The 2021 Acura NSX is one of the best-kept secrets in the sports car world. This sleek, hand-built machine was developed by Honda’s /zigman2/quotes/207173990/composite HMC -1.18% team of master engineers right here in the U.S. And like the very first NSX that landed here 30 years ago, today’s NSX is designed to match the performance of more exotic sports cars like the Lamborghini Huracán and Ferrari F8 /zigman2/quotes/208128355/composite RACE -0.11% but deliver it in a package that is more comfortable to drive every day and more fuel-efficient, too.
That second part comes from the NSX’s remarkable hybrid drivetrain. The NSX uses a twin-turbocharged V6 boosted by three electric motors to develop 573 horsepower. A 9-speed transmission sends that thrust to all-four wheels. The NSX is a technological and performance showcase for the Acura brand. And when this car arrived in 2016 it charted a course for Honda’s luxury vision that’s bearing fruit today in cars like the sharp-handling all-new TLX sedan.
Unlike the automotive landscape back in 1990, today’s supercar buyers have many options to choose from. And the competition from cars like the new mid-engine Corvette, Mercedes-AMG GT, and McLaren 720S today is fierce. But the NSX brings a unique blend of talents to the genre. That’s because it’s not just a supercar; it’s a supercar built by Honda. And that means the NSX should deliver reliability and dependability that’s well above the average for the class. This is one supercar that should provide years of trouble-free service for its owners. It’s one we certainly wouldn’t hesitate to drive daily.
What’s new for 2021?
Acura is offering a new paint color for 2021 – Long Beach Blue Pearl. Acura is the title sponsor of the Long Beach Grand Prix, and like many limited-edition paint formulations Acura has launched in the past, this one is named after that iconic race. The original Long Beach Blue was an option on the first-generation NSX from 2002-2005. Only 88 cars were painted that color.
What we like
Smart and potent powertrain
Lower price than most exotics
What we don’t
Lack of mechanical evolution
Doesn’t have the cachet of more exotic competitors
Missing some of the latest tech
Where’s the NSX convertible?
The Acura NSX uses a hybrid powertrain that generates 573 hp and 476 lb-ft of torque thanks to its potent 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 and three electric motors. A 9-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT) channels the thrust to all four wheels.
The NSX returns admirable fuel economy figures in this class of exotic sports cars. The EPA rates the NSX at 21 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway. That means you could drive an NSX for nearly 330 miles before needing to fill-up, thanks to its 15.6-gallon fuel tank.
Standard features and options
The 2021 Acura NSX comes in one trim level. Then, you can load the car up with lots of options to enhance performance, style, or both.
The 2021 Acura NSX comes with a 7-inch display audio system with navigation, 8.0-inch TFT meter display, Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL -2.30% CarPlay and Android Auto integration, 9-speaker ELS performance sound system, dual-zone climate control, leather and Alcantara trimmed 4-way power-adjustable and heated sport seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, metal sport pedals, remote keyless entry, cruise control, active sound control, LED headlamps and taillights, 6-piston front and 4-piston rear Brembo /zigman2/quotes/206446746/delayed BRBOF -0.16% brakes, and 19-inch front and 20-inch rear forged alloy wheels.
The list of options for the NSX is long and includes a black Alcantara headliner ($1,300),carbon-ceramic brakes with silver, red or orange calipers ($10,600, carbon-fiber exterior sport package ($9,000), carbon-fiber interior sport package ($2,500), carbon-fiber roof ($6,000), exclusive interwoven wheel ($1,500), metallic paint ($1,000), power semi-aniline full leather sport seats ($1,000), and Andaro paint ($6,000).
The Acura NSX has been on sale since the 2016 model year. Yet, it hasn’t been crash-tested by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Honda has a strong reputation for safety. The NSX comes with front and side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver’s knee airbag, as well as traction and stability control. But many of the latest safety technologies that are either standard or optional on the company’s least-expensive cars are missing from this six-figure exotic, including lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and adaptive cruise control.
Behind the wheel
The NSX is an absolute thrill to drive. And that’s the main reason for this vehicle’s existence. The hybrid powertrain will launch the NSX to 60 mph in just 3 seconds – that’s as quick as its more expensive rivals. And the Acura will keep pulling until it reaches its 191-mph top speed.
This supercar features multiple modes that tailor the car to precisely the experience you want to have. There’s Quiet, Sport, Sport Plus, and Track modes. That first one is perfect for the discreet, early morning departure from the neighborhood. The NSX is a great sports car to live with as a daily driver because it’s relatively benign and comfortable when you pick one of the mellower modes.
However, the other drive modes ratchet-up the performance and the visceral feel of the controls considerably, increasing weight to the steering and unleashing a bit more excitement from the powertrain, and more engine and exhaust noise, too. But unlike some exotics, the NSX is more subdued and composed. Its performance limits are more attainable.
As one might expect, the NSX handles beautifully. But hard-core sports car fans might find it a bit tame. In fact, if you had to throw the keys of a supercar to your 16-year-old kid — the NSX might be the one we’d choose.
Other cars to consider
2021 Lamborghini Huracán : The Huracán is the extrovert’s supercar. Its V10 engine is loud, brash, and enables ferocious acceleration. The Huracán looks aggressive and sounds menacing at just about any speed. The Lambo is a car built to thrill everyone inside the car and out. We particularly like the theater of flipping up the red flap and pressing the “start” button.
2021 Chevrolet Corvette: The mid-engine Corvette packs almost 500 hp from its big, torque-rich V8 and can match the NSX’s 3-second 0 to 60 mph times. The Corvette delivers impressive performance on a curvy canyon road, too. But it’s also a smooth-riding sweetheart around town. The Corvette is an excellent daily-use sports car at a bargain price point.
2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S : The new 911 Turbo S is a bit more expensive than the Acura — but it’s a lot quicker. Thanks to its 640 hp twin-turbo 6-cylinder, this 911 will run to 60 mph in under 2.5 seconds. That’s astonishing. And because it’s a 911, the Turbo S is easy to live with around town, boasts tremendous resale value, and delivers the kind of back road handling only a Porsche can offer.
Used Audi R8: A secondhand Audi R8 is a great value. These machines share much of their mechanical makeup with the Lamborghini Huracán but wrap it in a more sedate and more approachable wrapper. To our eye, it’s the prettier car, too. And there’s nothing quite like the quality of Audi’s interiors. Since so many R8s are used as second or third vehicles, many have low miles and are in great condition.
Used McLaren 570GT: The 570 is McLaren’s entry-level sports car. And the GT model indicates that the suspension has been softened slightly to deliver a better McLaren for daily driving. But with 562 hp and the ability to rocket to 60 mph in 3 seconds flat, this is no-less a supercar than any other McLaren. Buying one used means someone else took the depreciation hit and you can enjoy the exemplary chassis tuning and precise steering at a discount.
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The NSX has been around for a half-decade already. Other supercars certainly offer more cutting-edge performance. Still, at just under $160,000 the NSX remains a bit of a bargain when you consider the hybrid engineering that’s onboard. Just about everything one could want is included in the base price. So as long as you’re not inclined to cover your NSX in carbon fiber and special paints, the price will remain relatively low.
This story originally ran on Autotrader.com.