By on September 18, 2018

Today’s Buy/Drive/Burn trio represent the high-dollar sports car that doesn’t quite make it into supercar territory. They’re very expensive, yet among other extra-fast vehicles in the six-figure segment, they’re considered relatively good value.

This makes them all oddballs; none ever burn up the sales charts. But that doesn’t mean they can’t catch fire.

Acura NSX

Honda’s long-delayed second entrant into the NSX nameplate made its way to Acura dealers for the 2017 model year. Produced at the Honda Performance Manufacturing center in Marysville, Ohio, the new NSX grew in every dimension compared to the first generation. Fortunately, power grew as well. The 3.5-liter V6 residing in the middle of the car has twin turbos, which work in conjunction with dual electric motors at the front , and a single electric motor at the rear. 573 combined horsepower travel to all four wheels via the nine-speed dual-clutch transmission. Today’s NSX has a couple of options: polished wheels for $1,700, and carbon-ceramic brakes for a tire-screeching $9,900. Final total is $170,700.

Nissan GT-R

The new GT-R was a bit of a departure for the performance entrant in the Nissan lineup. Previous versions of the GT-R had the Skyline name affixed to it — but Nissan wanted to go a different direction. Available since July of 2008 in the United States, the GT-R debuted to immediate critical acclaim. It received a facelift in 2011 and has continued its slow sales to date. A NISMO variant entered the fray in 2018, making it the most powerful, most serious GT-R. In this guise, the standard 3.8-liter twin-turbo engine is reworked for NISMO duty, to the tune of 600 horsepower. All four wheels receive horses via the six-speed dual-clutch automatic. Everything is standard, which is why the NISMO costs about $75,000 more than the base model. It’s $175,490.

Audi R8 V10

Audi’s first mid-engine car went on sale in Europe in 2006, making its way to the United states in 2007. The model was successful enough to warrant a second album, and an all-new R8 debuted for 2016. In the process, the R8 gained sharper styling and lost the V8 base engine of the first generation. Related to the Lamborghini Huracan, the R8 is built at the same Neckarsulm, Germany plant that used to crank out NSU vehicles. Two versions of the Lamborghini 5.2-liter V10 have powered the R8 since 2016; one is turned down, the other is turned up. Today’s offering is the middle trim that’s fitted with the lower-powered V10 and Quattro all-wheel drive. A total of 532 horsepower funnel through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The R8 is today’s value leader, and asks just $164,900.

Three performance (not super) cars, each with well over 500 horsepower. Which one gets the Buy?

[Images: Honda, Nissan, Volkswagen]

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50 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: Powerful and Unpopular 2018 Sub-super Coupes...”

  • avatar

    Buy – GT-R
    Drive – Audi
    Burn – NSX

    Really wouldn’t want to burn any, but those are the rules.

    Side note, my comment in yesterday’s question of the day has been awaiting moderation for nearly 24 hours now.

  • avatar

    Buy Acura NSX. Probably most reliable and most exotic.

    Drive Audi R8. Looks supercar part more than the others, probably decent as daily driver.

    Burn GT-R. Would probably be my buy or drive 6 or more years ago, still very cool, but something has to burn.

  • avatar

    Buy – Nissan – only because it’s been around for a decade and parts are everywhere, unfortunately V6 but I give a slight nod to the turbos only because Nissan did it before turbos became a automotive hallmark of a half baked car that didn’t have proper developement dollars to install an engine of appropriate displacement.

    Drive – Audi – who says no to a V10? Just don’t hand me the repair bills

    Burn – Acura – no reason for this car to exist, it’s literally a lame super car, what is there to like? Exotic engine? No it has a V6. From a manufacturer that has cache? No Acura can barely compete with Honda it’s own parent company. Honda should have spent all these developement dollars on an actual truck, or an affordable RWD platform, or even a V8 for its offerings. Instead we have a car that no one asked for.

    • 0 avatar

      Why do all high performance cars have to have 8+ cylinders in them? How much HP do you need? Also the Acura and the Nissan have more power than the Audi with their paltry V-6s.

      • 0 avatar

        Why do all high performance cars have to have 8+ cylinders in them? How much HP do you need? Also the Acura and the Nissan have more power than the Audi with their paltry V-6s.

        Because it’s a performance vehicle, there’s nothing exotic or exciting about a V6 no matter how many turbos or superchargers it has. A V8, V10, V12, V16 etc, have cache, it has wow factor, and it is balanced for performance it says the owner has “made it”.

        All of the horsepower, enough is never enough.

        I’m not comparing Audi V6s, in fact I think the majority of Audis cars are overpriced crap, I’m talking about the vehicle in the article with the N/A V10.

        • 0 avatar

          “there’s nothing exotic or exciting about a V6 no matter how many turbos or superchargers it has”

          I’m sorry but MA1/75 would like a word with you. That’s the Porsche 991 GT3 engine. IMO easily the greatest engine on the planet currently. Not all sub-8 engines are in a Vee. They also come in straight six form, the sweetest there is after a V12, and horizontally opposed too. I would not call the Toyota V6 in the Exige Cup 430 unexiting either. No, 6-cylinder engines can be plenty exciting and exotic if they’re just made racy enough.

          Hell, my MV Agusta’s 3-cylinder 800cc engine is exciting & exotic as f**k!!!

          (I do agree about Audis being overpriced crap. R8 isn’t really an Audi IMO, it’s a r***d Lamborghini.)

          • 0 avatar

            The Porsche engine is considered a flat-6 not a V6 despite being in a (stretched) V formation. I have no issues with inline 6s or Rotory engines, or any other purpose built performance engines. But as far as manufacturers taking an existing engine platform whether it be for pedestrian 4 or V6 cars and putting said engine into a car that costs $175k – I have to call bs. There’s nothing special about a 2.0T or a 3.5L V6 they’re both small engines meant for small cars.

            I’ve posted multiple times about my love of a good inline 6, I should have clarified in my above comment that my issue is with 6s in the typical V formation. Particularly for the price and purpose in a supposed super car.

        • 0 avatar

          Why do all Dakota Hemis never exist?

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        Why do all high performance cars have to have 8+ cylinders in them? How much HP do you need?

        Let me help you with the answer to your query: for $170,700 the only answer is A LOT.

        I agree the new NSX is an answer to a question that no one asked. Acura was neat when the first one came out. Now, 2018, I would rather and do have a Buick. Kinda sad really.

      • 0 avatar

        Heck folks complained when the V8 took the place of the V12.

      • 0 avatar

        “Why do all high performance cars have to have 8+ cylinders in them?”

        Because high performance cars are supposed to be the ultimate expression of the automobile. Going all out is the way to do it, not cheaping out and using modified minivan engines. 6’s are fine if in boxer or inline formats…not some mundane bent 6 that’s in some Heather or Kelsey’s crossover.

        How much HP do you need? ALL OF IT. Every horsepower and torque that was EVER made…or wasn’t. I want all of it.

    • 0 avatar

      So you like the Nissan but hate the Acura because it has a V6 and no “cache”. Alrighty then.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t particularly like the Nissan but if I were buying one of these I would want one with the longest operating history so that parts would be available into the future at a relatively reasonable cost. And yes Nissan has much more cache for performance vehicles than Honda or Honda premium.
        I can name a couple Nissan performance vehicles, I can name one Honda performance vehicle that isn’t a wanna be FWD “race car”; so yes one of these brands has cache, the other manufacturer produced one performance vehicle 20 years ago and is trying to recapture that interest in the brand.

        • 0 avatar

          “I can name a couple Nissan performance vehicles, I can name one Honda performance vehicle that isn’t a wanna be FWD “race car”; so yes one of these brands has cache”

          Yes, Nissan has made some exciting vehicles but… now I’m definitely not a Honda fan in the slightest, but their F1 team would like to have a word with you about your perception of not building performance vehicles.

          Nissan tried high end motorsports (that three wheeled thing recently and the R390 GT) but never had much success beyond mid-tier- where ironically, they competed with Honda/Acura NSX’s.

        • 0 avatar

          S2000 and NSX? All of the motorcycles? And a long history of Motorsports success from the 1960’s on? I just don’t see the rational argument here.

          Also you do realize the GT-R has a V6 right? One that’s basically a beefed up VQ. The NSX has a totally unique dry sump 90 degree unit.

          • 0 avatar


            NSX uses the typical 75 degree Earthdreams engine as the rest of Honda uses. I’m glad it has a dry sump setup though as should be expected on anything of its cost. I never said the Nissan was the pinnacle of innovation and technology, I simply stated it has been on the road longer and costs significantly less and would be the better “buy” of the 3.

          • 0 avatar

            Um no. That’s all true about the GTR and you can like whatever you like, but again, what you’re staying about the NSX is completely wrong and that’s what I was correcting. The NSX engine shares not a single component with the 60 degree J35 V6. Sorry, I forgot it was 75 degree not 90 degree, but it’s a completely different engine. Legit nothing in common. Originally they were going to turbo a J based engine, but it didn’t meet performance goals. Your article doesn’t support your assertion. Read technical articles.


  • avatar

    Drive the R8
    Buy GT-R
    Burn that NSX

  • avatar

    I agree with thegamper.

    Buy: NSX for the same reasons above. I think it looks the best and has the highest potential of the trio to appreciate in value.

    Drive: R8 for the same reasons listed above.

    Burn: GT-R because while still impressive, it’s resting on it’s laurels allowing only minor updates and hp increases in hopes of keeping it relevant. By far one of the most over hyped vehicles of this era now.

  • avatar

    Half a million for those three sleds? I’d buy and drive an Audi A8 4.0L AWD and buy a nice house with the remaining $400K.

  • avatar

    This is tough and I could easily change my mind.

    Buy: the Nissan GT-R – because of the Skyline lust of the 1990s.

    Drive: the Audi: love the looks, but don’t trust it long term.

    Burn: the Acura: I’m sure it’s an exciting car and all that, but overly complicated and all the hybridization is not really my thing. I wasn’t a fan of the original but will admit I will give a second look when I see one today (which is extremely rare).

  • avatar

    Buy the R8. It’ll probably bankrupt me, but it’s a naturally-aspirated V10 and I want to have that in my possession.

    Drive the NSX. I’m not super passionate about it but I’ve heard some good things from those that have driven one.

    Burn the GT-R. I like Corvettes and have too much residual salt left from listening to Nissan fanboys over my lifetime.

  • avatar

    Buy: NSX. It is the one most likely to have some sort of collector status one day. Oddly it not being all the popular works in its favor, fewer of them out there.

    Drive: Audi. Everything I have heard about these points to it being a totally usable daily. Plus it really looks the part, one of the best designs of this century so far IMHO.

    Burn: Nissan. It has a sort of douchebag stigma. It is what it is.

  • avatar

    This one is easy.

    Buy – Audi R8. Just simply a great car. Well engineered, easy to live with daily, takes on power upgrades easy (VF supercharger would be amazing) and oh V10 noises. The other two are great cars but neither have V10 noises.

    Drive – Acura NSX. Very underrated car. Although the electric motor set up is amazing, I still believe the car would’ve done better if they stuck more to the original philosophy of the NSX. Can’t hate on this one though, looks good, drives good.

    Burn – Nissan GT-R. Even to this day, the GT-R is a great car, however, being that we’ve seen this body style since 2009, it’s time to go. Nothing gets me excited about the GT-R. Too big, sounds meh. Lots of tuning support, but just not the car for me. Think I could burn the whole Nissan dealership at this point and not shed a tear. Sorry GT-R

    • 0 avatar

      @SixspeedSi – my picks as well, for similar reasons. Just adding my 2 cents:

      Buy – Audi R8. It’s available with a manual, and I really like the side blades. I believe they were removed in a later model.

      Drive – Acura NSX. Agree it’s underrated, but I don’t feel the lust.

      Burn – Nissan GT-R. Only because of Corey’s evil rules.

  • avatar

    This is easy:

    BUY – Audi R8 V10, was my dream car, still is, probably always will be

    DRIVE – GTR, because godzilla, and it knocked some supercars teeth and forced them to up their game, but doesn’t have the refined sophistication of the R8

    BURN – NSX, because, wtf honda? You had the best sportscar of it’s erra, you knew exactly how to do this, and then you effed it up.

  • avatar

    Are there any ~$150K coupes that are “popular”?

    Anyway, my choices would be:

    Buy: R8 V10. In this context, NA is best!
    Drive: NSX.
    Burn: GT-R; I drove one and did not like it at all. Felt like a very fast Altima with limited head room.

  • avatar

    Buy NSX. Complicated and fantastic to drive with plenty of issues, but repairs and depreciation will likely be less expensive than…
    Drive: R8 V10. The sound of these is phenomenal.
    Burn: GT-R. The rabid Nissan fanboy following for this car has lost its luster to me. It has no special characteristics other than being insanely fast.

  • avatar

    Buy: NSX. Reliable enough to use as a daily driver, the hybrid tech I find technically interesting.

    Drive: GT-R. It’s long in the tooth and spun off it’s own car rather than the sports version of a JDM sedan based coupe, but it still has that 90s PlayStation era cool factor.

    Burn: R8. It just looks like a fat TT. Why not just have the Lamborghini it’s based on, then you’d have V10 performance, sound, and gorgeous Italian looks?

  • avatar

    Buy the GTR and keep it unmolested for a few years for when everyone else butchers theirs.

    Drive the R8 because V10 derived from the baby Lambo and it is not a Nissan.

    Burn the NSX because it is not in keeping with the original. It is an over stylized gimmicky mess, not the do more with less attitude of the original.

  • avatar

    Buy the GT-R – go go Godzilla
    Drive the R8 – this has been a dream car of mine
    Burn the NSX – the FR-S of supercars – over marketed, over promised, delayed, hyped to no end, never will live up

  • avatar

    Buy the R8, drive the NSX, burn the heretic.

  • avatar

    Burn them all, since the entire space of “sub-super-coupe” (or even “super coupe” if they look like those) repels me.

  • avatar

    Buy the NSX – by all accounts a great drive, it looks good, and is probably the most reliable.

    Drive the R8 – V10, what more needs to be said?

    Burn the GT-R – old and in the way. If I wanted brute force over surgical precision, I’d save a ton of money and buy a Corvette.

  • avatar

    Personally if I was rich, I’d drive them all. Get a new one every few months or until I crashed them, which ever comes first.

  • avatar

    In real life I would have a 911 Turbo, ZR1, or LC500 over any of these.

    But given the choices:

    Buy the Audi as least bad of a flawed lot. The world needs more V10s and less turbochargers. The looks have gotten a bit stale, but it’s not offensive. Best interior of the bunch.

    Drive the NSX. I am curious how this one drives, reviews have all been glowing but the car leaves me cold. I guess I’m not quite ready for electric power in my supercars.

    Burn the GT-R without question. I have found this car to be hideous since the day it went on sale. Has the profile of a dorky-proportioned compact sedan. Sure the performance is there, but for $100k plus I want something designed in this decade please.

  • avatar

    Ok like many but not all I would go in this order

    Drive The Audi- best looking of the bunch, and the best engine IMO and I think would be the best to drive.

    Buy The Acura- My guess is it will hold its value better than the other 2 and be more reliable and I may need those savings to drive the Audi

    Burn the Nissan- to me it is the baddest of them all and one has to go to the flames, this car stirs nothing for me, while the other 2 do.

  • avatar

    Buy–Audi. Best looking, has the highest content of bespoke supercar parts and engineering, and the only engine here worthy of being displayed in a supercar.

    Drive–Nissan. I don’t like the V6, I don’t care for Japanese cars getting too far outside the affordable, reliable lane. But it looks cool, its fast as hell, and its pure stupid fun.

    Burn…wait, nuke from orbit–Acura. Overpriced, underdelivers, and its a F#@!ing HYBRID! BARF!! Hybrids are all about efficiency and being a greenie…or at least LOOKING that way. The fact that a supercar costing nearly $200K uses two separate drive systems to deliver lackluster performance (for the money) is proof of why electrification fails so hard. For ignorant and apathetic commuters or for a kind of ‘granny pod’ to get her to church and the doctors, electrics and hybrids are sort of understandable. Stay in your lane.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Buy: Acura NSX- I’ve been a fan of the original and since nice ones have been creeping up on price it’s probably well worth it to go for the new one. Plus the styling does it for me, an entry McLaren.

    Drive: Audi R8-A Lamborghini that you can drive daily.

    Burn: Nissan GTR-It’s too last decade and several Fast and the furious movies ago. I’m not fond of the whole boy racer thing.

  • avatar


    Buy NSX. It’s the only car of the bunch that actually looks good. It happens to be unique at the same time. I’d rather show off the NSX than the other two. It’s more fun to drive than a schmuck like me could need.

    Drive R8. I’ve seen them around forever, but never paid much attention. It’d be neat to drive it and see what it’s like. Too bad, it’s ugly.

    Burn GTR. Burn all of them. I’ve hated this car since it came out. Don’t ask me why, because my answer won’t be a good one. It’s a feeling that won’t go away.

  • avatar

    Buy the Acura. Innovation that excites (sorry, Nissan, but this is for reals, brah). Besides, its the best looking.

    Drive the GT-R because it isn’t German.

    The last one is an absolute natural for the last choice. Google “R8 Fire” for any example.

  • avatar

    Buy the R8. Mid-rear V10.

    Drive the GT-R. During winter and anytime I need a trunk or back seats. I’ll probably put more miles on it than the R8.

    Burn the NSX. Too electronic and futuristic-looking for my luddite tastes.

  • avatar

    Buy the GT-R. It’s nasty in all of the right and wrong ways=an involving relationship.

    Drive the Audi; because of the truly sweet sound. The dreary, “comes shipped in a flat pack box” design disappoints.

    Burn the NSX. After having driven it, I felt completely ok with never having to see, get in, or, drive one again. No emotional attachment for me. A perfect by-the-numbers car for those that like “mechanical-ness” of cars triple filtered and distilled. Its exterior design is also unoriginal.

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