Dream Garage: Acura NSX
Image from Car and Driver
Every person who has even a moderate interest in automobiles has a dream garage, even if they haven’t put that name to the car or collection of cars they would purchase if they ever hit it big. In a perfect world, everyone would at least be happy with the car they currently drive (if they drive a car at all), while aspiring to achieve the metaphorical carrot, a car that speaks to the individual in the way that a Toyota Prius or Honda Accord or any other sensible, normal car could never do.
The Acura NSX is my favorite car on the planet for a whole list of reasons I can explain and by a few that I cannot properly describe in words. A few years ago, a close family friend asked what car I would buy first if I ever made it to my dream job of “billionaire.” I replied, “an Acura NSX.” Their response? “An Acura? You need to dream bigger!” Clearly this was not a person who understood what an NSX is, or even what made a car great to me. What Acura proved in the early 1990s is the idea that was clearly lost by this person: that one didn’t have to shell out a six-figure sum to own one of the most incredible, balanced, track- and street-shredding machines on the planet.
The NSX, launched in America in 1991, was the first Japanese car aimed to beat the Italians at their own game. A 270hp 3.0L V-6 powered roughly 3,000 pounds, made possible by the extensive use of aluminum in the body of the car rather than heavier steel. A slightly larger and more powerful 300hp 3.4L V-8 powered the NSX’s primary competition, the Ferrari 348. However, at around $103,000, the Ferrari had a hard time competing with the $62,000 Acura on price. Drag races, too, were not the Ferrari’s specialty: 0-60 times are logged as 5.2 for the Acura compared to 5.6 for the Ferrari. Both cars are typically fitted with 5-speed manual transmissions (although 4-speed slushboxes were available for both cars), and the Ferrari is only about 100lbs heavier than its Japanese counterpart. I suspect transmission gearing has something to do with the differences as the sports cars are nearly identical on paper.
Redesigned NSX. Image from SeriousWheels
Plus, just LOOK at this thing! I don’t know what aliens beamed the NSX down from their mothership, but the extreme wedge shape and cab-forward design, along with the always cool flip-up headlights, epitomizes the radical sci-fi theme car manufacturers experimented with throughout the 90s. 1997 saw an engine displacement increase to 3.2L, so the engine now produced a more competitive 290hp, as well as an upgrade to the manual transmission, which now used six forward gears. 90.625hp/L is to this day still a huge accomplishment. I can’t think of any modern, naturally aspirated V-6 engines that are near that level, especially ones that redline around 8,000 RPM.
The body was redone in 2002 to include fixed headlights, among other modifications. I love the older body style, so the 1997-2001 NSX, with its more powerful engine and six-speed manual, is my favorite. Unfortunately for buyers, the price of NSXs is still high, so expect to pay at least $45,000 for a well-maintained example from this period and much higher for more modern examples.
The NSX is in rare company in that it is one of only a handful of sports cars from Japan that can run with the best from Germany, Italy, and America. The Nissan GT-R is the only current model that can claim this feat, although hopefully 2015 will see the new NSX, rumored to have a high-output V-6 hybrid engine. Japan’s best car claims the number one spot in my dream garage, and I don’t see that changing for the foreseeable future.