The Honda NSX (New Sports “X as in solve for the unknown variable X”) can trace its roots back to the 1980’s Italian studios, which was tasked with designing a sports concept car.
The concept car, dubbed the Honda Pininfarina Experimental (HP-X) never made it to the assembly line. Rather, it formed the basis by which the NSX was built – packing a 3.0L VTEC V6 engine, a formidable competitor to the V8-engined Ferrari, while offering the Honda reliability and a sensibly lower price-point for a supercar. The V8 engine is positioned at the rear – a fact that leaves most (new) enthusiasts looking for it in the wrong end of the vehicle.
Today, the Honda NSX is sold in North American market as the Acura NSX. The name has been changed to mean something else now. The New Sports Experience. There are two distinct generations of the NSX – the first (1990-2005) and the second generation. The second generation was first rolled out in 2016, with production going on to date.
The Honda / Acura NSX is the original Japanese super-car:
Pros and Cons
- The all-aluminum body was chosen to save weight. As a result, the car handles very well – it is sharp and engaging to drive. Chassis revisions from the 1997 to 2002 models helped improve handling. In the same period, the NSX’s engine was bumped up to 3.2 liters from 3.0 liters.
- The suspension is sturdy, and its cushioning function is out of this world. It sits on coil-over shocks with double wishbones. It also has additional pivot supports not seen in conventional cars – which absorb shocks from bumps and potholes.
- The car comes with clever weight distribution. Whether there is a passenger or not, and whether the fuel tank is full or bone dry, there is hardly any weight distribution changes.
- Some people may consider the cabin of the earlier models to be drab when compared to the cabins of the supercars it is supposed to compete with.
- The inaugural models (1991 and 1992) had a wide range of issues – with the AC system being a notorious culprit.
Honda makes awesome vehicles by design. However, no car drives out of the factory with a perfect future if it intends to survive the road. The same applies to the NSX. First off, there are clutch issues unique to this model. The clutch plates have smaller surface area than that of other cars in its class. When trying out a potential addition to your portfolio, be sure to listen out for irregular engine racing, especially when climbing a hill.
Secondly, older models have notorious ABS (anti-lock brake system) failures. The best way to tell if the ABS needs to be replaced is when there is some washing machine-like noise from the front wheels while driving.
Another issue plaguing the 1991-92 models is the AC component which has (an almost amazing) propensity to break down. Once this happens, the whole system has to be replaced. To add to it, the window regulators for older models go wonky after some fair bit of use. This is true of older Hondas – and unfortunately, once the issue strikes, the windows roll up and down very slowly.
Finally, we have the aluminum body. A few scratches are fine. However, a sizeable dent would significantly affect the car’s value. Shops that do good aluminum body repairs can be hard to find. When shopping for the car, be sure to scrutinize the Carfax report.
The Honda NSX production spans 30 years, meaning there is a wide price range depending on the year of manufacture, mileage, and record of maintenance.
Accident history plays a big role in the 2nd hand value of the NSX as it’s all aluminum chassis can be difficult, if not impossible, to restore to factory condition after a significant hit.
Pricing for a 1990’s Honda NSX in pristine condition may fetch as much as $195,000. Examples without a clean accident history may start at $40,000 US.
Alternatives to the NSX include the following,
Budget-focused, mid-engine alternatives:
Models and Specifications
In 1984, some Honda engineers are said to have cut a Honda City in half, then placed the engine behind the driver’s seat. The engine powered the rear wheels. This must have made the handling feel like that of a sports car, because the engineers were impressed with the results of the experiment. They drummed up support for building a supercar to the Honda leadership at the time.
To make this a reality, the Honda Motor Company joined hands with the Pininfarina studios to design a concept supercar that could compete with Ferraris and the likes. Pininfarina came up with a two-seater car with no roof and no windows – you could only enter it by jumping inside.
First Generation (1990 – 2005)
In 1989, Honda debuted its first NSX at the Chicago and Tokyo Motor Shows and it was welcomed with rave reviews. In 1990, it was sold in Verno dealerships in Japan. Sales also commenced in North America, with the car being marketed under the luxury Acura name.
It competed favorably with the Ford GT40 and wowed enthusiasts with its high revving levels (the rev turned red at 8,300 rpm), the superb suspension and the titanium alloy connecting rods.
Perhaps as a testament of Honda’s dedication to quality, the car was assembled by a highly-specialized team of handpicked staff. Each of the 200 staff had at least ten years of experience assembling vehicles.
The production went on until November 30th, 2005. In Canada, sales officially ended in 2000. Six years later, sales in the US ceased in 2005.
What owning a Honda NSX is like:
The NSX Type R – From 1992
The Honda NSX Type R was designed to serve solely as a track car. Caution and creature comforts were thrown into the wind, sacrificed for raw power, and unparalleled performance at the race track. The NSX coupe was stripped of its audio systems, air conditioning system, the spare wheel and some electrical components, in an aggressive, weight reduction campaign. The next to go was the sound-deadening system and the forged alloy wheels, which were replaced with the lighter aluminum. Finally, the leather seats were replaced with lightweight carbon-Kevlar from Recaro.
The NSX Type T – From 1995
The NSX Type T (or simply NSX-T) was introduced in Japan in 1995. It could be purchased via a special order. Type T sported a black removable targa-top. This model was engineered for comfort, sacrificing some weight in the process. Since the hard-top had been removed along with its structural support, Honda strengthened the rest of the body.
Along with the open cockpit, car occupants were treated to softer rides, since the suspension was configured to provide ample cushioning. The 5-speed transmission gear ratio was also lowered by 4.2% to improve how the car handled and its drivability.
Honda NSX Type S (JDM) – From 1997
In 1997, Honda undertook a thorough feature upgrade of the NSX line. One of the most significant changes was the upgrade of the engine into a 3.2 liter variant. In addition, Honda introduced the NSX-S, designed for excellent handling in winding roads.
The NSX-S was based on the type R, but could come with some premium add-ons. The weight reduction was as aggressive as that of its racetrack predecessor. The wheels, suspension and single rear window pane saved on the weight – and the car was lighter than the other variants by an average of 49kg. This trim was the most expensive of all NSX models at the time, with the MRSP at $85,000.
For customers who wanted their Type S solely for the track, the NSX-S-Zero was introduced. This was basically an upgraded NSX-R, with no bells and whistles – staying as lightweight as possible.
The 2002 Facelifts
In 2002, the NSX received a facelift to make it look more modern. The pop-up lights were replaced with HID xenon headlights. At the back, the rear wheels were made wider to compensate for the revised suspensions. The changes made the car appear to sit lower on the ground.
After the facelift, drag reduced significantly. This led to faster acceleration and higher top speeds. The North American markets could no longer access hardtop coupes, but these could be ordered from Japan.
Second Generation NSX (2016 to date)
After a 10-year manufacturing hiatus, the Honda NSX production resumed in 2015. It featured a revamped, hybrid V6 3.5 liter engine hooked up to a 3-electric motor sport engine. It also has a dual-clutch transmission which goes up to 9th gear.
- https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73406648 By Matti Blume – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
How to Import a Honda / Acura NSX
Read our ultimate guide, How to Import a Car from Japan.