Big spoilers and splitters might look cool, but they're no longer the smartest way to shuffle the air around a supercar. Thanks to clever computational fluid dynamics and wind tunnel testing, manufacturers are able to use intricate shapes and flics to manipulate the air, creating downforce and cooling without having to ruin the purity of a car's shape.
It's why the LaFerrari can create enough downforce to avoid taking off, without having a boy-racer rear wing. It's also how the new Honda NSX keeps its wheels on the ground, and its complex twin-turbo V6 and hybrid system cool on the move. Labeled Total Airflow Management, the NSX's exterior has been shaped to carefully balance drag, downforce and cooling.
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When it comes to downforce, one of the biggest challenges faced by Honda's engineers was balancing the amount over each axle.
To make sure there's about three times more downforce over the rear axle than the front, the rear diffuser works in tandem with a subtle rear spoiler and slots in the taillights to smooth out the car's wake. While some brands have turned to active aero with moving wings and motorized panels, Honda is keen to point out the fact it's managed to achieve the desired outcome with a standard passive aerodynamics setup.
Vents around the front wheels work in tandem with venting in the flanks to make sure air flowing along the side of the car finds its way into the mid-mounted air intake, where it is then directed over the rear deck to to create more downforce.
Of course, there's more to aero than just downforce. The NSX has a fiendishly complex hybrid system working in tandem with its twin-turbocharged V6, which puts its power to the road through a nine-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Each of these components is made up of individual pieces that need to be cooled, like the turbochargers within the engine, and the two electric motors within the twin motor unit.
All of those components rely heavily on cooling from the broad front air intakes. Honda has squeezed all the key heat exchangers in behind the front bumper, which means cool air flowing through those big air intakes is distributed among radiators for the engine, a cooler for the twin-electric motors, a condenser and cooling for the gears. Meanwhile, air whipping down the rear hatch cools the clutch and engine bay.
"In many ways, with the design of the all-new Honda NSX, you literally have form following function, so this was a really exciting vehicle to work on as an aerodynamicist," says Thomas Ramsay, Aerodynamics and Cooling Project Leader on the NSX project.
"To meet the challenge of the ambitious performance targets, innovative packaging design and dramatic styling, Honda's engineers had to totally re-imagine the exterior engineering for this modern supercar," he continues. "This new 'total airflow management' strategy supports component cooling and aerodynamic performance while also contributing to even more dynamic styling."
Check out the video below for more on how the NSX's aero works.
Source: Honda Europe