MILAN, MI – A Southeast Michigan dragstrip historically associated with the high-revving whine of a Dodge Hemi or a Chevy small-block is seemingly the last place to find a Japanese hybrid throwing down the quarter-mile.

Yet one sleepy Monday morning a few weeks ago outside this small farming community (pronounced “My-linn”) an hour south of Detroit, there was a $157,000 Acura NSX super sports car striking a most ironic pose on the rubber-streaked race track.

As it turned out, the low-slung, dragonfly-like 2-seat supercar was right at home with its torque-rich, twin-turbocharged 3.5L V-6 backed by three electric-drive motors channeling a geyser of power to the strip through an insanely close-ratio, 9-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. However, the pièce de résistance is the car’s available Launch Mode Control, which maximizes acceleration from a standstill and brought us to this outpost of beer swilling and tire squealing.

More on that technology in a bit, but for the uninitiated the NSX enjoys a cult following mostly on the West Coast. It’s hardly a household nameplate.

In fact, as ballyhooed an introduction as its concept version enjoyed at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which was followed by a carefully manipulated public-relations strategy to heighten anticipation of its production, the NSX arguably has not made much of a sales splash even by niche-model standards since its launch last year.

According to WardsAuto data, the NSX has sold 516 units in the U.S. over 18 months on the market.

But no matter, the Marysville, OH-built NSX is a modern technical marvel, as well as an old-fashioned hoot to drive.

The mid-mounted, longitudinal V-6 and electric motors combine for a total system power of 573 hp and 476 lb.-ft. (645 Nm) of torque. And since the electric motors eliminate any turbo lag, the torque is immediate. There is no herky-jerky turbo response, either, and no unpleasant turbo whine.

If a car could ever emulate the Millennium Falcon jumping to light speed, it is the NSX. Mash the throttle at 45 mph (72 km/h) and the drive unit thrusts passengers into the crux of the car’s heavily bolstered seats while the surrounding expanse of knee-high corn whips past like star fields.

The electric motors serve another important role. The two motors located at the front of the NSX (a third direct-drive unit is between the engine and transmission) independently drive the front wheels with variable power delivery for maximum-grip, torque-vectoring all-wheel drive.

The NSX feels remarkably nimble on narrow rural roads surrounding the drag strip despite weighing more than 3,800 lbs. (1,723 kg), while the car’s all-aluminum double-wishbone suspension keeps a big patch of rubber on the bumpy, off-camber roadway at all times.

The electronic power-steering system is precise with lots of feedback from the roadway, while the regenerative braking system has confidence-inspiring bite and superb feel.

At the same time, the NSX is a wonderful cruiser. The seats are as comfortable as they are supportive, the cabin is quiet and the electric drive will take over for the engine at low speeds. According to the EPA, the NSX delivers 21 mpg (11.2 L/100 km) in combined-cycle driving.

But the focus of this particular day was on the car’s Launch Mode Control. LMC is accessed in track mode, one of four dynamic driving modes and the most of aggressive of the settings. Drivers can use LMC with the transmission in either automatic or manual mode by bringing the NSX to a full stop and maintaining brake pressure and then slamming the accelerator to the floor. When the driver releases the brake the NSX blasts off with maximum peak power from its propulsion system.

That means whether on the drag strip or blasting away from a stoplight, the NSX will execute a perfect, zero-slip and burnout-free launch on the way to a top speed of 191 mph (307 km/h). Unfortunately, the NSX is not programmed to match the Christmas tree’s split-second light changes here, so no local track records, only egos, fell on that day. 

jamend@wardsauto.com