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Honda NSX concept unveiled at 2012 Detroit auto show

Mon, 09 Jan 2012

One of the biggest draws of the 2012 Detroit auto show is the new Honda NSX concept car. Developed in tandem by Honda's design studios in California and Japan, the new NSX is a svelte-looking supercar with an exciting purpose: it heralds Honda's new supercar.

After years of will-they, won't-they delays, concepts and U-turns, this time Honda is adamant - it really is replacing the original NSX. Even better news, the chief exec confirmed it would be here within three years.

The new NSX has big boots to fill: the 1980s original had a major impact on the supercar arena, bringing ease of use and less fearful road manners to the upper echelons of the sports car market. You could well argue that today's Audi R8 and Ferrari 458 Italia wouldn't  be so biddable if the NSX hadn't existed.

New Honda NSX: the engineering story

The new NSX, 2012-style, will focus just as much on high-tech as the original. That name stood for New Sports Experimental and Honda is equipping its newcomer with a hybrid powertrain.

There's a slew of hybrid supercars coming in the next three years: McLaren, Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini, to name but four, are all preparing part-electrified sports cars. You can now add Honda to that list.

The new NSX sports Honda's first mid-engined application of its Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system, as previously seen in the more workaday Honda Prelude and Japanese-market Inspire.

That means the NSX will be four-wheel drive, although the exact workings of the petrol and electric motors on the production car remain to be seen. Honda will be forced to use one of its petrol engines from elsewhere in its global car range, which points to a 3.0 or 3.5-litre petrol engine equipped with direct injection to provide the motive power.

It is likely that the NSX will use the latest lithium-ion batteries; although the entire European hyrbid road car range sticks with nickel metal hydride batteries, Honda has just bought into a Japanese specialist in lithium ion technology.

So when can we buy the new Honda NSX?

That's the $64 million question here in Detroit. This is no longer a pie-in-the-sky concept. Honda has confirmed the NSX is now a live project, as the company tries to claw back its reputation for cutting-edge engineering and exciting sports cars after the death - in Europe at least - of the S2000, Type R models and standalone sports cars.

Takanobu Ito, president and CEO of Honda who led the development of Honda’s first NSX supercar, said: 'Like the first NSX, we will again express high performance through engineering efficiency. In this new era, even as we focus on the fun to drive spirit of the NSX, I think a supercar must respond positively to environmental responsibilities.'

In a surprise move, he also announced the new NSX would be developed and built in a new facility in Ohio, US.

He also told a packed Acura stand to expect to see NSXs racing. 'We will develop race and road specs for this car. You will see this car globally within three years.'

However, a UK official hinted that we might even see Euoprean models earlier than that.

Acura NSX becomes a Honda NSX

The NSX being rolled out at the 2012 North American International Auto Show is badged as an Acura, Honda's upmarket US wing.

Expect to see the NSX appear also at the 2012 Geneva motor show in March, where it will wear Europe and rest-of-the-world-spec Honda badging.

By Tim Pollard