It has been almost three years since we drove the Honda NSX at its international launch, and what a crazy time it has been in the supercar world. That's because while Honda’s supercar has remained relatively unchanged, the market has moved in massive leaps and bounds.
The 2019 Honda NSX (New Sports eXperience) is a $420,000 proposition powered by a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 with three electric motors and a battery pack that adds a hefty 160kg to the car’s weight. Put all of it together and there is a very healthy 427kW and 646Nm of torque.
Back in 2016 when the NSX had just come through, those were more impressive figures – although Honda still refuses to release the 0–100km/h figure, which we tested at roughly 3.3 seconds – and the NSX, even today, remains the only hybrid supercar in its price bracket.
Still, you only have to look at where Lamborghini has gone with the Huracan Evo (470 kW), the new Ferrari F8 Tributo and the insanely rapid McLaren 720S (both over 500kW) to see how far power figures have come without the need for a heavy hybrid system.
To break it down, the V6 on its own manages 373kW and 550Nm, with that might pointed at the rear wheels.
It’s the addition of the two electric motors at the front (one on each wheel) that provides 27kW and 73Nm (each side), plus the 35kW direct-drive motor that assists the rear wheels in overcoming turbo lag, all joining together for that mammoth combined system output. Don’t bother trying to add the figures together, either – it doesn’t really work like that.
For the 2019 update, the gorgeous Thermal Orange Pearl exterior paint option (pictured) looks pretty impressive. Honda says it’s a throwback to 30 years of Acura race cars with orange-accented liveries.
Our car also had the ‘matching’ orange brake callipers; although, we were a little surprised that they disappointingly didn’t really match the same shade of Thermal Orange as the car itself, giving it a rather strange look.
As car design has moved on and gloss black is now all the rage, the NSX has ditched its front chrome grille and gone for a black finish that further expands to the air intake mesh and rear bumper mesh.
There's also a body-colour front grille garnish (previously silver). We also rate the carbon-fibre exterior package, which features a high-gloss finish for components including the front lip spoiler, side skirts, rear diffuser, and rear spoiler.
It would be fair to say that the 2019 Honda NSX raised a hell of a lot of eyebrows being tested around Brisbane for a few days. Hundreds of photos were taken, with a lot of strained necks as it flew past. In terms of fitting in amongst other supercars, this American-made Japanese model definitely pulls it off.
There are also a lot of double-takes from the public trying to work out what exactly just drove past, because Honda has sold just fewer than 10 NSXs in Australia and they make a Ferrari look as common as a Toyota Corolla. Arguably, that has more to do with market demand rather than exclusivity, but it goes both ways.
But while the NSX looks like a supercar from the outside, you should refrain from letting too many people inside because it would lose its allure, as it’s anything but exotic. Yes, Honda has added the choice of Indigo Blue semi-aniline leather and Alcantara trim for 2019, but even then you can’t escape the lack of ‘specialness’.
It’s clear that Honda’s R&D budget for this car has gone almost entirely into the hardware and engineering, which we appreciate given its price, but the interior feels almost like an afterthought.
In all seriousness, a Mercedes-AMG C63 has a much nicer and more special interior, and even compared to a Ferrari F8, which is a three-generation-old car prone to using Fiat parts, the Honda NSX leaves a lot to the imagination.
We specifically could not tolerate the god-awful infotainment system that should be left in a Jazz. To make it even more painful, it is coupled to possibly the lowest-resolution reversing camera we have seen in some time.
We wouldn’t usually complain about a reversing camera in a supercar, but the whole point of the NSX is that it’s meant to be a daily supercar.
The NSX is the car a mature professional would buy over a Ferrari or a Lamborghini to remain both understated (a space that the Porsche 911 has occupied for decades), but also make a statement about the car’s environmental credentials (because in this day and age, apparently that’s important when you buy a supercar).
Now, if we just quietly assess those two points. The Honda NSX has three main driving modes (that control 11 settings), Quiet, Sport and Track. Comparing the noise emitted by the car from Quiet to Track mode is an insane 25dB.
So, once you’ve finished for the day and are pulling into your suburb where people know you and you don’t need to be ‘that guy with the loud supercar’ (trust me, it wears off quickly), you just put it in Quiet mode and Prius drivers become family.
However, the second point, in regards to fuel economy… Yes, the Honda is a hybrid and that will get you out of some stupendous stamp duty (especially in Victoria), but it’s far from ‘efficient’. (Officially 9.7L/100km.) And if you’re buying this to save fuel, you need to have a serious conversation with your wealth manager.
Apart from the reversing camera, though, the NSX is actually a pretty damn good daily. It’s so easy to drive, get in and out of, and park that you could be mistaken for driving a really fast rear-wheel-drive Civic.
There is one update to the 2019 model that we are not fully convinced on, and that’s the modifications to the chassis and software to make the NSX stiffer and more responsive. Yes, it’s definitely stiffer, but it didn’t really need to be, and we would go so far as to say it has detracted from its everyday drivability.
That's because you really don’t want to own an NSX and puddle about in Quiet mode around town, you’d be in Sport or even Track, and then it gets a little too stiff now. Honda needs to borrow a Ferrari and turn on the ‘bumpy road’ adaptive suspension mode to see how even a race car can ride beautifully without losing cornering ability.
Speaking of cornering, it’s hard to really quantify the NSX’s driving ability. There is no doubt its 1780kg kerb weight comes into the equation. This is a heavy car for its class, and we are not exactly sure if it’s trying to be an outright supercar or a daily driven GT. In some ways, it feels like it’s trying to be both, and as a result it doesn’t nail the brief for either.
We took the NSX for some serious testing around Brisbane’s mountainous roads, and have previously completed dozens of racetrack laps, and can hand on heart tell you it’s one of the best balanced and complete supercars… From 2016.
Honda has done some serious magic to hide the car’s weight, but with an engine in the back and the electric systems in the front, even David Copperfield would struggle to fool the driver about the heft they are carrying around at all times.
Don’t misunderstand, the NSX will conquer any racetrack or twisty road you throw at it; it’s fast, responsive and inspires enormous confidence around bends. It behaves in the most neutral way, and its limits are far higher than that of a regular driver (like yours truly).
The nine-speed transmission is also smooth and rapid (it’s really a seven speed but has a takeoff and cruising gear). We also appreciate that the car’s supercomputers are programmed to give it an oversteery feel (yes, it can drift) that really puts a smile on your face.
But despite all its greatness and positives, there is no doubt that the competition has moved on to the next level. The Honda NSX’s party trick of being a hybrid supercar like the McLaren P1, LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Spyder is all well and good, except when you realise there are now non-hybrid models from each of those brands that are faster. The NSX is a hybrid for the sake of being a hybrid.
Besides, whereas the NSX feels insanely grippy, responsive and relentless in its acceleration, the exotic trio of McLaren, Lamborghini and Ferrari make the driver feel so much more – there is infinitely more communication through the steering wheel, the chassis and the seat. Almost like a direct connection to the body (and soul for the Italians).
You might not be going any faster, but boy it feels it. You can argue that the offerings from the more established exotics are $100K more and are therefore incomparable, but in reality, if you’re going to buy an NSX, spending the extra $100K should definitely be an option.
It’s also worth noting – let us not kid ourselves because it's important – not many regular folks are going to think you paid $400,000+ for a Honda, while most will think very differently of the exotic trio. Which, at the end of the day, is part of the supercar ownership experience.
Perhaps more importantly for the NSX, there are two car companies that really specialise in the area in which this Honda wants to fill. Those being Porsche and Aston Martin. You can argue that you can’t get the same daily ability from a 911 GT3 or GT3 RS as an NSX, but you get a hell of a lot more fun and engagement.
On the other end of the spectrum, the V8 DB11 is very much in the price ballpark of the NSX. Although it doesn’t offer comparable performance with fancy hybrid systems, you just need to jump inside and feel the craftsmanship and that extra second to 100km/h becomes meaningless.
Overall, the 2019 Honda NSX is a striking and exceedingly unique car that will appeal to those who want to be different. It’s remarkably fast, insanely capable dynamically, and can turn into a quiet hybrid at a touch of a button.
It will also turn heads wherever it goes, and its rarity will make it an Instagram sensation. But, in no one particular area does it excel over its competitors.
How powerful is the Honda NSX?
The new Honda NSX uses a hybrid petrol-electric powertrain to deliver a combined 427kW of power and 646Nm of torque.