LAST YEAR, WE NAMED the Acura NSX the Road & Track Performance Car of the Year. This year, as follow-up, Acura gave us one as a present.
No, that’s a lie. It just felt like a present. What else do you call a 573-hp aluminum supercar that appears on your doorstep? The NSX is a long-term test loan, owned by its maker but with R&T for several months as a post-script to our award. The car is silver and currently spattered with dead insects, because it gets used a lot, at the sort of speed that causes airborne things to spatter.
It’s good that journalists are not simply given test vehicles outright. Productivity would evanesce, and systemic abuse would reign. The possibilities are legion. If I woke up tomorrow, for example, and decided to trade integrity for gifts, my first move would almost certainly be to get serious. Which would mean welcoming more than just wheels, then jointly awarding the inaugural Sam Smith Performance Car of the Year title to the Saturn V rocket and a pony. After which I would naturally get zero writing done, because I’d be too busy hanging out in my backyard with my 36-story moon booster and my new best friend, Peaches the Wonder Horse.
Slight digression: Who doesn’t want a pony? I have always, and inexplicably. I also totally haven’t had that exact name in mind since middle school yes I’m a giant nerd also yes I am a grown man I know it’s weird shut up.
Regardless, we now possess the keys to a $193,415 Japanese hybrid built in Ohio. For, our July 2017 issue, editor-at-large Peter Egan drove the car from Wisconsin to Los Angeles for a feature story. Shortly after, I flew to L.A. and hustled the Acura north to my house in Seattle. It’s here for several weeks, after which it will be driven to the magazine’s home office, in Michigan, for more testing.
The car’s visit has been entertaining. Not always in predictable ways. Take yesterday, when my three-year-old daughter asked why our driveway holds a machine shaped like a giant space bug.
“It’s here so I can learn about it,” I said. I kneeled next to her and briefly explained the oddity that is automotive journalism. She took a moment to digest this information, brow furrowed in thought.
“It’s short,” she said, finally. She then went on to list every other short item in the house, matter-of-factly, as only a three-year-old kid can. (Examples: the dog, the coffee table, herself.) This lasted about 30 seconds, until she grew distracted by something else. (Very likely the dog, the coffee table, or herself.) Possibly because she is three. Or because we share genes. Or both.
“Ah.” I said. “Would you like to know what I’ve learned about the NSX?”
“No,” she said, “that’s okay.” She squared up and looked me in the eye. “But don’t worry. I still like cars.” Then she ran off to chase the dog around living room, cackling hysterically, for reasons that were not entirely obvious.
For reasons that should be entirely obvious, I found myself smiling, wishing to be three again. As you do.
Not that testing supercars doesn’t make you feel young. Partly because they’re supercars—shouty engine, profile like a doorstop—and partly because the task involves railing on someone else’s exotic iron. An act that is always surreal, no matter how often you do it. The process is even weirder when editorial need causes the car to hang around past the point of novelty. The shock value melts away, and you find yourself asking normal-car questions, like, Should the exhaust be louder? Where are the cup holders? And what the hell is supposed to fit in that microscopic trunk?
(Answers, 2017 NSX: Yes, but then it would be easier to get arrested; there is a plastic thing, stored in the glove box, that plugs into the console and was seemingly designed to spill coffee on your lap five times a mile; and Stop Whining About Luggage FFS We Are Currently and With Great Prejudice Ripping Pavement to Tiny Bits.)
The first-generation NSX was sold from 1991 to 2005. The project was chiefed by Shigeru Uehara, the development genius behind both the Acura Integra Type R and the Honda S2000. He liked his cars alive—neutral handlers, motion on the taillights—but above all, he worked for Honda, of which Acura is a part. The first NSX was thus a subdued device until you asked it to get angry, and even then, it retained a civilized gloss. Like most fast Hondas. It was designed to be a comfortable, reliable tech milestone at a time when Ferraris and Lamborghinis were built largely of Kleenex and hormones.
The old NSX was a landmark, just like the new one, but the values of first-gen examples have been low for years. Most car collectors will tell you the problem is tied to badge prejudice, which is a shame and a little unfair to Honda. Ironically, an equal stumbling block is probably the Acura’s absence of drama, the stuff that makes a Ferrari or Lamborghini sing on a short drive. On the flip side, it’s not uncommon to see first-gen NSXs with mileage solidly in six figures. Because the car begs to be used, no fanfare, like any Honda.
And like its current-production cousin. R&T’s NSX has logged almost 7000 miles in just three months. When it comes to distractions, a 573-hp aluminum space bug is obviously no Saturn V and a pony. But then, you just read a 979-word magazine column written, more slowly than usual, by a dude sitting in his office with one eye out the window. Locked on a certain stack of aluminum.
I’m gonna call it Peaches.
Editor's Note: Since this story was written, it made it to our Michigan office.. And yes,