The Acura NSX is headed for the Rockies. Later this month, the hybrid supercar, introduced earlier this year, will take on the legendary Pikes Peak hill climb in force. Two new variants of the NSX hybrid will race, along with an all-electric version that could obliterate the Colorado mountain.
The June 26 event, formally the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, is among the oldest and most challenging races in the US. Competitors face 156 turns over just 12.42 miles, with an average grade of seven percent and a nearly 5,000 foot-elevation change from the 9,390-foot starting point. Despite the relatively quick runs (Sebastien Loeb set the current record of 8:13.878 in 2013) the climb is an intense test of driver skill and vehicle capabilities.
For the NSX’s North American racing debut, the two hybrid variants will compete in separate classes. The NSX in the Time Attack 2 class, for production cars with minor modifications, will be nearly street legal. It’ll carry extra safety gear, and ditch the passenger seat, carpets, and other frivolous bits to drop 150 pounds from its 3,800-pound production weight.
The car racing in the Time Attack 1 class, for “highly modified and specialized” production cars, is significantly more menacing. Acura packed in a roll cage, fire-suppression gear, and a custom high-flow racing exhaust. It took out 500 pounds by lightening the chassis, stripping the interior, and replacing the glass side and rear windows with Lexan plastic.
Acura engineers and James and Nick Robinson will take the wheel for the uphill contest. The brothers are qualified race drivers; Nick won a motorcylce class at Pikes last year. They’ll provide the most punishing test yet for the NSX’s torque-happy powertrain system: three electric motors and a twin-turbocharged V6 powering all four wheels, with a dual-clutch nine-speed transmission to put the power down.
But Acura’s real star at Pikes Peak this month will be the experimental NSX competing in the electric class. This race actually reward electric vehicles, which don’t lose power with as the air thins out with elevation. The prototype in question is a progression of the four-motor Honda CR-Z-based car the company raced at Pikes Peak last year. Tetsuya Yamano, who won the the Challenge Exhibition class in that car, will be at the wheel again in 2016.
Acura’s revealing little in the way of specs for its latest experiment, but has said that with four motors, the all-electric NSX will be at least three times more powerful than last year’s CR-Z. Those motors, developed based on learnings from Pikes Peak 2015, aren’t just bigger. They precisely control the torque applied to each wheel, a potentially key advantage when tackling hairpin after hairpin on the way to the 14,115-foot summit.
Given the excellent reviews of the 2017 NSX in its standard form, here’s hoping Acura decides an electric supercar belongs not just at the top of a mountain, but on dealer lots.