The making of a supercar: Inside Acura's NSX production facility
We've endured fouryears of teasing since the initial concept was unveiled, but now Acura isfinally ready to deliver the 2017 NSX. Gizmag ventured to Marysville, Ohio, this past week for an extensive tour of Acura's new Performance Manufacturing Center (PMC) for a behind the scenes look at the American built supercar.
Some 25 years ago the original NSX stunned the market with its aluminum-monocoque chassis, mid-mounted V6 and daily driver abilities ... with a little help from F1 legend, Ayrton Senna, who helped refine the production model after driving a test car in 1989.
The car is stunning in person. The tight proportions, short overhangs, chiseled aerodynamics and floating C-pillar don't communicate a great deal of the original NSX's design. But under the hydroformed doors and multi-material architecture hides one of the most technically advanced cars ever built.
The NSX runs Acura's all new Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD) system using no less than 49 CPUs. Power comes courtesy of a new 75 degree, 24 valve, 3.5 liter twin-turbocharged V-6. Developing 500 hp at 6500 rpm and 406 ft.lb of torque, the powerplant employs a dry sump lubrication system, aluminum alloy block and Cosworth heads. The small profile powerplant is hand-built by master builders, each taking roughly six hours to complete, at the Anna Engine Plant down the road from the PMC.
Acura claims a top speed of 307 km/h (191 mph) for the NSX with a 0-60 mph (96 km/h) time of roughly 3.0 seconds.
During the almost four year development phase, the engine layout was changed from from a transversearrangement to the current longitudinal one. It sports both direct and port fuel injection, with the former designed to provide optimal fuel delivery for normal driving and most acceleration needs, while the latter takes care of business when higher performance is called for.
Stuck on the back of the V6 and sandwiched in front of a new 9-speed dual-clutch gearbox is the Direct Drive Motor (DDM). The DDM provides instant power to the rear wheels and helps "torque fill" the void until the turbochargers and engine get into their sweet zones.
Capable of developing 47 hp at 3000 rpm and 109 ft.lb of torque from 500-2000 rpm, the water-cooled DDM unit, connected directly to the crankshaft, not only provides Tesla-like acceleration but also doubles as the starter motor and aids in charging the lithium-ion batteries.
This hybrid supercar puzzle is completed by the Twin Motor Unit (TMU) up front. Located centrally between the front wheels each water-cooled TMU is capable of developing 36 hp and 54 ft.lb of torque. This brings the total power for the complete hybrid system to 573 hp. Similar in concept to Porsche's 918 and McLaren's P1, the NSX's TMU unit not only provides added instantaneous e-power for launch but also brings torque vectoring to the equation. This, as Acura puts it, uses "the dynamic, instantaneous and continuous distribution of electric motor torque to enhance handling precision and cornering performance in all driving situations." So in effect, you should be able to get back on throttle quicker through corners.
There are four drive modes: Quiet (all-electric), Sport, Sport+ and Track. In addition to enhanced throttle response, upshifts and handling, exhaust notes can be altered for both in and outside the car.
The technological wizardry of the NSX is backed by a light-weight, composite body and a multitude of high performance materials. Floor panels are carbon fiber, the frame is a multi-material mix, body panels are SMC and aluminum, while the A-pillar, in a world first application, is composed of three-dimensional bent and quenched high strength.
Big Brembo 6-piston aluminum monoblock calipers bring about the stopping while Active Gen III magnetorheological coilover dampers and a multi-link aluminum rear suspension keep the car firmly planted. The iron brake rotors are kind of huge at 370 mm up front, with optional carbon ceramic discs available, and rear tires sized at 305/30ZR20 sit on 20 x 11 forged aluminum wheels.
Not surprisingly the NSX is tight in its proportions. From tip to tail the supercar measures out at 4.4 meters (14.43 ft) long with a wheelbase of 2.6 m (8.5 ft). At only 1.2 m (3.9 ft) tall the car is significantly shorter than it is wide at 2.2 m (7.2 ft).
The NSX tips the scales at a pretty hefty 1,725 kg (3,803 lb), which is a tad heavy by supercar standards – but for reference, the Porsche 918 weighs 1,700 kg (3,700 lb). It seems that this is the price one pays for such bleeding edge hybrid technology.
Walking the line
The NSX comes together in a pristine 400,000 sq.ft. factory space in Ohio, where the assembly team is ready toproduce eight cars a day by the end of April.
In anindustry first, ablation casting has been used by Acura in the buildof the frame. Ablation uses a traditionalsand mold to form six specially engineered nodes. Water is sprayed directly onto the sand mold once the molten metal is poured into the cast, causing it to dissolve orablate. The cast part is then instantly solidified. Acuraclaims the advantage of this process is a "near perfectmicrostructure" which is light but possesses excellentstructural properties.
The six nodes, which are produced at Acura's Anna, Ohio, engine plant ,are designed andengineered for key suspension points, powertrain mounts and ascritical collapsible crash components.
The line at the PMC is segregated into five dedicated areas: welding, paint, quality confirmation, assembly and vehicle quality. The car starts its life in welding where the multi-material frame receives 860 MIG welds from eight robots. The frame and various components sit on 360 degree rotisserie styled jigs that allow robots direct access. Here's a quick walk through.
Once the spaceframe is welded up it moves over to the glass-enclosed QualityConfirmation Center. Capable of measuring inaccuracies of 50 microns,the purpose-built machine ensures everything is where it should bebefore the frame is moved on to the paint stage.
The paintsection includes multiple dipping tanks for prepping the space frame.Extensive use of aluminum in the architecture required Acura to use azirconium-based product prior to applying a corrosion resistantprimer coat. The zirconium etches the aluminum in order to optimizeadherence of the primer coat.
Following theprep process, a black coated frame is sealed and a quality checkuses different colored lights to illuminate sealed areas, ensuring coverage is consistent across all applicable areas via visual cues.
While thesealed and primed frame moves on for interior trim, steering,suspension, electrical and glass, the exterior panels proceed throughthe paint booth for priming and paint. Precisely set on a mountingjig, the doors, hood and roof receive 11 coats of paint and primervia two robotic sprayers. Panels are then touchedup by hand then sent off for final polishing.
Back on theline, the NSX is fitted with its hand-built 500 hptwin-turbo V6 with Direct Drive electric motor, 9-speed dual-clutchgearbox and dry-sump lube system. The car later receives the fronttwin motor unit.
At each station, smart-monitors provide techs with specificinstructions for that stage of the build, with parts, order of install,torque figures and other critical information displayed. Smart, wireless torquewrenches notify techs when optimal torque is reached via visual andhaptic signals. The monitor confirms when proper torque is achievedand records data for quality purposes.
The bodypanels and wheel fitment follows, then the NSX rolls onto one of several hiddenfloor hoists for its 45 minute alignment drill. This step uses the patent-pending "StarWars" chair (which looks like a re-purposed office chair) that's attachedvia rollers to rails under the hoist. When the car is raised the chair lets the tech remain seated while rolling underneath tomake alignment adjustments.
Final stagesprior to release include a brake check to ensure consistent braketravel in every car and series of output tests on the dyno. Anotherfloor concealed hoist within a hoist allows techs to perform anyminor adjustments prior to sign off. The car is then run through aspecially lit room for another quality check while hidden floor padsrise up under each wheel to perform a vibration and bounce tests.
Serial production of the 2017 NSX is slated to begin in late April with customer deliveries to "commence immediately thereafter." The NSX will be available ineight exterior colors and four interior trim options. Pricing starts at US$156,000 and goes up to $200,000 plus once you start ticking boxes for the various carbonfiber options.
In the meantime, take a visual tour of the NSX production facility in our extensive photo gallery.