Pocket su­per­car

It’s a sign that Honda is com­ing out of its self-in­duced coma

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News -

THERE’S some­thing brew­ing in Ohio— other than weak cof­fee and lousy beer, that is.

Cars­guide has gleaned from a source close to the com­pany that in July Honda sent sev­eral of its top test driv­ers and en­gi­neers to Honda of Amer­ica’s R&D cen­tre in Ohio for no less than five years.

Ohio has a huge prov­ing ground and is the place where nearly all US-fo­cused strate­gic mod­els are de­vel­oped— and this is where the hotly an­tic­i­pated next-gen­er­a­tion NSX, which is due in 2015, is be­ing eval­u­ated. There’s more. Our source says that for such a high-pow­ered team to be there means more be­sides the NSX. Two more things in fact, in the form of sports coupes, due in 2017.

Both of these will be smaller and cheaper than the flag­ship NSX, one em­ploy­ing a hy­brid pow­er­train, the other a di­rect in­jec­tion turbo.

We are told Honda bosses want to cre­ate a high­per­for­mance sports car to fill the size­able gap be­tween the NSX and the age­ing 660cc Beat mini-car— which, in any case, we don’t get.

Five years ago, Honda shelved an ob­scure project re­ferred to in­ter­nally as the ‘‘ small NSX.’’ At that time, the V10-pow­ered NSX was in the fi­nal stages of de­vel­op­ment and the ‘‘ small NSX’’ was just one of sev­eral other ad­vanced R&D ideas in the de­sign room.

When the fi­nan­cial cri­sis hit, all sports car projects were sus­pended— very un­wisely, as Toy­ota’s run­away suc­cess with its 86 has shown.

But now not only is the NSX well on the way but that smaller NSX is also, which brings to mind a suc­ces­sor to the high-revving S2000. Could the new coupe be an S2000 suc­ces­sor, if not as a road­ster pre­cisely, then in the price bracket that the now long-dead road­ster oc­cu­pied?

As you can see in the artist’s im­pres­sion, the new mini-NSX will use some strong edgy de­sign hints from its big brother. Ini­tial re­ports sug­gested the new car may get a rear-wheel drive setup, in line with its mid-en­gined lay­out. Our in­sider says a more likely re­sult will be ‘‘ anAWD con­fig­u­ra­tion, us­ing the well­known SH-AWD sys­tem, much like that on the next NSX’’.

It turns out that deal­ers of Acura (as top-end Hon­das are called in the US) have put the hard word on Honda bosses say­ing that they too want a flag­ship car like the NSX to stave off the ag­gres­sive Hyundai on­slaught, which is killing it over there.

Honda has at least five po­ten­tial en­gines in­clud­ing di­rect in­jec­tion tur­bos such as the 660cc, 1.0-litre, 2.0-litre, 2.4-litre and 3.5-litre V6. Our bet is for the tur­bocharged 2.4 also fit­ted to CR-Vs.

Honda has de­cided to re­coup much of the de­vel­op­ment costs by shar­ing parts across sports cars.

So while the wheel­base and track will be unique to each ve­hi­cle, they will share some ma­jor com­po­nents in­clud­ing driv­e­trains. And with a mi­dengined-AWD com­bi­na­tion due in 2015, the new mini-NSX looks set to re­cover some of the com­pany’s lost sports car prow­ess with sharp lines, great han­dling and a price tag of be­tween $50,000 and $60,000.

Peter Lyon

Im­age: Hol­i­day Auto Mag­a­zine

Taste and tease: Artist’s im­pres­sion ofhow the Honda might look with ex­trav­a­gant S2000 lines

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