Acura NSX: Is it a legitimate Audi R8 fighter?

When most people talk about the Audi R8 and its competitors, they’re always the same ones. People always talk about the Porsche 911 Turbo, the Ferrari 488 GTB and McLaren 650S. However, none of these cars are all that similar to the R8. The Ferrari and McLaren are mid-engined, like the R8, but both are  rear-wheel drive, while the R8 is all-wheel drive. The Porsche 911 Turbo is all-wheel drive, but it’s rear-engined. The Lamborghini Huracan is very similar to the R8, but because of their familial connections we won’t compare them. However, the car that can most closely compete with the R8 could be one that no one saw coming — The Acura NSX.

The original Acura NSX (badged a Honda everywhere but North America) was an astonishing car, one that blended incredibly pure performance with solid build quality and reliability that downright embarrassed both the Italians and Germans. So Ferrari and Porsche were sent back to the drawing board because of the NSX. Now that the new one is out, it could again rival the Germans and Italians and the car that needs to watch out the most is the Audi R8.

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Audi R8 V10 Plus

The current, second-generation Audi R8 is an outstanding supercar that’s fantastic to look at as well as drive. In top-spec V10 Plus trim, the Audi R8 packs 610 hp from its naturally-aspirated 5.2 liter V10. All of that thrust is sent to all four wheels via Audi’s Quattro system through a seven-speed S-Tronic dual-clutch gearbox. The Audi R8 V10 Plus is capable of 0-60 mph in around 3.2 seconds (claimed by Audi, we think it could be even quicker still) and upwards of 200 mph. Those are some pretty impressive specs. But what about the underdog from Japan?

Acura’s second-generation NSX packs a 3.5 liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine, combined with an electric motor, connected to a nine-speed dual-clutch automatic and is also all-wheel drive. However, the NSX’s all-wheel drive system works quite differently than the R8’s. In the R8, a driveshaft is sent from the gearbox to a front differential which then powers the front wheels. In the NSX, two extra electric motors sit at the front of the car and power each of the front wheels independently. That means that the brain of the car can provide real-time torque vectoring better and faster than the R8 can. Total system power for the NSX is 573 hp (500 from the engine and 109 from the electric motor) and 0-60 mph comes in a Car and Driver-claimed 2.9 seconds. That’s fast.

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We can’t comment on the way the NSX drives, but we can say that if it’s anything close to the way the original drives, the R8 is in some trouble. In the latest episode of Jay Leno’s garage he drives the brand new NSX, as an owner of the original NSX, and comes away very impressed. The same build quality, design quality and performance potential seem to be present with the new car is they were with the original. Admittedly, Audi is also known for its superb build quality and the R8 has been quite reliable over its tenure.

Both cars are very similar, in terms of layout, design and performance. When it comes to driving dynamics, we can’t judge just yet, but we’re hoping to be able to in the future. But for now, it seems as if the Acura NSX could be a very serious competitor to the Audi R8 V10 Plus, and maybe even its closest one.

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Nico DeMattia

I've been in love with cars since I was a kid, specifically German cars. Now I get to drive them talk about them on the internet.