Every so often-about once a millenium or so-there comes along a machine that leans more toward being a work of art than simply a car.

The Acura NSX falls into that category.

For some years, the folks from Acura have been trying to convince the public that the Legend sedan and Integra coupe are out of the ordinary, that they`re vehicles designed, engineered and built by supernatural beings and deserve to be touched only by those with equally lofty expectations, such as anybody with $20,000 to $30,000 to spend on a dolled-up Accord.

The NSX doesn`t need hyperbole. It doesn`t need to masquerade as something it isn`t.

The Acura NSX is an experience, the type of vehicle that manufacturers have bragged about bringing out for years-but never have.

Exotic concept cars unveiled at auto shows make eyes bulge and jaws drop- until the production model comes out. That`s when consumers are left with the impression that just before the top brass gave the final go-ahead to the car, they ran the styling past the inhabitants of the monastery or convent for one last opinion.

Low nose with raised fenders at each flank, rounded glassy roof covering a space-age cabin, functional scoops in the rear quarter-panels to feed air to the engine hidden behind the driver, an integrated wraparound spoiler across the deck that you just know helps keep the car from becoming airborne and isn`t simply a decoration. Dramatic package. Distinct. Unique. Yet functional. If the aluminum body has a drawback, it`s that it rules out the NSX as a choice for the shy and lonely. You can`t drive two blocks without attracting a crowd. Stop and park, walk into a store, return and then, to get back in, you have to buy a ticket to make it through the throngs surrounding the vehicle.

You`ll never be able to rob a bank, leave the gin mill at dawn or have an affair with the neighbor in an NSX and hope to keep it a secret. You can run but never hide in this car.

`Vette versus NSX styling? The NSX makes the Vette look like a Vega.

Though you can enjoy the NSX just by standing alongside and admiring it, another rush comes when you slip inside and your body molds into the bucket seats. And you can slip into the low-slung NSX. You don`t have to be kneed in or pried out by a chiropractor as with the Corvette.

Though most exotics rely on contraptions such as pump-it-up bladders so that one size seat fits (and fatigues) all, Acura focuses on designed-in contours to make the buckets roomy and comfortable yet still hold the occupant in place in high-speed maneuvers regardless of what shape he`s in.

The big kick comes when you turn the key and the 3-liter, 24-valve, V-6 comes to life.

A 5-speed manual is standard, a 4-speed automatic is optional. With manual, the engine develops 270 horsepower, with automatic 252 h.p. Our test car was equipped with automatic.

Acura claims a 0- to 60-mile per hour time of less than 6 seconds. We couldn`t prove or disprove the claim because every time we tried to take a 60- m.p.h. speed reading, we couldn`t get the NSX to go that slow.

Hit the pedal hard and the sensation is that the front wheels are pointing skyward and any second the afterburners are going to propel you into the liftoff stage. Hmmm. A trip to Saturn?

We pressed pedal to floor and hung onto the wheel, yet each time we looked at the speedometer the needle was at 80 m.p.h. And we tried several times for a 60 m.p.h. reading. Honest! And we felt terribly guilty that the needle wouldn`t cooperate. Honest!

We tried so many times that we had tomake a pit stop to refuel so we could try again. Call it dedication. At least that`s what we told the wife when we left the house after dinner and returned to wish the dog sweet dreams. This type of performance demands caution. Acura responded to the call. Antilock brakes are standar d. So, too, is driver`s side air bag. Taking safety a step further, the NSX comes with traction control to keep those wheels from losing grip when starting from the light or making that quick, unexpected turn in the road.

The NSX makes it easy to determine how good traction control is. There`s a dash-mounted button to turn traction control on or off. We turned it off and accelerated and then turned it back on and accelerated. Not only do you propel forward quicker with traction control ``on,`` you do so without the tires or aluminum body wavering even fractionally to either side. We left the button on for the duration.

We found after a week`s driving that we had to stop for fuel a lot, even when tooling around gingerly. The EPA rating is 18 miles per gallon city/24 m.p.g. highway. The EPA must have been in a charitable mood that day.

Other than frequent fuel stops, there was only one other problem, but it was significant in a car so powerful. There was abundant glare reflecting off the windshield from the shroud over the instrument panel. You don`t need much glare for long to be a hazard to yourself and those around you in a car gifted with such speed. Non-reflective material covering is needed to prevent the annoyance.

Ride and handling are above average thanks to a double-wishbone suspension complemented by electronically controlled speed-sensitive power steering and unidirectional performance-rated tires (15-inch front, 16-inch rear).

You won`t experience the buckboard ride so typical to exotic sports cars in which comfort is sacrificed for performance. But you won`t get pampered over the tar marks, either. Expect some pavement feedback because, after all, it`s still a two-seater built on a 99.6-inch wheelbase, and you`re not that far removed from the axles in this mid-engine (behind the passenger compartment) rear-wheel-drive machine.

Cornering is excellent thanks to the power steering,traction control and road-hugging tires.

Also worth noting is the instrumentation. Two stalks flanking the steering wheel control turn indicators and wipers. To the rear of the stalks are a swivel on/off light switch and switches for cruise control, hazard lights and the rear defroster. If you use the feature often, the control is within fingertip reach in the NSX. A nice touch is the button that pops open the concealed headlamps so you can clean them when pulling in for fuel during the day.

The NSX is available in red, black or silver only. It starts at $60,000 with manual, $64,000 with automatic. There are reports a lucky few have escaped the dealership with paying only full list, lucky because there are reports of some driving off minus $90,000 to $100,000 of the inheritance.

Only 1,000 NSXs will be shipped to the U.S. in this calendar year. After the first of the year, the will go to 2,500 to 3,000, which will guarantee supply/demand shortages a nd high prices for a long time.

No doubt many of the cars will be put in storage as potential collectibles. What a waste of a fine piece of machinery. If you have the funds, buy two-one to store and one to drive.