Autos

Review: The 2019 Acura NSX is the next-generation supercar for $157,500

Key Points
  • The NSX is Acura's attempt at a next-generation supercar.
  • It's electrified, agile and extremely quick.
  • It's also a $157,500 Acura, which some people won't be able to get over.
The 2019 Acura NSX
Mack Hogan | CNBC

Acura reinvented the supercar 29 years ago with the original NSX. The high-powered, mid-engined supercar went toe-to-toe with Ferrari and Porsche while offering Acura levels of reliability and ease of use. While Ferrari owners had to pull the engine out of their cars every few years for service, NSX owners happily racked up hundreds of thousands of trouble-free miles.

That NSX — short for New Sports Experience — predicted what would come next. In the years since, supercars have gotten more livable, more reliable and more comfortable. So after correctly predicting the future the first time around, Acura has built a new NSX that previews the supercar of the future.

The 2019 Acura NSX
Mack Hogan | CNBC

The good

For all the talk of automakers electrifying their lineups, few are actually making moves at the top end of the market. The world of high-performance supercars is still a largely gas-powered market. Unless you have a few million bucks to spend on a limited-production hypercar like the McLaren P1, LaFerrari or Porsche 918 Spyder, you have one option for a high-performance hybrid supercar: the Acura NSX.

If hybrids and electrified drivetrains are the future of performance cars, then, Acura's new flagship is living up to its name. It's got a twin-turbocharged V-6 sucking down gasoline to both motivate the rear wheels and charge the batteries. Those batteries send their electrons to three electric motors; one on the rear axle and one on each front corner. Altogether, this combination produces 571 horsepower when everything is delivering peak power.

The 2019 Acura NSX
Mack Hogan | CNBC

Because electric motors can provide full torque from a standstill and the powerful V-6 charges hard to its redline, you'll basically find it impossible to catch the NSX off guard. It zips to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds and will keep charging up to 191 mph, with ample thrust available at any speed. Drag racers and parking lot braggarts will also be pacified knowing that the NSX's official 0 to 60 time is faster than those of the Audi R8 V10 or the McLaren 570s.

But with a $173,400 as-tested price, being fast isn't good enough. The beautify of the original NSX was the holistic driving experience. The new NSX is undeniably different, with a much more complicated drivetrain than the analog first-gen NSX, but the driving experience is still brilliant. Despite having a brake-by-wire system, a hybrid powertrain, two turbochargers and a dual-clutch transmission, the NSX feels surprisingly approachable and normal on the road.

The 2019 Acura NSX
Mack Hogan | CNBC

Brake feel is good despite there not being a physical link between your foot and the brakes, steering is precise and full of feedback and power delivery is instantaneous. Plus, the trick powertrain allows the NSX to pull some clever cornering magic.

Take a tight right turn, for instance, and the NSX will send more power to the front left electric motor while pulling power from the front right motor. By speeding up the outside wheel, the NSX can pull you around corners using this electric setup to increase your cornering agility. But because they've spent so much time tuning it, it never feels intrusive or synthetic, rather increases your confidence in the car.

The 2019 Acura NSX
Mack Hogan | CNBC

Plus, you get a track mode that limits stability control intervention, firms up the suspension and opens up the exhaust. The NSX doesn't just have the performance and handling of a blue-blooded supercar, but the spectacle and driving excitement of one too.

But, like the original NSX, the new one is perfectly suitable for daily driving. The seats are comfortable and supportive, the cabin in "quiet" mode is more hushed than any other supercar we've driven and the ride is compliant enough for trips to city centers or long highway cruises. We even managed 21 miles per gallon with some extremely aggressive driving, way better than the 12 mpg of the last McLaren we drove. Plus, the nose isn't too low, nothing scrapes and our tester still felt great with over 13,000 miles on it.

The 2019 Acura NSX
Mack Hogan | CNBC

That's not just a lot for a supercar tester car, that's the highest-mileage tester car that we've ever driven. Considering how hard review cars get driven, Acura loaning out a 13,000-mile supercar demonstrates extreme confidence in its product.

The bad

No matter how good it is, some people still can't stomach paying $157,500 for an Acura. If you care about branding or want a supercar as a status symbol, the NSX might not be the choice for you.

The 2019 Acura NSX
Mack Hogan | CNBC

That's especially apparent inside, where the NSX feels a lot like a standard-issue Acura. The infotainment is a particular pain point, with slow responses and no physical volume knob. Standard Acuras and Hondas have already fixed these issues, so it's disappointing to see the company's flagship product running an outdated setup.

The electric motors and related equipment take up the space where you'd expect to find a front trunk in a mid-engined supercar, so cargo space is limited to a trunk behind the engine. It's wide enough, but not particularly deep and can get hot if the car's working hard. It'll fit your groceries or a duffle bag, but don't expect to fit a week's worth of luggage in the NSX.

The 2019 Acura NSX
Mack Hogan | CNBC

How we'd option it

For 2019, Acura made a lot of optional equipment on the NSX standard. That means that the upgraded seats, premium audio system and navigation system are all included in the NSX's $157,500 base price.

There is a carbon-ceramic brake package for $10,600, but that's really only useful if you're spending a lot of time on race tracks with your NSX. Otherwise, we'd stop at the base price unless cosmetic options — like premium paints and carbon fibre trim — really get your attention. Otherwise, an $1,800 destination charge brings our total to $159,300.

The 2019 Acura NSX
Mack Hogan | CNBC

Final thoughts

Unless you consider the three-cylinder BMW i8 to be a supercar, the Acura NSX is the only hybrid supercar on sale right now. It's also great to look at, usable in daily life, great to drive and wicked quick.

It's not insanely powerful or faster on a race track than its competitors, but the Acura NSX feels like a new generation of the supercar, where electrification enhances the driving experience and livability of performance vehicles. If the goal was to provide a new sports experience, consider it a job well done.

The 2019 Acura NSX
Mack Hogan | CNBC

Rating:

Exterior: 4.5

Interior: 2.5

Driving Experience: 5

Value: 4.5

Overall: 4.1

Price as tested: $173,400

The 2019 Acura NSX
Mack Hogan | CNBC