The Spring Rally is MAMA's (Midwest Automotive Media Association) flagship event where most major manufacturers have fleet companies bring a select number of vehicles for media to drive at Road America and on the street. For track drives only certain vehicles are allowed and there are rules to ensure these cars are not destroyed. In the case of the NSX Honda used hired driver David Wandless to provide hot laps and impressions of the vehicle.
Honda has been adjusting the design of the new NSX for so long it's hard to remember when it all started. Needless to say it has been over hauled multiple times including the HSV-010 GT which was the follow up to the NSX GT. The project manager of chassis design on the first generation NSX, Keinosuke Taki, also worked on the HSV. Along with endless rumors this appeared to be the most promising direction. But in 2008 Honda pulled out of F1 and most plans for the NSX seemed dead, until 2012.
In June 2016 the first production NSX is completed, designed and made in America. For better or worse the car has gone from vaporware to reality.
In Car Experience:
We had our first look inside the NSX at CAS2016. The interior space is a classic Honda with a modern sports car edge. Six months removed it was time to see, hear and feel the car on track. David Wandless, a pro driver for Honda, was there to explain the vehicle and dynamics. After one lap it was clear the NSX is not only fast but has one of the better dual clutch gear boxes on the market. This is the fastest production Honda ever built. The 2nd gen NSX has minimal understeer with plenty of grip and stability. All of that is impressive for a street car regardless of price. During the drive there was a dreadful high speed vibration that was nerve racking at 140MPH, and at the end of the back straight the car was complaining about reduced stopping power after one lap, even with the carbon ceramics. (See Video)
Honda and Acura:
Many enthusiasts we spoke with in regards to the brand, seem to think Honda isn't listening. And in talking to one of the original owners about his NSX experience, he mentioned those chosen for Acura focus groups were ignored. Other brands like Porsche and Hyundai have actual sanctioned customer out-reach programs online to aid in new product development. For Honda it literally took a mutiny to get them to fix all of the issues with the 9th gen Civic.
From Acura, Chief Engineer Ted Klaus and Lead designer Michelle Christensen have been open about their struggles and also the effort placed in re-designing this car. There are plenty of interviews with them discussing the detail of the frame, body work, technology, aero and even a trunk designed to fit a golf bag. The team had plenty of pressure on them and for the first time they took a Japanese halo car and built and designed it in America.
The Realities and Failures of the Car:
In all of the interviews and stories with the Acura team most everything is always about attention to detail and the geek factor of the engineering. However, the most avoided topic is driver connection with the car. At the end of the day they are designing a high performance car for drivers, not an autonomous platform. Getting out of the NSX feels much like a full scale simulator. It's fast, responsive but like many modern cars the rider feels almost no emotion or drama. It's drive by wire, shift by wire, brake by wire with more ECUs than ever before. This vehicle is a consumer electronics showcase, not a drivers car. This maybe the future, but we sure hope not.