Honda’s most loyal fans will tell you the brand’s heyday came quick on the heels of Toyota’s heyday, in the late 1980s and into the ’90s. This, in chronological order, is what created the fanboys: the CRX, the creation of the Acura brand three years ahead of Lexus and Infiniti, Acura’s early Integras, Ayrton Senna’s three Formula 1 championships at the wheel of McLaren-Hondas, VTEC engine technology, and the introduction of the Acura NSX as Senna was winning his second championship.
More than a decade after Acura built its last aluminum-bodied, rear-wheel-drive VTEC V-6 NSX, Honda is preparing new F1 engines for McLaren’s 2016 season, and the NSX name returns—as an Acura in North America and China, and as a Honda everywhere else. The Acura NSX will pair a high-output, twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6, mounted rear-midship, longitudinally, with an electric hybrid system working through a seven-speed dual-clutch transaxle. The twin-turbo engine powers the rear wheels and two electric motors power the front wheels.
The latest NSX concept, which debuted at last year’s Detroit auto show, is tantalizingly close to the production-spec car, expected to show up at the 2015 Detroit show.
Not coincidentally, this powertrain alludes to the turbo V-6/Energy Recovery System hybrid powerplant that Honda F1 must build to get back into the world’s most advanced racing series, even though the Acura NSX powertrain is a straightforward hybrid. Both McLaren, with its P1, and the House of the Prancing Horse, with its LaFerrari, are alluding to their F1 efforts more directly, with energy recovery systems connected to a turbo V-8 and a normally aspirated V-12, respectively.
Just as the original Acura NSX was a milder alternative to the hyper-exotics of its day, we feel safe in predicting that the ’15 model won’t have the stratospheric power and physics-defying acceleration of the McLaren P1, LaFerrari, or the similarly configured Porsche 918 Spyder. The new Acura techno-wonder promises to be a quantum leap over the old model, however, which peaked at 290 hp. Honda engineers in Marysville, Ohio, have been developing the new sports car (which will be built there, as well) and pushed management in Japan to mount the engine longitudinally, instead of transversely like the last Acura NSX, to get more power out of it.
Using a normally aspirated 3.5L V-6, the Acura RLX Hybrid powertrain makes a combined 377 hp. So, how much more can we expect in the Acura NSX by tuning it up and adding twin turbochargers? Certainly, a figure well north of 500 hp isn’t an unreasonable expectation. And if history is any guide, the Acura NSX should handle as well as any of its rivals while cruising as easily as a Civic in stop-and-go traffic.