Last week, Autoblog sat down with Ted Klaus, chief engineer of the upcoming Acura NSX flagship, at the corporate headquarters of American Honda in Southern California. The roundtable discussion with a few other members of the media was very casual. However, since the hybrid supercar isn't due in showrooms for another couple years and most of the engineering program is still shrouded in secrecy, the bulk of our detailed questions about powertrain and performance were mildly deflected. Nevertheless, it was nice to probe the mind of the man holding the weight of the project on his shoulders – the NSX is immensely important to Honda, and it's Klaus' role to steer the program to fruition.
As revealed earlier today, the all-new second-generation NSX will be built at a new Performance Manufacturing Center located in the midst of Honda's existing R&D and production engineering operations near Marysville, Ohio. Acura expects the U.S. to be the largest market for the NSX, and the company takes great pride in its North American operation, so it was both logical and complementary that the Japanese automaker chose Ohio to be the sole world supplier for the upcoming second-generation Acura/Honda NSX. When asked about the program dates, Klaus maintained that the program was moving forward on schedule, and that its estimated arrival was set for 2015 – the original goal. Like many halo models, the made-in-USA NSX will pioneer innovative building technology for Acura and Honda alike. Klaus wouldn't discuss specific building materials, but the monocoque chassis will be assembled with several "world firsts" when it comes to construction techniques and materials. Remember, it was the first-generation NSX, introduced at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show, which debuted with lightweight aluminum body panels, titanium connecting rods and forged wheels.
We know that the next-generation NSX will feature a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain built around a mid-mounted V6 mated to Acura's Sport Hybrid SH-AWD (Super Handling All-Wheel Drive). The three-motor hybrid system puts one motor at each of the front wheels, and a third integrated with the combustion engine, to provide instant power delivery and torque vectoring all-wheel drive. The standard transmission will be a dual-clutch automated gearbox.
When questioned if the NSX would be forced induction or naturally aspirated, Klaus was unable to discuss specifics. Someone asked if the NSX will use Acura's new P-AWS (Precision All-Wheel Steer) system, but that answer was also brushed aside, too, noting only that the upcoming model has access to all of the automaker's innovative technology. Klaus revealed that running test mules exist, but don't look for them on Nürburgring. That famed German circuit will be used later, for fine tuning, he added. The engineers have benchmarked a handful of competitors, including the Ferrari 458, McLaren MP4-12C, Audi R8 GT, Chevrolet Corvette and the Porsche 911. Even after production starts, the new NSX will be continuously refined on the track where it will compete in the ALMS GT class going head-to-head against race variants of the Corvette, SRT Viper, 911, Aston Martin Vantage, BMW Z4 and 458 Italia.
When asked about the driving attributes of the upcoming NSX, Klaus said it was a goal to use all of the positive attributes of a hybrid - efficient packaging, low center of gravity and centrally mounted power source - to ensure "the mass is kept close to the driver." The electric motors will supplement the combustion engine to provide visceral excitement. "It is all about acceleration, turning and stopping... to put a smile on the driver's face," added Klaus with a grin.
If you've shopped for an Acura recently, you'll note that they don't traditionally offer their clientele a list of stand-alone options. Instead, the automaker chooses to bundle equipment into trim levels. The new NSX should follow the same pattern, but Klaus said customers may open their wallets for bespoke upgrades and appointments. As expected, Klaus was unable to give us pricing. However, he dropped more than a few hints when he stated that the upcoming NSX will offer "the value of a Ferrari" but with amazing affordability "within the range of a Porsche 911." That's a big spread.
Lastly, we spoke about volume. Honda/Acura sold a total of 18,685 first-generation NSX models
during its eight years of production (interesting fact: the most popular color, with over 5,000 units sold, was Formula Red over Black leather), with its highest volume sold in its launch year. The automaker isn't speculating about the second-generation model, but the engineer promises "supply-minus-one verses demand." In terms of exclusivity? "The car will be rare," Klaus grinned.
It isn't easy "reincarnating a legend," Klaus admitted, but his team is determined to make the all-new NSX a flagship exotic every bit as impressive as its predecessor - a sports car still celebrated more than a decade after its production ended. "If your intentions aren't to build a halo project... stop now."