In part of the build up towards driving an NSX - expect quite a bit of that here - PH had a chat with Ted Klaus, head of the NSX project, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. His first Goodwood visit, in fact. Between shrieking engines, here are his opinions on electric NSXs, motorsport and the role of the 911 in creating another Honda flagship.
"The response has been amazing. I think the response has actually been even better in Europe, then within Europe the UK especially."
So the UK is significant market for the new car?
"It is. It is. The main market is North America, but my understanding is that UK pre-orders are completely full. Then hopefully there's some additional interest beyond the initial pre-orders. It's still a little bit unclear because there's our plan and our estimate, but then it should be quite dynamic in the first couple of years."
Do you know the split of those pre orders? Are they old NSX fans? Are they coming from other manufacturers?
"I do not know. The estimate we would have is, as you say, people who know the NSX and have owned an NSX. Also, the mentality of a 911 owner is very similar to that of an NSX owner. So that's the primary source [of competition]. I am interested to see, for example, the crossing over from an R8 experience to an NSX experience."
911 and R8 are obviously the natural rivals for this car. What stood out about them when they were being benchmarked?
"You look at the world through your own lens, so we're looking at the world through the lens of NSX. Through that lens there's a natural affinity for some of the values of a 911 especially. So in terms of a car that's very respectful of a driver's inputs; there's good communication between man and machine. That's not saying much, but it's surprisingly missing in this class of vehicles.
"And then for the R8, a certain sense of style and attention to detail. So between those two cars, you can come at it from this sort of dynamic centre, but also the aesthetic centre. But then again, going all the way back to the lens of NSX, and you kill yourself over making A-pillar cross-sections no bigger than that (holds thumb and forefinger open about 4cm) for visibility and you stretch to give people kind of a, er, next-generation sports experience, which we say. We're trying to bring the future into today through some means."
And was there anything to take from the original NSX into the new car?
"I think so, a lot of stuff. One of the first things we did in the project was send 30 engineers to Japan, and we met with the original NSX team. And we were at a festival at Motegi, so we met a lot of Japanese owners. And remember, when we launched the car we said we would call it NSX, so there's a kind of duty and responsibility to understand that heritage. So the specific items are the visibility... there's an ethos to the NSX too, a kind of 'less is more' belief, and so if you sit in the interior there's not a whole lot of switchgear. It's very clean and simple. I think you'll feel the seat working with the console and the door, just like the original. Some people make it all about the seat; we tried to use the seat in conjunction with the interior.
"Also the original NSX achieved this incredible linear performance, and so it was very accessible, very tractable. So we really worked hard to make that and, in part, that's one of the attractive qualities of the electric motors."
EV Concept at Pikes Peak, what does the future hold? Is a fully electric NSX possible?
"Right now as we're launching the NSX, we're already dreaming about its evolution and maybe the next big jump. So I'm most excited about continuing to electrify the response that the driver demands - from the steering wheel, from the throttle, from the brakes. It's so difficult for some gearheads to understand, but it has to do with the transient response; transient response is that half a second, perhaps even a tenth of a second, and that's why people like lightweight machines.
"Lightweight machines are special in that first tenth of a second; it twists your brain because electric has that characteristic, but it makes the car complicated and heavy. So it's a bit of an oxymoron, technically, to say you get this lightweight impression by adding complexity. So I know that's not for everyone, and it's not going to be easily accepted, and I'm fine with that. I think that's healthy. Don't easily accept what I say. Go out, drive it, and judge for yourself.
"So I'm very excited about those first 100 milliseconds and how quickly can we discharge from the battery to the motor, how quickly can we recover; just every time you go to make a request we're there to support you."
Now we've seen the GT3 car at New York this year; will that race this season?
"We have intentions to debut it this year, and that's being led by our US Honda Performance Team. The car was actually developed with our Honda Racing Division in Japan and now it's been turned over [to us]. It's going to be debuted and homologated first in the US, but as we know GT3 is an exciting class around the world."
"It is significant. We announced all the way back in 2012 with our then President that we were going to race this car; it wasn't a big, splashy announcement, as Honda tends to be that way. And so, from the beginning, we imagined it for racing but also for the road. So it's kind of an ongoing dream of ours, to actually produce a race car with those mass production techniques is the joy of GT3."
And though it's an obvious question, NSX and Type R have quite a bit of history. Is that something you would like to bring back?
"I'm fond of saying what we've created is not just a particular vehicle; it is a platform, a kind of focused sports car platform and so, we thought about how to evolve this in future and so we understand the request to make an even more focused version. There are requests to make an even more exciting visual version with the top removed; these are the natural demands from the market.
"One of the difficult things is working out what a Type R would be. Is Type R more electric or less electric? That's been interesting to see the evolution, even over the last couple of years. Y'know, two years ago people would have just said get rid of all this stuff. But then people started to taste it..."
911 R and V12 Vantage S manual? Is the current demand a nostalgia trip or genuine interest?
"Well I think there's always life in more traditional interpretations of sports cars. The current situation is being driven by a population movement. The guys similar to my age have grown up loving cars and worked all their lives and now they have the opportunity to buy their dream car. If they have the money they have the chance to buy nostalgic cars and some futuristic ones. I think that market's going to have legs, until that generation moves on. Then it will be as you guys grow up, will they grow into wanting those same kind of nostalgic cars? There will be a fork in the road but I think it's a little premature to judge, because people change."
Just finally, what spec would you have your NSX in?
"The NSX has very interesting lines, and one of the most interesting is the green house. We have a Casino White Pearl - all the colours are named after famous F1 corners. This colour shows off the contrast to the roof really well; on a cloudy day it looks almost like a flat grey and on a sunny day it just sparkles up, so I love that. I love the high-contrast seats we have, with Alcantara inserts and red. The red calipers, the lightweight wheels in a matt grey and then... I do not actually like the carbon fibre roof, I like the aluminium roof in piano black and then all the carbon bits down low."