Acura NSX not just super on power

Superior downforce, reduced drag, improved stability all benefit

Published: May 31, 2016, 5:30 PM
Updated: November 21, 2021, 3:27 PM

NSX Total Airflow Management

There’s more to a supercar than absolute power. There also has to be a degree of handling prowess, and that’s a result of suspension settings and aerodynamics. For the new Acura NSX, the latter is exemplified in what’s called Total Airflow Management.

The concept is meant to attain superior levels of downforce and, as a result, reduce drag to enhance grip, stability and balance.

“In many ways, with the design of the all-new NSX, you literally have form following function, so this was a really exciting vehicle to work on as an aerodynamicist,” says Thomas Ramsay, the Aerodynamics and Cooling Project Leader on the Honda’s new supercar. “To meet the challenge of the ambitious performance targets, innovative packaging design and dramatic styling, Honda’s engineers had to totally re-imagine the exterior engineering for this modern supercar. This new ‘total airflow management’ strategy supports component cooling and aerodynamic performance while also contributing to even more dynamic styling.”

Ramsay and his team sought to use the flow of air around (and through!) the new NSX to maximum benefit. It ended up using computer simulations of fluid dynamics — the science of the motion of fluids (in both liquid and gaseous form). The team put what it learned on the computer to use on 40% scale models in the wind-tunnel in Ohio in order to finalize the intricate body pieces.

As a result, the body surfaces, and air intakes and exhaust vents are all shaped and proportioned to reduce drag, create downforce, maximize cooling and dissipate heat, without the need for some of the moveable and deployable trimwork seen on other new supercars.

Using the above test schedule, engineers were able to ascertain that creating three times more downforce at the rear (compared to the front) resulted in better balance and optimal downforce for both high-performance and day-to-day driving. The resultant design and positioning of rear diffuser and spoiler, and taillight slots helped reduce the size of the “wake” the car creates as it motors along.

At the other end, the crafted nose of the car reduces the coefficient of drag through carefully optimized exit paths that take into consideration total airflow and maximum downforce. The flow of air is manipulated in order to provide better breathing for the mid-ship engine (located behind the cabin), through vents ahead of the front wheels, front wing vents and the floating C-pillars that channel the air to the signature side intakes, and into the engine bay and turbo intercoolers. The side intakes also direct airflow over the rear deck to aid in rear downforce.

Thermal management is important for the hybrid powertrain, and the NSX features 10 different heat exchangers (radiators, turbo intercoolers, etc.) to manage the heat given off by the 3.5-litre V6 engine, its two turbochargers, the dual clutch transmission, the electric power distribution unit and its two motors.