Honda President Takanobu Ito expects the company’s new Honda NSX to be on sale within the next three years, and hinted that the Japanese supercar could go racing, too.
Honda is finally getting back into the supercar business with a new NSX concept, seven years after pulling the original mid-engined two-seater from production.
Speaking at the launch of the much-anticipated NSX concept at the Detroit motor show today, President Ito said: “The NSX will be the ultimate expression of synergy between man and machine. The car development will be led by the US, and it will be sold globally within the next three years. It is a car that is up to the performance of racing and, while this car is for customers, you might see it racing as well.
“This is a car that demonstrates our passion for performance. The NSX became an icon through its power-to-weight ratio and the driving experience that it gave anyone behind the wheel.
“Since 2005 we have strived to make a successor but global change has had a colossal effect on the industry in that time. Even a supercar must respond to environmental responsibility. This car is about high performance through efficiency."
What Honda engineers have wrought takes the NSX replacement off in a completely different direction from the V10 monster Honda acknowledged was under development as recently as 2007.
The new model will maintain the original NSX’s mid-engined layout and feature extensive use of aluminium and other lightweight materials, most likely carbonfibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP).
But the powertrain will be decidedly different from the V10 Honda originally planned in 2007. It will be based on the new, electric version of Honda’s ‘Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive’, or E-SH-AWD system, which will appear on the upcoming Acura MDX sold in the US. It’s what engineers call a “through-the-road all-wheel drive” system, as there’s no mechanical link between front and rear axles.
For the MDX, the driveline features a front-mounted 306bhp 3.5-litre V6 paired with a 39bhp electric motor. Together, they drive the front axle through a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission — Honda’s first. The rear axle, meanwhile, will feature twin 27bhp electric motors, one driving each wheel.
In the NSX the E-SH-AWD driveline will be flipped, the V6 driving the rear wheels with the smaller, twinned motors up front, one for each wheel. From a horsepower standpoint, the new NSX might appear to lag behind some of its European competitors, but considering the massive torque its electric motors will make, it should be a rocket off the line. And handling should impress, because the twin motors up front will permit highly responsive electric torque vectoring.
The decision to ditch the V10 engine in favour of the advanced hybrid system should allow the NSX to again find its niche in the super-competitive supercar segment. “We just wouldn’t have been competitive enough by trying to directly take on the Europeans at their own game,” Honda’s US R&D chief, Gary Evert, told Autocar.
The powertrain should allow the new NSX to be billed as the world’s first ‘green’ supercar. Honda made a habit of innovating with the original NSX. When it was launched in 1990, it was a technical tour de force. It was the world’s first production vehicle to use an all-aluminium monocoque body with radical titanium connecting rods, electric power steering and four-channel anti-lock brakes, then a rarity.
The Detroit show car is described as a “concept”, but make no mistake: Honda is committed to this NSX reaching production.