Before Honda president Takanobu Ito could finish saying "I have something in mind," early last February when asked about a possible NSX replacement, the blogosphere had already begun to explode with predictable, albeit contradictory, commentary. To be sure, almost any time Honda personnel entertain the topic of an NSX second-coming, hundreds of motor analysts cast their personal spins on the otherwise seemingly mundane remarks.
But all of the sudden, Ito’s most recent reply to questions of the presumably shelved NSX successor don’t seem so mundane. What better man to utter those words than Honda’s president who also, incidentally, happens to be among the company’s few and former, fabled NSX research and development engineers?
You wouldn’t know it judging by Ito’s latest remarks (since inheriting the job as Honda’s top boss in late 2008), but without him, the NSX as we know it simply wouldn’t be. The famed ’90s Japanese supercar’s all-aluminum body and chassis--yeah, well, that was sort of his doing. Truth is, Ito played an instrumental role in a feature that arguably made the mid-engine sports car the legend it’s become. Without Ito, the NSX as we know it might never have been.
Earlier this year at Honda’s annual motorsports conference in Tokyo, the former head of Honda research and development and now chief officer once again alluded to the fact that an NSX successor just might happen after all. Sort of. Loosely translated, Honda’s president said that the automaker would begin feasibility studies for a "new sports car"--a bombshell of a statement considering Ito’s past remarks regarding the direction of the company and its seeming lack of interest in anything at all that isn’t certifiably green. Unfortunately, any sort of timetable for said feasibility study of an all-new Honda sports car--presumably an NSX replacement--there is not.
I’m guessing you already know about Honda’s HSV-010 GT coupethe wholeheartedly NSX-ish race car prototype with which the company won Japan’s Super GT Drivers and Manufacturers titles in last year that is, if rumors hold true, what the next NSX will be based off. Although Ito doesn’t concede that the HSV-010 GT will indeed be the official replacement, he does give hope. I think Honda should respect the history of the Super GT competition, Ito said when confronted with the fact that Super GT rules permit only production-based vehicles to compete--something that the HSV-010 GT technically is not. There’s clearly a demand for that type of car that we must answer.
In the same breath, Honda’s president also announced that the company may develop a lower-priced sports car as well. "There are two types of sports cars: affordable and high-performance. I hope we will be able to market both." So do I.
We need an NSX replacement. It’s true; Honda’s become somewhat complacent with its sports-minded persona as of late. One need only reference the fate of the S2000, Civic Type R, or Integra for validation. And while it’s not an NSX in its purest form, even the front-engine, V-10-powered, all-wheel-drive coupe the company’s been rumored to be gearing up to produce would no doubt suffice. It might be just what’s necessary for Honda to take back the glamour and elusiveness Toyota’s garnered with its LFA. Of course, plans for that project were scrapped, too, as the world began to brace for 2008’s economic downturn. To be fair, you can’t blame Honda; the company simply had no desire to appear uncouth by offering such a mega-buck sports car in a time of such economic uncertainty. Its cousin, however, the HSV-010 survived but with two less cylinders and an all-carbon-fiber body and with traits similar enough to the would-be production version to make things right with Super GT’s rulebook. All of the sudden, things are looking up.
You might think that you don’t care about an NSX successor, but you should. Honda’s original supercar helped pioneer many things that you do care about and likely take for granted, like VTEC, and introduced then-revolutionary technology that’s since trickled down, like OBD electronics, coil-on-plug ignition systems, hydraulic-operated clutches, and advanced chassis-stiffening techniques. Imagine what technology the next NSX might usher in.
Overall, this is good news since, after all, Ito has "something in mind."