About halfway through the NSX's three-year development, the engineers made what they called a dramatic shift: Instead of positioning the V6 engine across the back of the passenger compartment—as was done in the original NSX—they changed the engine position so that it now runs lengthwise.
PHOTO GALLERY: 2016 Acura NSX Live at Detroit
This switch was presented as a major hurdle, one that took enormous amounts of extra engineering. The fact that they pulled it off, company reps said, was a testament to the dedication of the engineers working on the car.
I'm sure that's true, but they never really explained why they made the switch. There's a nod to this adjustment in the press release that suggests the move was done so the engine could be made more powerful (We don't yet know the exact power figure or the size of the motor, only that the engine combined with the three electric motors will produce "over 550 hp").
But my guess is that they positioned the engine lengthwise so they could eventually drop in a V8.
This is pure speculation, but hear me out. When I asked Ted Klaus, the NSX lead engineer, why the change was made he said that there's only so much room across the car. Place an engine sideways, add in an electric motor and then the transmission, and there's not a lot of room left over. They had enough space to start with, since that's how the engine was originally placed, but clearly they felt a cushion was needed. And they also lengthened the car during the process.
When I asked one of the product planners which sports car they used as a benchmark, she replied that Audi's R8 presented a decent playbook. You'll remember that the R8 began with a V8 engine, then added a V10, then a convertible, and then a high performance R8 V10 Plus. With significant mechanical changes, Audi kept the R8 fresh. Acura will need to do something similar with the NSX.
For now the V6 will work perfectly considering the connection to Honda's current race engines—the IndyCar and F1 motors are both twin-turbo V6es. But Honda has built V-8 race engines in the past. And as they've shown with the new NSX and its all-new V6, which has an uncommon 75-degree angle between the cylinders to make it shorter than a typical 60-degree motor, that Honda is not shy about producing new special engines.
As I mentioned, this whole theory is simple and delicious sports-car conjecture. The new V6 could have enough bandwidth to accommodate significant displacement increases over the life cycle of the car. Perhaps the NSX will initially debut as a 3.0-liter and then expand to a 3.5-liter.
When we know, you'll know.
This article originally appeared on Road & Track.