By: Ben Greene
What do the Ferrari 458 Italia, Tesla Model S, Mercedes-Benz SL-class, Audi A8 and Jaguar XJ all have in common? They all utilize a lightweight all-aluminum body similar to that first employed by the Acura NSX. It’s actually just one in a long list of firsts yielded during the Japanese supercar’s 10-year research and development process. Variable valve timing, electric power-assisted steering, titanium connecting rods, drive-by-wire throttle, and four-channel anti-lock brakes are all technologies common enough in today’s cars but were once novel marvels employed by the Acura NSX.
So, why aluminum, and why don’t we see more of it today? Well, it certainly is common enough. It’s the most common metal on Earth. In fact, it’s the third most common element behind oxygen and silicon. Yet, despite its commonness, aluminum is never found alone in nature; it is always latching on to some other element(s). It isn’t as versatile as steel in the forming/shaping process, either. As a result, aluminum is more expensive than steel. It, also, has to compete with carbon fiber, which is lighter and stronger if not also more expensive and laborious.