2022 Acura NSX Type S First Drive Review: Going Out With a Bang

We bid farewell to Acura’s hybrid supercar in a spectacular and challenging fashion: lapping the Daytona road course at night. It was phenomenal.

byFeb 2, 2022 2:22 PM
2022 Acura NSX Type S First Drive Review: Going Out With a Bang
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Nothing tests a supercar's chops like a race track. Sure, you can hit up the most challenging country roads or the windiest mountain passes, but these will never offer the freedom, safety, or limit-exploring opportunities of a closed course. Testing the 2022 Acura NSX Type S, then, warranted the temporary acquisition of a race track. But not just any race track. I took it out on the one and only road course at the Daytona International Speedway—at night.

This course entails 31 degrees of banking, complete darkness at times, rough surfaces, uneven surfaces, disorienting stadium lighting, and as if all that wasn't enough, there's also that white outer wall that takes pleasure in reminding you of your own mortality through most of the 3.56-mile lap. The new NSX Type S, however, with its increased power and improved handling, has the skills to pay the bills around Daytona, blitzing the world-class road course with the same kind of ferocity as the actual race cars that visit it once a year for the Rolex 24.

But while I may not be able to squeeze the most out of the NSX Type S on this track (or any track, for that matter) at night and with an extremely limited amount of seat time, I do have a wee bit of experience doing this. Three years ago, I chased Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud around Daytona for several laps in the regular NSX. He was kicking the tail out at every corner while I struggled to just keep up. This time around, I was ready to apply whatever knowledge I gained from my first outing and find out just how different the Type S truly is.

2022 Acura NSX Type S Specs

  • Base Price (as tested): $171,495 ($192,495)
  • Powertrain: 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 hybrid | lithium-ion battery and 3 electric motors | 9-speed dual-clutch automatic | all-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 600 @ 6,500 rpm
  • Torque: 492 lb-ft @ 2,300 to 6,000 rpm
  • 0-60 mph: Under 2.9 seconds
  • Top speed: 191 mph
  • Cargo Space: 4.4 cubic feet
  • EPA fuel economy: 21 mpg city | 22 highway | 21 combined
  • Quick Take: Acura promised the final version of the current NSX will represent everything it's learned from motorsport. It nailed it.
  • Score: 9.5/10

New Year, New NSX

The 2022 Acura NSX Type S represents the ultimate evolution of the second-generation supercar that was introduced back in 2017. Also, it's its last hurrah. For all intents and purposes, the NSX is dead until further notice, making the 2022 Type S even more distinguished. That must explain why all 350 units sold out in a matter of minutes.

This new car is essentially a 2021 NSX that picked up a self-improvement book, read it from cover to cover, and applied every concept to a T. It's been tweaked, upgraded, and then tweaked and upgraded some more until it became the best version of itself. It's the most powerful and best-handling NSX ever, and it's got the build sheet to prove it.

For starters, big changes have taken place in the drivetrain department. The old turbochargers have been ripped out and replaced with the same units from the NSX GT3 Evo race car, increasing boost pressure by over five percent. New injectors improve fuel injection flow rate by over 25 percent, and quite importantly for a turbocharged car lapping a hot, muggy Florida race track, new intercoolers increase heat discharge by over 15 percent. Overall, these changes represent an addition of 20 horsepower and 36 pound-feet of torque, which result in a two-second faster lap time around Suzuka and three around Long Beach.

Jerry Perez

As far as the electric drive and transmission go, the NSX Type S has undergone a full software overhaul, with all three electric motors, nine-speed dual-clutch automatic, power units, and engine management systems essentially getting new marching orders. These improvements to the EV drive and battery capacity result in punchier acceleration off the line, as well as improved shifting response. There's also a new Rapid Downshift Mode, where the driver can hold the left paddle to immediately downshift to the lowest possible gear. Handy when there are nine gears to otherwise rapidly click through.

A full re-tune of the car's four driving modes (Quiet, Sport, Sport+, Track) improves handling not just on the track but during all driving conditions, according to Acura, along with an improved active damper system, a wider track (10mm front, 20mm rear), and stickier, custom-made Pirelli P-Zero tires.

Design

Perhaps the most noticeable change for 2022 takes place on the exterior of the car. A completely redesigned front fascia with a larger grille improves cooling and aerodynamics up front, while the rear gets a GT3-style carbon fiber rear diffuser that—quite frankly—looks hardcore and is also functional. These larger pieces, along with the smaller lips, side skirts, and spoilers, enhance underbody airflow that Acura claims improve high-speed stability.

Nothing noteworthy takes place inside the cabin for this final model. New color palettes, NSX-branded headrests, and optional red seatbelts make up most of the interior updates.

Besides the obvious power bump and exterior changes, it'd be easy to write off the NSX Type S as a warmed-over version of the regular NSX. However, after a few laps behind the wheel and a few more as professional racing driver Ryan Eversley's passenger, I was convinced this isn't the case. Not even close.

Let's Go

Having already done it before has allowed me to learn a few things, which I was quick to apply this time around Daytona in an NSX. First, I learned that I actually can't get into the car with a helmet on, so this time I got into the car, adjusted my seat, buckled up, and then put my helmet on. Second, the pedal footwell is a bit small, especially if you wear bulky shoes, so I kicked off my tennis shoes and drove with just socks on. Maximum Pedal Feel.

Truly, that's the extent of my previous knowledge, because as I immediately realized—literally within a couple of corners—the NSX Type S is an entirely different machine than the regular version. Really, it feels like an entirely new car.

A mountain lion ready to pounce is the best way to describe the new car's attitude. When set to Track mode, the V6 engine and hybrid system pack a punch that I'd normally associate with either a car equally as powerful but much lighter or just a much more powerful car. It feels angry and it just wants to tackle corners into submission. And having realized this during my warmup lap, subsequent laps were all about exploring the nuances of the NSX Type S. 

You can essentially break up Daytona's road course into three sections, each one divided by big chunks of oval. The first section includes the first of two massive braking events during any given lap: Turn 1. Here, the brakes and transmission claim all the glory as the car makes its way off the oval into the tight and tricky first corner. Strong, responsive, and full of feedback, the brake pedal perfectly modulated braking pressure while the transmission clicked down the gears and blipped the throttle to keep the revs up. The rear of the car felt confident through the transition from banking to flat ground, even when not braking in a straight line.

The next sector is extremely technical, with some tight and some extremely fast corners, some of which I could take at about 70 mph with a considerable steering angle. Eversley—who was leading—however, waltzed through at over 80 mph while giving instructions through a two-way (handsfree) radio and having a side chat with me. The NSX Type S' all-wheel drive really shone in this sector, allowing me to carry much more speed through corners than I remembered in the regular car. I was able to brake deeper, turn sharper, and apply power sooner and harder because of how much grip the car generated.

Then comes the big "oh shit" moment of the lap: the first transition onto the oval. Nothing really prepares you for what essentially feels like driving on a wall at triple-digit speeds. Your mind wants to fight it, your body hates it, and your soul tells that you just might meet your maker that night. The two in-cabin photos above show how dramatic things are. From seeing the ground you walk on right outside your window to the cabin going essentially pitch black, it's a true rollercoaster ride.

On the banking, the new car didn't feel as different as the regular one, at least not in a measurable way that I could explore with my own skills, though Eversley told me that the Type S is much more stable at high speeds so he could hang out at 180 mph on the oval without breaking a sweat.

Once you start coming to grips with how driving on a race track is similar to how you ride in those spinning Wheels of Death at the fair, it's time to once again step hard on the brakes (second massive braking event) for the bus stop chicane. This is my favorite part of the track, as it reminds me of when I used to race shifter karts—hard, aggressive, elbows-out kind of driving. Here, the NSX Type S' nimbleness really showed, as I could literally throw the car around from left to right and then again from right to left while literally hopping over curbs. The steering feel was truly phenomenal and the suspension's ability to absorb the big hits from the curbs was remarkable. It's worth noting that not every road-legal car can do that—at least not without blowing an airbag—but the tuned dampers of the Type S know how to put up a fight. Driving that bit of track is probably the most fun I'll have all year.

All good things must come to an end, and once you make your way through the chicanes, it's time for one last dance with the devil. Go hard on the throttle and feel those 600 electrified horses rocket you forward as your helmet gets pressed against the headrest. The big stadium lights come into view and you start looking for reference points to hit your line and braking marks. Too high on the track and you'll shit your pants when you realize the wall is inches away from you. Too low and you'll also shit your pants because the car feels like it's getting sucked into a vacuum. The trick—at least to me—is to focus on the flag stand over the finish line and aim to keep the car in the middle of the track. Once you cross the line you'll already be on the right side of the tarmac ready to brake for Turn 1 and do it all over again.

As far as the particular car I drove, it was dressed in Gotham Gray Matte Metallic (cool name) with red leather and Alcantara seats and carbon fiber interior. It was equipped with the optional $13,000 Lightweight Package, which employs carbon-ceramic brakes, carbon fiber engine cover, and carbon fiber interior bits to shed nearly 58 pounds. Acura didn't specify a stock weight for the car, but a spokesperson claimed it was very similar to the 2021 car, which is 3,878 pounds. According to my math, this makes the NSX Type S with Lightweight Package approximately 3,820 pounds.

Courtesy of Acura Racing

Most importantly about this particular car, though, is its connection to the 2022 Formula One World Champion Max Verstappen. I knew Acura had provided a Gotham Gray Matte Metallic to the young Red Bull driver while in Austin, Texas, last October. So being a total F1 nerd, I kindly asked Acura if it knew the specific VIN Verstappen had driven. When the spokesperson came back and said yes, I asked about possibly driving the same car at Daytona. Acura came through, and I was given the chance to track the same car Verstappen had driven for several days. It may look and drive the same as every other NSX Type S, but it feels a bit cooler! [Ed. note: What does Verstappen smell like, Jerry? -- KL]

Farewell

It's clear that Acura engineers didn't just sit around for the last year or two even though they knew the car was on its way out. No, they were carefully picking it apart, coming up with ways to make it better and better and better. It'd be easy to say that this is how the NSX should've been all along, but the truth is that development is an ongoing thing—you can't just arrive to the best version of something from the get-go. 

If there was ever a reason to choose a competitor car over the NSX because the Acura wasn't rowdy enough—whether it be a Corvette Z06, Porsche 911 Turbo, Audi R8, or whatever—that excuse has gone out the window now. The joke's on us, however, because we can't actually buy an NSX Type S anymore. At least not directly from the factory and certainly not without paying someone's huge "market adjustment." So, ironically, some of you might still end up buying a 'Vette or 911.

It's definitely bittersweet to see what this car is truly capable of as it drives off into the sunset. But alas, product cycles exist for a reason and this electrified warrior is retiring from battle with high remarks from everyone ranging from pro racing drivers to lucky suckers like me. It just makes me even more excited for what the future holds.

For now though? Goodbye, NSX.

Email the author at jerry@thedrive.com.