The 274bhp powerplant was retained for the Type R that arrived two years later, but this Japanese domestic market offering was far from a mere marketing exercise.
Honda engineers began by stripping out a staggering 120kg – quite an achievement given the lengths taken to reduce weight during the design of the original.
Aluminium was used extensively, with slimmer bumpers mounted to lightweight beams, plus alloy door bars and a hollow brace bisecting the engine bay. A composite engine cover was added, and the insulating panel that hid the engine was replaced by black mesh. Even the glass used to separate the cockpit from the engine bay was lighter, with single glazing in place of the double-glazed original.
Weight-saving continued inside, with luxuries such as air-conditioning, stereo, central locking and powered mirrors scrapped, and leather seats replaced by carbon-aramid composite Recaro buckets trimmed in racy red fabric.
The steering wheel (and its airbag) was swapped for a Momo item, and the gearlever for a stubby titanium shifter said to be modelled on that in the McLaren-Honda F1 car. They’re nice touches that hugely improve the restrained – and, frankly, rather boring – interior of the NSX.
NSX-R is the sweetest drive here – by far
The changes don’t look big on paper, but on the road the NSX-R is far greater than the sum of its parts – or indeed the lack of them.
Among the modifications was a drop in ride height of 10mm, with firmer springs and Showa dampers stiffening the front end, which reduces the front-biased weight transfer that could make the standard car tricky on the limit.
As a result, you can push harder and with greater confidence, while acceleration also feels more raucous – at last with the theatre to match the performance thanks to a freer-flowing quad-pipe sports exhaust.
The NSX-R is by far the sweetest drive here, with a light clutch that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Civic and a snappy, positive gearbox with a wonderfully short throw.
Stretch its legs and this heated-up NSX feels appreciably faster than the Ferrari, with a noticeable kick when the trick valve timing comes into play. Keep going and past 8000rpm the V6 really sings, finally finding the voice that was missing from the standard car. Cornering is predictable and assured, too, with the combination of a 10% boost in the power-to-weight ratio and a limited-slip diff encouraging you to try ever harder.
Wider rear arches, fatter tyres and smoked lenses add a menace to the already purposeful Lotus
After the missile-like NSX-R, the Lotus seems a bit antiquated, with the ghost of the original Giugiaro-penned Esprit still clear to see.
Peter Stevens’ 1987 redesign modernised the car to a degree, refreshed again by Julian Thomson in ’93. The latter thankfully dropped Morris Marina doorhandles in favour of those from a Rover 200 – more of an improvement than it sounds – but the car remained a bit of a parts-bin special, with tail-lights borrowed from the Toyota AE86 and switchgear from various GM models.
Scott Tidman’s S4S is further tweaked by the addition of a one-off set of fat arches and a modified rear bumper made by Lotus for a customer’s Sport 300 after he complained about stone-chips. The Esprit is hardly a shrinking violet anyway, but the beefier bodykit gives the wedge real presence.
S4S is the pick of the four-cylinder Esprits; charge-cooled Garrett turbo boosts the twin-cam ‘four’ to 300bhp; cabin offers more space than earlier Esprits