What Made The Original Honda NSX So Special?

In the 1990’s, the original Honda NSX shocked the world and helped kick start the supercar industry we now know where performance and reliability can work hand in hand.

To give us an idea as to what made the original NSX so great, Harry Metcalfe has released a video of his gold 2005 NSX and spends 17 minutes exploring the great Japanese sports car and all the work that went into creating it.

The first-generation NSX was produced for a remarkable 15 years from 1990 through to 2005 and, in its later years, was powered by a 3.2-liter VTEC V6 engine with 290 hp. By modern day standards, the NSX is woefully underpowered and had less grunt than the current Honda Civic Type R.

Nevertheless, and even to this day, the NSX is held in the highest possible regard and cemented its place in automotive history many years ago. Will the new NSX leave such a legacy? Only time will tell.


  • Six_Tymes

    If you think about it, the original was Perfection. All Honda had to do is reproduce the original, and not produce the latest version. I bet it would have been much less cost involved. for example would have saved millions on r&d and had lots more buyers. BUT, like any other car company they never think, and or are afraid to do something like that. In the case of the NSX original it would have worked out well. Could have been a fun pr/ad campaign. “Perfection is worth re-producing” “New Generations deserves to drive perfection too”. etc etc… that would be thinking outside the box. Sorry if your a lover of the new version, I obviously am not.

    • pcurve

      ” like any other car company they never think, and or are afraid to do something like that.” When it takes so much money to develop a new car, I think you are given limited amount of room for risk taking, and safest product planning decision is to just keep up with the Jones.

      We got some fantastic cars during Japanese bubble economy era, including LS400, NSX, Q45, backed up a huge amount of funding and risk taking ambition. Such was the case for LS400 with unheard of $1 billion in R&D cost back then, as was the NSX which got personal blessings from then alive Honda’s founder.

      I don’t know if we’ll ever see the same level of greatness out of Japan, or frankly Germany in this day and age of global parts and labor sourcing economy, and lack of ‘go-getter’ mentality. But I’m still hopeful for Japan because Toyota had the courage to cut a blank check to develop LFA, and Nissan produced GT-R that forever changed the super car landscape (even if competitors don’t want to admit it)

      But to your original point, I don’t think market would’ve rewarded Acura if they had simply replicated the original NSX’s formula. From financial perspective, the original NSX was a spectacular failure, barely selling 18,000 copies worldwide in 15 year production. In the last 6-7 years, Honda was selling 1 NSX a day on average, worldwide.

      I give Acura some credit for not producing another me-too super car, continuing to push their torque vectoring technology and sticking with livable,everyday super car genre they actually pioneered. Their fault is, they didn’t go far enough. The current NSX is only 70% as crazy as it needs to be to capture car enthusiast’s imagination.

      • Six_Tymes

        I could write a book too in response to sound just as convincing. Having said that, they could have stuck to their roots, lighter weight goes a long way. And they should have stuck to their original plan of engine layout and not make the major change that they ended up doing which caused huge set backs and required the larger engine bay. Then again, both our points could be dulled quite a bit in the not too distant future when the onslaught of all electric plus autonomous happens. meaning, we might live long enough to see an era of the majority be perplexed as why we ever wanted to drive in the first place.

        • pcurve

          “Having said that, they could have stuck to their roots, lighter weight goes a long way. ”

          I would say that’s what McLaren 570s is. Light, turbo, but no hybrid, reasonably good ride and comfortable interior. Spiritual successor to original NSX.

          One possibility is it would’ve cost Honda more money to develop a pure mechanically simple car that delivers similar level of performance.

          Honestly though, I think bigger mistake is the exterior design.

        • Six Thousand Times

          Consign. I mean, they had the formula in their hands…

  • Bo Hanan

    Purity. The new one is a GTR by Honda. And sometimes when all the boxes are checked it doesn’t equal it’s sum. P.S. A prettier package would have helped.

  • Michelin

    Is seem me not so special !
    Not original design, not charmant, a large protection car with common Japanese caractère.

  • TheBelltower

    The NSX was only spectacular to the magazines, the few people who bought them, and to kids who weren’t old enough to seriously consider the virtues of the car compared to the competition. Once I was able to afford one in the early 00s, I was shocked at how much I disliked driving it. In any measurable way, it was a failure. For all the engineering that went into it, the NSX was not as good as it needed to be.

    • Poke

      Please can you explain what was wrong with the Nsx? I didn’t have the chance to drive one yet, but I’m curious.

      • TheBelltower

        First, let me say, I was addicted to the visual design of the first NSX. I wanted to love it. I still think the design is timeless, and I don’t think that Honda made a mistake offering this car. It also worked for Honda as an experiment and a test lab.

        I would never take it to the track, so it had to be a good road car. I drove two at the same time, trying to determine if I should spring for the pricier newer model. The first was an earlier model, a ’91 I think. It was billed as a supercar that you could drive every day. Wrong. The engine had absolutely no torque and I couldn’t find a range that seemed right. The visibility was horrendous, and that combination of the unassisted steering plus weak engine made it feel like a beast in slow traffic. Then there was the image. I hated sitting at stoplights, because every dork in a ricer wanted to race. Every douche in a Mustang, Porsche or BMW wanted to show you how slow your car was compared to his. The NSX would lose every time.

        The later model was better. I think it was a ’99 or ’00 model with nearly no miles. It looked the same (i still prefer the pop-up headlamps versus the fixed lights on later models) and they added assisted steering, added a 6th gear and more torque. But it was similar to driving a C4 or C5 Corvette… not very good, I felt like an old man going through a midlife crisis, and you give up a lot to drive around in a car that offered little more than a swoopy shape.

    • pureworx

      bullshit.. having part owned one with m brother..the nsx redefined the super car, as a usable daily driver with great handling characteristics.

      by the time you got around to “owning” one it was already in its end years.. you tried to compare an 90s marvel to the current 00 crop of super cars.. with that mind set you would be disappointed.

      my brother and i had the nsx setup with a small turbo just to take the power to around 400bhp and it was a blast to drive. only reason don’t have it anymore is because it was torched by a vandal.

      • TheBelltower

        A reasonable perspective.

  • Blade t

    Love the old NSX….

  • LeStori

    Whatever it was, it certainly was not is looks. And it hasn’t got any better with age.

  • Christian Wimmer

    290-horsepower are “underpowered” nowadays? What!?

    • Poke

      The cars of the same class are around the 600hp mark now.

  • Wandering_Spirit

    I always liked it as a youngster. Not enough to make me really want it, and i do like the underdogs often. However, the new one looks boring and I’d still go for either a Nissan GTr or a 370Z Nismo, aware it’s different types of cars.

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