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Drive
The original of three first generation cars driven by Ayrton Senna

NSX The Legend: Part 1

In total Kevin Haggarthy drove several hundred miles in his 05 NSX; 80% of that time was spent going absolutely nowhere…just driving


"A love affair on the best country driving roads we could find"

Honda know about engines…

 

They have been making them for almost 70 years. Their claim to engine-fame came with their application of variable valve timing. The science of that matters not here, but the magic of it does. You see, up until the VTEC engine, high revving engine capacity remained the domain of the sporting motorcycle. The VTEC engine bought this high revving capability to cars, and so the Honda VTEC engine legend was born. The engine’s proved itself in various Honda Type R models and if you owned any one of them you were cool, but if you owned a Honda NSX…you were God. Here’s a couple of reasons why…

The ultimate handling of this first generation car was honed on a race circuit by Ayrton Senna. Here it sits outside its natural home.

 

Ayrton Senna, three times Formula 1 World Champion and unquestionably one of the world’s greatest ever racing drivers, had a hand in the final development of the original NSX’s handling when he drove for Honda McLaren in 1989. In fact the red car you see pictured at the top was the very car Senna drove in between races and remains one of Honda’s private prestige collection.

What’s more, the NSX was Honda’s first mainstream attempt at what we commonly refer to as the supercar, but unlike others of the time it was developed to be just as driveable and usable as an everyday car. On all accounts it certainly succeeded in that, but with 167 mph top speed and 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds, so adaptive is this vehicle that its Jeckyll and Hyde character proved a unique formula of blended schizophrenia. And that, combined with a rev-it-to-oblivion 3.0 litre V6 engine, made the Honda NSX a piece of motoring legend.

And when I drove ‘My 05 NSX,’ the very latest and last of the first generation car, out of Honda’s HQ, the magical sound of that free revving engine, the beautifully precise gear change, and the sweet, finely balanced handling rekindled that great feeling of what truly enjoyable driving is all about. You’ll just want to drive this car for hundreds of miles with no particular destination in mind.

Purity

What appeals most is this car’s driving purity. We live in a modern car age where technology is eating away more and more at the enjoyment of driving, displacing the need for driver skill behind the wheel.

Not so with this NSX. It’s just you, a fine chassis, a cabin with remarkable all round visibility and a powerful mid-mounted transverse engine, and, of course, rear-wheel-drive. It seems a shame that much of our future generation may never experience the pure driving experience a car like this ‘old’ Honda NSX creates.

In the several hundred miles we spent together, 80% of that time was a love affair on the best country driving roads we could find, going absolutely nowhere…just driving. There are few modern cars that make you feel that way, and ultimately it boils down to the tactile nature of the NSX and the synergy it achieves between car and driver. You will love the feel of its albeit slightly high geared steering, and whilst it is maybe too long to achieve the chuckability of a well sorted hot hatch, Senna’s magic touch achieves remarkable balance and grip with almost saloon-like ride refinement.

In the meanwhile, just sitting behind you is that 3.0 litre V6 VVT engine, wailing away as you aim for the heady 8,000 rpm redline in second, third, fourth…oh, come on, you’ve just got to smile! Whenever did driving get that good?

- Kevin Haggarthy

 

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