Notes from the Road, A Personal Automotive History – Issue 9: “Bonafide Baller!”


The last entry was pretty much a shameless profession of love for the NSX.  I think it’s clear I’m a fan, but it’s probably high time to move on and discuss the next entry in my auto history.  And that next entry is…. Another NSX!  Non-fans might want to skip ahead a bit!  As I covered in issue 8, my 1998 NSX was a bittersweet experience.  On the one hand I realized just what a truly phenomenal car the NSX is, but on the other hand I realized just how lousy shady dealerships are.  Having discovered the accident history of my shiny new exotic, I found it suddenly lost some of it’s magical luster.  Basically, it needed to go.  As I mentioned I was spending a ton of time on NSX Prime (charter patron in da house!) and was very much “up” on various NSX developments.  In 2003 Honda was having a bit of a crisis with the NSX.  It was unclear if the car would be cancelled or updated.  The 2002 facelift wasn’t doing anything for sales, and the numbers were a ridiculous dozen or so cars a month being shifted.  As a result, word started making the rounds of a very good new leasing deal.  There was a healthy bit of skepticism, but to me this was a siren song.  Honda was offering a brand new 2003 NSX, out of dealer inventory, for $799/month with a few thousand in cap reduction.  For a $90,000 car this was a very attractive lease clearly subsidized by Acura USA (good money factor, pre-negotiated discount on cap cost, favorable residual).  I started combing the local dealer inventories and located a blue with camel interior (in automatic! argh!)  I took the hike down to Acura of Ocean in the southern wilds of NJ and, after eating a nice loss on my auction special 98, rolled out in a brand spanking new NSX.  If rolling out in the Corvette was a dream come true, I’m not even sure how to describe what that first ride back on the Jersey Turnpike felt like.  Rather than try, I’ll just put this out there:

That is one *seriously* blue car!
That is one *seriously* blue car!

I covered the build quality and driving impressions pretty thoroughly in the last entry, so I’ll try to just focus on the differences for this issue.

Build Quality, Design and Ergonomics

One thing I have to say about the 02 refresh, while it was mainly cosmetic, those cosmetics were pretty impactful.  The cabin design didn’t change, but there was a definite improvement in materials quality and higher attention to detail.  The stitched leather seats were much higher quality and the car felt even more solid than the pre-02s.  In my 3 years of driving a new NSX , over the course of about 24,000 miles, I didn’t encounter a single squeak or rattle (even from the targa top).  Outside, the paint was far better.  Again my 98 had a questionable history, but as a spoiler I did eventually own a flawless 99 (stay tuned) and as great as that finish was, the 03 was better still.  Honda ended the line on a high note in terms of fit and finish.

Driving Impressions

Performance, handling and driving experience were all consistent with the 1998.  No real changes here and that was a big part of Honda’s woes.  The $90,000 NSX, while gorgeous, exotic and sublime, really needed to have better absolute numbers than the $60,000 Corvette Z06 and that just wasn’t possible without a major overhaul.

Issues

A recurring theme with my entries (possibly because I don’t keep cars very long!), but I had no issues whatsoever with the 03.  It saw nothing more than oil changes and hand washes!

Conclusion

The 03 was everything the 98 was and more.  It holds a “top five” position in the “best cars I’ve ever owned” list and, given unlimited space and resources, I’d still have an NSX in my garage today.  But alas at the end of the lease, faced with the prospect of that big residual (great monthly fee = big residual!) I decided that rather than double down on the NSX, it was time for a visit to Stuttgart!

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