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Thermal, Calif. Im a full 12 laps into my time behind the wheel of the 2017 Honda NSX when the realisation strikes me: I need to figure out a new driving style in order to make the most of this all-new hybrid supercar. But once the chequered flag flew to close out the final four-lap session, my track time with the car, at the Thermal Club in a blistering hot California, had come to an end.
This is the kind of thing that can happen when testing a supercar that is loaded to the gills with technology, much of it focused on making the driving experience rewarding for the seasoned professional and manageable for the rank amateur all at the same time.
Allow me to explain.
The engineers at the Honda Performance Manufacturing Center in Marysville, Ohio, did not, in their own words, set out to create a track monster. Their target was to develop the spiritual successor to the original NSX, produced from 1990-2005, which featured strong engine performance, telepathic handling and solid reliability. That car proved to be so good, it raised the bar for more familiar supercar builders such as Ferrari.
This time around, even though track performance was supposedly not their intended goal, the Honda engineers targeted the Ferrari 458, one of the best supercars ever built and a car that is easy to drive at high speeds on a closed circuit. Compared to the Italians, they took a completely different approach to generating performance, but they wanted to capture that essential easygoing nature and theyve succeeded.
Despite the fact that the Honda NSX features a hybrid powertrain and a torque-vectoring AWD system, it also feels like a well-balanced and proper supercar. But there are some quirks. The hybrid powertrain sees a mid-mounted 3.5-litre petrol V6 linked to a pair of electric motors at the front, each one responsible for guiding one of the front wheels. Behind that V6, there is another electric motor, a direct drive unit that connects to the 9-speed dual-clutch automatic. (In case you havent noticed by now, the Honda NSX is a technologically sophisticated machine.)
Total system powerrolls in at 427kW, which is available from 6500rpm right up to the cars 7500rpm redline. The torque, all 550Nm of it, comes in at a credible 2000 rpm. The NSX has an automatic launch control system no special buttons to push, just press both the brake and the accelerator to the floor, wait for a signal to appear in the instrument panel, and release the brake.
With all four wheels churning and the transmission left in automatic, the Honda rockets off the line with so little drama, it almost doesnt feel all that quick. Yet it certainly is quick: The sprint from 0-100km/h takes three seconds flat. The NSX then goes on to record a top speed of 307km/h. Not too shabby.
While the electric motors and all-wheel drive system help to propel this supercar down a straight, they also give the NSX some interesting cornering capabilities. If youre like me, youve no doubt experienced the tendency for all-wheel drive supercars to understeer when a corner is taken too quickly or you try to get on the throttle too soon while in said corner. This can make for an excruciating track experience as youre forced to either tiptoe through corners or toss it in sideways from the start and hope for the best.
The NSX also understeers in these circumstances and then it doesnt.
The torque-vectoring capability of the Sport Hybrid SH-AWD system over-accelerates the outside wheels to help bend the car around corners. At the same time, the two electric motors at the front are pulling the car forward. So the NSX understeers in certain situations and then corrects itself automatically; this is the revelation that required me to consider a new driving style.
While the acceleration and the handling of the NSX are both commendable, they pale in comparison to the regenerative braking system, which is flat-out brilliant. Many of these regenerative systems suffer from inconsistent pedal feel or simply not enough stopping power. The NSX is the exception that proves the rule; the brake-by-wire system creates a remarkably consistent feel and the optional carbon ceramic brake package delivers the stopping power expected of a supercar.
The transmission is also stellar. In automatic mode, it unfailingly selected the proper gear at the proper time, never once entering or exiting a corner in too high or too low a gear. At no time did I believe I was shifting as well in manual mode as the machine could shift on its own. This was another eye-opener.
On the open road, there was the opportunity to sample the cars other three, non-race drive modes and to establish its credentials as the proverbial everyday supercar. The NSX did not disappoint here either.
The chassis, a mixed-material creation made of aluminum, steel and carbon fibre, is resolutely rigid either two or three times as much as its closest competitor, according to the engineers at Honda. This has enabled the adaptive suspension system to provide a supple and controlled ride on bumpier roads, as well as a stiffer set-up for track duty. I wouldnt describe the NSX suspension system as being quite as wide-ranging as that of the McLaren 650S the standard-bearer, in my mind but its not far off the mark either.
In quiet mode, the most docile of them all, two of the four exhaust pipes shut down and the car can travel at speeds of up to 80km/h on electric power alone. While this all-electric commuting does not last for long (less than 4 km, in fact), this mode does help give the NSX truly remarkable fuel efficiency. (Automatic start/stop is also part of the picture.)
With all the settings at their most relaxed, the Honda NSX almost becomes a completely workable everyday commuter. Of course, theres not much space for your gear in the two-seater cabin. The boot is not large, either, and its positioned perilously close to engine bay. (Pro tip: Dont leave any packs of gum back there.) But the seats are nicely contoured and supportive, the driving position feels slightly elevated and visibility forward is very good.
The way in which leather, metal and carbon fibre have been incorporated shows creativity. The squared-off steering wheel is a nice touch. But owners of far less expensive Honda vehicles will recognize the navigation system screen and some of the controls. (To be fair, the first Audi R8 featured switchgear borrowed from an A3 and some Ferrari vehicles have used Chrysler navigation systems.)
While the 2017 Honda NSX cant lay claim to the same performance levels of the hybrid hypercar trio from Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche, its important to remember that it will cost far less. For a closer comparison, one might consider the BMW i8, a similarly exotic hybrid that offers nowhere near the outright performance of the NSX.
Without question, the latest NSX is a credible supercar that is loaded to the teeth with technology. Its not much like the original in execution, but its definitely similar in terms of intent. More importantly, its a car that stays true to Hondas roots in racing even if they dont consider it a track monster.
Work has begun on a prototype that could become a new mid-engined successor to the Subaru BRZ, according to a report out of the US this week. The prototype, said to be a response to dealers looking for something special, would be worlds away from Subarus familiar image. But, then, talk of the BRZ was once viewed in a similar light. (And then theres the SVX) American website Car & Driver reports that inside sources have spoken of a project that combines a version of the current BRZ coupe with a petrol-electric hybrid system for a performance-focused all-wheel-drive application. That hybrid system is said to be based on the next-generation all-wheel-drive system that featured in the 2014 Viziv 2 SUV concept, which sees the front wheels driven by a 1.6-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder petrol boxer engine and an electric motor, while the rear wheels get one electric motor each. For this new mid-engined prototype, however, Subarus engineers are understood to have essentially flipped that design, moving the petrol engine backwards and the two wheel-turning electric motors to the front.
Above and top: Subaru BRZ STI Performance Concept
Interestingly, Car & Driver reports that its inside connection said Subaru is still deciding whether to develop the system further for a coupe application, or to instead build a small sports SUV. If the latter is the case, a return to the slightly more conventional layout used by the Viziv 2 would surely be likely. Fans will be pleased to hear, though, that the insider is reported to have added: a coupe seems more likely, though.Of course, if a production future is on the cards, the reported prototypes Frankensteined BRZ design is unlikely to form the basis of the final model. According to Car & Driver, and understandably so, the BRZ was used simply because its the only appropriate architecture readily available at this stage. If this report out of the US is to be believed, we should see camouflaged test cars hit the road in the year ahead.
No, thats not another version of the LF-LC its the all-new Lexus LC500 Coupe, which looks a heck of a lot like the showcar that preceded it way back in 2012. Thats not to suggest that the styling has aged well let you make up your own minds on that but at the 2016 Detroit autoshow where the car was revealed in near-production guise ahead of its showroom debut in some markets in 2017, there were plenty of jaws left agape.
There is a stunning resemblance between the concept version and the production car. But it's important to note that this is fully a Lexus project, one that was developed in-house without the assistance of any other company (so, it's not a Lexus version of the long-rumoured BMW/Toyota joint-venture model, aka the Supra). With a 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine sending power towards the rear wheels through an industry-first 10-speed automatic gearbox, the LC500 Coupe is good for about 350kW of power (no torque figure has been made available, only a target of 530Nm), and a claimed 0-60 mile per hour (0-96km/h) time of under 4.5 seconds.
Its the same engine as is used in the RC F performance coupe, and that new gearbox should theoretically be able to make good use of the power on offer. Lexus claims the transmission has shift times "rivalling those of a dual-clutch transmission" and,further, says the gearbox is smaller and lighter than some current eight-speed units. Toyota Motor Corporation president and Lexus chief branding manager, Akio Toyoda, made it clear that he wanted this model to be "exhilarating in every way - inside, outside, and under the hood".And as such, the Lexus LC500 has, as Lexus claims, a "fantastic sound". It features an active exhaust system that opens the baffles in Sport mode to make it sound aggressive from start-up. In Normal mode the car still opens the baffles above 3500rpm, and there's a sound generator system that pumps noise into the cabin, too."We dont want to make cars to simply fill a category -we want to make cars to fill people's hearts," Toyoda said."When we designed the LF-LC concept it was to showcase the future Lexus design. We had no intention of turning it into a production car, but your positive reaction - as well as the reaction of our customers -changed our minds.
"We listened - and we made it real," he said, describing the car as"the result of the combined passion of our engineers and designers who worked together to turn the LF-LC into reality".The production coupe spans 4760 millimetres in length, 1920mm wide (yeah, and it looks it!) and just 1345mm tall, all while riding on a wheelbase of 2870mm.Lexus claims the LC500 has had "all of its dynamic control elements such as power application, braking, and steering tuned to operate rhythmically in sport driving conditions". And stopping shouldn't be an issue, either, with six-piston front and four-piston rear brake calipers.
While the steering wheel in the show car is on the left, the car will be built in Japan, and, as such, will be made in right-hand drive. And Australia has confirmed the car will be sold here, but timing is still to be confirmed.In a release from the company, recently appointed Lexus Australia chief executive Peter McGregor said he was delighted that it would be made available to our market."The LC500 epitomises the new spirit of Lexus and will act as a lighthouse model for our expanding range," McGregor said.The cockpit is perhaps not as outlandishly stylised as the exterior may suggest, but as the lead designer for the Lexus LC500, Todai Mori, told CarAdvice, there are some big advances in the cabin over the current crop of Lexus cars.
"This is kind of a new direction for Lexus," Mori said. "The drivers side has a very nice cockpit area. On the passenger side you have a more open comfortable feeling. We didn't want to make a sacrifice for passengers. Both seats need to have a very nice, comfortable, welcoming space."The car, according to Mori, was designed from the start as a 2+2 seater, and he said that while the vehicle may look similar to the concept car, it was a complete rework to turn it into a reality."The car is kind of a joint-venture. The original concept is from CALTY design in the United States and we worked closely, and also we kind of handed over this design. But we had to do everything from scratch, because the concept is just a concept car," he said."So weve got to start from platforms and suspension design, but we wanted to make it as low to the ground as possible. We asked our engineers: please, please make this suspension system. They worked so hard to fit it.
"This is an original Lexus design and engineering.The motor is carried over from the RC F, thats it," he said.