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Acura NSX Chief Engineer Talks Performance, Ohio Production

 
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Acura NSX II concept - 2013 Detroit Auto Show

Performance cars are about to enter a new era, one destined to be dominated by vehicle electrification, and in typical fashion it is the world of motorsport where the technology has been bred. It should come as little surprise then that the first round of electrified performance cars is coming from automakers heavily involved in motorsports, namely, Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche.

However, Acura, too, is working on an electrified performance car of its own, a new hybrid sports car that will revive its storied NSX badge. The new NSX will be nothing like the original, though that is to be expected since the NSX has always been about incorporating the latest technology.

It will still feature a mid-mounted V-6 engine, but this time around it will come with a trio of electric motors, a dual-clutch transmission and a through-the-road hybrid all-wheel-drive setup. Two concept versions have already been shown, though we’re yet to see any working prototypes.

The new NSX will also be engineered and built in the U.S., at a new wing (called the Performance Manufacturing Center) under construction at Honda’s existing R&D center in Marysville, Ohio. The team behind the NSX explains that the car is first and foremast an Acura, and since the U.S. is the primary market for Acura it is only natural the car is developed here.

100 specialist staff to work on new NSX

Acura is also keen to showcase the talents of its North American operations. A dedicated crew of around 100 specialist staff, led by chief engineer Ted Klaus, will work on the new NSX. Klaus’s first project at Acura was the 1993 Integra and he has since worked on model lines such as the CL, TL and MDX, primarily in chassis development.

For the new NSX, Klaus and his team will focus on an extremely favorable power-to-weight ratio as well as advanced technology. The key to the car’s performance will be its hybrid system, which Acura dubs the Sport Hybrid Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive system (Sport Hybrid SH-AWD).

Two electric motors are used to power the front wheels independently and a third, integrated with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and 3.5-liter V-6, helps power the rear wheels. Powering the three electric motors is a central lithium-ion battery, topped up with regenerative brakes.

The setup allows multiple driving modes, including electric- or gas-only modes plus a hybrid mode calling on both electric and gas power. The sophisticated setup utilizes a bilateral torque control system to instantly generate negative or positive torque to the front wheels during cornering, helping with stability.

Ted Klaus and the original Acura NSX

Ted Klaus and the original Acura NSX

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All about the driver experience

In a phone interview, Klaus said there are plenty of other technologies available to Acura, such as the four-wheel-steering system introduced on the 2014 RLX, but couldn’t confirm if this would feature on the new NSX.

As for performance, Klaus didn’t reveal any numbers but said a lot of emphasis was being placed on the “driver experience.” He went on to explain that the hybrid technology was a key factor for improving the experience.

“When the driver pushes on the throttle, the electric motor is there creating a response that is consistent with a lightweight, low-mass vehicle,” he said. “Torque-vectoring will also play a role.”

Soon, the first prototypes will commence real-world testing. Engineers will be taking them to most major North American race tracks as well as the legendary Nürburgring. Competitors will include cars like the Porsche 911 and Audi R8, though Acura hopes to differentiate the NSX through technology. Klaus said we can expect some new developments in materials and chassis design for the NSX in addition to its hybrid system.

Development of the new car remains on track, which means we can expect it in showrooms sometime in 2015. Hopefully we’ll have our first spy shots soon.

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