The Invisible Struggle

The NSX makes the most of supercar aerodynamics.

May 12, 2016

Any bored kid who has stuck their hand out a car window on the highway at around 60 mph can tell you about aerodynamic drag. (Stop that, Billy!) But that’s just one data point. If you let little Billy try the same stunt at 180 mph, well, first off, you’re an irresponsible parent. But Billy might tell you that at three times the speed, there wasn’t three times the aerodynamic drag on his tiny outstretched hand. He’d estimate that there was nine times the drag. Then Child Protective Services would take Billy away from you.

Why does aerodynamic drag increase so dramatically as you go faster? Air resistance (drag) increases with the square of speed. It’s a physics thing. Which is why aerodynamic performance was so critical in the development of the NSX. With a potential speed envelope (on a closed course) far beyond that of other Acura models, the NSX was the focus of the most intensive aerodynamic tuning program in Acura history.

But it wasn’t only about creating a slippery shape to maximize acceleration and top speed. A supercar like the NSX needs a tremendous amount of cooling to keep its many components in the correct temperature range. There are a total of 10 heat exchangers in the NSX, and each is supplied with cooling airflow as the NSX moves through the atmosphere. The brakes also have special ducting to help keep heat (and the potential for fade) under control. To keep all of these various parts cool while creating the minimum amount of drag took countless hours of computer, wind tunnel and driving analysis.

For optimum handling and stability, the NSX’s shape creates substantial downforce (think of it as negative lift) at high speed. During development, a 3-to-1 (rear to front) downforce ratio was determined to be the optimal downforce distribution for high‑performance driving. This downforce balance maximizes the driver’s feeling of stability and traction at high speeds. And that’s a very good thing.

Watch Exterior Design Leader Michelle Christensen explain the NSX’s aerodynamics:

Click here to watch: https://youtu.be/OW72rPbQcXs

Note: Information accurate as of publication date.

All NSX learning resources can be reached via acuralaunchtraining.com.

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