If you can't afford a jet, the NSX might be the next best thing

The Acura NSX, unveiled by Honda in 1991, was an attempt to fuse user-friendly ergonomics with supercar performance. The seven years of development that went into the car resulted in an exotic that was as easy to drive as an Accord. But the Acura NSX was also a true exotic with a lightweight aluminum body and styling modeled after the F-16 fighter jet.
Lightness and aerodynamics were primary concerns in the design of the NSX. Its Ferrari-esque nose slopes gradually upward back to the cab-forward greenhouse, which in early coupes is entirely black to emphasize its cockpit heritage. The car is long in the haunches to accommodate the mid-engine drivetrain configuration. An integrated spoiler and striking, full-width taillight design complete the sleek look, which was modern enough to last a decade without looking dated. Styling was and is a selling point for the NSX; it is concise without being reserved, dramatic without histrionics.
Power is supplied by a transversely mounted, 3.0-liter all-aluminum DOHC V6. The motor uses Honda's VTEC variable valve timing system and has an aurally stimulating 8,000-rpm redline. Horsepower is 270 at 7,100 rpm with a five-speed manual transmission (or 255 at 6,600 with the optional four-speed automatic). With a curb weight just over 3,000 pounds, the NSX can sprint to 60 mph in five seconds. Top speed is 163 mph.
Only coupes were available until 1996, when the NSX-T with a targa-style roof became the basic model for the US. Starting in 1997, the NSX received a bigger 3.2-liter motor and a six-speed transmission, though the 3.0-liter automatic was still an option.
The market for early NSXs is stable, if not particularly vibrant. All years show low production figures, making the car fairly rare, but there are always a few for sale. Good low-mileage examples trade among enthusiasts for between $30,000 and $50,000, depending mostly on year and condition. As a buyer, you can expect some further depreciation, although we haven't seen any really good cars go for less than $30,000. Look for a low-mileage, five-speed coupe in the middle of the price range, and drive and enjoy it. The car's popularity with 20-somethings might give it an upside, but this car should be bought to drive, not as an investment.
When shopping for an NSX, there are several things to watch for. Like any performance car of this stature, a number of NSXs have been heavily modified, raced or just driven hard and put away wet. Stay away from these-they just can't be bought cheap enough. The window regulators have been known to fail, leaving windows in the down position. Headroom can be an issue if you are tall-Dali Racing makes a low-profile seat cushion that allows more space. Always check the cooling hoses, as they were subject to recall and have a tendency to deteriorate.
In cars with improperly machined transmission cases, a snap ring in the transmission can warp and shatter. This problem affects only certain '91 and '92 cars with transmission numbers between J4A4-1003542 and J4A4-1005978. If you find a car with one of these transmissions, don't abandon ship. The problem is repairable for around $1,500; you can use the potential problem as a negotiating tactic and then cross your fingers because the tranny may not fail after all.
NSXs are known for extreme rear-tire wear, so take a good look at the rubber before you make an offer. As with any exotic, having a technician who is familiar with the car check it out before you buy it is a good idea.
The NSX has many enthusiastic marque devotees. There is no shortage of DIY information available online and in club publications, and owners exhibit a rabid willingness to help first-time buyers, sometimes driving hundreds of miles to help with inspections. Parts can be expensive, but the NSX does come from Honda and inherits that automaker's reputation for reliability.
Bottom line: These cars are aerodynamic, light and fast, they handle well and they're exciting but not difficult to drive. If you can't afford a jet of your own, the NSX might be the next best thing.

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