Earlier this year, I achieved a dream! I drove a Honda NSX – the all-alloy masterpiece with suspension tuned by Ayrton Senna himself. In fact, he had once driven this very car! A short distance…
A fantastic experience then? Er, no. Really, not at all.
Things didn’t start well when we collected the car, hitting rush-hour traffic as we desperately tried to get from Bracknell to Santa Pod for a photoshoot. A super-quick supercar is not much use if the traffic is barely moving. Not that it was really super-quick. This one had an automatic gearbox, which meant a drop in power to just 252bhp and a 0-60mph time of around seven seconds. Hardly supercar stuff. It really is a dreadful gearbox too, far inferior to the one in my S-MX, though it did at least take the sting out of the seemingly endless jams. There’s no sport mode, which seems shameful on an alleged supercar. It was also reluctant to kick down, changed up too soon and thumped through full-bore changes – when we got the opportunity (Milton Keynes).
The biggest problem isn’t really the car itself though, but the overall experience of driving a supercar on public roads. I surely can’t be the only journalist who’s felt uncomfortable in such a situation, but you absolutely cannot enjoy what this car is all about without getting up to some very naughty speeds. I’m not the sort of person to get up to very naughty speeds, whether I’m in a Chevette or a Corvette. The Honda’s zingy engine doesn’t deliver maximum power and torque until over 6000rpm though, so for the most part, it just felt sluggish and unexciting – punctuated by very brief bursts of ‘WOW!’ as the engine screamed and before I decided that was quite quick enough for the public roads thank you very much.
I did a full-bore acceleration test at Santa Pod, and that highlighted the difficulty. It got quite exciting once we reached about 80mph – in second gear. By which time I’d started running out of space.
After all that, we then had to fight our way back to Bracknell, where the super-firm suspension really did get quite annoying. I’d covered 180 miles in the NSX and I was bloody glad to get out of it, with my hopes and dreams lying shredded on the floor. Getting out is a good idea, because it really does look bloody stupendous. It is a fantastic looking car. I think it is a car best enjoyed via the medium of a poster. How pleased I was, though, to jump into my soft, floaty XM – its turbo diesel engine provides plenty of performance for public roads thank you very much, even if it doesn’t even sound one tenth as pleasant.
It feels like sheer rebellion to be a motoring writer and conclude that a drive in something like an NSX was anything other than ridiculously fabulous, but that’s the truth. I’m not Chris Harris, I don’t have access to a race track and even if I did, I’d probably crash. I just can’t relate to cars like the NSX. It’s telling that when I arrived at Honda’s fleet storage facility, I got quite excited about the Mk1 Civic they also have. “Not available for drives,” I was told. How depressing. When it comes to motoring heroes, I think I shall stick to the real world variety. There’s a lot more joy to be had in a bland, family hatchback than in a car you can’t even exploit. Driving a supercar on the road is like winning the lottery, and being told you can only spend your winnings on soap.
Here’s a video of the NSX (and some others). Great fun! When not on public roads.