Road Test Editor Howard Walker chases the infamous Tail of the Dragon for 11 miles (and 318 curves) in a new 573-horsepower Acura NSX hybrid Supercar.
Ahead, the infamous Tail of the Dragon. This serpentine mountain roller-coaster ride on the North Carolina-Tennessee state line, whips you through 318 pinch-tight turns in just 11 miles. There are bowls of linguine with fewer squiggles!
Fueling the tidal wave of adrenaline currently coursing through my veins is the chariot I’m piloting. A new $158,000 Acura NSX Supercar powered by a twin-turbo V-6 juiced by a trio of high-wattage electric motors resulting in a combined 573 horsepower. And, the ability to slingshot from standstill to 60 mph in an insane 3.1 seconds. It’s fast. Make that crazy fast.
We’re not alone chasing the Dragon. We’re part of a posse of petrolheads taking part in Drive Toward a Cure: Great Southern Adventure, a two-day, 600-mile charity rally to raise money and awareness for Parkinson’s disease research. Among the 22 “chariots,” there’s everything from a stunning ‘69 Italian Iso Grifo (owned by CGC Editor Marty Schorr’s pal, Darren Frank), to classic Porsches, to modern-day exotics like Nissan’s GTR and a Ferrari 360 Spider. Think of it as cars and camaraderie with fun, like-minded people, for a great cause.
Right now we’re in Day Two. Day One had kicked off from Asheville’s Grove Park Inn and covered 300 miles of North Carolina’s most breathtaking – and challenging – switchback back roads. Today, we started with a blast along the glorious, and surprisingly devoid-of-traffic, Blue Ridge Parkway, skirted majestic Fontana Lake and ended the morning at Tapoca Lodge for lunch. By day’s end we’d be at Chateau Elan, on the outskirts of Atlanta.
But first, The Dragon. After a day and a half and 500-plus miles behind the wheel of the NSX, I was already deeply in love with this mid-engined marvel. Assembled at Acura’s plant in Marysville, Ohio, it’s is nothing less than a technological tour de force. That exotic, jaw-dropping body is a mélange of carbon fiber and aluminum sculpted to spin heads as rapidly as anything Porsche, Audi, Ferrari, or McLaren has to offer. The hybrid drivetrain, combining that twin-turbo V-6 with two electric motors up-front and another at the rear, effectively makes the Acura an all-wheel driver with flypaper-like grip.
But while the NSX is blisteringly fast, it’s also remarkably easy to drive blisteringly fast. No Supercar flatters a driver’s skills like this. Getting in does require technique – butt in the seat, head down, and swing-in your legs. But once inside, it’s as comfy as a pair of Gucci slippers.
So, from the Tail of the Dragon tchotchke-store parking lot – of course I bought the t-shirt – I hit the start button to fire-up that muscly V-6 and hear, er, nothing. As an electric-hybrid it naturally starts in electric mode, and is happy to whirr around on battery power for a mile or two. But blip the throttle and the V-6 instantly joins the party with a throaty, staccato soundtrack. We’re definitely not in a Prius, Toto!
Twist the big, round drive-mode selector to Sport+ – there’s also Quiet, Sport and Track modes – and everything becomes a just a little more focused. Steering, suspension, the urgency of that nine-speed dual-clutch automatic. And we’re off. While the Dragon is a public road – it’s US 129 – enthusiastic driving seems not only to be expected, but encouraged. Yet with so many tight curves, it’s not about high speed, but cornering and agility. And here the NSX feels racecar-agile.
The way the car rockets from one turn to the next, then scythes through the corner as if running on invisible rails, is nothing short of magical. Gearshifts are right-now instantaneous, steering is laser-precise, and with huge ceramic rotors at each corner, hitting the left pedal hard is like stopping time!
Rolling in to Chateau Elan, after close to 700 miles of hard, intense driving, after two round-the-cones autocross tests – we were fastest in both – and two nine-hour days behind the wheel, my respect and adoration for the NSX was sky-high.
Here is a smart, savvy, thinking-man’s Supercar. Yes, it needs more luggage space, and a more bespoke cabin to justify its $150k-and-up sticker. Maybe an even-louder, more demonic soundtrack. But when it comes to slaying dragons, this missile from Marysville is Bruce Lee on wheels!
For more information about Drive Toward a Cure rallies, please visit http://www.drivetowardacure.org/
To learn more about the new NSX, please check out https://nsx.acura.com/explore/nsx