New Car/Review

1998 ACURA NSX COUPE

by Matt/Bob Hagin

acura

SEE ALSO: Acura Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 84,000
Price As Tested                                    $ 84,725
Engine Type          VTEC DOHC 24-valve 3.2 Liter V6 w/PFI*
Engine Size                                     189/3179 cc         
Horsepower                                   290 @ 7100 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               224 @ 5500 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                   99.6"/71.3"/174.2"
Transmission                               Six-speed manual
Curb Weight                                     3078 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  18.5 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                    (F)215/45ZR16 (R)245/40ZR17
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                     Mid-engine/rear-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                         Two-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                       None
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.32

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            17/24/22
0-60 MPH                                        5.5 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                        14 seconds @ 105 mph
Top speed                                           165 mph
     * Programmed fuel injection

(The Acura NSX emulates the best "exotics" that come from Italy but without their temperamental behavior, says Bob Hagin. His son Matt says the NSX emulates luxury sedan comfort but without the luggage space.)

MATT - Driving around in the newest Acura NSX is like being under a spot light, Dad. It's so different from most of the car in daily traffic that it stands out like a duchess in a chorus line. It's a mid-engined supercar in the truest sense of the word. It stands just shoulder high and with seating for only two, it could never be considered anything more than an expensive toy.

BOB - I agree that it's not the type of car that mom is going to use to transport the neighborhood soccer team and it's not going to be useful when dad decides to bring home a couple of 4-by-8 sheets of plywood. But it would make a great cross-country touring car, especially in those states where its 165 MPH top speed potential could be exercised. It could also be used by carriage-trade executives as a classy commuter as long as he or she doesn't have to carry much more than a cell phone, a brief case and an overnight bag. It's not a temperamental car in any way and is docile as a puppy. As an example, to make the clutch capable of providing blinding acceleration along with a soft pedal action, Acura engineers used high-tech designs that would do justice to a manned space station. I found it amusing that the price-sticker that came with our car noted that the tires are special "sticky" Bridgestones and probably wouldn't even last 10,000 miles - especially the rear one.

MATT - Acura had me at a track-test session with this car last year and it goes as good as it looks. I had time to really get to know the car pretty well and I got drove the NSX with the six-speed transmission. A four-speed automatic is available too. In order to not overpower the automatic version, Acura uses the original smaller 3.0 liter engine with less horsepower and torque. The automatic has a steering wheel-mounted SportShift system that lets the driver shift it up and down through the gears much like a stick-shift. The NSX is mostly aluminum and the body/chassis unit only weighs 490 pound including the trunk, hood and both doors.

BOB - The 3.2 engine is a masterpiece, Matt. It uses Honda's variable valve timing to provide good low-speed pulling power as well at top-end horsepower. Its too complex to explain without a caulk board but it uses an electrohydraulic system to change the cam lobe profiles and the change-over happens at 5800 RPM. The cylinder liners are installed using a special thin carbon-fiber/aluminum silica material lining for thinner walls and better cooling. A lot of other items that were developed through Honda's racing program here and in Europe have shown up on the NSX. The engine construction is all-aluminum too and the whole thing weighs in at just 3300 pounds. The weight bias is a bit towards the rear and to compensate, the rear tires are slightly bigger than the fronts. The disc brakes are larger in the back, too.

MATT - Every NSX is hand-built in Japan, Dad. There's no production line and each chassis is rolled along on a dolly from station to station. If a particular car needs more time to make it "right," it stays where it is until that particular team gives it the stamp of approval. But the engine assembly isn't a team effort. One technician does the job and the engine isn't installed until it suits him. And unlike production line cars, each NSX is given a proving-grounds road test of up to 50 miles just to make sure that it's up to snuff.

BOB - There's an open version available as well which is called the NSX-T. It's actually a "Targa" with a built-in rollover bar. The top has to be removed manually and it slips into a compartment above the engine. That way it doesn't use up any of the minuscule luggage space. The NSX has been around now for eight years without an update and I wonder how much longer the design will last.

MATT - Probably for a long time, Dad. I don't see any of them up for sale on a discount lot so they must still be pretty hot property.

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