In keeping with a Detroit show that largely reflected the two great realities of today’s automobile business – high industry profits and cheap gas – it was only fitting that two, new supercars would formally debut.
The Acura NSX is the long-awaited replacement for the mid-engine NSX that went out of production in 2005, after a 14 year run in which it established conclusively that Honda, Acura’s parent, were fully capable of building a speed machine that would give Italy’s finest a run for their money, with greater reliability and a much lower price point thrown into the bargain. First floated in 2011, the “new” NSX had been out there so long, some people had almost gotten tired of waiting.
The proof will be in the driving, but the new car looks like it was worth the wait. A showcase of technological wizardry, with a hybrid powertrain capable of serving up 550 horsepower -- utilizing a combination of an all-new, twin-turbocharged, V6 gasoline engine, three electric motors and a nine-speed dual clutch transmission -- it will be fast. And expensive, though at a bruited $150,000 a veritable economy car compared to a Ferrari 458, which costs an additional $80,000 or more.
By contrast with the overdue NSX, almost no one knew the new Ford GT was coming, possibly explaining, along with the ever-present helping of nationalistic auto show fervor, why its reception in the Big D was even more rapturous. With over 600 horsepower from its twin turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine, full carbon fiber construction and body panels, and active aerodynamics, it wowed the crowds with its modern racecar styling and profound performance potential. The mid-engine design and several of its styling cues recall the Ford GT of 2005-2006, itself an extraordinarily faithful homage to the GT40 racecars Ford won LeMans with in the 1960s.
But the new car, which is likely to go on sale in the 2017 model year, is fully modern in conception. It appears it will arrive just in time to compete with a new mid-engine Corvette, which was being openly acknowledged by GM executives for the first time.
Teased for decades as a future direction for Corvette, a mid-engine layout is the optimal set up for competition and ultimate high-performance driving but it is more complex and costly to engineer and manufacture such cars. In consequence, you may expect Corvettes with engines behind the driver to sell for considerably more than any front-engine Corvette ever, though they’re unlikely to come close to the price of the new and presumably much lower volume GT, which number, not yet announced, is thought to be closer to the mid-200,000s. But before you write off your Corvette dreams, don’t be surprised if a more conventional, rear-drive, everyman ‘Vette is sold concurrently with the new hyper-Vette. Just because you’re only sort of rich doesn’t mean they don’t still want your money.