A few years ago, the exotic Acura NSX sports car was criticized because it was too tame.

The car looked like it belonged on the track, but the ride and handling were as smooth as that in a luxury sedan.

Exotics were meant to go fast and punish the occupants, not pamper them like the NSX did.

Exotic cars were temperamental. Pedals and gearshift levers were hard to reach and harder yet to use. Popping the stiff clutch was common. Moving the shift lever required lots of muscle, if not two hands. The act of getting in or out required aerobics.

Yet, here was the wide, low-slung NSX with a smooth shifting 6-speed (and worse, a no-cost optional automatic) and thickly padded buckets you could slip into or out of. Ferrari and Lamborghini owners thumbed their noses at an NSX, at least what was left of their noses after getting in and out of their rather low, snug European exotics.

Oddly enough, the reason that fans of exotic cars objected to the NSX is the reason sports-car buffs have taken kindly to the new

Corvette–the machine acts rather civilly.

We tested the NSX with its 3.2-liter, 290-h.p. V-6, an updated and upgraded version of the 3-liter, 252-h.p. V-6 that comes with the car when you opt for show over go and get the automatic transmission.

Only problem is that the Corvette is a $40,000 civilized sports car, the NSX is an $84,000 civilized exotic ($88,000 if you get the T-Type with removable roof panel). No options, not at $84,000, but you must add $725 for freight.

The 1999 version arrives next week with no physical changes other than a 1 percent increase to the sticker. Of course, 1 percent of $84,000 to $88,000 is a hefty chunk of change.

Only about 700 NSX’s are sold here annually.

There had been talk of dropping the low-volume machine, especially since a new S2000 roadster is coming from Honda for 2000 with a 240-h.p. 4-cylinder and a $30,000 price tag.

There has been no decision as to whether the S2000 will be sold as an Acura or Honda and how long the NSX will remain a stablemate.

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