Best described as a mixture of high technology and proven sportscar design the Honda NSX (it signifies New Sports-Experimental) was powered by a transverse 3-litre 24-valve V6 engine derived from that of the Legend mounted behind the driver. It had many new engineering features including twin camshafts to each bank of cylinders. The engine drove the rear wheels through either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearbox.
From its 250 bhp engine a top speed of 260-270 km/h seemed likely placing Honda in direct competition with the likes of Porsche and Ferrari. However, unlike some of the other supercars, the Honda engineers wanted to make the NS-X suitable as a shopping car, thereby gaining an edge over the strictly sporty European supercars. As a result the NS-X was easy to drive, with clutch and gear change as easy to use as those on the little Honda Civic.
Prototypes were undergoing tests as early as 1984 but the NS-X did not make its debut until the beginning of 1989, with production starting in 1990. Among its sophisticated features was a traction-control system which reduced power to the rear wheels as soon as the brakes’ anti-lock sensors detected variable slip. It also had anti-lock brakes with all four wheels having independent control systems.
A feature of the car was its lightness since it weighed only 1430 kg. This was achieved by the extensive use of aluminium in its construction. Not only was the body all aluminium but the suspension components were of cast aluminium construction. Honda was determined to design a car which would stand out amongst others. Starting with a clean slate every part of the NS-X was designed from scratch and developed over a period of six and a half years. Whilst prototypes were being shown at Motor Shows around the world, test cars were being refined at race circuits. Leading racing drivers were invited to drive cars and suggest changes, most of which were incorporated into the final designs before the cars went on sale.
Honda, more than any other Japanese car manufacturer, has gained much experience from the race track. Honda cars and Honda engines have gained much valuable experience and knowledge from Formula I and 2 racing and as well as Honda engines dominating Grand Prix racing over long periods they have shared Constructors’ championship wins with the Williams and McLaren teams. The Honda NS-X has gained much from this experience.