Top Secret: The 2018 Acura NSX Revisted

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When we first reviewed the 3rd gen NSX, we felt that we might have been a little harsh in our review. After all, we were comparing it to cars in much higher price brackets and we still had some expectations that had been set by the first gen NSX in our minds. So when we got an invite from Honda to thrash the NSX around properly at their secret test track facility in the California desert, we leaped at the chance to really see what the NSX is on its own merits and see how our opinions might change.

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Driving a ways into the desert along the 14 freeway, past Edwards Air Force base and down some small, unmarked roads, we first thought we were being lead to either a body dump site our just into the wilderness for the sake of it. But low and behold, eventually, we found a very nice sign that read: Honda. We turned up the road and found ourselves at a security gate, which the whole experience of entry gave a feeling of entering Area 51 where we knew we’d be seeing some top secret stuff. After getting settled inside the visitors lounge, we were given a tour of the control room, which is straight out of a movie with a giant wall covered in monitors watching everything that’s happening on each section of the track. After conversing with the staff, we were led back into the lounge for a briefing by a few Acura executives and a racing instructor. We were then led outside to get acquainted with the NSX.

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Each of us was paired with a racing instructor, and before we could enter the actual track we had to have our phones inspected by security so they could tape over our cameras. With a lot of new and classified vehicles currently testing, no photograph was allowed on track (many thanks to Acura for providing most of the pictures you see in this article). Once we cleared security, we drove our NSX to a staging area deep inside the test track grounds so we could get another briefing an what specifics paces we’d be putting the car through. For the first section, we’d be doing a high speed oval test, bringing the car to speeds in excess of 130 mph. Next, we would take the car to the acceleration and handling tarmac to test the NSX’s launch control from stand still and it’s handling when put into turns at speed. Lastly, we’d be taking on the full canyon road replica course, which is modeled after some canyon roads in Southern California to provide real-world simulated driving conditions, including a steep, blind uphill climb and steeper down hill decent portion. Mission accepted.

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Taking the NSX on the high speed oval, we had the car in Sport Mode. Despite this, the pull from 40 to 140 mph was rather uneventful. The NSX is incredibly smooth, and with the techno wizardry under the hood working to shelter you from all the violent forces of nature, you don’t actually feel the speed you hitting. The 9 speed transmission responsible for that, as with so many gears the car can shift extremely seemly as you rack up the speed. So far, our initial opinion of the NSX remains the same.

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Next we took the NSX to the acceleration and handling tarmac, where there are some other Honda employees putting some minivans and civics through their paces on the handling part of the track, so we got the NSX into position behind two cones on the drag strip part of the tarmac and came to a full stop. The NSX has 573 combined horsepower from it’s turbocharged V6 and electric motor, so there should be some grunt with a full pedal mash. We hammered the pedal to the floor upon hearing our instructor say “Go,” and the NSX pulled forward at speed. Sadly, again, for something that should get our hearts racing, the full throttle pull was not as eventful as we would hope because the NSX is so smooth on take off. We came back around for another try on the drag strip, but this time we are told to use the launch control. We put the car in track mode, engaged the launch control, and then mashed the pedal just like previous run. Suddenly, the NSX has become a completely different car. Suddenly, one can feel the might of each individual horse in the 573 horse stampede as the NSX rockets forward while trying to tear its tires off. The transmission keeps the power delivery going a bit longer and so in a few quick seconds (and screams) later, we hit the braking point and bring the car to a stop. Sitting for a moment, with a very giddy grin, it seems that the NSX can show the driver its full power. Finally, we’ve gotten a proper glimpse of what the NSX can be, so now we’ve very curious to put it on the handling course.

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We get to the handling course and do a drive through it at a decent pace in track mode so we can get familiar with the car in the corners. We hit some long sweeping S turns that open into larger arcing turns to bring the course around full circle. Our second run through, when we get to the first S turn, we’re told to go full throttle in the middle of the turn. So, being the Yes Men that we are, we complied. In track mode the NSX’s traction control system goes fairly hands free until a certain point and then it manages each tire to let the car sort itself out. Translation: When we went full throttle in the middle of the turn the NSX gracefully arced sideways into a spectacular drift. Naturally, instinct tells you to counter steer, but our racing instructor had us keep the steering wheel straight, and magically, the car sorted itself out and was somehow straight again, despite the pedal being mashed the whole time. This discovery led us to drifting the NSX through the entire handling course for 3 extremely fun rubber-shredding laps (much to the amusement of the other Honda employees, we found out later). The NSX is a shockingly easy car to drift and highlights that it does know how to have some fun. So how does this all come together?

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For the final assignment, we went to the canyon road simulation course which was a mix of straights, sweeping turns, hairpin turns and elevation changes. As we made our way through the course, the most terrifying part is the about 1/3rd the way through there was a blind uphill ascent, which rocketing up a hill at 60 mph that you can’t see over the crest of is scary, but at 75 we had entered a zone of pure terror. Then getting hard on the brakes downhill into so other turns, we were glad we didn’t learn that the NSX uses brake-by-wire tech so the brakes aren’t physically connected to the pedal until after we had finished the drive. Don’t get us wrong, the brakes are great and responsive, but when you’re convinced your racing instructor is trying to get you airborne off the track, the last thing you want to hear is that you’re trusting your ability to stop with a small servo that relays your brake pedal input to the braking system. As we got more familiar with the road layout, we were able to really push the NSX around it to get a better feel for the car. And that’s where met our original problem with the car, but now we fully understood what it really was. The NSX can handle and corners very well and in some really tight turns the understeer will show up and it can start to drift a bit. That’s all good and fine, until you realize you’re using your eyes to do 100% of the driving because the NSX keeps the driving feel isolated from you.

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The NSX is a clever car and it’s loaded with all of the latest tech. But it’s too clever for its own good. That’s a problem because when you don’t have a good read on the driving feel of the car, it becomes very difficult to place the car exactly how you want it and you can’t physically feel where the car is. The NSX is actually a harder car to really drive at first, because you can’t feel what’s happening so you can’t feel the car’s limits are when you’re getting near them. Unlike BMW M cars or the McLaren 570S, those cars are easier to get a sense of because you can feel where they are at all times and you get an immediate sense of the cars limits, so you know how far you can push it much sooner. So the tech makes driving the NSX extremely easy, but that same tech makes the learning curve of the NSX much harder to approach since it isolates so much of the driving feel from you.

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That being said, for what the NSX is trying to do, that approach makes sense as 95% of the owners will never dare explore the limits of the car. So it’s setup to be smooth and event free from a driver feel perspective. We did manage to get a better sense of the car as we pushed it on the canyon course lap after lap, and even managed to set a civilian uphill speed record of 118 mph (on that particular run we basically accepted that we were going to fly off track and to our shock we didn’t because the sorcery that is downforce). After our last lap, we brought the NSX back to the staging area for a debrief session and some refreshments.

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We had to admit, we were a bit torn on the NSX after putting it through it’s proper paces. Our verdict is that it’s a supercar trapped inside a luxury car, which makes it like a tiger in a zoo. The car drives very smooth, quiet and easy. But put it in launch control, and suddenly you get a flash of the raw nature of the car, like when a tiger suddenly decides the zookeeper will make a nice snack as we we all get a firsthand reminder that at heart, it’s a killing machine. The fact that the NSX is very easy to drift reminds you that in an age of socially responsible cars the NSX can have some guilt-free fun, but it also makes drifting a bit too easy in a point-and-shoot way which is fun, but not a testament of your skill as a driver. Paired with the lack of driving feel, all this adds up to a car that is a very good car. A very accessible car. And a very easy to do what you will with it car. So as a car, it’s fantastic. But this car is a reflection of itself and its engineering, not so much a reflection of your driving skill. So, to properly view the NSX, it should be thought of as a sleek luxury car and not a supercar. As a luxury car the NSX checks all the boxes. As a supercar it falls short because it’s not setup to actualize the driver’s potential.

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So our final thoughts? As a luxury car we like it, it makes total sense when viewed under that lens. If you want a hardcore supercar, this isn’t the car for you. If you want a sleek coupe that’s easy and comfortable to drive with some fun tech, and highly accessible performance, than this is the car you’re looking for. For our taste we prefer the true supercars, so while we enjoyed the NSX for a day, it would not be the car we’d take home for the long term. If our driving style was had a different set of priorities, then this car would be a no-brainer, and we feel this car will steal a lot of business from Porsche and potential Audi R8 buyers. Most importantly, want to extend our thanks to Acura for having us, for hosting one of the best driving events we’ve ever been too, and for their insanely awesome staff. We’d honestly go back in a heart beat just to hang with the staff, we wouldn’t even need to drive, they are just that fun to be around and passionate about cars. It was a treat to give the NSX a proper thrashing and review, especially on a top secret test site seldom seen by civilians eyes. As the NSX is a great luxury car, our hope is that as we departed for home during the sunset, in an unmarked garage on the far side of the top secret facility, a more hardcore version of the NSX is being worked on, because while presently the car is more beauty than beast, we know there is a wild animal at the heart of this car that’s trying to claw its way out.

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Cheers,

-JB

 

LA Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2018

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“You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.” — Edith Head

Last week the LA fashion scene was hit by a storm, and that storm was LA Fashion Week Spring/Summer ’18. This season was most ambitious and lavish one to date, featuring a robust lineup of 16 designers, all showcasing their most current concepts and collections. Ground Zero for the activities of this fashion storm occurred in the historic Alexandria Ballrooms in Down Town LA, which is a distinctly historic LA venue.

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The aim for LA Fashion Week is to set itself apart by focusing on Los Angeles based design talent, by promoting and highlighting the local design community which gives the event a very distinct home-grown vibe. The emphasis this season was on celebrating the cultural diversity that we sometimes take for granted in LA.

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The storm was a 5 day affair, with a grand opening ceremony featuring several performances from a rock show, a performance by the Anaheim Ballet, and a Thai dance group performance to set the tone. The open spaces of the venue where transformed by art pieces from local artists, allowing attendees to get a taste of the LA art scene, as well as a full blown “make-over station” setup by KISS Professional, NY.

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The shows on the runway this season featured some very exciting themes, as many of the designers utilized very traditional cultural elements in their designs mixed with bold colors and intricate patterns. For example, George Styler made use of traditional Asian styles in his design work, with a splash of fantasy elements thrown in to give his collection a very unique and larger than life feel. The most unique and show-stealing moment at of any of the shows had to come from designer Issue Thailand, who featured not 1 but 2 “invisible people” to model outfits for his latest collection. A creatively delightful surprise, it certainly was the talk of the week at the event. The full line up of designers presenting was:
Noe Bernacelli

Noe Bernacelli

 

Pitinya

Patinya

 

Milin

MILIN

 

ASV (ASAVA)

Polpat Asavaprapha

 

Issue Thailand

Issue Thailand

 

George Styler

George Styler

 

Rinda Salmun

RINDA SALMUN

 

Jeffry Tan

Jeffry Tan

 

Sav Lavin

Sav Lavin

 

Radka Salcmannova

Radka Salcmannova

 

Bishme

Bishme

 

Lela Eloshi

LELA ELOSHI

 

Marry Me Jimmy Paul

Jimmy Paul

 

Nordic Angels

MARKETA HAKKINEN

 

BYO (Tommy Ambiyo)

Tommy Ambiyo

 

Lotuz Jakarta

Lotuz

 

 

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The fashion is never limited to just the runways, as the attendee presented a plethora of diverse fashion ensembles and statements. Throughout the non-stop fashion activity at the event, Executive Producer Arthur Chipman could be spied ensuring that everything was executed smoothly and seemingly effortlessly. It’s always a sight to behold to see a show runner in full action making sure every minute detail is executed each day, and for a 5 day stretch makes it that much more impressive to see. That same dive and passion is shared by the rest of the LA Fashion Week team, particularly the Beauty Director Marquita Davis, who could be seen ensuring that anything and everything needed for a show, designer, or guest was taken care of immediately, no matter how big or small. That’s magic of their hard work that deserves appreciation and recognition, especially since Chipman, Davis and the LA Fashion Week team do a great job of managing the monumental amount of behind the scenes chaos and logistics to help create a special event for everyone to enjoy, while making it seem as if the entire process is as simple as flipping a switch.

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All in all, LA Fashion Week SS’18 has been the biggest and boldest LA Fashion Week to date. The vision and execution makes it a world-class event, and does its home city of Los Angeles a great service by elevating the fashion profile of the city. The event has certainly grown over the last few years to become one of the premier fashion events in the world and the future of this event looks very, very grand. Rest assured there will be great anticipation and many eyes waiting to see what the LA Fashion Week team has in store for next season.

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Be sure to checkout our gallery of pictures and the websites for the designers as well:

Cheers,

-JB

V12 Badassery II – The Aventador S Track Review

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When we first got acquainted with the Lamborghini Aventador S, we put it through 26 blissful miles of Carmel roads, causing awe and terror with the fury of the V12 monster in full compliance with road laws. As epic as it was, it always leaves one wanting…And Lamborghini is well aware of this. So we were invited out to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana to learn about the true nature of the Aventador S and to unleash it on roads with no speed limits or civilian restrictions.

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For those who didn’t read our first review or the stats, here’s a quick recap: 740 horsepower. Naturally aspirated V12. All wheel drive with rear wheel steering. And looks that make stealth fighters envious and lesser cars nervous.

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On the road, you get a sense the Aventador S is always plotting new and exciting ways to terrorize everything on the road, including the driver, through sheer brute aggression. But it feels a bit civilized on the road as well, especially when compared to it’s feral brother the SV. The Aventador S is easy to drive on the road and make the savagery feel accessible and controllable, but you feel the car is held back by the invisible rules of the road. So, having the Aventador S on the track, we should expect to see just how wild this Tyrannosaurus Rex of a hypercar is right?

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You’d be exactly right about that. Utilizing Corsa mode (because setting up Ego mode would be a waste of time when all you want is everything set to be as irresponsible as possible) we put the mighty Lambo through it’s paces. We did some autocross on the infield part of the track to begin with, and we got a really feel for how nimble and dare we say agile the Aventador S is. When we first drove it through the canyons we felt a big difference in the nature of the handling compared to past models due to the rear-wheel steering, but on the track we got to see how much of a difference that made. The Aventador S is the size and weight of a T-Rex, but it moves and darts like it’s a velociraptor. Which at first is confusing, then becomes enthralling as you hear the V12 roaring behind you with the a full force of primeval nature.

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Next we did the full circuit, which was the infield course and the high speed straights and turn on the track. At speed the Aventador S makes going from 0-60 mph feel like light speed, and when you realize that you’ve gone from 0-110 mph, it suddenly becomes clear that you have gone at light speed. The fastest we got the S up to that day was 155 mph+ (at 155 mph we had to take our eyes off the speedo and focus on the track more as the giant wall on the long sweeping turn got closer and bigger very, very quickly) and the Aventador wasn’t even straining. It could do more…a lot more…easily. That’s what’s scary, the car feels as solid, composed, planted and savage at 150 mph as it does at 50 mph, and at 150 mph the car isn’t breaking a sweat and has plenty of power to boot. Running the car through the full track, it was amazing to experience the full savagery of the Aventador, as the handling is sharp, the power and acceleration are reality-altering, and the biggest question you have is “How is this thing road legal?” We don’t know and we don’t care, we’re immensely grateful that somehow (probably a bribe or three) this car is able to exist, as it’s an experience that can be seldom rivaled by anything on the market.

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So the real question is, is it a proper track car? The answer is no, as it was never intended to be, but we’d argue for the Aventador S, that’s a good thing. If you want a fully blown track car, you need a Porsche 911 GT3 RS or a Ferrari 458 Speciale, but then with those cars you give up the street car comfort and appeal. With the Aventador S, it’s a very fun and capable car to push around the track. But it is a road car first, so you’ll notice that in super tight turns. The Aventador S manages to carry it’s weight well, but if you’re used to driving lighter cars then you can certainly feel the extra heft of this car. But for what it is, the Aventador S is very impressive, as the rear-wheel steering give the car a surprising amount of maneuverability, the power delivery is savage and the car feels responsive and connected to the road. Unlike a lot of newer cars that try to hide all road sensation from the driver, the Aventador S channels all the feedback from the road through the seat and steering wheel, so you hands know what the front tires are up to and your butt cheeks know exactly what each of the rear tires is doing.

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Now, no car is without fault, and the limited interior space vanishes the second you put a helmet on. The size of the car is a bit noticeable at first as well, but once you start tearing into corners the car doesn’t drive as big as it actually is. And the most divisive topic is the single clutch transmission. For many, it’s not smooth like dual clutch gearboxes. For us, we actually prefer the single clutch because it’s properly violent and feel far more raw, which makes the Aventador S stand apart and feel more old school. The only other V12 hypercar you can get with a single clutch feeling is a Pagani Huarya, and for one of those you’ll have to shell out the cash equal to 3 or 4 Aventadors, making it somewhat of a bargain. Somewhat, in the most relative terms possible.

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All in all, the Aventador S is a fantastic machine, and is our favorite new hypercar on the market. While it’s true home is the roads, this car is a blast of a machine to thrash on the track and we’d highly encourage all owners to experience the fully might and fury of this machine in a rack environment at least once.

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Cheers,

-JB

(Some pictures are courtesy of Scene 7 Films and Lamborghini)

R8D R: The 2017 Audi R8 V10 Driven On Laguna Seca

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For many of us, taking a supercar out on the track is something we’ll experience only in the virtual sense, like in the video game Forza Motorsport. So when you get a notice from Audi that you’ll be able to take the new R8 V10 on the legendary track Laguna Seca, you don’t ask questions you just get to the track as quickly as you can. We where already at the track for Monterey Car Week to checkout some of the Monterey Historic Racing Series events. As the day wound down, we got to checkout Audi’s hospitality paddock on the track and we were given a surprise pep talk from none other than Tom Kristensen himself. In case you don’t know who he is, he’s the driver that’s won LeMans a staggering 9 times out of the 13 total LeMans wins Audi has.

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Getting out onto the pit lane, our fleet of R8’s awaited. We could not help but have flash backs to our very firs track day years ago at Sonoma Raceway, where we took out the first generation R8 V8 on that track. How much has the R8 evolved since then. The R8’s we were driving were the V10 model, with the 540 horsepower V10 engine sourced from the Lamborghini Huracan. Starting at $165,000, the R8 is priced and spec’d to be a solid contender for buyers looking at entry level supercars.

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Igniting the engine of the R8 gives the sensation of a nice purring sound as the engine comes online. Although the engine is Lamborghini, everything about the R8 is Audi, so there’s a sense of engineered refinement about the car. The R8 is not about flash, it’s more about refinement. Getting the R8 out on Laguna Seca for a sighting lap was a great thrill, as we took our time to get a proper feel for the car and for the track. Perhaps the most thrilling moment was diving 6 stories downward for the first time on the infamous corkscrew. That combined with the increased speed through turn 1 on our second lap where the most thrilling and terrifying moments…until lap 3 when we managed to get the R8 a little sideways for a fun little drifting session.

On the track the R8 is fast, fun and very responsive. Oddly though, the R8 actually seems better suited for the road as you get the feeling that the car is engineered to be a little more subdued and refine rather than balls to the wall. The V10 has plenty of power but the delivery is not as neck-snappingly instant as it could be, the steering is precise but you feel that the AWD could be dialed in a smidge more give the car a little more edge. Don’t get us wrong, we think the R8 is a great car, it’s got a cool look and was a very fun car on the track. However, it feels a little too Audi for it’s own good, which if you’re a big Audi fan is a great thing.  But if you’re not fully sipping the Audi kool-aid, then you might find yourself with a slight feeling of needing something a little more. Overall we’d say the R8 V10 is a great road car and good car for those looking to dip their toes into the supercar world, we’d highly recommend it over the new Acura NSX. We do want to thank Audi for taking our track virginity on a new track again, as the chance to really experience Laguna Seca was a gear head dream come true.

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Cheers,

-JB