Development of the next Acura NSX is still on track, chief engineer Ted Klaus tells us, and the car should launch in about two years' time. That fits in with the timeline originally promised when the concept car was first revealed more than a year ago. Acura also announced today that the new supercar will be built at a new factory in Marysville, Ohio.
Ted Klaus, who has worked with Honda since 1990 on cars as diverse as the Acura Integra GS-R and the MDX crossover, says that the NSX will arrive by 2015. That's the date Acura announced when the NSX concept car debuted at the 2012 Detroit auto show.
"As soon as the sheet came off the car, really, the promise was made," he says. "We said we would [launch the NSX] in three years, and we're on track."
Although he won't discuss exact performance goals, Klaus says the NSX team is benchmarking six key cars: the Audi R8 GT, Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Ferrari 458 Italia, McLaren MP4-12C, Nissan GT-R, and the Porsche 911. The Acura NSX will have impressive levels of acceleration and grip, but, reassuringly, Klaus promises the main focus will be on driving enjoyment.
"We need to be a wonderful vehicle to drive… [The NSX] makes them smile on the road. It delivers on the track, in terms of lap times."
The new NSX will have electric power steering, but Klaus says not to worry about any loss of feel (we've found feedback lacking some recent sports cars with electric power steering). He recalls that the original NSX, as well as the respected Honda S2000, both used electric power assist. For the new NSX, he promises realistic steering feel with plenty of feedback.
"Steering's the heartbeat of any car. It's all about getting the details right," he says. "The steering must allow you to almost drive with your eyes closed."
Despite the inclusion of a hybrid powertrain (a V-6 gasoline engine with twin electric motors), we're told the NSX will still sound exciting and sporty. Klaus says that if the new supercar were too quiet, it wouldn't be satisfying to drive -- no matter how fast it is.
"The emotional aspect is really, really difficult," Klaus admits. "I think engine sound, exhaust sound is one of the keys to emotion… You should be able to almost drive the vehicle by sound. That would be ideal."
Above all, the emphasis is on driving satisfaction and feel, rather than purely performance figures. Klaus and his team met with 30 members of the engineering team behind the original NSX to help identify characteristics that defined the old car. Currently there are about 20 engineers working on the NSX's hybrid powertrain in Japan, while in Ohio another 30 engineers are developing the chassis and body. At the end of the day, he claims he is more focused on driving excitement than meeting specific performance benchmarks. If the car is fun to drive, "Do you really think a tenth of a second is going to sway you?" he asks rhetorically.
The car will be built at the newly announced Performance Manufacturing Center in Marysville, Ohio. Honda will spend $70 million to build the 184,000-square-foot facility, which will be built inside Honda's former American Logistics facility, and adjacent to the extant Marysville factory that currently builds the Accord and Acura TL. Many parts of the NSX build process will be automated to ensure precision and consistency, but other parts may be hand-built by the 100 associates specifically selected for the Performance Manufacturing Center. All of those employees will come from within Honda because, Klaus says, "We need their bright minds and experience."
An on-sale date for the car has yet to be determined even within Honda. As was the case with the original NSX, the new car will likely be priced slightly below some of its key rivals. Production volumes will probably be small -- Klaus says he wouldn't mind if the Acura NSX sold as well as, say, the Porsche 911, but the goal is to keep volumes low enough that the car remains special and desirable for owners.