Although it was heavily leaked all over the net, Honda’s CR-Z has had its official debut at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The CR-Z aims to be a car that gives something to a lot of people. It’s a hybrid, for the green crowd, and it’s promoted and styled very much like an updated version of the CRX for the sporty crowd.
It’s not a sportscar, to be sure, but for those of us who want hybrid cars to move that way, the CR-Z seems like a step in the right direction. Just how big of a step is it?
For the gearhead enthusiast, the first comment on Honda’s CR-Z micro site says about all we might need to know at this point in time:
“I love everything about it except the performance. Please give us an Si model with performance figures comparable to the Civic Si.”
– Jake at 8:10 pm on January 11, 2010
Although you could look at the CR-Z as being a more sporting Prius (if Toyota had interest in such things) the word is that it’s performance numbers aren’t anything to make your socks roll up and down. But who ever this Jake fellow might be, he does have a good point with the whole notion of an Si version of the CR-Z. As it stands now, that’s just a young man’s phant’sie.
Honda looks at the highly anticipated this way: “The CR-Z is a modern interpretation of traditional Honda themes – it’s small, sporty and efficient,” says the car company’s micro site. Small and efficient, sure, but just how sporty?
For starters, there’s the traditional internal combustion engine under the hood. The CR-Z is powered by a 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine with Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist (i.e. the electric motor part of the hybrid drive system). Given the size of the little guy, that’s a bigger engine than is warranted for just getting high mileage. Honda also mates said plant to either 6-speed manual, the standard transmission, or to a CVT gearbox (yeah, I know, no gears, but still). Either box ‘o cogs comes with paddle shifters for “an added level of control.”
So that makes it both sportier as well as being something that Toyota does not offer: Manual shifting.
Now, in addition to that, there’s the whole electrical end of the hybrid system, which, if you were to put your mind to it, could be used in various innovative and sporting ways. Turns out that Honda has already been thinking along those lines. For one thing, the CR-Z features an innovative 3- mode drive system: Sport, Normal and Econ, which allows you to “customize your driving experience.”
In Sport mode, the CR-Z’s systems are enhanced for performance, so the steering is more responsive, and the engine becomes “more energetic”. No, there’s no specifics on just how much more energetic it gets, but I can see where they could make this a really cool feature. Hit a button, and everything slews towards performance. Any batteries and electric drive motors are shifter over towards acceleration, and any regenerative breaking you might have on hand is there solely to haul you down faster. That could real cool to have at the touch of a button mounted right my your thumb, now wouldn’t it?
The flipside of that would be the Econ mode. Econ puts the car’s systems into an enhanced fuel efficiency state of mind. When econ is selected, the electric motor assist will give priority to the air-conditioning system, helping reduce its overall load on the engine.
The last of the three modes, “Normal” essentially splits the difference between Sport and Econ, trying to give you a balanced level of performance and fuel economy.
The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding … so someone (like me) needs to get their hands on Honda’s CR-Z and wring it by its neck up and down the PCH all day.