1996 Acura NSX
6-cyl. 2977cc/270hp Programmed FI
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
Every so often a car manufacturer builds a car so out of its normal range that the whole automotive world stops to stare at it. Such was the case with the Acura NSX.
Development began as early as 1984, and when Honda debuted the car as an Acura model for America in 1990, the automotive press raved. The company had come up with a winner, and in many comparison tests, it regularly trounced its Porsche 911, Chevy Corvette, and Ferrari 348 competition.
The Acura NSX was a sophisticated car in many regards, and technology developed in Honda's Formula One program trickled into the car. Its aluminum 3.0-liter V6 produced 270 hp and featured dual overhead cams and variable valve timing. The unit was mounted transversely midship, and balance was impeccable—even on the limit. The car was the first to utilize an all-aluminum monocoque body, and it also featured an aluminum suspension, all of which kept weight down. Much of the development input came thanks to Honda's ace F1 driver, Ayrton Senna.
The NSX became Honda's flagship over night, as well as the most expensive Japanese car in America. But it was still a Honda, which meant reliability had been built in: It was happy to rev at 8,000 rpm all day and then do it again, without much incident.
The car came standard with a 5-speed manual, though a 4-speed auto was offered shortly after introduction. Horsepower in those models dipped to 252 hp. Traction control, ABS, driver's airbag, leather, and power everything rounded out the package.
The NSX saw little in the way of changes between its introduction and its first significant upgrade in 1997. In 1995, the car was offered as the NSX-T—a Targa with two removable roof panels, and a "drive-by-wire" throttle system also debuted.
Despite high production numbers, the Acura NSX is exceedingly competent, good-looking, and daily-driver reliable, and they have gained the respect of enthusiasts over the years. They also serve to remind us that every so often, even staid carmakers from Japan can turn it up to 11.