Supercars are supposed to miss the forest for the trees. These ragged-edge cars focus so intently on high-speed performance and high-cost trimmings that they’re often tough to truly utilize on a daily basis, relegating them to weekend warriors at best. But not the 2020 Acura NSX. This Japanese scalpel is more than ready to rumble on a backroad, but it carries a softness that gives the car more than enough pliancy to make for a quality grocery-getter, albeit one that’s a bit over equipped for the task.
- Ever-present hybrid power
- Impressive in daily driving
- Never stops being fun
- Mediocre infotainment
- Persistent windshield reflections
- No Individual mode
Before I even get behind the wheel of the 2020 Acura NSX, I’m hit with that familiar kind of supercar weird-for-the-sake-of-being-weird-ness. On approach, the thin door handles pop out to greet me, which is a fun parlor trick. Thankfully, the doors open in the normal direction, as the NSX has absolutely no problem turning heads without bringing atypical hinges and butterfly doors into the equation.
With interesting angles in every direction, from flying buttresses out back to the aggressive front bumper, the NSX is like most other supercars in that it’s damn near impossible to blend in anywhere. Even beyond the show-off styling, my tester’s $6,000 Valencia Red Pearl paint job isn’t about to let that happen.
First impressions come quickly after sliding past the NSX’s door. Despite the body’s relative position to terra firma, the seating position is a little higher than I expect, giving me a greater feeling of normalcy than I encounter in, say, a McLaren or a Lamborghini. Visibility is quite good in most directions, with loads of forward sight (thanks in part to way-thin A-pillars) and superb blind-spot coverage from the mirrors that sprout from the body like antennae. The view out back is fine, considering there’s an engine a few inches behind me. Be mindful of the sun’s position, though: Too many direct rays from ol’ Sol and the front windshield begins to resemble a cheese grater thanks to serious reflections of the massive speaker grille below. It can be really annoying, especially in spirited driving or slow-speed neighborhoods where children and squirrels are likely to be in the street.
Overall, the NSX’s interior quality feels worth the $150,000+ cost of admission. Soft leather covers most of the dashboard, door panels, center tunnel and steering wheel, and what isn’t made from the smooth stuff is bedecked in carbon fiber (a $2,500 option) and satin aluminum. The small bit of piano black trim on the transmission controls, which should be very familiar to most recent Honda or Acura owners, is the only part of the interior that feels a little low-rent, and only then it’s because of its propensity to accumulate finger grime. The cup holders are small and only attach to a slot on the center console, but you can tuck them into the diminutive glove compartment when not in use. Other storage comes by way of wallet-sized slots in the door panels, a key- (and mask-) sized slot in the center console and a small hinged cubby against the rear firewall that houses the USB port. It’s tight, like many supercars, but there’s still a decent amount of room for my 6-foot frame to get comfortable.
Most mid-engined supercars throw owners a storage bone by way of front and rear trunks. But not the NSX — electric motors and other hardware live under the hood, so the only cargo storage is located aft of the engine. Not only is the trunk small, its proximity to the twin-turbo V6 means whatever goes back there has to be heat-tolerant. Put your bags of ice in the passenger-side footwell.
All of those silly concerns melt away from the second I push the start button. Just behind my head, the 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 growls itself awake before quickly settling into a quieter idle, something neighbors are bound to appreciate. A push of the Drive button puts the nine-speed dual-clutch transmission to work, which provides just a smidgeon of slip as first gear engages.
In the default Sport mode, the NSX proves to me that it can absolutely function as a daily driver. Despite lacking air or McLaren’s complicated hydraulics, the NSX’s static suspension is surprisingly comfortable, soaking up a wide variety of bumps and humps without unsettling the car or its occupants. The chassis’ inherent stiffness remains obvious, but the ride is far smoother than I went in expecting.
Gear shifts are unobtrusive, and in low-rev situations, the V6 (which produces 500 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque on its own) is content to putter along quietly — if it’s even running at all. In Quiet mode, the NSX will use its small battery to operate like any other hybrid, silently hustling along under electric power alone — Sport offers electric-only operation, too, but in more limited quantities. The V6 cuts in and out with little, if any jostling in the cabin. It’s Prius smooth, in a good way.
Twist the mode knob to Sport Plus, and the NSX emits some sort of magic substance that causes me to forget about literally anything that isn’t the car or the road directly ahead of it. I feel the frenetic energy start to rise as the engine dramatically increases its volume at all times, even though it’s a little meh on the tonal front at lower revs. The V6 calls on the help of three electric motors — two up front, one out back — to generate a net 573 hp and 476 lb-ft. As you’d expect, the electric motors absolutely assault me with torque at a moment’s notice, and it’s really evident in tight corners, where the front axle helps pull me through as Continental SportContact performance tires grip the pavement. It’s easy to approach a corner with more speed than expected, but thankfully, it’s also easy to shuffle out the other side. Between those points, optional carbon-ceramic rotors ($10,600!) will scrub speed with both excellent modulation and impressive haste, over and over again. It’s impossible not to have fun in the 2020 NSX.
My only real gripe here is that I wish I could mix and match the modes. I get it, Acura put these modes together to make sure the car exemplifies whatever it’s after, but if I really wanted to daily drive this car, I’d want the engine constantly in Sport Plus with the suspension in Quiet. Why the hell can’t I have that?
One thing that Acura has in common with every other supercar manufacturer is its middling-at-best infotainment system. Ripped straight from, oh, every single Honda Civic on the dealership lot, the NSX’s 7-inch head unit packs suction-cupped-Garmin-era graphics, just-OK response time and limited functionality.and are on offer, which means it’s pretty easy to ignore the standard setup altogether. The motif changes from red to blue depending on vehicle mode, but I kind of wish Acura could have put its own unique spin on this — or at least upgraded the 2020 NSX to the most recent (and prettier) version found on the Odyssey and other large adult Hondas. The gauge cluster is entirely digital, too, and while it’s weird that it’s tilted away from my eyes, it provides me with all the data I could possibly ask for. It’s easy to mess around with, too, thanks to super-simple scrollers on the steering wheel.
As for safety systems, you get… parking sensors. And non-adaptive cruise control. Want anything else? Buy a TLX.
With a starting price of $159,495 after destination, the 2020 Acura NSX is almost competing with two separate classes of high-performance vehicle. On the one side, you have the hardcore non-supercars like the Porsche 911 Turbo, the Mercedes-AMG GT R or, if you don’t need a six-figure window sticker, the mid-engined Chevrolet Corvette, all of which are excellent cars, but all of which lack the “What was that?” emotional appeal of proper supercars. Speaking of which, the NSX is positioned against some big names here, too, like the Audi R8 and, if you want to drop another $30k, the McLaren 570S. Those cars are more along the lines of the NSX, but they’re also a fair bit sharper than the Acura, too.
When a car is engineered with performance at the top of the masthead, comfort has to be put back into it. Sometimes it requires complex components, other times it just doesn’t happen very well. But the 2020 Acura NSX does an excellent job blending daily usability and performance in a way that other supercars don’t. Does it leave a little bit of skidpad rating on the table? Sure. But I’ll be damned if you can find a more entertaining way to commute in comfort.