It hums with almost the same equanimity you hear (or don't hear, actually) in a big Acura sedan. Roll on the power, and the exhaust bites with a hard-edged rasp. Gear-changes are light and smooth - as you'd predict.
Nothing in the NS-X 43/57 percent weight distribution (advantage:aft), its 98.4-inch wheelbase, or its double-wishbone suspension appears noteworthy on paper, but someone has done a serious job on this chassis. Around the challenging, always-turning 1.5-mile handling circuit at Honda's Tochigi proving ground, the NS-X quickly answers the big mid-engine question: No, it is not evil on trailing throttle, the tail does not try to pass you when you lift in a bend, and you need not always be on red alert to read the car and catch it before disaster strikes. Quite the contrary.
We are prepared to name the Acura NS-X the most cooperative and best handling mid-engined car we have ever driven. It can be coaxed, cajoled, pressed, tossed, or thrown into bends, and it simply eases up to the limit with great poise and clear communication. The Yokohama Advan tires start to howl, then howl louder, then begin to chudder as the rolling mode changes over to sliding. There is about the right amount of basic under-steer built in, but you can have that or a little over-steer depending on where you've put the weight with the throttle. Practically the only dynamic condition we identified as at all adrenaline-raising was entering the slower, tightening portion of a long, long multi-apex left curve at more than 100 mph when some braking and a fourth-to-third downshift had to happen while pulling some fair g's. There was the merest suggestion from the bodily gyros that the back end might hurtle on if we were too clumsy with the controls. But this tendency was dramatically less pronounced, and we were going considerably faster, than in the Ferrari 328GTB or Porsche 911 we drove around Tochigi for comparison. In fact, in almost any way you could mention, the Acura kicked the heritage out of both European sports cars. Granted, the 911 and the 328 are old designs about to be superseded (the Carrera 2 and the 348 can't come too soon), but they still represent the standards of this market, and anyway, their, successors, will be made very much in their images.
So there's no question that the Acura NS-X, Japan's most expensive car ever, will earn a rightful place among the world's upper-midrange sports cars. And it will set new standards for refinement and civility even in that heady company. European prestige marques must take this latest Japanese move very seriously. Or they may not be able to take it at all.
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