NSX. For some, it's a random set of letters, but those three letters hold a lot of weight for Honda. Thirty years ago, Honda put that name on their mid-engined sports car, and it kicked off a legend and an icon for car enthusiasts around the world.
Not only did the NSX cement its place in Honda history, but it also changed the supercar game. But how did a Japanese manufacturer change the supercar perception? By making it easier to live with, day in and day out.
Before the NSX, supercars weren't exactly the most reliable cars around. According to contemporary reviews abroad, these high-performance cars were temperamental, to say the least. These cars weren't easy to drive either, with heavy steering and clutches, driving them regularly sounded more like a chore than a pleasurable experience.
When Honda embarked on the ambitious sports car project, they had two goals in mind: It was to build a car that exceeded the performance of European supercars while offering reliability. It sounds like an easy task, but if it was easy, then any of the Japanese automakers would have done it a long time ago.
It was an ambitious, almost impossible, task. Sure, Honda had a strong reputation in Formula 1 at the time, but they were still known as manufacturers of sensible, practical family cars that are good on gas and offered near bulletproof reliability. The idea of a supercar coming from this company seemed far-fetched, but the automaker pressed on. Its main targets were the Porsche 964, Chevrolet Corvette, and Ferrari 348.
Work on the NSX began in the mid-80s', and it would take nearly six years for the production version to come out. During its development period, it was tested in race tracks around the world, and it was even brought to the tough Nurburgring Nordschliefe circuit several times for a shakedown. Of course, let's not forget that three-time Formula 1 champion Ayrton Senna was part of the NSX's development process. So you could say that the original NSX has the legend's signature, too.
But for Honda, it wasn't enough that it was fast; it had to be reliable and easy to drive as well. The company went to great lengths making the car as livable as possible, hence the easy controls, the ergonomics, and even a bit of practicality. Yes, the NSX was designed to carry some stuff in the trunk. Sure, it didn't carry as much as a station wagon, but Honda still kept storage capacity in mind. The goal here was to make an everyday supercar.
When it finally hit the road, it shocked contemporary road testers in a good way, of course. How can a car that's this light to drive offer this much performance? When you look at the stats now, it doesn't sound that impressive. The original NSX made 274 PS and 285 Nm of torque, which is something a modern executive sedan can make these days. But the first NSX was light, and those numbers were enough to propel it to 100 km/h in less than five seconds. It was just as fast, or even faster than the established sports cars from Germany, Italy, and America. And because it's a Honda, it's reliable too.
Some say that, because of the NSX, it forced the old guard of sports cars to really work on their next-generation models. Even if it's hearsay than fact, the succeeding sports cars from Europe and the U.S stepped up, and that could be thanks to a certain sports car from Japan. Stories and legends like that show the impact of the NSX in the sports car industry. Even though it didn't sell by the millions, that's the kind of legacy it made through the years.
The story continues with the current NSX. Sure, it's no longer the lightweight, naturally-aspirated from before, but it still packs a punch. Now using a twin-turbo V6, hybrid assistance, and all-wheel drive, it's light years faster than the original model. 0 to 100 km/h is done in less than three seconds, and its top speed is just a hair over 300 km/h. Like the original, it still costs less than the sports and exotic cars from the West, which, for the lucky few, makes it a bargain.
It's been thirty years since Honda rolled out the NSX, but its legacy will live on for a long, long time. Happy 30th NSX. You really changed the supercar game.