From Honda Motor's (HMC) - Get Report humble beginnings as a maker of motorized bicycles, the Japanese automaker has never hid its outsized ambitions to build superlatively powered machines, whether motorcycles, lawnmowers, snow blowers, jets -- or exotic supercars.
The 2017 NSX, the flagship of Honda's Acura premium automobile brand, embodies every cutting edge engineering capability the company can conjure in a two-seated rejoinder to Volkswagen's (VLKAY) Porsche 911, McLaren, Volkswagen's Audi R8 or Ferrari's 458. The NSX has carbon fiber, electric motors to boost power, torque vector all wheel drive and lots more.
Fast? Most assuredly. Zero-to-sixty in about three seconds, top speed limited at 192 miles per hour.
Agile? Only professional drivers truly can test its limits -- but even an ordinary driver like yours truly gets an intoxicating whiff of NSX capabilities during hot laps at Lime Rock, a track in the northwestern corner of Connecticut.
Beauty? Each person beholds differently. I find NSX alluring.
As Ted Klaus, Honda's project leader for Acura put it: the brand has always been about creating vehicles "that stir the soul and harness innovative technology on a foundation of industry-leading quality and reliability."
Honda's first-generation NSX, sold from 1990 through 2005, was an impressive and remarkable first assault on the elite exotics. NSX was a car an ordinary driver could drive well, something that couldn't be said about many exotics. NSX was a supermodel that an ordinary guy could date. Yet it fell short of becoming part of the same conversation as the Italian and German supercars, as any promising newcomer might.
In 2007, Honda began work on the next generation, halting work a few months after the collapse of global economy in 2008. By 2011, the automaker resumed development.
The result is a new NSX that's another step closer to automaking's inner sanctum.
At the NSX's heart is a 3.5-liter twin turbo gasoline engine generating 500 horsepower. In addition, three electric motors, one linked directly to the transmission and one to each front wheel, produce another 76 horsepower.
Operated together with the nine-speed transmission, the configuration provides a number of different driving modes from "quiet," which allows the owner to keep a low profile, to "track," the loudest and most aggressive drive.
For showing off at traffic signals, NSX comes with "launch control," allowing the driver to keep the left foot on the brake, mash the accelerator and wait for the launch signal to materialize on the dashboard display. As the brake is released, NSX surges forward with optimal acceleration. Acura engineers say the vehicle's clutch likely will need replacement after about four hundred demonstrations of launch control.
The $156,000 price tag rises to $200,000 with all possible options, including special carbon-fiber exterior packages, custom colors and modified ceramic brakes. NSX, developed mostly at Honda Research and Development in Ohio, also will be built there, more or less by hand, at a special factory.
The Japanese automaker is forecasting annual sales of about 800 -- a small number that ensures buyers will turn heads wherever they drive their new NSX.
Acura is planning to race versions of the car to gain publicity and perhaps to notch some victories. Will Acura NSX now be mentioned in the same breath as supercars from Ferrari, Porsche and Audi? It's too early to tell.
Doron Levin is the host of "In the Driver Seat," broadcast on SiriusXM Insight 121, Saturday at noon, encore Sunday at 9 a.m.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.