The Honda NSX was truly a revelation when it came out at the dawn of the 1990s. The Japanese company had made all kinds of motorcycles, fun to drive sport compacts and successful Formula One engines, but the NSX proved that they could build a supercar as well, and do it better than just about everybody else. Its all-aluminum monocoque was groundbreaking and its aluminum quad-cam V-6 with variable valve timing (VTEC) was superb. It was extremely well balanced as well but, more importantly, the NSX showed the world that you could have a mid-engine exotic that was also comfortable, easy to drive and reliable enough for everyday driving. Motor Trend called it “the best sports car ever built.” Sold as the Acura NSX here in America, the car enjoyed a 15 year production run without many huge changes, although there were some smaller ones.
1995 introduced the Acura NSX-T (targa) model as well as drive-by-wire throttle. Fixed roof cars also featured a body color roof instead of a black one. 1997 was another important year, with the addition of a 3.2-liter V-6 that raised performance by 20hp and 15 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual also became the standard gearbox, although the automatic remained optional. One of the most collectible NSXs from these years is the 1999 Zanardi Edition, of which 49 were built to celebrate Alex Zanardi’s back-to-back CART championships using Honda power. Zanardi Edition cars had a fixed roof, modified suspension and some subtle styling cues.
2002 brought perhaps the most substantial changes visually, with the switch from pop-up headlights to fixed units and wider rear tires as well as revised front and rear valances. Underneath, the suspension was further improved. Overall, though, the design was largely the same and it was starting to get long in the tooth. A 2002 Car and Driver test concluded that “we continue to love this car. But we think these modest updates on an aging (introduced in 1990), pricey exotic are similar to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” The base price had also climbed to $90,000 and the NSX had plenty of competition, so it was becoming a hard sell.
By 2005, production had ended. After the many years that followed of teasing and speculation, Honda finally introduced a new NSX to the public in 2015. This car, however, is a gas-electric hybrid with all-wheel drive and therefore an entirely different sort of car. It’s more a technology showpiece, whereas the original NSX was an engineer’s dream of the ultimate driver’s car.
In general, the NSX is a car that never really got cheap, especially compared to certain other performance cars. As such, they tend to have been owned by older enthusiasts. Since they really were practical enough to drive every day, lots of NSXs have plenty of miles on them, but VTEC Hondas have long been known to take all kinds of abuse and just keep on running. And when it does come time for service, the NSX is not as much of a drain on the bank account as some of its European rivals, making it a highly appealing way to get into exotic car ownership, just like when it was new.