America’s love affair with the NSX has been rekindled courtesy of a Superbowl commercial featuring Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno competing for ownership of the first gen-2 US car. With that fervor for the Japanese mid-engine supercar in mind we gladly kick off our week of featured NSX’s with one of the best the 2003 Tanabe tuned NSX-R.
A second iteration of the NSX-R was released in 2002, again exclusively in Japan. As with the first NSX-R, weight reduction was the primary focus for performance enhancement. The chassis is based on the fixed-roof coupe, due to its lighter weight and more rigid construction. Carbon fiber was used to a large extent throughout the body components to reduce weight, including a larger, more aggressive rear spoiler, vented hood and deck lid. The vented hood was said to be the largest one-piece carbon-fiber hood in production cars. Additionally, the original NSX-R weight reduction techniques were repeated, including deletion of the audio system, sound insulation and air conditioning. Furthermore, the power steering was removed. A single-pane rear divider was again used, as were carbon-kevlar racing seats manufactured for Honda by Recaro. Finally, larger yet lighter wheels resulted in a total weight reduction of almost 220 lb to 2,800 lb.
The 3.2L DOHC V6 engine received special attention as well. Each NSX-R engine was hand assembled by a skilled technician using techniques normally reserved for racing programs. Components of the rotating assembly (pistons, rods and crank) were precision weighed and matched so that all components fell within a very small tolerance of weight differential. Then, the entire rotating assembly was balanced to a level of accuracy ten times that of a typical NSX engine. This balancing and blueprinting process significantly reduced parasitic loss of power due to inertial imbalance, resulting in a more powerful, free-revving powerplant with excellent throttle response. Officially, Honda maintains that the power output of the Second-Gen NSX-R engine is 290bhp, which is identical to the stock NSX. The automotive press, however, has long speculated that the true output of the engine is higher.
Creating the impression of increased power the accelerator was remapped, becoming much more sensitive to movement, particularly at the beginning of the pedal’s new shorter stroke. This, coupled with the harsh suspension, makes it very hard for the driver to drive smoothly at low speeds on streets with even slight bumps. The lack of power steering has also been noted by drivers as making the car tiring and hard to steer at low speed.
The result of Honda’s second NSX-R effort was a vehicle that could challenge the latest sports car models on the track, despite having a base design that was more than 15 years old. For example, noted Japanese race and test driver Motoharu Kurosawa piloted a 2003 NSX-R around the Nurburgring road course in 7:56, a time equal to a Ferrari F360 Challenge Stradale. The NSX-R accomplished this feat despite being out-powered by the Ferrari by over 100bhp.