Technically, the aboriginal Acura NSX debuted aback in February 1989, at the Chicago Auto Show. However, if we go by archetypal year (1991), Honda’s game-changing flagship supercar turns 30 aloof in a few months, and this is a car that deserves added celebration. The NSX abundantly accepted that mid-engine exotics don’t accept to be as difficult to alive with as a pet tiger, and it was so able-bodied advised and thoroughly engineered that Honda didn’t accept to change abundant over a decade-and-a-half assembly run. None of these virtues are absent on enthusiasts and collectors. That’s why NSXs never absolutely became cheap, like some of their added tuner-friendly peers, and why these Acura’s ethics sit aloft those of best avant-garde Japanese achievement cars.
Much has been accounting about the origins of the aboriginal NSX. The artist looked to F-16 fighter jets to abstraction a cockpit with acceptable afterimage and acclimated titanium abutting rods for aboriginal time in the industry. They alike stiffened the anatomy by 50 percent afterwards Ayrton Senna, during an ad-lib test, quipped that the car acquainted “fragile.” For some, those aboriginal and purest NSXs are best, but it’s the later, 1997–05 NSXs that command the best money on the beneficiary car bazaar these days. Why? The afterwards ones are rarer, quicker, and, objectively, a little bigger engineered.
Nobody doubted in the backward 1980s that Honda could anatomy a acceptable car, and you alone had to watch about 30 abnormal of an F1 chase to apperceive that Honda congenital a abuse acceptable engine. The Japanese additionally had a acceptability for architecture mass-market achievement cars. They’d been accomplishing it for 20 years. Still, it was article abroad absolutely for the aggregation that awash Civics and Preludes to access the branch of mid-engine supercars, again bedeviled by impractical, finicky, and hard-to-drive exotics, best of which hailed from Italy and had names with lots of vowels.
To accomplish a daily-drivable supercar, Honda pulled out all the stops, alike amalgam a new, advanced branch with a best aristocratic agents aloof to anatomy the thing. Aluminum featured heavily in the NSX, starting with its ground-breaking monocoque—before Acura, no automaker had created a assembly car anatomy absolutely out of aluminum. The bodywork and abounding of the four-wheel bifold wishbone suspension’s apparatus were aluminum as well. The agent was additionally aluminum alloy, and although Honda advised assorted configurations, including a V-8, the end artefact featured a 3.0-liter, 270-hp, artlessly aspirated V-6 with Honda’s signature capricious valve timing system—VTEC—which accustomed the agent to drive calmly and calmly about boondocks but breathe advisedly for best ability at college revs. Honda advised all-wheel drive as able-bodied but ditched it to save weight. To optimize weight distribution, the engineers placed the ammunition catchbasin and seats in such a way that weight administration wasn’t afflicted by the ammunition akin or the animal actuality in the car. They didn’t artlessly focus on active dynamics, either; the designers went to abundant lengths to accommodate a cockpit with acceptable afterimage and comfort, and the block amplitude abaft the agent isn’t that bad, abnormally for a mid-engine car.
When the final adaptation of the NSX was appear it was a revelation: a supercar that was sharp, fast, and composed but additionally comfortable, well-ventilated, accessible to drive, and as reliable as an Accord. Praise was accepted and effusive, but Motor Trend summed it up best, calling it “the best sports car anytime built.” In fact, it was so acceptable that Honda fabricated alone incremental changes over its fifteen-year assembly run.
The 1995 archetypal year alien an open-top adaptation alleged the NSX-T (Targa) and drive-by-wire throttle, but the aboriginal of the NSX’s two above updates came in 1997. The V-6 grew to 3.2 liters, accepting 20 application and 15 pound-feet of torque, for 290 hp and 224 lb-ft total. The brakes got bigger as well, and a limited-slip animosity was added. Manual-equipped cars additionally acquired a gear. Buyers who chose an auto in their NSX, meanwhile, were ashore with the 3.0-liter, 252-hp agent from the beforehand auto-equipped cars.
The changes were added than abundant to accumulate Honda’s flagship relevant. Testing the adapted 1997 NSX, Motor Trend remarked that alike afterwards several years on the bazaar “Acura’s all-aluminum, mid-engine two-seater is still a wonder, a car whose change keeps believable its affirmation to the appellation of world’s best sports car.” Praising the steering, the annual exclaimed that the council acquainted “connected to the advanced tires as if by sinew and bond rather than electrically assisted rack-and-pinion.”
Honda awash a few hardcore versions of the NSX in added markets, but the alone austere appropriate copy we got in this country was the 1999 Zanardi Edition, a run of 51 cars to bless Alex Zanardi’s back-to-back CART championships in Honda-powered cars. All of them affection New Formula Red paint, a lighter anchored roof, adapted suspension, chiral steering, a lighter battery, and artificial BBS wheels.
The NSX’s abutting big updates came in 2002, including the bigger administration updates the car would anytime see. Gone were the pop-up headlights (yes, there was a time aback pop-ups weren’t cool) in favor of anchored xenon HID units. The auto auto was gone, too, acceptation the alone roof you could get on an NSX in the U.S. was a disposable one (Japanese buyers could still get a hardtop). There was additionally attenuate about-face at the adenoids and tail, which bigger aerodynamics and bumped top acceleration to 175 mph, according to Acura. The bankrupt tips were new as well, and the seats were revised. Under the new-ish aluminum skin, bounce ante were higher, the anti-roll bar was beefier, and the rear tires grew wider.
While still a abundant car, the NSX was accepting continued in the tooth. As the amount grew, and the NSX faced added and bigger competition, Acura’s flagship became a harder and harder sell. A 2002 Car and Driver test lamented: “We abide to adulation this car. But we anticipate these bashful updates on an crumbling (introduced in 1990), cher alien are agnate to rearranging accouter chairs on the Titanic.” By 2002 the NSX’s amount had climbed to 90 grand; this was a time aback you could buy a new 911 for 80 grand, a Viper for 74, and a Corvette Z06 for almost 50. The NSX wasn’t as acceptable of a amount hypothesis as it acclimated to be—but, ironically, an ’02 NSX is still account added than all those cars today.
The NSX soldiered on until 2005, and again it was gone. Alike as American anchorage bashed with RSX Type-S coupes and TL sedans, Acura never awash abundant added than 200 NSXs per year from 1999 on in the states, so the afterwards cars aren’t aloof bigger over the originals—they’re additionally rarer. Honda hemmed and hawed about the NSX’s replacement, assuredly absolution the latest adaptation in 2016. Added a technology showpiece than a driver’s car, the accepted NSX never took the apple by storm the way the aboriginal did.
Once they became acclimated exotics, NSXs depreciated, but they never became absolutely cheap. Compared to article like a Mk IV Toyota Supra or FD Mazda RX-7, an NSX about went to a complete buyer who didn’t bang on a fat bankrupt or a anatomy kit. NSX owners collection their cars, aback an NSX is applied abundant to booty to assignment every day, but the acceptable account is that VTEC Hondas are about bulletproof, so neither aerial breadth nor appointed account should be a red flag.
Prices for all NSXs started active up in 2014. Action #2 (Excellent) ethics for the aboriginal 1991–96 cars are up an boilerplate of 14 percent over the accomplished three years and 58 percent over the accomplished bristles years, but the 1997–05 cars accept attempt up alike added aggressively, with #2 ethics up 18 percent over the accomplished three years and 69 percent over the accomplished five. Alike over aloof the accomplished 12 months they’re up 13–31 percent, depending on the year. They’ve backward collapsed aback May 2020, however, suggesting that these NSXs may be absolutely priced for now.
Current ethics for 1991–96 NSXs ambit from $33,800 for a ’91 archetype in #4 (Fair) action to $120,000 for a best-in-the-world action #1 (Concours) car. The 1997–05 cars, meanwhile, ambit from $40,900 for a ’97 targa in #4 action to $165,000 for a final-year, ’05 car in #1 condition. Naturally, the automatic-equipped 3.0-liter NSXs command decidedly less, and coupes advertise for added than targas. 2002-and-later cars additionally command a few admirable added than beforehand ones, admitting this is apparently added due to their aberration and bigger administration than the xenon headlights. Zanardi Copy NSXs are the angelic grail, but they rarely pop up. One awash for $282,017 on Bring a Trailer in September, ballyhoo the almanac set by a $140,000 car aback in April.
Value advance does assume to accept slowed, but the NSX’s abiding collectability is a abiding thing. They are some of the best well-respected cars of their time, and their precise, avant-garde engineering and analog, driver-focused acquaintance is a acceptable combination. That bond is accepting scarcer amid new cars, too, and the arrival of numb, computer-laden offerings will alone access the address of the NSX.
The column Acura’s 1997–2005 NSX may accept plateaued, but its approaching is defended appeared aboriginal on Hagerty Media.