’17 Acura NSX is worth the wait

John McCormick
Special to The Detroit News

Supercars are rare treats for enthusiast drivers, so it’s worth paying attention when a new one comes along — especially if it is the successor to the highly respected Acura NSX that was introduced in 1990 and discontinued in 2005.

The second-generation NSX will be in showrooms this summer after a drawn-out 11-year gestation period. Having recently spent time behind the wheel of the 2017 NSX, I can confidently state that the wait was worthwhile.

The NSX is intended as a halo model, designed to help reinvigorate the struggling Acura premium brand. But the car is also a remarkable technical tour de force with a combination of twin-turbo V-6 gas engine, three electric motors, four-wheel drive and a host of computers to make it all work smoothly.

With a combined 573 horsepower, sub-3-second zero to 60 mph time and a starting price of $156,000, the 2017 NSX goes head to head with the likes of the Ferrari 458, Porsche 911 and Audi R8. That’s some serious company, but the NSX appears to have the right stuff.

Like the original NSX, the new model has a mid-mounted V-6, but that’s where the similarities end. Even accounting for the 26 years that have passed between the two generations’ introductions, the newcomer is so much more advanced and has such a broader performance envelope, that it’s hard to draw meaningful comparisons.

There is one characteristic shared by both versions: They are easy to drive. That was a big deal back in 1990 when some rival sports cars from Ferrari and Lamborghini were finicky and unreliable.

In the new car, the user can select from a number of drive modes which step up in intensity from quiet to sport, sport-plus and finally, track. Each mode modifies the powertrain, suspension, steering and other parameters to suit the driver’s desires and intended purpose.

As the name suggests, quiet mode makes primary use of the electric motors up to certain speeds, useful if you want to head out early on a Sunday morning without waking up the neighbors.

This is a characteristic that distinguishes the NSX from some of the all-or-nothing supercars on the market. In the Acura, you can jump in for a quick trip to the supermarket and it doesn’t complain. There’s even a decent size storage area behind the engine.

The team behind the new NSX is comprised largely of American engineers and designers. The car itself is built in Ohio, which makes it one of the world’s few U.S.-made supercars.

Overall, Acura has lost its way in recent years, admits Jon Ikeda, the brand’s recently appointed U.S. chief. Originally a designer, Ikeda is a hardcore driving enthusiast and knows the marketing power of a halo model like the NSX.

“This car represents the start of a whole new era at Acura,” Ikeda promises.

NSX sales will be small, about 800 a year, but the car does have the potential to get Acura back on consumers’ radar.

Acura is not the only brand with a redesigned supercar on its hands. At the New York International Auto Show this week, Nissan has revealed an updated version of its legendary GT-R sports coupe. Even Chevrolet’s new Camaro ZL1 coupe, packing 640 horsepower from a 6.2-liter V8, has the potential to mix it up with the supercar elite.