Ferrari 512TR Vs Honda NSX

Both are icons of the 90s supercar era. Both look best in red. Both had pop-up headlights. Bias aside, here is a Top Trumps-style comparison of the Ferrari 512 TR and the first-generation Acura NSX.

Let’s begin by stating that I am lucky to have a father that loves me enough to give me the keys to his (second) pride and joy every once in a blue moon: a 1995 Acura NSX which he acquired after a fateful electrical fire that saw the demise of his beloved 911SC. Thanks Geico!

To pit the 5.0-liter flat-12 (5-12, 512TR) to the comparatively anemic NSX is almost criminal, but if Disney’s coming-of-age movies have taught me anything it’s to always root for the underdog no matter how stacked the odds.

Ferrari 512TR Vs Honda NSX: Poster Cars

Via Flickr

The NSX, developed by Honda alongside Brazilian Formula One superstar Ayrton Senna in the late 80s, was a direct attack on the supercars of Europe, more specifically Ferrari. Tired of dominating the commuter car market, Honda wanted to prove their prowess as a manufacturer of a different caliber and launched the NSX (New Sportscar eXperimental) program.

Related: 10 Things everyone Forgot About the Acura NSX

Somewhat underpowered and overweight, the NSX held its own considerably well against the Porsches and Ferraris at the time. The aluminum V6 which started life as a 3.0 liter and increased to 3.2 in 1997 pushed out 270 straining horses in the 1990-1996 NA1 models or 290 in the NA2 (1997-2005) cars. Gordan Murray, designer of the legendary McLaren F1, had one as a daily driver, clocking almost 50,000 miles on the odometer during his ownership.

The 512TR was an evolution of the Testarossa before it, built from 1992 till the program’s conclusion in 1996. Fewer than 10,000 were produced, or just over half of the total number of NSXs that rolled off the assembly line into the hands of the public.

The 512 was already an aging beast by the 90s, and Ferrari was developing the F355, a more track-focused model that exhibited Ferrari’s motorsports pedigree better than the 512 had.

That said, the 422 horsepower powerplant was nothing to shake a stick at, and was significantly greater than the NSX’s two-hundred seventy. Where the 512 slipped however was its immense weight, which was (surprisingly) 600 lbs greater than the 3,000lb NSX, thanks mostly to the lump of galloping Italian stallions mounted midship.

Even with its weight advantage, the NSX is still off the 0-60 time of the 512TR by nearly a second, clocking at 5.5 compared to the 512’s 4.6. Round one goes to the Italians.

Ferrari 512TR Vs Honda NSX: A Numbers Game

Via Evo

While Ferrari’s 512 name is synonymous with the brand’s racing heritage, the road-going model rarely saw competition, if at all. Novice racers complained of being overtaken by Golfs and Caterhams at track days and while one or two examples were turned into fully-fledged racecars, 512s generally kept to the street.

Having been developed for performance on a budget, the NSX was right at home on the racetrack. This video of Ayrton Senna dancing on the pedals of an NSX (in his loafers) at Suzuka Circuit in Japan is all the proof necessary. Bang-for-buck, an MSRP of $62,000 (125,000 of today’s dollars) was the NSX’s way of sticking it to the hoity-toity Italians and their $195,000 512TR. For a land yacht right at home on Miami Vice? Count me out.

NSX 1, 512TR 1.

Related: Why Shannon Sharpe Almost Regrets Buying a Ferrari 512 TRThe top speed of each is far greater than any mere mortal dare to touch, but since asked I shall oblige: The Ferrari, being a Ferrari and therefore a pinnacle of automotive engineering, just barely misses out on the 200 mph club at 195 miles per while the NSX is left in the dust topping out at 168 mph. Still, not bad for a glorified Civic.

Ferrari 512TR Vs Honda NSX: V6s, V8s, Flat 12s, Oh My

Via FavCars

To conclude, we all must remember to take this comparison with a grain of salt. The NSX, while an amazing all around automobile for the masses, is just that: an affordable everyday driver that won’t take a remortgage on the house to fix a busted water pump. I learned to drive manual in one for crying out loud, and all it took was an afternoon in my high school parking lot. Did my dad know? Not until the clutch went out suspiciously quickly.

While it will always hold a place in my heart, it’s no match for the sheer might of the 512. The last of Ferrari’s legendary flat 12s, it was never meant to be a racer for the road, but rather a proper send-off to the beating heart of the brand’s winningest race cars. Only by coincidence did the two exist on the market at the same time and were mistaken as rivals, but in reality the fight was between the NSX and the 512’s little brothers: the V8-powered 328 and 348.

Sources: Road & Track, DuPont Registry

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