A new Honda NSX
is a strong sign that Honda wants to recapture the magic of its golden
period in the 1990s when it was one of the world's most admired car
companies.

At the time Honda was building exciting new road
cars, expanding with new factories around the world and winning grand
prix with engines supplied to McLaren.

The
ambitious brief to engineers for the New Sportscar Experimental was to
beat the best of Europe's supercars, then the Ferrari 348.

The
result was instant. After making a huge splash at launch, the
alloy-bodied, high-revving NSX went on to beat the Ferrari 348 in
Autocar's group test, and most other comparison tests too, to become the
benchmark supercar.

In fact Europe's supercar makers felt the same force of change as its luxury car-makers did when Lexus unleashed the LS400.
Despite, or maybe because of this, Honda is trying to distance its new sportscar from the heritage of the NSX.

So
the new supercar will be a litmus test of Honda's management skills and
development expertise. What has it learnt about supercars since the NSX
went out of production six years ago?

Ravaged by two major
global downturns - which it has battled alone without the benefit of
technology partner or benevolent owner - there's a strong feeling that
Honda has lost its way in both Europe and the US.

An inadequate
diesel and small car strategy has held back European sales while a shift
to SUVs in the US hasn't always ended in success. The 'soft-roader'
Ridgeline pick-up - the 2006 North American Truck of the Year - is a
case in point. Honda has failed to keep the Ridgeline competitive and
now looks to be killing it off.

In a way that's the same mistake
Honda made with the NSX. Despite an open-top targa-style modelm, an
automatic and a larger capacity V6, the NSX was outclassed by the late
90s.

With Honda's engineering resources diverted into hybrids and
diesels rather than supercars, a V10-engined replacement got as far as
testing at the Nurburgring, before the 2008 financial crisis, a failed
F1 venture and a lack of management will killed it.

The new NSX will have to be an exceptional car to grab as much glory for Honda as the original. Is it up for the challenge?