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Acura NSX: Crazy, geeky fun

Posted June 20

I had been looking for an excuse to go visit my mother's hometown when someone handed me the keys to an Acura NSX. My excuse was now in place.

The contrast was perfect. The NSX, from Honda's luxury division, is a futuristic hybrid supercar with three electric motors and a turbocharged V6 engine. Pottsville is an old Pennsylvania coal mining town probably most famous, today, as the home of Yuengling, which bills itself as "America's oldest brewery."

The 573-horsepower NSX is quick and it's fun but it's also easy-going and comfortable. It's even got semi-respectable fuel economy for a car that drives like a projectile with obedience training.

Three hours from New York City on a mix of interstate highways and two-lane back roads, the trip seemed perfect. I could visit Mom's old neighborhood, stop by the local historical society and be back by nightfall.

The NSX can whip out of a tollbooth and get up to 60 miles an hour in just a snap over three seconds. I'd driven one on a racetrack before, where it felt like it would do just about whatever was asked, at virtually any speed, without ruffling a tire tread. So, of course, I expected real roads to be no real problem. And they weren't.

The best thing about the NSX is the generous breadth of its personality. With the twist of knob it goes from kindly Prius to full on raging Lamborghini.

Its default mode is "Sport," which is really its most natural state. it responds eagerly to a stab at the gas pedal and the steering feels tight and connected. The suspension is firmer than your day-to-day family sedan, yes, but nothing that should bother your behind when you're in a car like this. At low speeds, or when cruising downhill, the V6 shuts down out altogether. You ride, briefly, on electric power alone, just like you'd expect from a hybrid car. But the gas engine roars back quickly at the slightest pedal press.

Twist the knob to the right, to Sport Plus, and the engine stays on more of the time, the suspension firms up and the steering quickens. With its two other modes -- Quiet and Track -- the NSX can go all the way from Prius-like gentleness to Lamborghini-esque ferociousness.

One thing I do wish for from the NSX is a sexier sounding engine. It's not that it sounds bad, really. But in a car that looks like this you're expecting Placido Domingo -- but the V6 delivers Justin Beiber. I got used to it, though.

The NSX is, after all, an exotic sports car. All descriptions of its practical aspects must include the qualifier "for an exotic car." With a starting price of $150,000, it's affordable, for an exotic car. At 21 miles per gallon in the city and 22 on the highway, it's fuel-efficient -- for an exotic car. It even has a trunk which in which one can fit two small golf bags. Not too bad for an exotic car.

All that and it still looks and drives like an exotic car, just a little nicer.

Even after an eight hour day in the driver's seat, I'm still sold.

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