Street Fighter – Honda NSX

Words by Michael Pariera

The Honda NSX was the first true supercar from Japan, a mid-engine, naturally aspirated, rear wheel drive low slung coupe with enough power to keep up with the best from Europe. It was packed with features that are still cutting edge to this day including suspension that maintained its geometry even under extreme loads, which was a first on a production car. Another production car first was the all-aluminium monocoque chassis. I’ve always been a fan of Honda growing up, they are pioneers in intelligent engineering and technology. Their tie up with McLaren on the race track as their engine producer from 1988 until 1992 is seen by many as the pinnacle of Formula One racing, it also led to some great production car innovations at Honda. The Honda 1.5 litre V6  turbo engine was the most powerful in the sport.

Honda NSX NA2 UK-17

The Honda NSX was a true dream car for me, when it came out I never imagined I would ever actually have one, let alone three!

After getting a passenger ride in an NSX and hearing that wonderful V6 howl, it was ten times better than I could ever imagine, the way it handled and maintained speed was sensational. My love affair with Honda cars started out with VTi’s, especially the 160bhp 1.6 Civic VTi, which had an engine with DOHC (dual overhead camshafts) and VTEC (Variable Timing and Lift Electronic Control) that revved to 8200rpm. The Civic VTi was incredibly addictive to drive fast, as all the VTEC fun started at a heady 5600rpm. The fact that it was indestructible was the icing on the cake. I have owned most of the sporty Honda models over the decades and enjoyed them all. I currently own and enjoy a Integra Type-R DC5 and a little Beat Kei car, both only available in the UK as personal Japanese imports. My wife has a Honda Jazz Sport too.

Honda NSX NA2 UK-9I got my first Honda NSX four years ago, a Formula Red facelift model (NA2). A year later I added a Imola Orange Pearl facelift model and then recently I bought a third facelift NSX, in Indy Yellow Pearl. They are a striking collection when parked together. The yellow NSX is my daily driver and the others get driven about 2-3,000 miles a year. So why do I have three facelift models and not a single example of the original NSX? Quite simply, I prefer how they look and feel to drive. My red NSX is a ‘04 with 30,000 miles under its belt. It also has a Tubi exhaust and that really adds to the supercar experience, especially on startup. My orange car is also an ’04 model, but is in totally original specification with just 16,000 miles on the clock. The yellow one is a ’02 car and has a heady 150,000 recorded miles, but with just one previous owner that used it as his daily commuting car. It drives and feels similar to my 30,000 mile car, there are no rattles or mileage related issues whatsoever, a testament to Honda’s great engineering. I recently fitted a Pride exhaust system from the US to the yellow one and also had the whole engine refreshed by a well-known specialist on the NSXCB forum. I am also currently restoring and replacing any worn items with new ones on that car too, to make it absolutely perfect. By now you may have reached the conclusion that I am obsessed with the NSX! You would be right, but I have made an informed choice at every step, I’ve always wanted a Porsche 911 GT3 but the NSX just felt so much more special to me. I have found the same when trying other supercars too, they all leave me feeling more attached to the NSX, they just don’t come close to fulfilling all of the NSX capabilities. I have a BMW M3 CSL too which is totally different but also a lot of fun and great to drive – with the added bonus of having rear seats!

Honda NSX NA2 UK-10

The NSX looks like no other car on the road, very low, wide and long, however it is a trick of the eye, it’s dimensions are compact compared to many other supercars. The cabin shape is based on the F-16 fighter jet canopy and reminds me of the toy cars I played with as a kid. The NSX has as much presence as any other exotic car, even newer machines. Getting in, you sit low down, as close to the road as possible, both for the feel and also to lower the car’s centre of gravity to enhance the handling. It certainly gets your back muscles working when getting in and out of it.

Starting up the NSX is like any other Honda, in fact a standard NSX with an OEM exhaust also just sounds like any other Honda, which may put off a lot of supercar owners. I would walk up to my NSX and people nearby would be waiting just to hear it and would be disappointed that there was no vocal explosion to match the low slung sporty looks. However, now I have a performance exhaust on two of my cars, the added noise enhances the supercar experience. The wonderful V6 can be properly appreciated. Once on the move, even a standard NSX, like my orange one, has an induction noise that is a joy to hear and very unique. You hear the V6 engine at work so clearly, because it sits right behind the driver’s head. The noise at 4000rpm and then above 6000rpm in the VTEC zone is out of this world, the sound remains in my head after a day’s driving when I’m trying to sleep…I will never get tired of it.

Honda NSX NA2 UK-5The NSX, in my opinion is a great driver’s car and when driven properly it is very rewarding. The gearbox to this day is the best I have ever used, even over modern day supercars. Heel and toe technique is a must if you want to drive it on the limit and it copes with any degree of bend thrown at it. It is an animal at high revs but at low speeds it is smooth and easy to drive. I could easily clock up three hundred miles in a day and not be tired.

I have always found the NSX to be confidence inspiring at all speeds, a lot of manufacturers get caught up in bhp figures but the NSX has less than 300bhp – all of which is useable. I recently followed some 600bhp plus machines and they couldn’t put the power down in damp conditions. My NSX kept up no problem at all. A lot of people comment on the fact it should have had more power, but they clearly don’t know about the history around why it has 276bhp. The power figure was capped by a “Gentleman’s Agreement” between all Japanese car manufacturers. They agreed to put a lid on peak power figures in 1989, to avoid a horsepower war in a country where the maximum speed limit is just 62mph. Because of the agreement Honda produced a car with less than 300bhp that performed on track like it had a lot more, their engineering prowess overcame the Japanese power limit. The agreement was eventually broken by Acura, the US arm of Honda in 2005 with the 300bhp Acura Legend. Up until that point the most powerful Japanese sportscars were limited to 276bhp – at east on paper anyway. The Subaru Impreza WRX, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo had all unofficially been given more power by their makers before 2005.

Honda NSX NA2 UK-16With the NSX cabin being based on the F-16, there is a perfect uninterrupted 360-degree view from the driver’s seat. I love the interior, people sometimes comment that it is bland, however if you look at a German or Italian car of the same era you will be surprised just how dated they look now. The gearstick and ergonomic centre console make you feel like you’re somewhere special and every drive is an occasion. The exterior design in my opinion is timeless, perfectly proportioned and the right blend of form and function. The NSX still looks great amongst modern supercars. I feel very privileged to own three examples of the NSX, I still need a three car garage with them all lined up next to each other, then the collection will be complete… I wake up extra early in the morning in anticipation of driving an NSX. Every drive puts a smile on my face and when when I park up I always walk away and look back.

Some supercar owners won’t look twice at an NSX as it wears a Honda badge but the true petrolheads that know the history and love it. Gordon Murray based some early McLaren F1 design concepts on it. “Of course the car we would create, the McLaren F1, needed to be faster than the NSX, but the NSX’s ride quality and handling would become our new design target.” Gordan Murray, McLaren F1 creator.

Honda NSX NA2 UK-13On a whole I always get positive approval from everyone and easily end up spending half an hour talking on the petrol forecourt, the NSX is such a rare sight on the road and people flock to it as soon as it is stationary. I got talking to a supercar owner who wanted to buy my NSX, having owned one years before and regretted selling it. Out of his twenty strong supercar collection he loved the NSX the most and as a result of the encounter with mine he recently bought another one.

In terms of maintenance, the NSX is quite reasonable, however Honda UK parts prices are on the high side, it is cheaper to buy parts from Japan or the USA. I would recommend a specialist such as Kaz on the NSXCB Forum for any maintenance work, since Honda UK don’t see many NSX’s anymore. If I do go to Honda I take my own oil just to be sure the right grade and quality is put in. I also make sure to show the appointed technician how to open and close the engine hatch correctly. My yellow NSX has needed no major work in 150,000 miles, a true testament to the reliability of the Honda NSX. I am quite “hands on” and take care of detailing myself, I have just cleaned all the suspension parts on the yellow NSX, the aluminium components look great.

The price of the Honda NSX when it was first released was seen by many as too high, but with the passing of time a good facelift model now fetches more than it did when it was new. It won’t be long before all models go that way in my opinion. I hope values continue to go up, they have since I bought mine, regardless of whether they do or not I will keep enjoying them! Rarity in the UK and the fact they are still highly coveted in Japan helps keep prices strong. The halo model, the NSX-R already costs circa £200,000 if imported from Japan.