- The NSX is the most notable car in Acura’s line-up
- The supercar boasts impressive performance, but it’s also one of the more eye-catching designs in recent years.
- Acura’s executive creative director shared the processes and insights that created the design of the second-generation NSX.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: This is the supercar that turned the automotive industry on its head in the late ’80s. It’s tuned like a Ferrari but as reliable as a Honda – an everyday supercar with an obsessive fan base. And this is the second-generation NSX. It was first released in 2016 with the same mission: design a car that best showcases the company’s engineering, design, and capability. And this is the guy who worked on both designs.
Dave Marek: Hi, it’s Dave Marek. I’m executive creative director for Acura, and today we’re gonna talk about the NSX.
Narrator: Dave sat down to share the design process of the NSX, from sketching to production, and it all starts with these five circles, which represent the car’s wheelbase. The wheelbase is the distance between the front and rear wheels. It’s measured by the amount of wheels that fit in between them. Once the wheelbase and dimensions of the car have been determined, the design team begins building the rest of the car around it.
Dave: So, here’s the front overhang, here’s the rear overhang. And then this is the overall height. The overall length is determined sometimes by hardware or by factory limitation. Then you do kind of… well, the engine and the people. So, this is, like, a V6, then here’s a person. So I’ll do a stick figure. So you have an eyepoint, and the eyepoint is kind of critical. The eyepoint just means you’re looking through the windshield, and what do you see? And then how do you see up, so if you wanna see a stoplight or something, and then how do you see far? So, from that, you kinda start to get a feeling of the platform, and then you say, OK, here’s the overall height. There’s, like, a halo, so I’ll draw the little halo around the head, around the passenger, or the driver. And that determines where the roof is, so then the hip point is below. That determines where the seat is based on the chassis and platform. So you do that, and then you’re good. I have a kind of layout of where the engine is and where the door has to be ’cause of the guy. Or girl. So then, you know, I have a belt line, which, the belt is the side glass. So this is where you put your arm up when you’re driving. That’s the belt line. So you’re looking out, so you have this belt line. The higher the belt, the more nastier a car is, but it also is harder to see out of. So it’s a package drawing. So the package drawing is literally a side view of the car with the people in it, and the engine kind of layout, and the luggage, whatever it has.
Narrator: Once the package drawing is complete and everyone has an idea of what the final car is, the design team used the first-generation NSX to inspire the features and characteristics of the new design. So the challenge became updating design elements to feel like they belonged in the new century, like the original’s taillight, which ran the full length of the rear.
Dave: So, I think one of the first things on this is the fact that the taillights, which, you know, it’s kind of that tried and true, everybody knows what the kind of original looks like. It had the full-width light that wrapped around. You know, we had a lot of sketches of it with it. It went through a lot of iterations, full-width, and then separated, and, you know, it just kept going back to, what does the actual original feel like? So, basically, the original car has this kind of feel to it with, this was open. So, this is the taillight from the original. So we wanted to make sure this felt like it wrapped around, and, you know, that full-width-taillight feel. Some of the other cues, you know, the blackout roof, we did a lot of iterations of it. It kept being we would’ve had to really revise how we blended the aero and the fender. So it’s not always a styling cue, it’s a, you know, circumstance. For instance, there’s a vent behind the front wheel, like, right behind it, and the vent is kind of, to me, it was extraneous. The amount of airflow and downforce, it was, like, tremendous how much help that was. And I think that, you know, that vent right here, that lended to… A, it was, we had to do it, from a functional standpoint. And then now, it’s kind of like, yeah, it kind of, it’s part of the car. Make it as good as we can. You know, that kind of thing.
Narrator: What Dave is saying is there’s a lot that goes into designing a car. Some of it you can control, but other things, like the front fender vent and legacy of the brand, are less flexible, and those aren’t the only inputs that Dave has. A large part of the design process is creating a real functioning example of the car, and that’s what Acura did with its NSX concept car in 2012. The concept gave the team a chance to examine the work they’ve done thus far and realized what it was missing.
Dave: You know, that car was super clean, but almost not as mean, and that’s when we decided to turn the motor. So we changed the motor, and once we did that, it lengthened the wheelbase and it made the proportion become much snottier, much better for me, but it was still like, we want people to get in and out of it and be easy to drive and all that stuff, so, and we had a lot of people in this car saying it should be more like this, more like that. You know, the show car is about right here, the highlight, so that opening comes through about there, and then this, we lowered that down, and it makes a much more elegant line through there, and that kinda helps the car feel like it’s moving forward, and the other one was great. It was more sheer and more clean, but I think having the big opening from front view is much more powerful and more performance-car feeling. Usually, we’re going the other way, going, “OK, that’s too much.” You know, “Back up a little.” And we were going the other way, which, you know, everybody’s like, “Wow, this is gonna be great.” You know, the NSX, it’s the epitome of precision, craft, and performance. At the end of the day, we wanna make these cars to resonate with not just the buyers, but every other buyer. You know, the Conquest buyer go, “What is that?” You walking up going, “That’s an NSX!” That can’t make me happier than anything, is that.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in May 2020.