At the moment, the NSX has a 500bhp 3.5-litre, twin-turbo V6 engine in its middle, with a 47bhp electric motor attached to the crank and driving the rear wheels, and a pair of electric motors at the front. A Type R could mean the loss of the front electric motors and their batteries, in the first wave of a weight loss regime that, in total, would leave the NSX type R weighing hundreds of kilos less than its 1725kg donor car.
Nick Robinson, Dynamic Development Leader on the NSX project, confirmed at the launch of the standard NSX that, although the Type R project hasn’t officially been signed off yet, there is a huge will within Honda do to it – and the hope that the new NSX is just the start of a revival of the company’s sporting heritage. The NSX Type R would be the logical next step.
All in, the NSX’s hybrid drive system weighs 150kg. Although not all of that would be dispensed with to create a Type R – the rear drive motor, which would act as an alternator, starter motor and flywheel would remain – its loss would make a considerable difference to the NSX’s 1725kg kerbweight.
Intelligent use of other, lightweight, materials, could reduce the Type R’s kerbweight yet further. “There are places weight could be cut out,” says Robinson. “We are Honda so cost [of exotic materials on the regular car] is a consideration, but for a limited edition? Why not?”
The regular NSX was benchmarked against a Porsche 911 Turbo, Ferrari 458 Italia and Audi R8 V10. “We also benchmarked a Porsche 911 991 GT3,” says Robinson, “but only for steering feel, that’s all. The GT3 is a very track focused car. But for a Type R, of course, it could be a direct competitor,” he said.
If the front-drive mechanisms were to be ditched, Honda has some experience of the NSX in rear-driven form only. “There is a maintenance mode,” says Robinson, who likened enabling it to enabling cheats on a PlayStation games console – press up up, down down, left two right two, etc – in which form ABS and all electric motor assistance is switched out. Robinson says the handling and steering are slightly odd, because the latter, particularly, is calibrated to work in conjunction with driven front wheels. But he concedes “it’s a drift machine”.
A rear-wheel drive NSX will even be racing at this year’s Pikes Peak hillclimb; one of two new NSXs that’ll be taking part with official Honda backing.
Robinson will be driving a near-production NSX, with just a roll cage and fire retardant to make it compliant with the regulations. But Robinson’s brother James – a principle powertrain engineer with Honda himself - will also be racing another, albeit altogether different, new NSX.
James Robinson’s heavily modified car will be shorn of the hybrid powertrain system, so will only be rear driven, and though it will retain the 3.5-litre, twin-turbocharged V6 engine, it’ll be making rather more power than standard – and will feature electric superchargers to fill the torque gap at the bottom of the rev range. Thus super- and turbocharged, it will, says brother Nick, make considerably more power than the 500bhp of the standard engine.
Robinson (Nick) also confirmed that Honda had worked on active aerodynamics for the NSX project and that although the standard car does without them, they could fit the ethos of a Type R project.
Finally, Robinson also confirmed that a convertible-roofed version of the NSX is likely to follow the coupe to market. The body is exceptionally rigid, and losing the roof panel would make precious little difference: fitting the optional carbon fibre roof to the standard NSX saves 5kg but makes no discernible difference to torsional rigidity. “I’m not that convinced by a convertible myself yet, but [technically] it’s possible,” Robinson said.