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Honda NSX 2016 review

We've finally driven Honda's new supercar, albeit for five minutes.

As far as first drives go, this one's pretty short. Just two laps of a 4.2km test track.

But any chance to get behind the wheel of the long-awaited Honda NSX is better than none.

Honda gave media a sneak preview drive of the new NSX ahead of this week's Tokyo Motor Show.

Honda's next generation supercar is due on sale in Australia showrooms in late 2016 -- price is yet to be announced, but bank on $200,000-plus -- but it has been in the making for almost a decade.

The company was about to launch a V10-powered version of the Honda NSX in 2009.

But when the Global Financial Crisis hit, plans for the NSX were scrapped.

Fast-forward to 2012 and the world was back on its feet and Honda had the confidence to splash out on a supercar.

But the world had changed and technology had moved on. A V10 was no longer going to cut it.

So Honda developed a hybrid system for its supercar, to accompany the twin-turbo 3.5-litre V6.

There are three electric motors. One to power each front wheel, although the motors themselves are mounted near the centre of the front axles, like a mechanical differential. And there's another electric motor in the rear that directly drives the engine's crankshaft, a world first.

The result is a combined power output of 427kW and 646Nm, which is enough, Honda says, to be "faster than its main competitors", which we interpret to mean "about 4.0 seconds".

The list of rivals includes the Porsche 911, Mercedes AMG GT, and Ferrari 488.

The NSX I'm driving is left-hand-drive and badged "Acura", Honda's US luxury division. But ours will be badged "Honda", and the steering wheel will be on the right.

Before we settle into the cockpit, there is a quick demonstration of the driving modes operated by a big dial in the middle of the dash.

There is "quiet" mode, which prioritises electric power, a "sport" mode for normal driving, a "Sport Plus" mode makes the exhaust a little louder, sharpens gear-changes and throttle responses, and "Track" mode increases the threshold of stability control for weekend warriors.

As soon as you the floor the accelerator, the twin turbo V6 comes alive

And with that we blast off. Well, move away silently like a Toyota Prius.

There is no grand departure in a Honda NSX, it can move from rest on electric power alone -- up to a maximum of 80km/h before the petrol engine cuts in.

There is also no grand entrance, because it usually rolls to a stop on electric power as well.

But as soon as you the floor the accelerator, the twin turbo V6 comes alive.

The perfectly smooth 4.2km oval track -- driven pretty much in a straight line due to the banking that helps you turn -- isn't going to tell us too much about how the NSX handles.

The NSX is quite clinical

But the steering felt direct... as I pulled out of the pit area and on to the circuit.

As for acceleration? The NSX is quick but I didn't experience the "zero delay" acceleration that the chief engineer promised.

I was expecting a Tesla electric car thrill ride, but alas the NSX is human (well, internal combustion engine) after all.

The shifts between gears in the nine-speed dual clutch auto were quite pronounced, rather than seamless, and the car I was driving repeatedly slurred its gear change between 90 and 110km/h, but this could have been a foible on this particular development car.

Verdict

Other media on the same test drive came away more in awe of the NSX than I did.

It didn't have the same brutal acceleration from rest as a Ferrari 488 or Lamborghini Huracan (or a Tesla). Nor did it sound as raw as the Italian supercars, the NSX is quite clinical.

But the NSX will no doubt find a fan base, especially as it'll be half the price of the Italian supercars.

The only catch is, it sounds like it could close to the same price as a Porsche 911. Faced with that choice, I know which one I would have.

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
PREMIUM 3.5L, Hyb/PULP, 9 SP AUTO No recent listings 2016 Honda NSX 2016 PREMIUM Pricing and Specs
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