Vehicle Comparisons

Honda NSX

Honda NSX

Honda tried to bring buyers in the supercar segment something a little different with its second generation NSX. Recent embelishments include chassis upgrades and mild tuning of the Sport Hybrid technology that offers an electrified boost to the throaty 3.5-litre V6, hence the impressive performance. It's a desirable package.

The engine is a specially developed 3.5-litre V6 that in this improved model features upgraded injectors and enhancement to the heat response of the turbocharger. It still offers the same 500bhp output, which on its own wouldn't be quite enough for supercar class competitiveness, so just behind this twin turbocharged unit sits a 48bhp electric motor. Plus there are two further 37bhp electric motors, one for each wheel. The peak revs of all these various power sources don't arrive simultaneously, so peak power is 573bhp. Power is transmitted through a dual-clutch paddleshift auto gearbox with nine speeds - the first for launching you away from rest, the ninth for cruising on the highway and the seven closely-stacked ratios in-between for driving duties.

You control all of this via the NSX's drive selector. In so-called 'Quiet' mode, it'll pull away in its silent electric-only setting, but you'll be more interested in the three other options you can select - 'Sport', 'Sport+' and 'Track'. On the move, the prodigious weight of the complicated powertrain will delay you a little - this Honda tips the scales at a portly 1,725kgs - but not too much, 62mph from rest flashing by in 2.9s en route to a maximum of 191mph. And of course, plenty of aural fireworks are promised from the throaty V6. The NSX rides on two-stage magnetorheological dampers, the firmness of which depends on your drive mode selections. The brakes are track-ready, though many owners will want to opt for the extra cost ceramic stoppers.

Changes to this revised model aimed at further sharpening the handling include the adoption of larger front and rear stabliser bars, stiffer rear hubs and control-arm toe link bushings, the adoption of new Continental SportContact tyres and a recalibration of the software controlling the Sport Hybrid power unit, the steering and the stability systems. As a result of all of this, this revised NSX is said to be two seconds a lap faster than the current model around the world famous Suzuki Grand Prix circuit in Japan.

You can see that to some extent, the NSX designers have been influenced by an Audi R8 in the styling of this car but this Honda still manages to have its own distinctive style, with more angular lines that must incorporate all the scoops and vents necessary for no fewer than ten different radiators. Under the skin is a mixed-material spaceframe that incorporates a two-seat cabin and an engine positioned to sit longitudinally just behind it. The car's extremely wide - 2,217mm if you include the mirrors - which might make it fell a little more unwieldy than, say, a rival Porsche 911 Turbo on tighter roads. Exterior upgrades to this revised model see the chrome finish of the upper front grille surround now colour-matched to the bodywork, while a smarter gloss-black finish is applied to the mesh in the front and rear bumpers.

Inside, the finish is quite nice, apart from a few plastics with metal finishes, but storage space is at something of a premium and, like many Hondas, this one has an infotainment touchscreen that lags behind the best standards set in this class. The Garmin navigation system element is particularly poor. The steering wheel needs a bit more adjustment but the sports seats are comfortable and the instruments are clear.

This segment is full of compelling supercars. But this Honda continues to offer something a little different. There's so much technology in the hybrid drivetrain that this model might easily have become something of an engineering exercise rather than a raw, involving super-sportscar. That this hasn't happened is due to the fact that it's clearly been developed by people who love their driving.

A team who bought themselves just about every desirable rival they could lay their hands on, then tuned each NSX element to try and make this Honda just that little bit better in every area. Must have been fun. Drive the end result and you'll find out just how much.

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Porsche 911 Carrera S

Porsche 911 Carrera S

The subtle exterior re-design of this '992'-series Porsche 911 clothes a body that's lighter and stiffer thanks to a doubling of its aluminium content. Plus there's a new 8-speed PDK auto gearbox, a higher-class cabin, re-designed suspension, even better brakes and (for the first time) different-sized wheels front-to-rear on mainstream models. Plus you get a lot more technology, including a clever new 'Wet Mode' which adapts the drive dynamics to suit slippery conditions. Here we check this car out in base 385PS 'Carrera' form.

This base Carrera model now puts out 385PS, which is 15PS more than before. For reference, the alternative Carrera S model puts out 450PS. But do you really need the 'S' when this base 911 is already so startlingly quick? There's a gutsy 450Nm of torque and rest to 62mph occupies 4.2s - or 4.0 seconds dead if the optional 'Sport Chrono' package is fitted. Either way, this Zuffenhausen sportscar wouldn't let up until it reached 182mph, were you to be on the main straight at the Nurburgring. Just like with the Carrera S, you can have a four wheel drive version of this car. The performance stats for that (in Coupe form) are the same, but the top speed is fractionally reduced (180mph).

The twin turbo 3.0-litre flat six may have a very different sound and feel to the bigger-capacity units served up by rivals, but you still get a delightful howl from the 'boxer' motor. With so much low and mid-rev torque from this powerplant, you can drive it as lazily as you like. As before, there's a manual gearbox available, but most buyers will want the PDK paddleshift auto, which now offers eight speeds. Plus the usual selection of drive modes has been added to with a 'Wet mode' that senses excess road surface spray and can adapt the handling for slippery conditions.

Visually, the only difference setting this Carrera variant apart from its Carrera S stablemate is that this base 911 model gets 19-inch wheels at the front and 20-inchers at the rear. For reference, the 'Carrera S' gets 20-inch wheels at the front and 21-inchers at the rear. Either way, big red four-piston brake calipers with cross-drilled 350mm discs are fitted. There's a choice of Coupe or Cabriolet body styles.

You'd know the classic silhouette at a glance of course, but if you weren't a 911 brand loyalist, you might not necessarily notice the changes that designate this eighth generation model. For admirers of this car though, they'll be uber-significant. The door mirrors have been re-designed and aerodynamically enhanced to reduce wind noise. The lower section of the nose is more horizontally-orientated, emphasising the 46mm of extra front track width that's sharpened up the handling, but there's now rather an expanse of black plastic across the larger intakes, which is arguably less elegant than before

The interior meanwhile, has entered the digital age. And, just as it did in the very first 911, the dashboard now flows in an unbroken span across the entire width of the interior and feels luxurious, contemporary and extremely stylish. Through the grippy three-spoke wheel (also new) lies a defiantly analogue central rev counter, without which a Porsche simply wouldn't be a Porsche. But the two 7-inch read-outs that sit either side of it are actually configurable freeform displays. Just about everything else you need to know is covered off by a generously-sized 10.9-inch flush-mounted 'Porsche Communication Management' touchscreen display in the centre of the dash. Out back, you still get two tiny child-sized seats. And under the bonnet, there's a small 132-litre boot.

The 911. Whether you've a classic model or this eighth generation '992'-series variant, it's an automotive icon that's globally loved. Which is why though this version has been substantially re-designed, Porsche hasn't messed with the fundamental formula. In other words, if, like us, you've always loved this car, then you'll love this one.

There are surely lots of reasons to. The improved six cylinder twin turbo used in this Carrera series is efficient, yet sonorous and gloriously tractable. Plus the cabin's more up to date and the infotainment's been brought up to scratch. In addition, like its predecessor, this 911 is practical and easy to use - and remains satisfying to drive in a way that rivals can't quite match. In other words, though apparently everything's changed, nothing is really different. Thank goodness.

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Audi R8

Audi R8

The second generation Audi R8 has become fiercer and more focused in this improved form, with V10 petrol engines providing near supercar levels of performance. Buyers choose between a 570PS V10 and a 620PS V10 performance version, both capable of topping 200mph. It's smarter, better finished and better looking than the original design. You can have an open-topped Spyder version. And of course there's quattro 4WD. Beat that.

The big news with this second generation R8 is that there's more power. The standard V10 engine gets a 30PS increase to 570PS, while the previous 'V10 plus' version (now re-branded the 'V10 performance' model) gets a 10PS increase to 620PS. As for oither changes, well modifications to the suspension provide more stability and precision. Plus the assistance has been retuned both with the optional dynamic steering and the electromechanical power steering. In addition, Audi Sport has made the distinction between the profiles available as part of the Audi drive select dynamic handling system - comfort, auto, dynamic and individual - clearer. Thanks to the enhanced Electronic Stabilisation Control (ESC), the Audi R8 V10 performance brakes from 62mph to a standstill up to 1.5 metres earlier; the stopping distance from 124mph is up to five metres shorter - in each case depending on the exterior conditions. The range is now built purely around quattro 4WD and as usual, only an S tronic twin-clutch sequential auto paddleshift 'box is offered.

Otherwise, it's much as before. The R8 V10 performance model is the most powerful Audi road car ever built. That's serious stuff and so is a sprint to 62mph in around 3 seconds and a top speed of well over 200mph. The suspension is the same basic layout of double wishbones front and rear, mated to steel springs and dampers or there's an optional Magnetic Ride system that delivers continuously variable damping control. Where possible, weight has been excised from the suspension parts, Audi claiming that it has used lighter components developed through its LMP and LMS racing programme.

The visual changes made to this improved model are extremely subtle. The Singleframe radiator grille has a wider, flatter line. Thick bars divide up the large air inlets, and flat slits in the hood are reminiscent of the Audi Ur-quattro brand icon. The smarter front splitter is now wider, underscoring the focused look. The air vent grille runs across the full width; the diffuser has been drawn upward, making the R8 seem even wider. In the engine compartment the air filter is situated under a new, three-part cover, which is available in a choice of plastic or carbon fibre. Otherwise, its as you were before. The customisab;e sideblades continue to be a talking point. 19-inch alloy wheels are fitted as standard to both models, but there's also an option of a 20-inch rim if you want it. If you like the idea of open-top motoring, there's also a Spyder version.

Inside the car, there's the usual Nappa leather sports seats while the V10 performance model gets deeper bucket seats. A flat-bottomed steering wheel houses two 'satellites' incorporating the control buttons for the Audi drive select system and engine start-stop function. Go for the V10 performance and there are two more satellites. One houses a button controlling the exhaust system's sound-altering adjustable flaps. The other deals with the activation switch for the 'performance mode' which is standard for this version (and optional for the standard V10), along with a rotary wheel enabling selection of this mode's individual 'dry', 'wet' and 'snow' programs.

The 'Audi virtual cockpit' digital instrument binnacle continues here. It sits in the conventional speedo and tach binnacle, this 12.3-inch display allowing the driver to toggle between different display modes as well as a custom 'individual' mode. In 'performance mode', the driver is presented with information on the driving programs, acceleration, deceleration and lateral forces, as well as power and torque. There's even a shift light which illuminates when the rev limit has been reached.

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