Is the Acura NSX the new hybrid supercar benchmark?

BMW i | March 15th, 2016 by 13
2016 Acura NSX 108 876x535 750x500

Up until now, the BMW i8 has been in a class of one. Sure, cars like the Porsche 918, McLaren P1 and Ferrari LaFerrari are …

Up until now, the BMW i8 has been in a class of one. Sure, cars like the Porsche 918, McLaren P1 and Ferrari LaFerrari are all very similar but those cars all cost over $1,000,000, so they really are in a class of their own as well. But as for the BMW i8, nothing even close to its price range can compete with its combination of performance, technology and efficiency. The BMW i8 has truly been the benchmark for hybrid supercars that don’t cost as much as small islands. Or is it anymore?

2016 Acura NSX 103 876x535 750x458

The new Acura NSX is here with a similar recipe to that of the BMW i8 and it lays down some pretty impressive credentials. With a mid-mounted 3.0 liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine mated to an electric motor that drives the rear wheels through a nine-speed dual-clutch gearbox, as well as two electric motors at the front axle that power the front wheels, the NSX produces a combined 573 hp. That’s considerably more power than the BMW i8, though the NSX does weight about 400-500 lbs more.

2016 Acura NSX 110 876x535 750x458

While the BMW i8 is a car that’s meant to blur the line between supercar and hybrid, the NSX is clearly just meant to be a supercar. It’s ferociously fast, getting from 0-60 mph in 3 seconds and capable of reaching 191 mph. It also handles very well and uses its front motors to give it real-time torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, something that the BMW i8 has as well. Because of the NSX’s supercar nature, it can only get around 21 combined mpg, considerably less than the BMW i8’s 28.


Now, we’re not typically the type to say a car is better because it’s more fuel efficient. However, its efficiency does show the NSX’s more singular focus. Like the McLaren P1, the NSX is using hybrid technology only to improve performance, whereas the BMW i8 is using it as a platform for efficiency as well as performance. The BMW i8 is significantly more high-tech, it’s the science-lover’s supercar. The i8 packs a 1.5 liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine and electric motors as well, just like the NSX, producing a combined 357 hp which is far less than in the Acura. However, it weighs about 400 lbs less and can get from 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds (according to Car and Driver). That is slower than the NSX but not by much and the i8 still crushes in the mpg department. The i8 can also go further in pure electric mode than the NSX. This shows that the BMW i8 is the more well-rounded car, one that can be more than just one thing.

It also shows that the i8 does more with less, which is sort of the whole idea of the car. Its carbon-fiber passenger cell is extremely light and made from renewable materials, its engine is tiny and efficient, yet the i8 is still almost as fast as the NSX. This is thanks to the brilliant engineering of the BMW i engineers and how they’ve created a sports car for the future, something that can be both crazy fast and incredibly efficient. The Acura NSX is a great car, one that shows how far we’ve come in the world of supercar performance. But the BMW i8 is a special car, one that shows us where we’re going. So while the Acura NSX is an amazing car in its own right, the BMW i8 is still in a class of one.

13 responses to “Is the Acura NSX the new hybrid supercar benchmark?”

  1. JC says:

    This article, to me, raises the question of can a car be too unspecialized; e.g. doing everything decently, but nothing exceptionally well?

    • Dustin says:

      Have you ever been in a car that does 0-60 in less than 3 seconds? It’s crazy we’ve been so diluted as to think this is just “decent” nowadays.

      What does the 458 Italia or Huracan or R8 or any other supercar do exceptionally well? Where has this perspective been prior to the NSX? That this car meets and exceeds its competitors performance while returning significantly better fuel economy, being the more livable ride and likely having Honda reliability and low-maintenance cost is indeed exceptional.

  2. Saif BinAdhed says:

    I wonder how many times you can find the “i8” mentioned in this article versus NSX. i scrolled up and I read BMW blog, then I was like.. aaaaaah thats why.
    great read

  3. Tommolog says:

    The NSX is definitely a cool car, but it doesn’t plug in like the i8 and cannot drive much, if at all on electricity alone. The i8 can plug in and drive about 15 miles on battery alone. Big difference.

    • Chris says:

      In all-EV mode, does the i8 pull harder than a BEV i3 while squirting around traffic? If not, then the 15 mile all-electric range is kind of silly– a novelty more than anything else. The NSX all-electric range is ~2 miles and they candidly describe it as being useful only to pull in and out of your neighborhood quietly.

      • Tommolog says:

        It’s definitely very quick and responsive in those situations, I don’t know about faster or slower than an i3 BEV in that exact type of driving. To be honest, the i3 BEV would give most high performance cars a serious run for their money in 20mph to 50mph traffic darting.

        The thing that sets the i8 apart from the NSX is you can absolutely drive it as an electric car and you can’t do that with the NSX. A friend of mine has an i8 and works only a few miles from home. He can drive the round trip without the gas engine firing up, but it’s there on the weekends for extended driving and higher performance fun. I’m not saying either car is better, but they are vastly different. The i8 is and electric car, and the NSX isn’t.

        • Chris says:

          Versatility is great, for sure. On the other hand, I really doubt that an owner of an i8 or NSX doesn’t have another car (probably more than that if a family).

          I don’t think it’s fair to claim that the i8 is electric and the NSX isn’t. The reality is that they are both hybrids, with the former (barely) being a plug-in hybrid. The i3 (even with REX), for example, is a true “electric car” as the primary motive force is, in all cases, in the form of electricity.

          I really hope no one is paying >$125K for an i8 for conservation reasons. That’s pretty silly. But I’d still love to own one!

  4. Dustin says:

    The comparison is great, but the conclusions aren’t. Too overly simplified, never mind biased.

    The i8 “does more with less?” No… it has better fuel economy but lower performance. They each have things they do better than the other.

    Performance is close? Uh, no. You give a 0-60 time of “3 seconds” – from no particular source – for the NSX, though most reports have said it will do quicker than that. Then you pick the fastest posted time of the i8 by one source which is a significant outlier, as BMW – and many tests – say it is 4.2s (and it was stated at 4.4 seconds 0-100km/h in BMWBlog’s i8 vs R8 drag race video 5 months ago). And 191mph vs 155mph is not even close. How does the BMW’s MPG “crush” the NSX yet with the performance gap it’s “almost as fast?”

    And how does any of this make the NSX a “singular focus” and “just one thing?” Just because it gets less MPG than an i8? As for fuel economy itself, people who pay $150k for a car aren’t likely swayed by a few MPG, never mind that gas is $2. Secondly, the car was benchmarked against the Ferrari 458 Italia – that it handily beats in performance – which was rated at 14mpg combined. The NSX’s 21mpg combined is indeed impressive versus all the cars whose performance it exceeds. Add in the comfort and ease of access (which the Youtube review praises specifically against the i8) and the NSX can hardly be considered a one-trick pony.

    “The BMW i8 is significantly more high-tech.” How so? The i8 has one electric motor, the NSX has three electric motors. The NSX has a bespoke 9-speed DCT with an electric motor in the back and a dual-motor unit at the front with, as you said, real-time torque vectoring (which can create negative torque at the inner wheel and positive torque at the outer wheel); and no, the i8 does not have active torque vectoring at the front.

    Also for the record, the NSX engine is a 3.5L – not 3.0L – V6, (also bespoke, versus the i8’s Mini engine).

    I love the i8 and the NSX. But this article didn’t give one of them the credit it deserves.

    • 181 says:

      I’d say the construction of the i8 is leaps and bounds more high tech than the NSX. The NSX does have a high tech drivetrain.

  5. Chris says:

    The i8 is a stunningly beautiful car and a great technology showcase– but is not in the same class as the NSX in terms of performance. Very few people will cross-shop these cars, IMHO.

  6. LucyPup says:

    Point(s) taken. Lightness is beautiful, and expensive; but technologically too easily offset by current horsepower/torque and suspension geometry. It would appear that from what I have seen and read in print, the i8 performs poorly on the track after just a lap or two and fades badly (tire squeal, brake fade, loss of acceleration). It’s point is technology, not performance in any particular and specific true ‘drivers’ demand/category. I suspect the NSX will perform evenly lap after lap after lap and overall is a better and more consistent car. I, though, desire and have decided to afford & purchase a technologically advanced car that should without question give 25 – 30 mpg. That should be without fail a qualification for the claim of being a supercar of any kind.

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