Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Acura To Reveal Hybrid NSX Concept in Detroit

Published December 13, 2011

By Jeff Cobb

Honda Motor Co. has confirmed it will bring back the Acura NSX as an efficient but powerful hybridized challenger to larger displacement conventional supercars.

People are speculating what it will look like and the drawing above is only a pre-release rendering, but a stronger hint will be offered this January at the Detroit auto show when the NSX concept is revealed.

Some eco-minded people may not care that an uber-powerful and likely uber-expensive car will be launched, but it does send a signal that Honda is going greener even with its most conspicuous car.

Also potentially positive is the market forecasters at Honda think the economy is approaching a time to make such a project worthwhile. The original NSX was canceled after a 15 year run in 2005. Plans to launch a new concept were scrapped after the autumn 2008 Lehman Brothers failure.

Now a few years past the banking meltdown, Honda is back at it with a car someone on Wall Street could fall in love with all over again. This time however, such a vehicle might not upset environmentally conscious sensibilities – including the all-important sensibilities of government regulators bearing down on the whole supercar industry.

Yes, the times, they are a changin', and Honda knows there is no point in developing a potential Ferrari beater with a gas guzzling engine.

"Our approach is efficiency and a strong power-to-weight ratio," Acura sales boss Jeff Conrad told Automotive News. "The original NSX did this. But the proposed successor went into the classic world of a heavy vehicle, requiring a V-10 engine and other technologies to be a performance car."

Expected in the new NSX utilizing Honda’s Sport Hybrid All-Wheel Drive system will be a direct-injected V-6. Augmenting this go-power will be two integrated drive units at the rear wheels connected to a motor-generator. Stored energy will be held by a lithium-ion battery pack.

The system relies on regenerative braking – which, while the car is cornering, delivers torque to the outside wheel as it simultaneously absorbs negative torque from the inside wheel.

"That is not Acura DNA, Conrad added of the clean sheet exercise. “If we are thinking about being sporty, we need to do it with the machine's efficiency. That's the thing we can do. The way we achieve it will be unique to Acura."

The first NSX in 1990 was also a V-6 powered technical showcase. It was the first naturally aspirated road car to deliver 100 horsepower per liter and, incidentally the first major project Honda’s current CEO Takanobu Ito was involved in as a body engineer for the company.

The timing of the new NSX concept also dovetails with Acura’s intention to reposition its lineup as premium, but no longer attempting to dethrone top-echelon vehicles such as those by Mercedes-Benz.

It has said it will be content if the Acura brand can sustain upper-middle tier status while favoring fuel economy over performance.

In the next 18 months the company will also roll out three new or redesigned sedans including a smaller compact and a bigger flagship.

As for the new NSX, no launch date yet has been set yet for the production version.

"We hope within three years,” said American Honda President Tetsuo Iwamura. “ As soon as possible."


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