We all know that Japan always made memorable sports car. The first two examples are the Datsun 240Z and Toyota Celica GT4; but in 1990, they launched on the market another model that later become a success in all over the world, the NSX. The NSX (New Sportscar eXperimental) was meant to be a competitor for the supercars elite, Ferrari (348), Porsche and Chevrolet Corvette. The NSX was launched in 1989 at the Chicago Auto Show as mid-engine sports car prototype. In 1990 the car went on sale on the US market, and only one year after that it won the Car of the Year award (in 1991). Honda starts working on this model in 1984 when the company asked Pininfarina to design the HP-X (Honda Pininfarina eXperimental). The model launched in 1990 was powered by a naturally aspirated V6 engine with an output of 270 hp and a top speed of 168 mph. Honda discontinued production of the NSX in 2005, but the company is already working on a successor. A new sports car for a new era, which is to incorporate Honda’s most advanced technology (set to be launched in 2009).
Honda’s intendion when creating the NSX is to produce a hand-built, exotic, mid-engine sports car that would establish entirely new levels of prestige, performance, refinement, drivability, and reliability. The aluminum monocoque bodied NSX (a world’s first for a production vehicle at the time) defined a new interpretation of the exotic sports car through state-of-the-art, lightweight technology. On its first year on the market the NSX was priced at $62,000.
The 1990 NSX was the first production car to use titanium connecting rods. The body and chassis was comprised of aluminum, weighing just over 460 pounds, much less than steel but with equal strength. The aluminum body housed many advanced technologies such as PGM-FI, Variable Valve Timing, Lift Electronic Control (VTEC), and direct ignition system.
The NSX was offered in two distinct mid-ship mounted powertrains. The first was a lightweight, all-aluminum 3.0 liter, DOHC, 24-valve, 90-degree V-6 engine coupled with a 5-speed, close-ratio manual transmission producing 270 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque. The second is a 3.0 liter DOHC, 24-valve V-6 engine with a 4-speed Sequential SportShift automatic transmission that generates 252 horsepower and 210 lb.-ft. of torque.
The first year of production was very slow, because every car was assembled by hand by a team of technicians, with an average of about 20 examples being produced per day. Its first year on the market only 1940 units were made.
In 1992 Honda offered a limited edition NSX-R as a response to claims the NSX did not have enough power to compete with rival cars such as Porsche and Ferrari. The key factor in this argument — and a point proved by the NSX-R — was the importance of the power-to-weight ratio.
The NSX-R was powered by a blueprinted engine producing 280 BHP in stock form. It featured hard suspension tuning, custom Momo steering wheel, and sculpted titanium shift knob. The most important detail about this limited edition is it’s loss in weight, approx 264 lbs. It weights 2711 lbs compared to the normal NSX weight of 2976 lbs.
In 1995 Honda unveiled the NSX-T, a targa top version of the NSX. Although the car looked great with a removable roof, this added 100 lbs in weight and hurt the chassis rigidity. The NSX-T was the only version available for the US market in 1995 (no coupes). The car was priced at $94.900.
The car is a rear wheel drive, and powered by a mid 3.0 liter V6 engine with an output of 270 hp at 7100 rpm and a peak torque of 210 lbs-ft at 5300 rpm. The NSX-T made 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds.
The interior of the car also looks great, because Honda again used some special seats made by Recaro, chrome shift nob, and chrome and silver plated radio and cd panels. Along with leather dash, power windows, and a rear power window so you could see the engine.
In 1996 the NSX’s price was raised to $79,500.
1997 – First engine upgrade
In 1997 Honda made the first engine upgrade for the NSX. The 3.0 liter was enlarged to 3.2 liter, and as a result the power grew from 270 hp to 290 hp along with the peak torque from 210 to 224 lbs-ft. Also the 1997 NSX offered a 6-speed manual gearbox (instead of the 5-speed offered up until then). The 0 to 60 mph sprint is now made in 5 seconds.
The car also features:
- Strengthened gaskets, crankshaft pins, piston pins for 3.2L engine Stainless steel exhaust manifold (manual transmission version)
- Dual-mass flywheel (manual transmission version)
- Lighter, stronger aluminum body
- Front/rear brake rotors increased to 16 inches
- Stronger suspension (manual transmission version)
- Front lower skirt employed for improved aerodynamics
- Electronic power steering improved
- F-Matic shift control improved
- Heat blocking, UV cut glass employed
- Equipped with HID headlights
- Equipped with car navigation system
- BBS lightweight forged aluminum wheels (Custom Order Plan)
1999 NSX Alex Zanardi Edition
The Alex Zanardi Edition was built exclusively for the US market. The car was limited to only 50 units priced at $87,600 and it is basically a lightweight NSX. The car was available only in New Formula Red to reflect the color of the Champ Car Zanardi drove for Chip Ganassi Racing.
The NSX Alex Zanardi Edition featured a lighter rear spoiler, single pane rear glass, BBS wheels, and a lighter battery which helped this edition of the NSX to shed 150 lbs off the production version.
In 2000, the price for the NSX grew to $84,745.
2002 – NSX’s first facelift
NSX saw it’s first big exterior facelift in 2002, as a desire to modernize the car’s looks and to make refinements to the chassis to ensure its competitiveness as a world class sports car. The front fascia was updated with a higher hood, and a redesigned front bumper and spoiler. The front headlights changed from pop-up halogen units to fixed position Xenon High-Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps. Other external styling refinements for 2002 included new mesh side air intakes, a trunk lip spoiler, a more aggressive exhaust tips, and a redesigned taillight configuration. The car was priced at $80,000.
The 2002 didn’t only change the exterior. The chassis had refinements, which included a larger diameter rear stabilizer bar, firmer front springs, and bigger wheels and tires which enhanced the car’s dynamic handling characteristics. The top speed was raised from 168 to 175 mph.
2002 Honda NSX-R
Ten years after the introduction of the original NSX-R, Honda found itself filled with eagerness to develop a new "Type-R" version of the NSX. It was the type of excitement one feels when setting out to be the first to climb an unexplored mountain peak.
The Type R’s role was to deliver the ultimate in speed and driving pleasure as a road car or for driving enthusiasts on all types of racing circuits. The objective in developing the new Type R was to apply new aerodynamic technologies to achieve a level of stability and control beyond current levels, thus achieving versatile, deeply satisfying handling and driving pleasure at all speeds. After many hours of work, Honda found the purest, most balanced definition of a sports car.
The result is a sports car that brings driver and machine closer than ever before, establishing a bond of communication that inspires the driver with absolute confidence in the vehicle’s reactions, opening the door to a world of breathtaking high-speed performance.
In order to endow the new NSX-R with outstanding high-speed performance, the company turned its attention to the aerodynamics and it’s effect on high-speed cornering power, braking, turn-in, and other aspects affecting vehicle controllability. This led them to a new technical approach called "aerodynamically-induced stability".
In addition to increasing high-speed cornering power, the NSX-R also features an improved vehicle control quality - the ease with which the driver can control the car, and thus exploit its full potential. This enabled the chassis to be tuned for reduced understeer at low to medium speeds. The results improved handling at both low and high speeds enables the new NSX-R to achieve outstanding speed on all types of circuits.
Performance improvements such as the adoption of a 3.2-liter engine for higher output, a 6-speed manual transmission, wider tires and wheels; along with emissions reduction and other environmental and safety measures, led to unavoidable weight gains. Countermeasures were taken, resulting in a 2002 base model that boasts a vehicle weight 10kg less than that of the debut model.
In July 2005 Honda has announced that the production of vehicles destined for the North American market will be discontinued at the end of December, 2005. Production of vehicles destined for the European market has been discontinued at the end of September, 2005.
Even if the NSX has the price tag and the styling of a supercar, its performance is a little under-rated compared to some other great supercars such as Lamborghini or Ferrari . Being in production for only 15 years, the cars saw very little changes (the first facelift came only after 12 years and the output was increased just from 270 hp to 290 hp). Even if the NSX does not have the highest output in the world, it does have the highest per-liter output of any naturally aspired V6 road car in the world.