp sci-fi design. I love how it doesn’t feature obnoxious wings and vents or graphics like some other cars in this class. Size-wise, it’s longer than an R8, but shorter than a BMW i8. Some people criticize it as being overstyled, but in the world of supercars, this is a necessity. Fortunately for 2019, Acura colors in the chrome strip on the grille, giving this vehicle less of a “beak” or “shield.”

See Also: BMW i8 Review – Video

The Interior Though

However, if you want supercars to be extraordinary both inside and out, the NSX will let you down. The cabin features materials and switchgear that would be familiar to anyone who has been in an Acura or even a Honda showroom. It’s not an egregious crime, but it is awkward to see the same (old) infotainment system in a six-digit supercar as you would in a base Civic. The 4.2-inch digital gauge cluster is a nice touch, however, adding some more tech to a spaceship-like supercar.

The advantage of this familiarity is that you don’t have to go hunting for any controls and operation of the car is fairly normal. Anyone who has spent time in a Huracan will appreciate how nice it is to have the turn signal switch as a column stalk rather than a steering wheel toggle.

On the plus side, the NSX has good visibility, despite its wild angles and design. However, don’t expect to find a place to store anything. There’s hardly any trunk space and even the removable cupholders are awkward and take up space in the glove box when not in use.

How Does it Drive?

The NSX drives in a way that few supercars do: with poise and refinement. The NSX isn’t a hard-edged, twitchy, inbred wild thing, but as a result, it’s far less communicative, asking you to trust it and its many microprocessors translating your every move into something on the roads. It’s a numb experience compared to other supercars, but it adds speed and confidence without scaring you.

The NSX doesn’t exhibit a playful attitude like other supercars and it would rather do everything itself than rely on the driver. There’s little steering feel and turning the wheel invokes a do-or-die mission statement and the NSX complies without relaying the stakes. It turns in with an uncanny, unnatural feeling, as the electric motors up front can apply negative torque to help rotate the vehicle. Instead of feeling the road with the steering wheel, you feel it through the seat.

It makes you look like a badass on track, but around town, it’s “normal,” which is a hard sell for something called a supercar. This would all be acceptable were it not for the price of the car and the competition.

Pricing

The 2019 model starts at $159,300, and comes with more equipment than before, including standard navigation and the upgraded audio system. The 2019 model also comes with enhancements to the chassis and new tires developed specifically for the NSX. This should make it more playful, but that’s to be seen.

The Competition

The issue with the NSX is the kind of experience it delivers for its price. It seems like we’re in a golden age of supercars, and with so many out there delivering incredible speeds and engagement, the new entries have to be great or affordable. Consider a Nissan GT-R, which is about $100,000 if you get a base one. While it’s not drop-dead gorgeous and might not turn heads, it’s plenty fast despite its lack of mid-engine design, hybrid technology, or high-cylinder count.

See Also: 2018 Mercedes-AMG GT Review

The R8, on the other hand, is pretty and sounds great thanks to its V10 engine. It’s is about the same price as an NSX, and still quite fast.

Then there’s the 911 Turbo, which is about the same price as an NSX. People recognize the 911 and it has fantastic handling characteristics, especially steering feel. Sure, it looks a bit sterile and doesn’t have the same punch as an NSX, but it’s always hard to argue with Porsche’s offering.

Simply put, the NSX is a car for someone who likes the BMW i8 but wants more performance rather than fuel economy. The i8 features many similar ideas, but doubles down on fuel economy and electrification, featuring a plug-in hybrid powertrain. It also feels quick on the road, but the NSX fills in the gap between the Bimmer and the really intense supercar tier.

The Verdict: 2018 Acura NSX Review

This is a car that shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed, but it’s not perfect. While fast and gorgeous, the NSX needs a more exciting and exclusive interior, as well as a stand out sound signature. Supercar buyers will like the performance, but might also crave more feel and authenticity as well. Those who are disappointed with it really shouldn’t be, but those who are enamored with it are clearly overlooking its flaws.