The Honda/Acura NSX is one of the best cars to ever come out of Japan.
In terms of “Greatest Hits” from Japanese motoring in the 1990s, there is stiff competition. However, it’s hard to argue against the NSX being at least towards the top of the list. Perhaps only the Nissan Skyline GT-R and Toyota Supra are regarded more highly.
The original Honda/Acura NSX blended fantastic and futuristic styling with sharp performance, as well as superior Japanese reliability versus many comparable European “super cars”.
Of course the NSX is still available today, albeit in a modernised, hybrid-powered form (and it’s still a fantastic car – if perhaps underrated compared to the original).
The NSX is clearly a super car – but is the NSX a supercar?
In this quick edition of Car Facts we are going to explore whether or not the NSX is a bona-fide supercar, focusing primarily on the much-celebrated first generation,.
Table of Contents
What Exactly Is A Supercar?
In order to determine if the NSX really is a supercar (or just a very good fast car) we need to explore the definition of the term.
Unfortunately, “supercar” is one of those words that doesn’t have a universally-agreed meaning.
Everyone knows that a dog has four legs and woofs … but how do you define a supercar?
With the development of hypercars (the Bugatti Veyron being a classic – albeit now dated example) the meaning of the term supercar has become even more contentious.
The term has undergone some evolution over time, but for many the quintessential definition of a supercar is along the following lines:
- Rear-wheel drive
- A larger capacity, higher-output engine (some claim 8 cylinders plus)
- Two seats
Of course this definition is not “written in stone” and is open for debate. However, when you consider the first generation NSX and the time it was designed and built (early 1990s, with design commencing in the late 80s) the points above constitute what most contemporary accounts would have considered to be a supercar.
How The NSX Stacks Up
Let’s look at how the first-gen Honda/Acura NSX stacks up to that definition:
- It is mid-engined
- It is rear-wheel drive
- It has a six cylinder, high-output engine
So on three of the four criteria, the NSX definitely passes the classic supercar sniff test.
It’s only the engine that doesn’t immediately pass muster.
However, it’s important to bear in mind that Honda were really trying to innovate in the engineering department with the NSX.
Despite it having a smaller displacement and cylinder count engine than many contemporaneous cars with which it was trying to compete, the NSX performed well in the power and acceleration department thanks to its high-revving, VTEC-equipped 3.0 V6. This engine – later upgraded to the 3.2 V6 – was a sophisticated piece of kit, and was an attempt to prove that there is a replacement for displacement.
The NSX was also the first mass-produced, all aluminium bodied car, meaning lighter weight and therefore better performance.
The Ferrari 348, which was a genuine supercar at the time of its launch in 1989, provides a good comparison point for the NSX.
The Ferrari featured a 3.4 litre V8, whereas the NSX was down on displacement and cylinders. However, both cars completed the 0-60mph sprint in around 5.5 seconds (fast for the day).
Therefore, it’s fair to say that the original NSX was – and remains – a proper supercar. Honda simply took the supercar mould and improved on it through more sophisticated technology, and the outcome was brilliant.
Of course technology has evolved and cars have moved on since the 1990s. You can now by practical family hatchbacks like the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG that would smoke the NSX in a straight line and around a track (and do so with the kids in the back, and shopping in the trunk).
Even the current-gen Honda Civic Type R is a match for – and surpasses in some circumstances – the original NSX:
What About The Current NSX?
The second generation NSX (i.e. the current one) is a different proposition altogether.
The original NSX was a masterpiece of using technology to push the envelope; the new NSX has done the same, but to an even greater extreme.
With its twin-turbo V6 plus hybrid drive powertrain, and sophisticated AWD system, the reborn NSX is even more impressive in the performance department.
Despite being such an incredible feat of engineering, it will probably never live up to the hype and legend of the original NSX … which is a shame as it is such a great car and in many ways surpasses the original.
But is it a supercar?
As mentioned in the intro to this article, the meaning of the term supercar has evolved and changed over time (and it was never definitive to begin with).
What constitutes a supercar these days is also clouded by just how incredible many “normal” performance-oriented cars can be. Just look at a lineup such as Audi’s, providing performance that would smash 1990s and early 2000s supercars in the form of practical hatchbacks and station wagons like the RS3 and RS6.
However, considering the evolution of technology it would nonetheless be fair to consider the current NSX a supercar.
In fact, some reviewers (like Top Gear magazine) consider it to be a hypercar – especially considering the amount of technology and the fact that it can make the 0-60mph dash in under three seconds.
Recap – Is The Honda/Acura NSX A Supercar
Yes, the NSX is a supercar in the truest sense of the word – at least by the standards of its day.
You’ve got the crucial elements all in one vehicle:
- Mid-engine placement
- Rear-wheel drive
- Two seats
- Excellent power/performance (in line with contemporaneous supercars from the likes of Ferrari) thanks to a high-tech engine and construction methods
The second generation NSX is even more impressive in the performance department, and could credibly be considered a hypercar – a cut above mere supercar status!
If you’re interested in learning more about the first-generation NSX, then read our Honda/Acura NSX buyer’s guide here.
You might also like to learn the differences between the Honda NSX and Acura NSX.
Feel free to leave a comment below as well – do YOU think the NSX is a supercar? Leave your feedback below.