30 Years of NSX
Acura celebrated 30 years of the Acura NSX sports car at the 2019 Chicago Auto Show, almost exactly 30 years to the day that the NS-X concept debuted in Chicago. Acura’s display at this year’s Chicago Auto Show bookends the 30-year history of the NSX with a 1991 NSX — the first production NSX — alongside the current-production 2019 NSX.
New Sportscar eXperimental
Acura unveiled the “New Sportscar eXperimental” concept — a high-performance, mid-engine sports car also known as the NS-X — on February 9,1989, at the Chicago Auto Show. In June of that year, Acura invited a group of American journalists to drive prototypes of the NSX, and based on feedback from the tests reportedly developed a more powerful engine for the production model that followed the next year.
A Champion Contributes
In February 1989, legendary Formula One driver Ayrton Senna traveled to Honda’s Suzuka race circuit In Japan to test the new Honda F1 car at the same time the Honda R&D team was testing the NSX. The NSX engineering team asked Senna if he would evaluate their prototype. Even though the target for the production NSX was chassis rigidity equal to Porsche and Ferrari, Senna felt the prototype was not stiff enough. “I’m not sure I can really give you appropriate advice on a mass-production car,” a modest Senna told the team, “but I feel it’s a little fragile.”
More Rigid Chassis
Based on the input from Senna, the NSX engineering team changed its target for rigidity and moved to the famed Nurburgring circuit in Germany for testing. The team determined that body flex was impacting the desired direct connection between the driver and the car, and over eight months of development NSX engineers increased the car’s rigidity by 50 percent.
Production Acura NSX
In August of 1990 the production Acura NSX went on sale as a 1991 model. Priced at $65,000, the NSX was the most expensive Japanese production car in history at that time. The first production car with an all-aluminum chassis and body, each NSX was hand built by a special team of technicians at a dedicated factory in Tochigi.
Powerful VTEC Engine
The original 1991 Acura NSX is powered by a 3.0-liter double overhead cam 24-valve engine producing 270 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque, mated with a 5-speed manual transmission. Honda/Acura’s Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control — or VTEC — made its U.S. debut in the NSX, which was also equipped with direct ignition and PGM-F1 — a fuel-injection system developed in Formula 1 racing. NSX was also the first production car to use lightweight titanium connecting rods in the engine.
IMSA GTP Lights
In 1991 Comptech Racing entered an Acura-Spice GTP Lights race car powered by a modified Acura NSX engine in the International Motor Sports Association GTP Lights Series. Parker Johnstone drove the Acura-Spice in the series to both the manufacturer’s and driver’s championships. Comptech Racing and Johnstone went on to win three consecutive championships, taking the 1992 and 1993 titles.
Acura added the NSX-T as a 1995 model, sporting a removable roof panel and an available Sequential SportShift automatic transmission.
More Powerful Engine
Acura NSX and NSX-T received a new 3.2-liter 24-valve V6 engine for 1997, producing 290 horsepower and 224 lb-ft of torque, now mated with a 6-speed manual transmission. Driving a modified Acura NSX, Peter Cunningham won the 1997 Sports Car Club of America World Challenge Championship.
Alex Zanardi Edition
The Alex Zanardi Edition NSX was produced for the 1999 model year in honor of the popular open-wheel-racing driver and his two CART championships. Production of the Zanardi Edition was limited to only 49 copies, based on the hardtop coupe, and all finished in Formula Red. The Zanardi Edition included revised suspension, manual steering, interior updates, exterior styling cues and lightweight BBS wheels.
The NSX took on a new look for 2002 with an updated exterior design that includes fixed HID Zenon headlights replacing the pop-up units, a new front fascia, a new rear fascia and revised taillights. The 2002 NSX also received revised suspension and larger wheels and tires.
End of Production
In June of 2005 Acura announced that production of the NSX would cease at the end of the year but that development of a new NSX was underway. As we now know, that development would continue for a number of years before the debut of the NSX Concept.
Acura NSX Concept
The Acura NSX Concept debuted at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, offering a first look at the design of a new NSX, as well as the drivetrain layout with a transverse mid-mounted V6 engine and Acura’s Sport Hybrid SH-AWD system. In the middle of development, the global R&D team scrapped the transverse powerplant, instead creating a twin-turbocharged, logitudinally-mounted, 75-degree V6 engine for the new NSX.
Production Acura NSX
Three years later and 25 years after the original NSX, Acura debuted the production Acura NSX at the 2015 North American International Auto Show, although the wait continued until the NSX went on sale as a 2017 model the following year. Developed and produced in the U.S., the new NSX is powered by a hybrid powertrain that combines a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engine with three electric motors and a 9-speed dual-clutch transmission. The three electric motors include a direct-drive electric motor between the V6 engine and the transmission, and twin independent electric motors driving the front wheels with instant torque and dynamic torque distribution.
2019 Acura NSX
Acura continues to refine the NSX with exterior design updates, new interior options and performance improvements for the 2019 model year. The most obvious change for 2019 is the addition of optional Thermal Orange Pearl premium paint. Other updates include body-color upper grille trim, gloss-black grille mesh and gloss-black rear bumper mesh. Inside, new options include Indigo blue with black Alcantara and full Red leather.
The NSX suspension gets updated for 2019 with stiffer stabilizer bars and rear toe link bushings. New software calibrations are added for the Sport Hybrid SH-AWD, including active dampers, electric power steering and stability control. New Continental SportContact 6 tires were developed exclusively for the NSX with a revised tread pattern, construction and rubber compound to improve performance in all conditions.