Honda NSX: The First Time


You never forget your first time.

Since my first drive in a Honda NSX 15 years ago I’ve driven maybe half a dozen others: earlier 3.0-litre cars; the raw, empty, fabulous NSX-R; the post-2002 cars that lost the pop-up lights.

But that week in an early 3.2, black with the manual ‘box and the targa-top, will remain one of my seminal motoring experiences.

I remember every detail.

I remember the excitement every time I walked up to it, keys in hand, knowing this thing was mine to get into and drive. I remember the proper supercar looks; the pop-up lamps, the waist-high roofline, the wedgy, cab-forward stance and that lovely line where the tail sinks under the subtle spoiler.

But it didn’t scare like a supercar: Honda forgot to make it a pain in the ass to drive in town, or snappy and unpredictable at the limit or in the wet like other mid-engined supercars of the era, and particularly Ferraris.

Instead the visibility was great and the drivetrain about as challenging to drive smoothly as a Civic’s at town speeds.

It wouldn’t make you look stupid trying to park or nurse it through traffic. But when you were alone on an empty road: oh, dear Lord, it was just electrifying as it howled towards that 8000rpm redline, every gearchange snapping home with machined, oiled precision despite the forces at work, and your brain a little freer to enjoy it all because you knew that the car was working with you, and that if you made a slight misjudgement and had to back off mid-bend it wouldn’t throw you off.

And even though this wasn’t my car, there was a satisfaction in knowing that unlike its rivals, there was probably no limit to the number of times you could nail that redline: it felt as reliable and unburstable as a Civic too, and you never feared a shower of sparks from the back end and a pricey engine rebuild. Which makes a used one all the more appealing.

Which reminds me, haven’t checked Pistonheads for a while…