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Honda’s CR-Z hot production hybrid takes a bow

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January 11, 2010

Honda’s CR-Z 2010 hybrid

Honda’s CR-Z 2010 hybrid

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Honda made the first commercial hybrid and cut the path for the rest of the world’s auto makers more than a decade ago. Now it is in the process of trailblazing the path for desirable hybrids with the release of its all-new CR-Z which made its world premiere at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit today. The ingredients are all top shelf: a six speed manual gearbox, a 1.5 litre i-VTEC engine coupled to Honda’s IMA hybrid system, a flexible 2+2 seating arrangement, 3-mode drive system, 56.4 mpg from a sports car, light good handling chassis … but the package is integrated and that’s what makes the Honda CR-Z hot, hot, hot! We are very impressed!

The CR-Z’s is clean, efficient, offers good fuel economy, has low exhaust emissions and yet it’s not those things that impressed us most. If you’ve ever driven Honda’s S2000cc sports car, you’ll know that Honda knows how to make a real sports car, that this thing will be a fair bit better and even nimbler and hence this is a real sports car with genuine environmental cred that will be well suited to its natural environment in towns across the developed world.

Driver enjoyment was a core part of the design brief and the CR-Z’s chassis plays a key role in creating the character of the car. The platform shares some components with the Insight, but the wheelbase, track width and set-up are all bespoke for the new coupe hybrid.

The 1.5-litre engine, combined with the power and torque of the IMA parallel hybrid system, gives an overall power output of 124PS and 174Nm of torque. The peak torque figure is identical to that of the 1.8-litre Civic but offers CO2 emissions of just 117g/km (35 g/km fewer than the Civic 1.8-litre model).

The electric motor gives the CR-Z an unusually flat torque curve with the maximum arriving at just 1500rpm – unusually low for a naturally-aspirated engine. Teamed with a 6-speed manual transmission, the IMA assisted engine provides great in-gear flexibility, low exhaust emissions and a sporty exhaust note.

To maximise driver choice and enhance the day to day drivability of the car, the CR-Z has been fitted with a 3-Mode Drive System. This unique feature allows the driver to choose between three driving modes, which alter the responses of the throttle, steering, idle stop timing, climate control and the level of assistance provided by the IMA system.

In developing this 3-Mode Drive System, Honda allows the driver to choose whether they wish to maximise enjoyment, economy or strike a balance between the two. The aim of Honda’s engineers was to give customers more choice in how the CR-Z would drive, depending on their needs and desires at the time.

The European version of the CR-Z has daytime running lights (DTRLs) with eight LEDs that bring out the lower line of the sweeping headlights. This is the first time DTRLs have been fitted to a production Honda, and combined with the front fog lights provide a tailored look to the European specification CR-Z.

The shallow raked roofline and sharply truncated tail of the CR-Z are features shared with many Hondas past and present. This slippery design allows the car to cut through the air with minimal disturbance, lowering fuel consumption and emissions.

Sadly, for those Stateside, the flexible 2+2 seating arrangement will be available in European models only. The Euro-only CR-Z has a 2+2 layout, enabling customers to carry smaller adults for short distances or children on longer journeys. The rear seats can be flattened in a simple one-touch motion to increase luggage capacity when it‘s needed.

The interior of the production car has been developed from the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show CR-Z Concept, with its 3D displays and driver-focussed cabin. The high-technology instrument binnacle places all of the commonly used controls within quick and easy reach of the driver.

The dashboard of the new coupe has a two-level construction, with a dark upper portion appearing to float above a light grey lower dash section, which continues into the centre of the inner door panels.

Compared to the dimensions of the Insight, the CR-Z is shorter in length by 295mm and its wheelbase is 115mm shorter than the Insight’s. This enhances agility and reduces kerb weight by 44kg compared to its 5-door, five-seat, family car sibling. Forged aluminium MacPherson struts have been used in the CR-Z to reduce weight and increase strength over the pressed steel items used in the Insight. The CR-Z suspension features new springs and damper settings and the tolerances are individual to the compact coupe.

The European version of the CR-Z goes on sale in the UK in summer 2010, and will debut at the Geneva Auto Show 2010 in March. The U.S. version will go on sale late summer in the U.S.

The press release follows:

Production Version of 2011 Honda CR-Z Sport Hybrid Coupe Makes Official Debut

All-new hybrid model set to go on sale in the U.S. this summer

DETROIT, Jan. 11, 2010 – The all-new 2011 Honda CR-Z sport hybrid coupe, making its U.S. production debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, introduces sleek styling and sporty handling to the hybrid segment, American Honda Motor Co., Inc., announced today.

“The CR-Z is a personal sport hybrid coupe for people with a spirit of adventure and an elevated sense of responsibility toward the environment,” said John Mendel, executive vice president of sales for American Honda. “It’s the first hybrid designed to maximize style and fun, in addition to efficiency and economy.”

Set to go on sale late summer in the U.S., the CR-Z is powered by a 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine with Honda’s compact and lightweight Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid-electric system. The two-passenger CR-Z introduces a new three-mode drive system that allows the driver to select between Sport, Econ (Economy) and Normal driving modes.

The exterior’s distinctive “one-motion” wedge form originates from its low-slung hood to form a broad forward stance. A side profile with a deeply inset beltline conveys a dynamic tension, while the short wheelbase and large, wide front grille accents the vehicle’s athletic presence.

The futuristically styled interior offers a high-tech appearance and ergonomically intuitive controls. Instrument panel meters illuminate with a three-dimensional, vibrant blue color theme resulting in a multi-layered appearance. Set against a motif of textured black materials and aluminum-style trim accents, the upper portion of the dashboard extends toward the driver to provide a wrap-around cockpit environment. The passenger zone offers an open, comfortable space. Premium sport-oriented cloth seats are designed to provide excellent lateral support along with everyday driving comfort. A mid-ship console behind the front seats optimizes cargo space. A hard-shell separator can be closed to create additional hidden storage.

The two trim levels include the well-equipped CR-Z and the feature-rich CR-Z EX. A six-speed manual transmission is standard equipment and a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is available.

Standard features on the CR-Z include Vehicle Stability Assist, an AM/FM/CD/USB audio system with six speakers, automatic climate control, power windows and door locks, remote entry, cruise control, and more. The CR-Z EX adds, High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Headlights with Auto-On/Off, fog lights, a 360-Watt AM/FM/CD premium audio system with seven speakers including subwoofer, Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink®, perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel, center console with an armrest and storage compartment, and more. The CR-Z EX is available with the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation Systemi with voice recognition.

The CR-Z represents the sixth unique version of Honda’s original IMA technology since the launch of the 2000 Insight, the first hybrid vehicle available in North America in December 1999. The foundation of the CR-Z’s hybrid powertrain is a 4-cylinder, 16-valve, single overhead cam engine with “intelligent” Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (i-VTEC) that receives additional power from the IMA system’s DC brushless electric motor. The i-VTEC system controls the opening and closing of one intake valve per cylinder to enhance combustion at low RPMs. The 10-kilowatt electric motor assists in acceleration and also acts as a generator during braking or coasting to capture kinetic energy that recharges the 100-volt IMA nickel-metal hydride battery pack. The gasoline engine can automatically turn off during vehicle stops to improve efficiency.

The system delivers a combined peak output of 122 horsepowerii at 6,000 rpm and 128 lb-ft. of torque2 at 1,000 to 1,500 rpm (123 lb-ft on CVT-equipped models). Preliminary fuel economy estimates are anticipated to result in a rating of 36 city/38 highway miles per galloniii on CVT-equipped models. Manual transmission models are anticipated to achieve an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 31 city/37 highway miles per gallon3. The CR-Z is rated as an Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV) in states that adhere to California Air Resource Board (CARB) ZEV standards (EPA Tier 2, Bin 2 in all states).

The standard six-speed manual transmission is engineered for optimal acceleration performance in gears one through five and for optimal fuel economy in sixth gear. When starting on steep inclines from a stop, hill start assist temporarily prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards during the moment between releasing the brake, depressing the throttle and releasing the clutch (for a duration of approximately 1.5 seconds).

The available CVT provides the convenience of an automatic transmission with a seamless transition between minimum and maximum ratios, while also keeping the engine within an optimal RPM range for overall efficiency. To increase the performance potential of the CVT, paddle shifters located on the steering wheel allow the driver to manually simulate the stepped holding pattern. In Sport mode, the paddle shifters will hold and maintain a selected ratio.

The CR-Z’s three-mode drive system allows the driver to select between individual modes of performance for Sport, Normal and Economy driving styles. The system is activated via three backlit buttons to the left of the steering wheel. The Sport mode enhances multiple vehicle systems for performance including the engine throttle responsiveness, electric power steering effort and the electric motor power assist. The inner ring of the tachometer illuminates red when the vehicle is in Sport mode.

During Econ mode operation, the engine’s responsiveness is tuned for optimal economy, the electric motor assist gives priority to fuel efficiency and the air conditioning system can reduce its overall load on the engine. The inner ring of the tachometer transitions between blue and green when the vehicle is in Econ mode, with the green representing more ecological driving.

Normal mode provides standard settings for steering, engine response, motor assist and air conditioning. The tachometer ring remains blue in normal mode. Like the Honda Insight, the CR-Z offers an Eco Guide and Eco scoring feature to help drivers track progress of efficient driving styles.

The front MacPherson strut suspension and rear H-shaped torsion beam suspension settings are tuned to provide a sporty, solid and dynamic driving experience. All models are equipped with 16x6-inch aluminum wheels with 195/55 R16 86V tires. Accessory 17x7 alloy wheels with 205/45R17 84V tires with are available.

The standard anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake distribution (EBD) uses ventilated front discs and solid rear discs. The low vehicle height and placement of the battery and other hybrid components beneath the rear cargo area further contribute to a low center of gravity, which is key to the new CR-Z’s responsive, sporty handling. Electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering enhances steering performance and improves efficiency.

In addition to being environmentally responsible, the CR-Z demonstrates a commitment to safety in its design and construction.

The Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ (ACE™) body structure helps protect vehicle occupants in a frontal collision. Additional safety technologies include standard dual-stage, multiple-threshold front airbags; standard front-side airbags with passenger-side Occupant Position Detection System (OPDS); side-curtain airbags, active head restraints; an anti-lock braking system; a tire pressure monitoring system; and a pedestrian injury mitigation design in the front of the vehicle.

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1 Comment

Um, the press release claims 31/37MPG figures on the EPA cycle, not sure where the 56MPG you claim comes from. Euro or Japan cycle perhaps?

Also, your claim that the CR-Z will be "a fair bit better and even nimbler" than the S2000 is odd. Better how? Nimbler how? I doubt the CR-Z is even "better and nimbler" than its 90's CR-X forebearer, and probably gets similar milage to boot.

Cameron Rogers
11th January, 2010 @ 10:51 pm PST
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