What Do The New NSX Patents Tell Us?
Lots of unanswered questions, but these patents look promisingby Kirby Garlitos, on
Patent drawings of cars are always fun when they’re leaked because they, directly or indirectly, provide a window into an automaker’s plans for a specific model. It’s certainly no shock then that these new patent drawings from Honda have created quite a buzz in our circles, largely because it looks incredibly like the NSX sports car. First spotted by Autoguide, these patents have been registered and published by the European Union Intellectual Property Office and while they don’t reveal anything specific as to what Honda’s plans are, it does point us in a direction where we could be seeing another Honda sports car in the works. Could it be a smaller version of the NSX as many people seem to think it is? Or could it be something else entirely, perhaps even the long-rumored successor to the Honda S2000?
These are very interesting questions that only Honda can answer over time. What appears clear at this point though is that the automaker isn’t content with just having one full-spec sports car in its portfolio. It figures that there’s a move to add to the NSX given how rival automakers have made similar pushes to beef up their own sports car lineups. Add that to Honda admitting that its dealerships have become more demonstrative in their requests for more sports cars wearing the Honda badge and it’s clear that there’s a groundswell of support coming from all sides for a new Honda sports car to enter the fray. There are plenty of questions that need to be answered though before anything concrete can be laid out on the table. Join us then as we try to answer some of them.
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We’ve seen similar patents before, right?
Yes, we have, or at least a slightly different version of it. Two years ago, Honda submitted this patent drawing that bares a lot of similarities to the new ones we’re looking at now. In fact, the only notable differences between the two patents were the presence of a windshield, a roof, and a set of wheels on the drawings. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that these are the same two models because the previous patent does look a lot like what the Honda NSX looks like now, albeit a few styling differences. It’s also worth pointing out that the old patents were revealed more than two years after the Acura NSX Concept broke cover in 2013.
What do these new patents tell us about the car? Is it a concept or a production vehicle?
From what we’re looking at right now, it looks like this patent drawing is for a concept vehicle, not a production one. While it does retain some styling characteristics from the production NSX (the front spoiler, fenders, character lines, and the rear section are all NSX-like) I don’t believe that this is directly the production model entirely. The biggest hint can be found in the interior where the cabin appears to be a little too low-slung for a production car. Then there’s the layered dashboard, which usually shows itself up in concept cars and the F1-inspired steering wheel that’s unlikely to be used in a production car. Compare it to the interior of the actual production NSX and you’ll see a world of difference in the overall layout. The dashboard on the production model is in one piece and the steering wheel takes on a more traditional, rounded form. The center stack configuration is similar though so at least there are still some elements from the production version of the NSX.
Could it be a different model that’s not a smaller version of the NSX?
It’s certainly possible, although based on the patent drawings’ similarities to the NSX, I doubt that this is another Honda sports car entirely. Personally, I don’t think this is the successor to the S2000, or as it’s being referred to, the S660. That model will likely sit as the entry-level model of Honda’s potential sports car lineup. Think of it in terms of the Mazda MX-5 Miata of the Toyota GT 86, which are expected to be its main competition. This one though, by measure of its size relative to our expectations of what the smaller S660 will look like, could potentially be the middle-tier sports car that Honda will slot between the S660 and the NSX.
There’s certainly room for Honda to have a sports car in that segment considering that a lot of other new sports cars are being developed themselves. That includes BMW’s new Z4 and Toyota’s returning Supra, as well as the Audi TT and the Alfa Romeo 4C. As far as a hybrid engine goes, that’s a little trickier to predict at this point. It is worth noting though that the actual NSX features a 573-horsepower engine, 500 horsepower of which is provided by a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine.
What kind of powertrain options will it have?
|Chassis from 2016 Acura NSX|
It’s too early to tell at this point but if it is a miniaturized version of the NSX, expect it to come with a gas engine and a hybrid powertrain. My guess for that engine would be the same 2.0-liter VTEC turbo-four that’s found under the hood of the Honda Civic Type R. The hot hatch is rated at 306 horsepower and I expect the baby NSX to carry similar output numbers, or a maybe a little higher, to put it in direct competition with either the 300-horsepower 718 Cayman or the 350-horsepower Cayman S.
What will the competition potentially look like?
The just-mentioned Z4 and Supra sports cars are the prime candidates here, although they probably won’t be the only ones. Another potential competitor to this new NSX model would be the duo of the Porsche 718 Cayman and the 718 Boxster. Pricing for those two cars are in the $50,000 range so it would make sense for Honda to have one in this segment too given than the actual NSX is priced at $150,000 while a potential entry level S660 could be priced in the vicinity of $25,000 to $30,000, right where the MX-5 is priced at.
When can we expect this patent come to life?
If it is really a concept like I think it is and it makes its debut this year, the two most logical choices would be the Frankfurt Motor Show in September or the Tokyo Motor Show in October. If Honda holds off until 2018, the likely choices would be the Detroit Auto Show in January (that’s where the Acura NSX Concept made its debut in January 2013) or the Geneva Motor Show in March (that’s where the Honda NSX Concept made its debut in March 2012).
Read our speculative review of the 2019 Acura ZSX
Read our full review of the 2016 Acura NSX