RE: Honda NSX-R: PH Heroes

RE: Honda NSX-R: PH Heroes

Sunday 14th April

Honda NSX-R: PH Heroes

The NSX was a spectacular supercar out of the box. Then came the R



In absolute terms - by which I mean Naoki Yamamoto at the wheel of each, stopwatch running, one single lap of Suzuka - the original 1992 Honda NSX-R might be faster than the current Honda Civic Type R. Perhaps. I'm not sure I can call it though. The hot hatch has a tiny power-to-weight advantage (232hp/tonne versus 228) and stronger brakes, but the mid-engined car is lighter and better balanced, it has a much smaller hole to punch in the air and, well, it's a supercar and not a hatchback.

The Nordschleife leaderboard suggests the newer car is quicker by 13 seconds a lap around that place, but the NSX-R's time (and admittedly it was the facelifted NSX-R with a fraction more power that recorded it) was set 17 years ago on period tyres. Bolt on some sticky modern rubber and the difference could well be wiped out and then some.

Anyway, the point is the old-timer might just have an edge over the new car against the clock, but in the real world, on public roads and in the hands of anybody other than a Super GT champion, the Civic Type R would humiliate the NSX-R so comprehensively you would want to give the dinky little supercar a cuddle. Of that I am absolutely certain.


The thing about the Civic is that it gives up its performance gladly, so that with only a little effort and just a modest amount of skill it can be flung along a road at breakneck speed. And that pretty much describes every modern performance car. The NSX-R is a different thing altogether.

It's an amazing thing to behold these days, low and long and wide like an aircraft carrier. It doesn't have a roof so much as a canopy. When you sit in its deep and extremely supportive kevlar bucket seats you have a widescreen view of the scene ahead of you, the likes of which no modern car can imitate. The scuttle is very low, the pillars are pencil thin and the glass house feels enormous, so you look out at an entire landscape rather than peer through a narrow letterbox.

With its tiny rim, the black Momo steering wheel comes right out to greet you, but it sits low in the cockpit rather than at chest height, so your hands fall down onto it. The titanium gearlever lozenge is precisely where you want it and the dials ahead of you are so clear - black faces, yellow needles, crisp white font - you can almost read them in your peripheral vision. What you find beneath that contrasting black canopy is not a cabin or an interior, but a driving environment. It couldn't be better.


Just as the BMW M road car story began with the M1, Honda's Type R has its origins in the NSX-R. It seems so obvious now that a car company would also build a leaner, more focused version of an existing performance car, but in the early Nineties the practice was nothing like a prevalent - nor as profitable - as it is today. Honda's go-faster engineers tore anything out of the NSX's cockpit that didn't contribute to making it lap more quickly. The standard car's squishy leather chairs were junked, sound deadening was ripped out and the air conditioning binned. On top of that lightweight Enkei wheels were fitted, contributing to a total weight saving of 120kg. That from a car that was hardly overweight in the first place. The chassis was overhauled as well with stiffer springs and bars, retuned dampers and new bushing.

It's not entirely clear how many of the 483 first-generation NSX-Rs found their way into the UK, but you could certainly count them on one hand. Back in its day the NSX-R was criticised by some for being very firm and unyielding. I had expected that to say more about the era than the car itself, because so many performance cars that might have felt very taut once upon a time now feel rangey and fluid, at least compared to a lot of more recent machines. But the NSX-R does feel very firm and unyielding, even now. So it jiggles and jinks its way along a typical British B-road, tight and fidgety, but never is it so tough that you can't get on with driving it quickly. There is just enough compliance in the springs to let you do that. What that tension means, of course, is that it has agility and body control to burn.

At low and medium speeds the unassisted steering is so weighty that you guide the car with your elbows, or even your shoulders, rather than your wrists. And then, at a certain speed, the steering finds its range and it becomes much lighter, so you release your white-knuckle grip from the thin wheel rim and allow your fingers to clasp it lightly. After that, the wheel wriggles and writhes in this delicious way that tells you exactly what's going on down at road level. You dial in just a tiny bit of steering lock even in a straight line to feel the resistance build and then fall again when you return it to centre.


The gear ratios are very long and the engine is light on torque (only 217lb ft) compared to the cars we've become accustomed to. So the NSX-R never feels really rapid. Instead, the 3.0-litre V6 seems to row through each gear in long strokes, rather than ripping through them forcefully. And whereas some Honda VTEC engines change onto the lumpier cam as abruptly as a light switch being flicked, the NSX-R's bleeds from one to another at around 6,000rpm.

With the chassis jinking and fidgeting in its way and the engine running out to the redline in great tuneful sweeps, you just sit back and drink it all in. What's so enjoyable about this car is that it's a tactile pleasure to drive even at a canter, and then challenging to pedal along any quicker than that. So when the Civic Type R - or the new Porsche 911, or the Audi R8 - does thunder past you on a big wave of torque and disappear into the next sequence of bends, you let it go and enjoy the process of operating this collaborative, interactive machine.


SPECIFICATION - HONDA NSX-R

Engine: 2,977cc, V6, petrol
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 280@7,300rpm
Torque (lb ft): 217@5,400rpm
0-60mph: 5.1 seconds
Top speed: 168mph
Weight: 1,230kg
MPG: N/A
CO2: N/A
On sale: 1992-1995
Price new: Β£55,000 (1992) est.
Price now: from Β£150,000

Inspired? Search for a Honda NSX here









Author
Discussion

Omega1987

Original Poster:

38 posts

19 months

Saturday 13th April
quotequote all
Personally I enjoyed driving high torque cars so I wouldn't necessarily get any more satisfaction in the NSX than the new Type R but I think it's essential for a drivers car to have a well sorted manual gearbox so would certainly prefer the NSX to a DSG equipped R8.

Butter Face

19,394 posts

107 months

Saturday 13th April
quotequote all
Beautiful cars. I had the please of seeing an NA2 Type R last summer and they are fantastic, definitely in the lottery win garage.

Tickle

3,370 posts

151 months

Saturday 13th April
quotequote all
I remember the praise this car got when it came out, winning EVO car of the year back in the early 00's (2002 IIRC). Dream car for me, revvy engine, light, small'ish and a bit geeky on the details. If the gear change is anything like in a DC2 it mush be sublime to use.

...it would have to be in championship white though!

Snubs

839 posts

86 months

Saturday 13th April
quotequote all
Tickle said:
...it would have to be in championship white though!
Absolutely!

deltashad

6,722 posts

144 months

Saturday 13th April
quotequote all
Rather have this than a modern super car.

Maldini35

2,206 posts

135 months

Saturday 13th April
quotequote all
This is such a perfect car.

Tactile, balanced and involving with that wonderful gearbox.

C.MW

177 posts

16 months

Saturday 13th April
quotequote all
What a wonderful piece of work. It has everything a car nut would want in a car and then some. It's been a long time since I drove one but I vividly remember its on-limit behaviour being shockingly benign for a mid-engined car and the delicacy with which it needs to be controlled as if you were in an Elise. A very different car from the 911 of that period and was all the better for it. I never realised how good it looks in yellow but oh my... Off to classifieds...

samoht

1,030 posts

93 months

Saturday 13th April
quotequote all
Saw this parked outside a Tokyo hotel a couple of years back, for all you Championship White lovers:



and in the Honda museum in Tochigi:


The NA1 Type-R was always such a mysterious car, in those pre-internet, pre-globalised days. I recall Russell Bulgin eulogising one, perhaps in dark green, but it was always a creature of a far-off land. The NA2 version won ECOTY and was much more visible outside Japan.

I love them both, feels like the Type R resolves the last little doubts about the regular model. Unlike the latter though, they were never attainable. I imagine the next best thing is to get a standard NSX and start tweaking it, should be able to get much of the same weight out although would never be as cool as seeing those red badges on that low, wide, mid-engined missile.

xu5

204 posts

104 months

Saturday 13th April
quotequote all
Stunning cars.

Derek Chevalier

2,573 posts

120 months

Saturday 13th April
quotequote all
Omega1987 said:
Personally I enjoyed driving high torque cars
Maybe use a lower gear.

Derek Chevalier

2,573 posts

120 months

Saturday 13th April
quotequote all
samoht said:
I imagine the next best thing is to get a standard NSX and start tweaking it, should be able to get much of the same weight out although would never be as cool as seeing those red badges on that low, wide, mid-engined missile.
With a standard (facelift) car you can remove the spare wheel, toolkit, engine cover etc and replace the standard exhaust with something like a Taitec. This gets the car near to 1300kg (half tank of fuel) and 300bhp.

http://www.nsxprime.com/forum/showthread.php/78963...

Free weight reductions (confirmed weight data):
spare tire -29.4lbs
tool kit/jack/air pump -15lbs
engine cover -15lbs
Toe Hook -3lbs

Non-free weight reductions with real weight data (Oem weight - new part weight)
Taitec GTLW -26lbs (44-18)



Arsecati

360 posts

64 months

Saturday 13th April
quotequote all
Omega1987 said:
Personally I enjoyed driving high torque cars so I wouldn't necessarily get any more satisfaction in the NSX than the new Type R but I think it's essential for a drivers car to have a well sorted manual gearbox so would certainly prefer the NSX to a DSG equipped R8.
Then you've never driven a DSG equipped R8.

SidewaysSi

5,940 posts

181 months

Saturday 13th April
quotequote all
Arsecati said:
Omega1987 said:
Personally I enjoyed driving high torque cars so I wouldn't necessarily get any more satisfaction in the NSX than the new Type R but I think it's essential for a drivers car to have a well sorted manual gearbox so would certainly prefer the NSX to a DSG equipped R8.
Then you've never driven a DSG equipped R8.
Eh? Come again...

Water Fairy

2,957 posts

102 months

Saturday 13th April
quotequote all
Reading between the lines it sounds like this is a pain in the ass driving on real roads at real speeds tbh.


Derek Chevalier

2,573 posts

120 months

Saturday 13th April
quotequote all
Arsecati said:
Omega1987 said:
Personally I enjoyed driving high torque cars so I wouldn't necessarily get any more satisfaction in the NSX than the new Type R but I think it's essential for a drivers car to have a well sorted manual gearbox so would certainly prefer the NSX to a DSG equipped R8.
Then you've never driven a DSG equipped R8.
I've not, but my understanding is that the original manual V8 was the purist's choice

https://www.pistonheads.com/features/ph-features/a...

Derek Chevalier

2,573 posts

120 months

Saturday 13th April
quotequote all
Water Fairy said:
Reading between the lines it sounds like this is a pain in the ass driving on real roads at real speeds tbh.
Seems a lot stiffer at the front vs standard

https://www.nsxprime.com/wiki/Suspension#Spring_ra...

skylarking808

282 posts

33 months

Saturday 13th April
quotequote all
Good write up and summary of the fundamental differences of old and new skool drivers cars.
The NSX-R is defo a cult drivers car.

Personally I would love the tactile feedback and steering that would require a bit of effort.
Surprisingly cool in the yellow finish as well.

Water Fairy

2,957 posts

102 months

Saturday 13th April
quotequote all
Derek Chevalier said:
Water Fairy said:
Reading between the lines it sounds like this is a pain in the ass driving on real roads at real speeds tbh.
Seems a lot stiffer at the front vs standard

https://www.nsxprime.com/wiki/Suspension#Spring_ra...
Crikey and then some!

Bright Halo

832 posts

182 months

Saturday 13th April
quotequote all
Surprising that the ratio’s are quite long.
Wonder if there is a suitable dif swap that could lower the ratios somewhat?

big_rob_sydney

2,369 posts

141 months

Saturday 13th April
quotequote all
When I read articles like this, it leaves me in two minds.

Are we talking about the actual driving experience of it, right now, with modern rubber, compared to other vehicles, or, are we talking about it in the context of what it was back in the day?

Because as much as I love the older cars (I ran a 22B for 7 years), even I would struggle to suggest that the older cars can hang with the new machinery (progress and all that).

We may be making some driving god points about manual v DSG, etc, but we are not all driving gods, no matter how wishful our thinking.

And while I'd love to have my 22B back (but without the ridiculous price tag being asked these days), I'm just as happy to move on to something more modern, at a far more realistic and accessible price.