Tochigi, Japan -- In a quest to draw more power from its midengine V-6 Sport Hybrid All Wheel Drive and compete performance-wise with cars like the Ferrari 458, the 2015 Acura NSX will have a longitudinal engine layout. Honda showed the engine layout here ahead of the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show. While the NSX "concept's" exterior design is unchanged from its last auto show iteration, the chassis reveal is new. The first Honda/Acura NSX was built with transverse midengine V-6s, first of 3.0 then of 3.2 liters.
The 2015 Acura NSX, to be badged an Acura in North America and China, and as a Honda everywhere else, is expected to get a high-output, twin-turbocharged version of the new Acura RLX sedan's 3.5-liter V-6, with an electric hybrid system working off a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The all-wheel-drive system will deliver the power for the front wheels through two electric motors.
Honda has been developing the 2015 Acura NSX at an engineering facility next to its Marysville, Ohio, assembly plant. This U.S-based engineering group pushed for the new car's longitudinal layout. The 2015 Acura NSX will be built on an assembly line in Ohio and should be in production next fall as a 2015 model.
The Japanese automaker also let journalists loose with Honda Civics powered by its new lineup of small turbocharged engines. We got two laps of the Tochigi test facility's high-speed oval in a European-spec Civic Type R "under development" and powered by a new, 280hp 2.0L turbocharged VTEC four-cylinder engine, with direct gas injection. Combined with a six-speed manual gearbox, the Civic Type R felt capable to take on any European hot hatch. It launches quickly and races through the six gears on to an electronically governed 125 mph top speed, though Honda says the car is capable of 155 mph. A red button on the dash turned up the power for our second lap in the car, making a kind of hyper-power kick. Honda wouldn't say exactly what the button does, though it clearly increases the turbo's boost. Honda also won't confirm plans for a Type R version of its North American-market Civic coupe even though it would be a natural halo for the model that has had trouble earning positive reviews in its latest iteration.
Honda says it plans to shatter the Nürburgring Nordschleife lap record for front-wheel-drive cars, of 8 minutes 7 seconds by breaking the 8-minute mark with a European Civic Type R.
A Honda official also hinted the 2.0L turbo could replace V-6 engine options in models like the North American Accord sedan and coupe. Honda also let us take a quick drive in a North American Accord sedan equipped with the company's unusual, new eight-speed wet dual-clutch transmission with torque converter. The transmission, clearly still under development, launched with a bit of hesitation, but then quickly and smoothly ran up through its eight gears. Honda has been, until now, behind in keeping up with the competition in increasing its gear-count.
Honda also showed off a 1.0L turbocharged, direct-injection three-cylinder engine and a 1.5L turbo four from the same family. We drove both around the oval in cars equipped with the company's CVT, and found the turbo four to be a promising replacement for the non-Si Civic's 1.8L four. It has plenty of power for merging and passing, and works seamlessly with the continuously variable transmission. The 1.0 turbo three has adequate power as well, though NVH felt rough at low rpms and at idle, and it ran out of power just past the midrange. Honda didn't give a precise timeline for the engines, but it's clear the company is aiming for Ford's EcoBoost engine strategy.
Perhaps the most interesting piece of kit Honda showed is more conceptual than practical. It built a CR-Z's body entirely out of carbon-fiber. The car has two flip-up roof flaps to compensate for the carbon-fiber tub's tall rocker-panels. Building the body of carbon-fiber took 550 pounds out of the car's body-in-white weight, and on a Tochigi handling track, the car feels light and lively, like a CRX from the '80s (a car whose mention elicits high enthusiasm from engineers when mentioned in comparison with the new one-mode hybrid model). Though done strictly as an experiment, a Honda engineer said the company hopes and expects carbon-fiber costs to come down as its production becomes more mainstream.
At an interview in Tokyo the next day, Tetsuo Iwamura, Honda's executive Vice President and chief of its North American operations confirmed "at least two more models, three more models" of hybrids are planned for the U.S., beyond the coming Acura RLX and NSX SH-AWD models. He said he's like to see a car like the S660 midengine sports car concept built to meet U.S. regulations. A production version of the car, which bows at the Tokyo show Wednesday, will have a 660-cc engine. We hear the 1.0L turbo three will fit, though it's unknown whether there would be thermal issues with a turbo packaged tightly under the hood.