It’s time for supercars to go green, and Acura is pointing the way. Anyone who says that high-performance cars can’t also be environmentally friendly has never driven a Tesla Roadster Sport, or taken a ride in the company’s forthcoming Model S. I’ve done both, and the experiences lacked nothing in vividness, let me tell you. Yeaaaagh!
Earlier this week I wrote a piece for CBS Interactive suggesting perhaps that the storied Corvette, at least in its current huge V-8, rear-drive format, has outlived its usefulness. I got savaged by car blog Jalopnik, where raw meat is still in the diet and they like 18 mpg gas guzzlers. Well, I don’t, no matter how iconic they are.
I suggested that perhaps the Corvette could be re-invented with front-wheel-drive and a twin-turbo V-6, which I know is sacrilege to the car’s fans (who far outnumber the 15,000 or so actual buyers each year). But I didn’t even think of the bold step that Acura is taking. The NSX was certainly innovative in its day, which was 1990 to 2005. With a mid engine (perfect for weight balance), rear-drive format, it had an all-aluminum V-6 under the hood and early examples of variable valve timing and Honda’s VTEC electronic control system.
Zero to 60 was a hair over five seconds, and the quarter mile came up in just 13.47. I drove one once, and the experience was like nothing else. It arrived before my stomach did. But it was expensive and thirsty, and by the end was selling only a few hundred globally.
Honda was thinking of bringing out a spiritual successor to the NSX with a giant 500-horsepower V-10 of the type that powers the brutal and out-of-time Dodge Viper. But instead, Honda looked at the world we actually live in today and said, screw that! Instead, the new high-performance Acura will be…a hybrid. Yes, indeed. “We are working very hard on it,” Honda President Takanobu Ito told Automotive News. There’s precedent for this because the ultimate performance Porsche, the 918 Spyder, is a hybrid too—and a plug-in hybrid at that. It’s also $845,000.
Think of the possibilities, taking off from Honda/Acura’s lead. And keep in mind that these cars will give away nothing in terms of performance to their big-engine brethren:
A hybrid Ferrari California: The California broke ground with a mid-mounted V-8 and a retractable hardtop. Now it can break barriers with battery assist.
A micro-hybrid Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder: Instead of the miserable 14 mpg combined of the regular car, this one shuts down at traffic lights and uses regenerative braking for a major fuel economy gain. OK, it’s still only 20 mpg combined but it’s a start.
An electric Aston Martin DB9: With a 95-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, this zero emission Aston reaches 60 mph in four seconds and cruises 250 miles on a charge.