Honda's dinosaur packs desirability

The NSX has stop and stare quality. Sean O'Grady is suitably star struck
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
CAR MAKERS would like us to think that their products are all new and frightfully innovative, but poke around the nether regions of their lists and you'll find a veritable Jurassic car-park of dinosaur designs. There's the Land-Rover Defender, with a lineage back to 1948; the Citroen C15 van, descendent of the Peugeot 104 of 1972; and the evergreen Caterham, its body more or less a 1957 Lotus 7.

However, the tyrannosaurus rex of the prehistoric bunch must be the Honda NSX. In 1990 it was Japan's answer to Ferrari, and it still is. It has had a couple of facelifts since, gaining what looks like a pair of old-model Prelude faired-in headlights in place of the original pop- ups. Its engine and gearbox were also updated a couple of years ago, and it boasts a six-speed manual change mated to a 3.2 litre V6 lump developing 276Ps bhp of power at 7,300rpm and 224lb ft of torque at 5,300rpm.

So, altogether pretty strong and stressed in that high-revving Honda way, but the startling bit is that there is no turbo and, thus, no entertaining whistling noises behind your head from the mid-mounted engine, which will disappoint some. The NSX relies instead on its tuning technology to get you from 0 to 60mph in 5.7 seconds, and on to a top speed of 170mph. That should not disappoint any but the worst speed freaks, and they should be locked away on a racetrack.

Indeed, all the time I was piloting the NSX along crowded roads, I wished I was on a circuit, able to explore the limits of its ability and, more to the point, mine. Push too hard in the lower gears and you feel as though the car has ever so slightly parted company with the Tarmac - and you from your senses. Yet the Honda is a practical companion. Endless acceleration and tenacious grip is balanced by a proper boot and a habit of starting first time. The only faults were a passenger door that needs a shove to shut, and a graunchiness selecting second gear when cold.

Those with pounds 63,000 to spend on a two-seater coupe should seek out this rare beast instead of a default BMW, Porsche, Jaguar or Mercedes-Benz. Only 18 people in Britain bought an NSX last year, so at least it's exclusive, all the more so because the signs are that it won't be replaced when it does finally retire. The really ambitious might privately import the even faster NSX Type R from Japan. Or you might try a used example, with its solid Honda underpinnings, more reliable than most of its competitors. You too may learn to love its early-1990s parts-bin/retro cabin and electric- window switches shared with the Rover 45 (they're both from an old Civic, you see).

Like Madonna, this Honda's looks may be fading a little, but it still makes you stop and stare. The NSX, in other words, still has that star quality that most new cars will never, ever acquire: desirability.