The old two-lane road climbs rapidly out of the desert and into the mountains, high enough to find patches of snow from the previous night's storm. For most drivers, it's a treacherous way to leave Palm Springs, but we wouldn't consider any other option while driving the reborn Acura NSX.
First introduced in 1990, the two-seater was the first true Japanese supercar—indeed, the first sports car from anywhere to use all-aluminum construction. But the design grew dated and, unable to come up with a suitable replacement, Acura pulled the NSX off the market in 2005. Fans have been lamenting that decision ever since, though they were buoyed by news that the nameplate would return for 2017.
The new NSX is a sleeker, more stylish and lavishly equipped sports car than the original, with a low and menacing nose and broad air scoops behind each of the doors. It needs that air to feed and cool one of the most complex powertrains ever put on the road. The new model pairs a twin-turbo V-6 with three electric motors. Together, they produce a peak output of 500 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. But those numbers don't tell the full story. Unlike an internal combustion engine that has to build RPMs up, electric motors produce 100 percent of their tire-spinning torque almost instantly, as you discover switching the "Driver Control" system to "Launch Control". Push both pedals to the floor and then release the brake to get a sensation not unlike blasting off from an aircraft carrier, racing to 60 in barely three seconds.
The unusual powertrain layout offers other advantages. The system creates what Acura calls electronic Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive. In practice, it's a far more elegant system than that awkward name implies. The turbo V-6 and one of the motors power the rear axle. The other motors are mounted on the front axle. Not only do you get better traction on wet or icy pavement, but this helps steer you through even the tightest of corners more agilely than you'd imagine possible. In a hard turn, the motor on the inner front wheel slows down, the one on the outer wheel speeding up, something technically known as torque vectoring.
The sensually sculpted exterior is matched by a brilliantly executed interior, with the right blend of luxury and performance cues. For the most part, the little details—like the seamless wrapping of the steering wheel—are spot on. Our only complaint is the touch-screen display shared with such no-frills models as the Fit minicar sold by Acura's parent Honda.
The complex powertrain and all the other features found on the 2017 Acura NSX have driven the base price up to $158,000. But we're expecting few buyers will get away that cheap. Add the carbon-ceramic brakes, the carbon-fiber roof and all the other accessories and you'll be nudging $210,000. That puts the Japanese rocket into competition with some of Europe's best, including entries from the likes of Lamborghini and Aston Martin. While Acura doesn't have quite the pedigree, however, the uniqueness of the NSX and its raw performance are likely to win fans, much as the original model did a quarter-century ago.