The $158,000 Blown-Engine Acura NSX TikTok Dealer Dilemma

2021 acura nsx
The $158,000 Acura NSX TikTok DilemmaAcura

A TikTok video posted by a representative for a Las Vegas supercar experience company this week shared a dilemma involving an Acura NSX, a blown engine, some apparently questionable driving by dealership techs, and a $158,000 service bill.

Doreen Thieven, the Director of Communications for SpeedVegas says her company got a massive bill from Findlay Acura of Henderson, Nevada to replace a blown engine in their 2021 Acura NSX. And no, according to Thieven, the fix wouldn’t be covered under Acura's warranty. The twist? Thieven’s video apparently shows dealership technicians thrashing the NSX while in the possession of the dealership for service. Two weeks of track use later, the NSX's engine popped, and Thieven's social media call-out blew up.

Of course, TikTok, by its nature, only offers glimpses, rather than full explanations; only so much info can cram into a short video. That means skepticism should be applied to any assertion made on the platform, including this video.

SpeedVegas is in the business of offering high-end automotive experiences at accessible prices. They offer introductory karting classes, bachelor party packages, and laps of their 1.5-mile track in their fleet of exotic rental cars. Want to take a Porsche Cayman GTS around their course? That’s $199 for five laps. For $249, those five laps can be spent piloting a Cayman GT4. At the top of their pyramid is the Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo at $699 for five laps. Five laps in the Acura NSX are listed at $299, the same price as the Aston Martin Vantage, Chevrolet Corvette C8, Nissan GT-R, and the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, among others. In short, SpeedVegas is an automotive amusement park that draws from a large toy box.

“The cameras aren’t hidden," Thieven explained of the video captured by the NSX. “They’re right there in front of the driver and passenger. The cameras come on automatically when the car is started so we can record the experience for our customers. I guess the techs didn’t know that when they took the car out.”

Road & Track left messages at Findlay Acura for both the general manager and the service manager. So far, we haven’t received return calls. When a response comes, this story will be updated.

SpeedVegas, Thieven says, has its own garage and performs its own regular maintenance on its fleet. When the NSX went to Findlay for services, says Thieven, there were 11,889 miles showing on the odometer. That mileage falls well within the NSX's powertrain warranty period of six years or 70,000 miles.

The engine failed, again according to Thieven, two weeks after it returned from Findlay.

Acura’s factory warranty for the 2021 NSX specifically excludes failures due to “Use of the vehicle in competition or racing events." However, claims Thieven, the reason they were given for refusing warranty coverage for their exclusion was the lack of servicing, “We do that ourselves,” she claims. “We have mechanics here.”

That in mind, the thrashing allegedly applied by the Findlay technicians should be well within the abilities of the NSX. Even after a cold start (though that’s never a good idea) this is, of course, a high-performance sports car. But the on-track duty of this particular car, while not in competition, may well fall within a reasonable definition of a “racing event.” This, however, is R&T and not a court of law; discovering what exactly constitutes a “racing event” seems likely to be answered through litigation.

Exactly what went wrong with the SpeedVegas NSX’s engine isn’t perfectly clear. It seems to be a head gasket failure. What makes it so expensive to fix, however, is abundantly obvious. The NSX's powerplant is a hugely complex, turbocharged V-6 that feeds power into a complex hybrid all-wheel drive system. The first-generation NSX from the 1990s was a straightforward machine with a naturally aspirated V-6 driving the rear wheels. The second-generation NSX is, by contrast, a densely packed, high-technology machine that takes massive effort to disassemble and re-assemble.

That being said, head gasket failures aren’t unknown with the NSX (or many other cars). Shad Hundley, who now owns Comptech, a company that builds and services high-performance Honda products, has seen at least a couple NSXs come through his shop. That’s a very small sample size, so take that information as you may.

Still, $158,000 is a startling bill. And an offer from Acura of $20,000 to buy the car back seems almost, well, insulting.

“Acura is aware of this video,” said Acura’s spokesman Andrew Quillin, “and is investigating the situation.” Maybe that investigation will conclude that SpeedVegas’s NSX should be covered under the factory warranty. Maybe not. Either way, it should be fascinating to find out.

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