Disparate powerplants, similar power
Acura and Audi took very different paths to create power, but the result is very much the same. Acura says the NSX can rocket from 0 to 60 mph in 3 seconds and top out at 191 mph. The Audi puts up a similar 0-to-60-mph sprint and accelerates all the way to 199 mph.
That’s where the similarities end. These engines let out unique sounds and deliver their power differently.
With it’s naturally aspirated V-10, the Audi’s power comes on in a linear manner, building and building as the speeds rise to triple digits. The 7-speed dual-clutch transmission clicks off shifts in milliseconds.
2017 Audi R8, Asheville to DaytonaEnlarge Photo
A launch control function raises the revs and delivers a violent burst, putting all the power to the pavement thanks to the quattro all-wheel-drive system.
Enthusiasts will love the engine note. Without forced induction, it is pure and intoxicating, and it pops and crackles when you let off the gas. Feder called it “glorious,” and Cole said, “I like the drama from the V-10 right behind me. Sounds great when it shouts.”
Fire up the NSX and healthy dose of ripe intake sounds permeates the cabin, and its especially raucous if you choose the Sport+ or Track modes. Acura pipes the sound into the cabin and damps non-essential noise. We call it selectively amplified rather than artificial.
“The sounds of the two turbos spooling up and the blow-off valves makes me swoon with tingly feelings,” said Feder.
The electric motors fill any torque deficits created during the wait for those turbos to come online. Feder called the torque fill a “helluva drug,” while Cole said there is “seamless power from the battery, and it’s quasi-fun to run in Quiet mode and see how to keep it running on electrons alone."
Stomp on the throttle, though, and the NSX just moves. The 9-speed dual-clutch transmission cracks off the shifts so quickly that no human can shift better during performance maneuvers.
“The gearbox and its rapid-fire shifts should be examined and cloned for future generations to enjoy,” Cole said.
Feder agreed: “The transmission in the NSX is better than that of the R8. It’s faster and more responsive.”
The engine, electric motors, and transmission work seamlessly together, which is a credit to Acura engineers who spent years on algorithms to simulate true driving signals. “The new NSX is as technically convoluted as congressional testimony—but actually delivers on the promise of driving clarity,” Padgett wrote.
“The NSX’s powertrain is otherworldly, something out of the future,” remarked Ganz.
All that tech also enables decent fuel economy, too. The NSX is rated at 20 mpg city, 22 highway, 21 combined, much better than the R8’s 14/22/17 mpg.
The original NSX delivered a blow to the supercars of its era. In a time when power and handling were out of touch with livable road manners, the NSX was equal parts Honda Accord and Ferrari 348.
Both of these cars have learned that lesson. The ride quality is firm but pliable. They won’t scramble your kidneys. The Audi’s magnetic dampers aid in that mission, making the R8 a comfortable cruiser with the Drive Mode Select system in the Comfort or Auto modes.
“Tweaking the R8 through its driving modes reveals a huge range in its ability. In Comfort mode, it quiets down, shifts imperceptibly, and soaks up road rash better than some sport sedans we’ve driven lately,” Padgett wrote.
Acura made every day driving comfort a priority from day one, and it has worked. It also has magnetic dampers that filter out rough roads. It even has a Quiet mode in which the car runs on electricity when it can, and limits the gas engine to 4,000 rpm. Cole called the NSX as friendly and intuitive as an iPhone.
Ganz echoed that sentiment: “The NSX is simple and easy to operate—just like the original, it's the Honda of sports cars. It is exactly as complicated as a Honda Fit.”