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Engines on test: Honda 3.5-liter bi-turbo V6

The long-awaited replacement for Honda's NSX supercar has finally arrived. Engine Technology International samples the 2017 supercar's electrically-assisted 3.5-liter bi-turbo V6 in an unusual setting

 

It could be argued that a roughly four miles experience really isn’t enough time to form an opinion of a car. I’d normally agree, but the four miles behind the wheel of Honda’s 2017 NSX was during the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and included a 1.16-mile flat out, uninterrupted blast through Lord March’s back garden, and gave ample opportunity to experience the car in a multitude of scenarios.

The 2017 Engine of the Year Awards New Engine category winning, longitudinally-mounted, 3.5L twin-turbo V6 is supplemented by dual front electric motors and a rear electric motor to develop 627hp and 646Nm from as little as 2000rpm. Breaking this down further, the IC develops the bulk of the power, generating its peak 507hp in the last 1000rpm before the redline and its 550Nm from 2000rpm. The rear mounted electric motor adds an additional 48hp and 148Nm, whilst the two front motors contribute a further 37hp and 74Nm each.

The fundamental principals of that all-new, all-aluminium engine – increased strength and lower weight – are mirrored throughout the drivetrain, with conscious decisions on materials made throughout the entire package. Core elements such as plasma transferred coating on the cylinder walls, offering 52% thermal conductivity with much less weight than traditional cast-iron liners, Inconel turbines, sodium filled valves and a compact exhaust system, all help shave valuable weight from the car.

 

What this all translates to is an exceptionally well-rounded car. At low speeds around the paddock, and support roads, the NSX can be shifted in to ‘quiet mode’ – transferring drive directly to the front electric motors. This Jekyll and Hyde personality gives the supercar a flexibility that loud, naturally aspirated Vee engined supercars simply cannot compete with. It allows for quiet morning starts, not to upset the neighbours and it also allows you to inconspicuously slip through city centers, emitting no tailpipe emissions. And yet, with a simple twist of the drive select knob that dominates the dashboard, the ‘eco-conscious’ elements can then be weaponised in Sport+ mode to offer the sort of technologies once reserved for the most expensive of hyper-cars. The DCT that the power is transferred through flicks through its nine ratios at an alarming rate, with the electric motors allowing overall speed to continue building mid-shift. Add to that, a throttle response that is instant, and engine torque delivered in an instant too, and it all certainly gives the impression – on a narrow, tree lined, road – that the quoted 3.1s 0-60mph sprint may be erring on the side of caution.

Despite the electric motors and turbocharged IC engine, the engine isn’t muted, or devoid of ‘emotion’ in the noise it emits. A deep, resonating bellow is accompanied by the faintest of turbo spool whistles and pops as the turbo’s wastegates open and close behind your head. The switch to Sport+ amplifies this further, transforming the car from the silent assassin that innocuously slipped through the crowds, in to a shouty supercar that can hold its own against the other multi-million pound cars in Goodwood’s paddock. Given the exceptionally large, camera-phone wielding crowds at Goodwood, the 1.16 mile sprint was taken conservatively, but the car dispatched it with ease in less than a minute. The motors give the impression that you are constantly on the crest of the torque wave and it allows you to almost ignore what gear you are in, shoving you along with equal measure be it in second or fifth gear.

It is a very different approach to the ground-breaking NSX of the 1990's, but it has delivered the same outcome: An extremely flexible, enjoyable and useable car that still has the ability to outperform its 'on paper' stats.

 

Whilst it was a fleeting first impression, the NSX will be joining us for an extended loan period shortly, when we’ll bring a more rounded review of what the NSX is like on the road. So far and in isolation, however, it’s left one hell of an impression already.

 

22 July 2017

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