2022 Acura NSX Type S First Test: Doing It GM-Style
Canceling something when you get it right is one GM tradition Acura’s parent company shouldn’t adopt.
- The most satisfying modern NSX, Engine pulls hard, Strong lateral grip.
- It’s dying just as it gets good, Needs a price-appropriate interior, Lacks ultimate steering feel.
For decades, General Motors was notorious among its own loyalists for underfunding and underdeveloping a promising new car, expressing shock when initial sales excitement evaporated, reluctantly spending the money it should have in the first place to make the car as good as it should have been from the start, wondering why sales didn’t rebound despite the tarnished reputation, then canceling the car once that it was finally good (see: Pontiac Fiero).
Acura’s parent company, Honda, has collaborated with GM in the past and continues to collaborate with GM today, and this is one tradition it shouldn’t adopt. Case in point: the 2022 Acura NSX Type S.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Type S is what the NSX should’ve been from day one. The reborn NSX held such promise, and Acura engineers benchmarked the right cars. Their insistence in thinking like Honda engineers, though, and worrying about how practical their mid-engine supercar was and how it drove in Ohio winters, compromised its final form. They studied the Ferrari 458 Italia but built a car that didn’t drive anywhere near as well or as viscerally.
The limited-edition Type S makes great strides toward righting that wrong. It’s far more engaging to drive than any NSX before it. Much of the feel and feedback missing from the standard car has finally broken through in the Type S.
Test Numbers Trail Regular NSX’s
Unfortunately, it seems to have come at the cost of some performance. Despite driving better than any other NSX we’ve tested, the Type S is also the slowest NSX we’ve ever tested. At 3.4 seconds to 60 mph, it’s 0.4 second behind the quickest we’ve evaluated, and it doesn’t get any better by the quarter-mile mark.
To get there, the Type S needs 11.6 seconds, and it’s traveling at 120.7 mph by the finish line, 0.4 second and 3.3 mph slower than the quickest one. It’s not down to a bad launch, either, because the Type S is 0.2 second slower accelerating from 45 mph to 65 mph than the quickest NSX we’ve tested. This despite the Type S being the most powerful NSX ever at 600 hp and 492 lb-ft, 27 hp and 16 lb-ft more than any other.
It’s worth saying, though, that the NSX Type S experience is delightful. The engine revs very quickly and has a broad powerband thanks to the pancake electric motor mounted between the engine and transmission. It pulls hard all the way to redline, and the transmission, in Track mode, won’t upshift until you’ve actually reached the redline, so you get every last pony.
It’s also happy to not upshift and let the engine wind back down if you lift off the throttle, helpful on a twisty road with short straights between tight corners. And despite all the electrification, the powertrain even manages to sound pretty good for a V-6. The engine noise is surprisingly melodious, and the turbo flutter is icing on the cake.
Back to the instrumented testing results, it wasn’t any better going the other way. Stopping the Type S from 60 mph required 103 feet, a massive 8 feet longer than the best one we’ve tested. On a mountain road, that translated to several instances of standing on the brakes and not getting the stopping power a 600-hp car ought to have. Making the experience somehow worse, the squishy, spongy brake pedal response provides no feedback. Better brakes would let this car go down the road considerably faster.
There is a bright spot in the Type S’ numbers, and it’s shining on the handling results. Pulling 1.03 average lateral g on the skidpad ties it with the stickiest NSX, as does its 23.2-second figure-eight lap time, though the 0.89 average g it pulled on in the figure eight was 0.03 g off the leader.
And you know what? We’re OK with all of that. We’re willing to give up a tenth here and two tenths there for a car that drives better. Still, this should’ve been the starting point six years ago, not the swan song.
You do still have to drive it like an NSX, though. To get the most out of this powertrain, you need to treat it the way your high-performance driving instructor told you not to. Brake early, point it at the apex, and then get back on the power as soon as possible. Before the apex if you can.
Normally, this delivers guaranteed understeer, but in the NSX, the front motors go to work, the nose bites, and it pulls you through the corner while accelerating hard. You can actually correct understeer by going to the power. Once you figure this out, the car becomes far more impressive than it is when driving it like a typical all-wheel-drive car.
Tips For The Next One (Which Isn’t Coming)
Were this car to get the next generation it deserves, there are a few other components that could be further improved, as well. Body control, for one. The Type S is stiff, which is fine, but it lacks compliance. It’s bouncing around way too much on bumpy pavement, making you constantly chase it with the steering or back out of throttle. It’s especially bad in big brake zones where the car starts shimmying around in its lane. It’s all manageable, but it shouldn’t have to be managed. Tie it down, and, again, the car could go down the road noticeably faster.
The steering is better than before, but it could be even better still. In this case, it’s not so much holding the car back as it isn’t making it better. It’s very precise, but it lacks feel. Other companies have figured out how to get steering feel out of a car with electric motors powering the front axle, and Acura could, too.
Then, of course, there’s the interior. It was never up to snuff, and it still isn’t because it hasn’t changed. It looks like an Acura interior, and Acura doesn’t make $200,000 interiors. A next-generation car would need a complete interior redo with much less plastic, a much more expressive design, and for the love of all that’s holy, a modern infotainment system with a volume knob. You can’t put Civic parts or even TLX parts in a car priced nearly on par with an entry-level Ferrari.
Hopefully, Acura will get all those details right when the NSX returns as an EV in the future—as it’s promised to, after a hiatus—but this still feels like a missed opportunity for the high-performance hybrid iteration of the car. The Type S proves the current NSX formula wasn’t fundamentally flawed—it was just unfinished.
It’s a shame this car missed the mark so widely that its sales can’t support a second generation of this model to finish the job. If the NSX Type S is any indication, it could’ve been great. Instead, Acura is pulling a GM and canceling it just as it started to get right. Everyone loses.
Looks good! More details?
|2022 Acura NSX Type S Specifications|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$185,995|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Mid-engine, 2 front and 1 rear motors, AWD, 2-pass, 2-door hatchback|
|ENGINE, MOTOR||Twin-turbo port- and direct-injected DOHC 24-valve 60-degree V-6, plus 3 permanent-magnet electric motors|
|POWER (SAE NET)||520 hp @ 6,500 rpm (gas), 72 hp (comb front elec), 47 hp (rear elec); 600 hp (comb)|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||443 lb-ft @ 2,300 rpm (gas), 108 lb-ft (comb front elec), 109 lb-ft (rear elec); 492 lb-ft (comb)|
|TRANSMISSIONS||1-speed auto (fr), 9-speed twin-clutch auto (rr)|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,903 lb (42/58%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||178.5 x 76.3 x 47.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.4 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||11.6 sec @ 120.7 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||103 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||1.03 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||23.2 sec @ 0.89 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||21/22/21 mpg|
|EPA RANGE, COMB||328 miles|
As Acura rolls the most powerful version of its supercar down pit lane, the sun setting over Daytona International Speedway’s towering grandstands says it all. This is the end for the NSX as we’ve come to know it. But not before Honda’s Performance division turned some screws to create the NSX Type S, the first NSX to wear the performance moniker in North America.
Daytona’s high banks are the ideal place to exploit the claimed 191-mph top speed of Acura’s $171,495 NSX Type S. Its boosted 3.5-liter V-6 now produces 520 horsepower, a 20-hp bump courtesy of twin turbochargers shared with the NSX GT3 Evo race car. They deliver up to 16.1 psi of boost (0.9 more than previously available), and more fuel is squirted into the cylinders.
Additional thrust comes from three electric motors—two that drive the front axle and a third sandwiched between the engine and the nine-speed dual-clutch automatic. Each component of the hybrid powertrain has received software changes, and the amount of usable energy from the roughly 1.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack has been increased. With all the gadgets working in concert, the Type S has a combined output of 600 horsepower and 492 pound-feet, gains of 27 and 16, respectively. We expect the sprint to 60 mph to take 2.7 seconds.
Our relaxed lead-follow lap around Daytona’s iconic road course didn’t allow for maximum speed. But the long straight exiting Speedway Turn 4 provides time to appreciate the NSX for what we’ve always loved about it—comfortable seats that’ll accommodate all body types, an airy cabin, and superb visibility as we take in Daytona under the night lights.
Diving down off the tri-oval into the Turn 1 braking zone, the brake-by-wire system doesn’t exhibit any of the weird springy and spongey tendencies that too often plague hybrid systems. The pedal stays firm as the optional 15.0-inch front and 14.2-inch carbon-ceramic rotors do their thing.
To complement the newfound power, Acura engineers recalibrated the software of the dual-clutch automatic. Commands from the large shift paddles are now delivered to the transmission 50 percent quicker, and under hard braking the downshifts are more aggressive. Pull on the downshift paddle for 0.6 second, and the gearbox automatically shifts to the lowest possible gear.
Turning into International Horseshoe, the inputs from the steering wheel are instantaneously transmitted to the custom-developed Pirelli P Zero PZ4 tires as they bite into the track surface. A change in offset to the 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels increases the front and rear track by 0.4 and 0.8 inch, respectively.
The NSX stays flat under lateral loads, and the revised torque-vectoring system provided the front drive motors keeps the Type S on a string through the apex. The recalibrated magnetorheological dampers, even in their firmest setting, shrug off the washboard curbing when exiting corners.
Aesthetically, the new Type S has more curb appeal. A revised front fascia with exposed carbon fiber not only makes the Type S more distinctive but also provides more cooling to the heat exchangers tucked behind it and improves the airflow to the rear-mounted intercoolers. Out back, a GT3-inspired carbon-fiber diffuser improves the airflow underneath the car, and a carbon-fiber spoiler graces the edge of the decklid.
If you haven’t ordered your Type S already, you’re too late. All 300 destined for North America (of the 350 that will be sold globally) have been spoken for. Now we wait for the sun to rise on the third-generation coupe. Hopefully it won’t take another 12 years.
2022 Acura NSX Type S
Vehicle Type: mid-engine, front- and mid-motor, all-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door coupe
twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve 3.5-liter V-6, 520 hp, 443 lb-ft; 2 AC front motors, 36 hp and 54 lb-ft each; AC rear motor, 47 hp and 109 lb-ft (combined output: 600 hp, 492 lb-ft)
Transmissions, F/R: direct-drive/9-speed dual-clutch automatic
Wheelbase: 103.5 in
Length: 178.5 in
Width: 76.3 in
Height: 47.8 in
Passenger Volume: 55 ft3
Cargo Volume: 4 ft3
Curb Weight (C/D est): 3900 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 2.7 sec
100 mph: 8.2 sec
1/4-Mile: 10.9 sec
Top Speed: 191 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 21/21/22 mpg
BY DAVID BEARD / caranddriver
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