Patience really is a virtue in this game. We first drove Honda’s magnificent factory-tweaked NSX in Japan in 2002, then again back in Britain in unofficial ‘grey’ import form later that year, yet we’re still waiting for Honda to give the green light to proper UK-supplied NSX Type-Rs. You can understand the lack of urgency when you consider that Honda shifts just 20 NSXs annually in the UK, but that number could potentially double if Honda announces the Type-R’s arrival.
The decision is expected to be made in May, and I’m sure that, like me, you’re desperate for that to happen, even if you’re not struck on the Championship White paint that all cars would wear. In spite of what Chris Harris said in his column last week, most cars too new to appear in an episode of Heartbeat really do look rubbish in white. But the R pulls it off magnificently, wheels and all, thanks in no small part to the black roof, pillars and spoiler that break up any slab-sided effect.
The basic silhouette is now 14 years old and looks it, despite going under the surgeon’s knife two years ago to have the old-fashioned pop-up lamps replaced by bubble-top jobs. It’s lithe, though, appearing both elegant and delicate beside more chunky modern machinery and, in this case, has a decent dollop of authentic Japanese street-racing charm.
The chances of seeing a regular NSX in white are next to zero, but you’ll be able to identify the Type-R by the red H emblem adorning the nose. It lies just ahead of the vented carbonfibre bonnet which, together with a hollow rear spoiler made from the same stuff, a lighter battery and the elimination of kit such as the central locking system, helps chop around 145kg from the standard car’s 1445kg kerbweight. That front scoop is more than just window dressing, too. It’s part of a series of aerodynamic tweaks, including a rear diffuser, that are claimed to keep the Type-R welded to the tarmac at high speed.
Peer inside and the fantastic Recaro bucket seats, titanium gearknob and yellow instrument dials should remove any trace of doubt over the R’s game plan, although the presence of air conditioning and electric seat motors seem odd given the weight savings made elsewhere. Sadly, the ‘grey’ car’s lovely Momo steering wheel has bitten the bullet to make way for an airbag-equipped item.
But you’ll forget that, and the slightly high-set seat, the moment you turn the key. Doing so opens the floodgates and unleashes a rich torrent of mechanical noise into the cabin. Engine tweaks are limited to blueprinting the internals, so Honda quotes the same ridiculously pessimistic 276bhp as it does for the standard car (torque is up 4lb ft to 224lb ft) but we’d put money on it making more.
Gear ratios are the same, too, but a lower final drive and that weight-saving program result in a tangible jump in performance over the 170mph and 5.7sec to 60mph claimed for the standard car. Talk is of a 4.8sec potential, but what really matters is that it feels deliciously fast as you slice up and down the six-speed manual ’box. It also sounds even better than before as the needle howls towards the number eight on the left-hand dial, accompanied by a frenzied crescendo of induction and exhaust rasp.
We weren’t able to try the NSX on the sort of nasty British A- and B-roads that have the potential to reveal an unpleasant side to stiffly set-up cars but, on track, the uprated springs, dampers, anti-roll bars and new bushes work brilliantly, making this a car in which even mildly handy drivers can lap quickly and confidently. Pedal spacing is ideal for heel and toe work and the ventilated brake discs feel massively powerful, hauling the R down from big speeds time and again without signs of fade.