Acura Celebrates 30 Years of the Iconic NSX Supercar

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Acura debuted the ‘NS-X Concept’ on February 9, 1989 at the Chicago Auto Show, the production model followed suit, just over a year later.

Acura this week marks 30 years since the shot heard ’round the automotive world — the 1989 global debut of the first-generation Acura NSX. The first mid-engined exotic without European pedigree, NSX was a low slung, super light, high-revving machine sporting the world’s first all-aluminum monocoque, titanium connecting rods, a VTEC valvetrain and levels of quality and daily driving comfort unheard of in sports cars of the time.

Introduced as the NS-X Concept, the precursor to the production NSX, Acura chose the Chicago Auto Show for the global debut, at a press conference held at the Drake Hotel on February 9, 1989. In celebrating this milestone event, Acura returns to the Chicago Auto Show, hosting a panel discussion to reflect on the car’s origins, its impact on the automotive landscape, and the role the next-generation NSX is playing in the renaissance of Acura today.

Joining the panel discussion are Jon Ikeda, Vice President and General Manager of Acura, whose 28-year career at Acura was catalyzed by the launch of NSX, and Csaba Csere, former editor-in-chief of Car and Driver magazine, who attended the 1989 reveal and was among the first journalists to drive both the original and second-generation NSX.

Acura NSX HIstory Lesson

Game Changer

“Before NSX, it was always assumed that supercar performance came at the price of a comfortable interior and everyday drivability,” said Jon Ikeda. “NSX shattered those notions, and raised the bar on every other exotic and supercar maker, with the effects still felt today. NSX was a huge inspiration and one of the major reasons I was drawn to join Acura nearly 30 years ago.”

Like its predecessor, today’s second-generation NSX incorporates groundbreaking technology. The Acura NSX is the only supercar made in America and the only one utilizing electric motors to enhance every element of dynamic performance, seamlessly combining three-motor Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive with a bespoke twin-turbocharged, mid-mounted V6 engine to deliver an unparalleled range of driving experiences, from all-electric Quiet mode to the ultimate at-the-limit capability of Track mode.

Acura NSX HIstory Lesson

Roots of NS-X

Honda R&D in Japan took the first steps toward what would become the first-generation NSX in January 1984 with basic research on a new drive system distinct from the “FF” (front-engine/front-wheel drive) vehicle type that had underpinned Honda’s success with such iconic models as Civic, Accord and the Acura Integra.

A year earlier, Honda had made its return to Formula 1 racing and its engineers were excited about the prospects of creating a sports car that would showcase the company’s deeply rooted racing spirit and high-performance design and engineering capabilities. Also, the R&D team had been contacted several times by the group at American Honda that was planning the launch of the Acura brand, indicating their interest in a pinnacle sports car for the new lineup.

The focus of the research was on an underfloor, midship-engine rear-wheel drive (UMR) format that could combine higher packaging efficiency along with the sport characteristics associated with rear drive. It was Honda’s first experience designing a passenger car with the engine in the rear half of the vehicle. In February 1984, the development team created a UMR test vehicle using a first-generation Honda City.

Formal development of what would become the Acura NSX began in the fall of 1985.

Continue reading about the NSX on the next page.

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