Honda NSX lovin' at Goodwood 2014

DSC_5719 It must be a terrific asset to have a car like the NSX in your back catalogue, especially when you’re a company typically known for shops-and-back shuttles like, er, the Shuttle. The NSX is something of a Hooniverse Idol, and quite rightly so. It first appeared in dealers in 1990 on the back of Honda’s very successful contributions to Formula 1 racing, and the Civics and Accords that clogged the world’s asphalt arteries were suddenly bathed in an exciting new, empassioned light. After a lengthy production run, the right-first-time NSX was finally taken from us in 2005, and there’s been nothing quite like it ever since; Honda badge or not. At this years Goodwood, though, Honda were flying the NSX flag high. DSC_5715b Amazingly, there are three NSXs around my neck of the woods that I see fairly regularly, and like saluting magpies, acknowledging an NSX at the beginning of the day puts me in a good frame of mind and lifts my spirits. At the Goodwood Festival of Speed too, Honda’s mid-engined masterpiece has a special place. Honda knows that the relative scarcity of the NSX is in no way relative to the amount of love there is for them out there. The Honda stand here had two different original NSX’s on display, and crowds thronged to just be near them. Men stood, in solemn reverence, just enjoying being in the presence of the great Ayrton-Senna developed machine. It must have been a gratifying thing for the staff on the stand to have observed. DSC_5717 Honda want more of this, but they want to see people foaming at the mouth at the thought of their current products, not ones that came out and amazed everyone back in 1990, After many years of speculation, a “New NSX” is finally arriving….soon. It was here for detail inspection, bearing the plaque “NSX Concept”, and it’s very existence is undoubtedly a good move in terms of marketing, demonstrating that Honda haven’t forgotten that their greatest achievement means so much to so many people. But what about the Concept itself? Well, this car has been broadly documented by feverishly excited journalists since it appeared at the Frankfurt motor show last year, so everybody knows about the hybrid-ness of things and the SU-37 Flanker style thrust vectoring to bring the front wheels into play where necessary. It’ll be a technical tour de force. Should it be called NSX? Well, the acronym New Sportscar eXperimental is just as valid here as with the original, and just as the 1990 car was a rolling embodiment of just what Honda engineers could achieve given a free reign, so the new machine serves as a carbonized expression of everything that Soichiro’s firm has learnt so far. We’d hardly expect, or tolerate, anything less. DSC_5723 I feel sorry for those involved in this project, because the original NSX set the bar so high that creating a follow-up must have been a very stiff task indeed. It looks like they’ve probably succeeded, however, I have one reseravtion. The Concept NSX might be stuffed to the brim with the latest and best of today’s technology, but I struggle to see it becoming revered as a design in the same way as the old one did. Ken Okuyama’s original was almost under-designed. Coming from an era where supercar extravagance was the order of the day and the more slats a car had down the side, the higher its status on the road, the NSX seemed quite sober and agreeably low-key. The short-nose, long tail was arrived at through the principals of weight distribution and directional stability, and the cabin roof and glassware were designed with a view towards all-round visibility. A Diablo or 348 of the time had barely any view at all unless you intend to look forwards all the time. DSC_5722 It’s really difficult to have a balanced, fair opinion on the looks of the new car when I have such a hard-on for the old one. I dislike how the Concept NSX has clearly been styled to incorporate an all-important corporate identity, leading to the front view looking like a heavily reconstructed Civic. And dare I say that the rear end looks derivative? Aston-Martin rear lights and a Lexus LFA lower panel? It all just looks a bit me-too, a bit connect-the-dots, a bit paint-by-numbers. It seems a bit like the design team put all their efforts into that amazing side-intake / flying buttress combination and then either ran out of imagination or changed their meds. I mean, the car looks awesome, amazing, all those superlatives in terms of straight-forward down-the-road coolness, and the kids will dig it. But will they still dig it in a quarter of a century? DSC_5720 I wholeheartedly expect it to be an epoch-defining car to actually drive, otherwise there would be no point in the car even existing. And if Honda can demonstrate that the only way of making the car work like it does is to style it this way, then I’ll shut up. That side intake is exceptionally cool, though. Overall I’m extremely glad that Honda are introducing a new NSX. I just wish it didn’t have to be this one. (Images copyright 2014 Chris Haining and Hooniverse)

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