The original Honda NSX was the first mass-production vehicle with an all-aluminium body, a revolution for its time. The new 2017 NSX is entirely more advanced, but in different ways. For one, it’s a hybrid supercar with an electric motor and twin-turbocharged 3.5-litre V6 propelling it to 100km/h in 2.9 seconds and to a top speed of 307km/h. But its design is what makes that possible, and one feature is a holistic approach to the car’s interaction with air.
The first-generation NSX is over a quarter of a century old now, and the new second-generation car is getting a huge amount of praise around the ‘net. Part of that praise is for the fact that the supercar isn’t completely raw and basic; it has been designed to be usable on the street as well as the track, with an interior that’s comfortable to sit in — but also an exterior that is perfectly compromised between air intake, drag and downforce.
The NSX team went through wind tunnel tests in Honda’s facility in Ohio, with 40 per cent scale models and server-driven computational fluid dynamics optimising body shapes like intake grilles and exhaust vents, necessary when cooling the car’s seven heat sources — higher than usual due to the hybrid drivetrain. There are front engine radiators, an electric motor cooler, condenser and transmission cooler, and then the hybrid-electric power distribution unit itself to be ventilated.
Slots in the taillights and rear spoiler work together with the car’s rear diffuser to produce three times more downforce at the rear than the front — that’s the ideal distribution of downforce, says Honda — all without the need for active aerodynamic adjustment found on competitor supercars. Even intakes on the side work to cool the engine and channel airflow through the rear deck. Front intakes cool the various radiators, but exit past the front wheels without causing turbulence.
Honda aerodynamicist Thomas Ramsay speaks in the video below about balancing the NSX’s styling and external design against the need to maximise downforce for grip and minimise drag for faster acceleration and a higher potential top speed. Honda says that “this holistic approach significantly contributes to a supercar that faithfully translates the inputs of the driver with incredible fidelity and zero delay, while minimising the driver’s workload.” [Honda / YouTube]