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Old 05 Nov 2013, 09:51 pm
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Default 2014 Honda HPD CR-Z

Filed under: SEMA Show, Coupe, Hybrid, Performance, Hatchback, Honda, Quick Spins

Honda invited us to its Southern California North American headquarters last week to take a spin in a very special CR-Z - one modified with a full complement of Honda Performance Development (HPD) components. While the company has been racing with HPD parts for years, this is the first time the automaker has offered them for its street-legal vehicles, and it has chosen this year's SEMA Show in Las Vegas to be the launch venue. Last year, Honda introduced the HPD Supercharged CR-Z Concept at SEMA - this is the slightly modified production version.

The complete transformation gives the normally placid hybrid hatchback a serious shot of adrenaline thanks to a bolt-on supercharger combined with suspension, tire, brake and exhaust upgrades. In addition to the blower (detailed in a bullet point below), new HPD suspension components lower the car by about half an inch, and firmer spring rates stiffen the ride. Stock 16- or 17-inch wheels are then replaced with HPD 18-inch alloys wrapped in sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires (215/40ZR18 at all corners). The clutch is upgraded, a limited-slip differential is installed and new HPD monobloc four-piston calipers are fitted over slotted and ventilated iron rotors up front (the single-pistons over solid discs on the back axle are unchanged). In the rear, the stock hidden single exhaust pipe is replaced by a free-flow twin-tip exhaust that peers out of a new HPD lower diffuser. Other cosmetic enhancements include an HPD front lip spoiler, rear deck lid spoiler and an HPD emblem kit for each side. To say the CR-Z is transformed by the complete HPD package is an understatement.

Driving Notes
  • Face-to-face with the gussied-up CR-Z, I found most of the enhancements stylish and clean. The design benefits from the new sporty duds and the overall appearance gains some much-needed masculinity in the metamorphosis. The finned rear fascia and bright exhaust are well done, but the rear spoiler set high on the decklid appears too tacked-on for my tastes. I would also skip the silver stickers on the doors, as they are a bit garish. The eight-spoke wheels and high-performance tires look great and the slightly lower ride compliments the look. Overall, the red test car made a statement that going green doesn't have to be boring.
  • While the stock hybrid CR-Z relies on a naturally aspirated 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a 15-kW electric motor for a combined output of 130 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque, the supercharger (providing up to 9 psi of pressure) boosts total output to 190 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque - that's assuming the 'Sport' button is pressed. (The supercharger kit goes on sale later, in Spring 2014, so Honda has not released pricing yet.)
  • The standard CR-Z will burst through the 60-mile-per-hour barrier in about 9.5 seconds from a standstill, which is slower than most of today's minivans. But thanks to the blower adding an additional 53 horsepower to the mix, two full seconds are shaved off the benchmark sprint. Lethargic is replaced with spirited, and the Honda zips around with a newfound youthful demeanor. It is unquestionably fun to drive, and it quickly put a smile on my face.
  • The new exhaust pipes provide a slightly more aggressive audible soundtrack, and - sit down for this one - the fuel economy actually improves a point in the highway cycle as the newfound low end torque means the engine doesn't have to work as hard (Honda and the EPA are still working on the official numbers).
  • This wasn't a racing circuit exercise, so I wasn't able to push the suspension and brakes to their limits, but zooming around crowded Torrance, CA did give me a decent sense of how the platform has been configured. The suspension is firm, but far from abusive, and it seemed to work well with the stickier rubber to provide much better initial-turn in and grip in the corners. The supercharger and associated hardware add a little bit more weight to the nose (figure 60 percent of the mass is sitting on the front wheels), but I pushed the hybrid hard around a circular onramp and it held firmly without annoying understeer. The brakes also felt more than up to the task of spirited street driving, but the pedal feel doesn't inspire - blame the regenerative braking system for getting in the way.
  • My red test car was loaded with everything, including the $60 decal kit, which is a configuration I suspect very few customers will duplicate when you consider that the kit, minus the blower, costs at minimum $6,500 in components alone - the centrifugal supercharger and installation is extra. The automaker says that most of the components will fit all 2011-2014 CR-Z models, and the pieces and parts are offered a la carte through your dealer. And, since Honda promotes its HPD components as "track proven and street reliable," the company will stand behind them with a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty on the parts, and the supercharger meets LEV II SULEV requirements.
  • I found the modified hatchback a talented little two-seater, yet I couldn't overlook the donor vehicle's shortcomings - the cabin of the CR-Z is loud, frustratingly lacks two-plus-two seating and rearward visibility is dismal - once I added up the price. But instead of listing competing alternatives for the same money, of which there are several, I will consider the HPD CR-Z a solid proof of concept that will lead to a slew of HPD-modified Hondas down the road.
  • Tweaking a hybrid is an interesting strategy, and while it's certainly engaging to drive, most of my fellow enthusiasts would much rather see factory-supported HPD components offered to the public for a racy street-legal Civic Si - we likely won't have to wait very long.
Continue reading 2014 Honda HPD CR-Z

2014 Honda HPD CR-Z originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 05 Nov 2013 12:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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