At the recent Honda NSX media launch and drive day in Portugal, project leader and chief engineer Ted Klaus gave some insight into the supercar’s genesis, philosophy and what it means for the Honda brand.
Here’s the interview.
Q: When you began work on this project, what were your first thoughts?
A: “Excitement, of course! I have worked at Honda since 1990 and knew well how important the original car was to the brand and sports car enthusiasts. What (original NSX large project leader) Uehara-san and his team did 25 years ago made a statement about what a Honda sports car is and should be. The chance to reflect on that original philosophy and experiment further using our 21st century technology was a unique opportunity.”
Q: Can you share some of the memories of the project? What really stood out for you during the development?
A: “From 2012 onwards, three things happened that set the tone for the project.
We unveiled the concept at the 2012 Detroit auto show. The positive response from media, enthusiasts and the public felt like everyone wanted us to succeed. The energy and commitment that the global team drew from that was vital to achieving our aims.
But as with all projects there have been some tough challenges. I remember President Ito, who had worked as a body engineering leader of the original NSX told me directly: ‘I hope you struggle on this car like we struggled on the original NSX’. At the time it made me laugh, but we have certainly had challenges to face to both create the various technologies of the car while maintaining a real analogue ‘sports car’ feeling. I am confident we have succeeded.
Another great memory was a trip the core development team took to Japan, to meet with original NSX team members. They shared memories of the original NSX development, even old diagrams and schematics. This really helped us understand in a deeper way the philosophy of the original car, so we could ensure the new NSX stayed true.”
Q: You have talked about the Honda ‘sports car’ philosophy being central to the new NSX development. Can you tell me what you mean by that?
A: “From the outset of the project, there was a fundamental decision we had to make: Is this car a supercar? Or a sports car? So we looked back at what were the core values of the original car.
Firstly, that performance should be based on making the car an extension of the driver. Ergonomic fit and visibility were vital and should not be compromised. Secondly, that the performance should always be accessible, whatever the road and whatever the skill of the driver. In the hands of the most skilful driver, it should come alive.
With those two core values in mind, the NSX is undoubtedly a sports car. With its compact package, low centre of gravity, highly rigid chassis and excellent forward visibility the NSX is a car that is directly connected to the driver.”
Q; NSX is different to many sports cars by the nature of its power unit. What made you decide to use hybrid technology?
A: As I’ve said, the values of the original NSX guided us throughout the project. But, like the first NSX, we wanted to take it one step further. Possibly the most important consideration for me and the team when it came to the power unit was how to make the performance of the car accessible at all times. The power unit we have used gives the driver instant response, particularly in those first few milliseconds after the driver has made any input – whether that be acceleration, braking or turning.
By directly supporting all driver demands – the throttle, braking and especially the steering, the handling of the car just comes alive. The use of our twin motor torque vectoring technology gives that feeling of on rails cornering. The driver has the confidence to trail brake, turn down to the apex and get on the throttle earlier, for a more rewarding cornering experience.”
Q: New NSX features a variety of new technologies. How did you meet the challenge of integrating them?
A: “We knew that there were many elements that we first needed to optimise – the sport hybrid power unit, the chassis, the aerodynamics and so on. Development was a global effort with testing taking place in US, Japan and throughout Europe. Drivers came from a number of different countries, all bringing their experience to bear to refine and hone this car.
As we became more confident in the integration of the technologies, a new, yet familiar sports car feeling emerged. When I joined testing sessions, I discovered a new level of driving enjoyment as the vehicle just “disappeared”, leaving behind me, and the road, in sync with each other. NSX has such a precise and rewarding response, combined with a surprisingly low level of driver workload. It’s an experience that stirs the soul rather than shakes the body — to me it’s like finding your perfect dance partner.”
Q: Finally – what is your proudest achievement in this project?
A: “Of course, it is clear the team has pushed the boundaries technically, but I think the most pleasing aspects of the project are what it means to the people and the brand. This project has allowed us all to unleash our creativity as engineers, acting as an ‘incubator’ for new thinking. This is a great thing for the Honda brand. These leaders will now move on to other projects throughout the company, imbuing other products with the lessons and philosophies learnt on NSX.
Many say that, in the past, Honda has been renowned for being a leader in engineering innovation. And some would accuse us of having lost that lead. But with this project we sought to build a bridge, one that takes Honda back to its roots of innovation and engineering excellence, but also to the future, harnessing next generation technology to deliver a car that is uniquely Honda.”
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