Continuing on with our current Honda theme for this month I’d like to take a look at a car that has helped me further realize the importance of well-executed tuning. Like we saw with the Spoon NSX-R GT, Ichishima-san knows a thing or two about extracting the full potential of a vehicle, but after having had the chance to sample various versions of Honda’s sports hybrid, the CR-Z, I was very skeptical of what could really be achieved with this car.
Call it modern and forward thinking, you can even commend it for bringing back some of the design cues from the fun little CRX of the eighties, but the CR-Z lacks one very important thing, power. The car’s contained weight serves up pin-sharp handling, and the hybrid system is great for minimizing fuel consumption, but I have never come away from a CR-Z thinking it’s a sports car, because simply, it isn’t. So short of dropping in a K20 and ripping out the hybrid assist motor and heavy batteries, can it really be made to perform?
As we have seen over the last months since the Tokyo Auto Salon a good deal of tuning shops have been extremely busy trying to turn the fuel efficient CR-Z into the performance car it so obviously could be. Turbo kits from HKS can get you anywhere from 200 to 300 HP, while superchargers can safely boost power of the 1.5L LEA engine. But that isn’t exactly what a Honda is all about, at least not to the purists out there.
Which is where Spoon Sports come in. Their demo car is unlike anything that has so far been attempted with the CR-Z, again focusing on the simple things and performing something that can only be described as fine-tuning.
Lift the lightweight carbon fiber hood and you are met with the pretty stock looking 1.5 LEA. Most of the work has been done to things you can’t see which include taking the whole motor apart, finely balancing the pistons, conrods and crankshaft and then putting everything back together with Spoon low-friction bearings. Combustion chamber volume was also checked and equalized along with the valve train and rocker arm clearances. Exhaust headers and a full N1 race exhaust system help give the rather quiet CR-Z the engine note it deserves, while more air is allowed to enter the engine through the 21% larger throttle (up from 50 mm to 56 mm).
The Spoon ECU is programmed to get the best out of the engine focusing more towards performance than fuel efficiency. The red line has also been upped to 8,500 rpm. In the engine bay you can also get a good look at the Motor Rib, a sort of extended tower bar that acts as a rib cage over the front of the chassis massively improving rigidity. Spoon now offers this for an every increasing number of applications.
So how does it feel out on the fast and challenging corners of the Toyo Tires Turnpike where the test was held? Nothing short of phenomenal!! I was simply blown away at the transformation, and from the first moment I floored the throttle I was grinning all through the drive. The extra 22 HP that the engine now develops mated to the IMA electric motor combines to give a total of 150 HP, which may not sound much but they really do make a difference. The engine note alone makes you feel like you are driving at twice the speed you are actually doing! But this car isn’t about straight line performance, it’s about the whole package and for me the most satisfying aspect had to be the handling.
Behind those yellow Spoon 17-inch CR93 wheels hides the fully adjustable race suspension, set up for heavy-duty track work but of such a high quality that it functioned superbly on the, admittedly smooth, tarmac of the Turnpike. It was like the car kept asking me to pile on more speed through the corners, the dampers taking in everything I kept throwing at them making the best of the high levels of grip the Potenza RE11s develop. The Spoon 1.5 way LSD feels great through the steering, tightening up when you power out of corners intensifying the overall communication to the front wheels. Traction is never an issue, even when the IMA system comes in to boost the low to mid rpm. And then the braking, courtesy of the Spoon 4-pot monobloc calipers, which shaved speed off violently at every prod, but offered racecar-like adjustability and modulation.
The simple interior is set up with pleasantly low-mounted Spoon carbon-Kevlar bucket seats and the ergonomically designed Spoon steering wheel. There are no additional instruments, not even an audio system, all ripped out along with the speakers.
The tiny rear seats are of little of no use so Ichishima-san keeps the folded flat to keep the center of gravity of the car as low as possible.
What makes this CRZ so much fun and rewarding to drive is its weight, or lack of it rather. Spoon has managed to shave off a total of 135 kg from the car, bringing the weight down to 995 kg. On top of the carbon fiber hood…
…and the new Spoon LED-type side mirrors the CR-Z will soon be getting carbon doors which will help shave an additional 45 kg, bringing the weight down to 950 kg! Who needs power when you keep shaving weight off!
A series of roof fins help create vortices to smooth airflow over the long, uniquely styled hatch.
Once again Ichishima-san proves how fine tuning can dramatically improve a car’s behavior, in the process allowing me to enjoy one of the most fun and surprisingly rewarding test drives I’ve ever had. Power definitely isn’t everything!
-Dino Dalle Carbonare
It's cool that tuners are making the crz better, but compared to hondas of the 90's, it's crap. They went from light, double wishbone chassis, to heavy chassis with struts and torsion beams. WTF???
my 1984 CRX HF got me over 50mpg when I drove right, handled amazingly, was reliable and lightweight.
An SUV would kill me just as thoroughly in this new one as in my old one.
A ridiculous set of batteries that are toxic and unsustainable, are the "improvement" from 27 years of development?
I'd rather go find another 1st gen crx.
@99roadster - I agree that this car would be worlds better with a proper double wishbone setup. But seeing this car get to ~2000lbs/950kg is pretty impressive, and especially compared to most other cars, it's still pretty lightweight. And keep in mind, that's 2000 pounds with all the batteries and the hybrid system.
But I still love my ef.
hmmm?? - underneath all that 'machismo' there lurks a multitude of errors.. the exterior looks the part!
Good feature dino. i've seen this car in an option video on youtube where it slaughters a fn2 mugen civic.
"Who needs power when you keep shaving weight off"? Next step: save a few hundred pounds by ditching the battery, electric motor, and worthless little petrol engine and putting in something more exciting.
The CR-Z is supposed to be a "sports hybrid." But it sucks at being a sports car and it sucks at being a hybrid. Why tuning companies are wasting their time on this thing is beyond me.
Another great spotlight Dino!
I don't know if youre a big gamer or not, but this car is loads of fun on Gran Turismo 5 (shout out to all GT5 fans!)
All that work and it's still slow
light-n-fine tuning WIN!
but hybrid still fail!!! =P
I think this car is awesome except they chose what is quite possibly the ugliest yellow imaginable for the wheels.
looks sweet but how was gas milage affected?
For half as much money you can buy a used s2000 and not have one of the worst handling new cars and with tthat extra 10k buy alot of gas and not create new pollution from manufacturing a new car
All of these weight saving and rigidity improvements are great, but do you know what would make it better? A K20...
@JasperThomas - Yeah, 950kg is impressive. But the stock crz weighs like 2600 lbs, which is unacceptable for a car that size in my opinion. And yes, I love my ef as well
950kg is pretty damn good, that's comparable to my 1991 Civic, and 150 hp is similar to where I'm at with my B18A1 motor. At first I thought the CR-Z was a crappy attempt too, but even in stock form, it is looking pretty impressive. Grassroots Motorsports did a comparison, you'll have to buy the mag to read it though: http://grassrootsmotorsports.com/CR-Z/
The end result was that the CR-Z and CRX, in stock form, were actually pretty close in performance on the track. I was really surprised.
I agree that modern Hondas need to have the independent, double-wishbone suspension again, and I am never going to buy any Civic newer than a '94, but all modern cars have to deal with modern crash laws and safety systems... ever since we started seeing massive SUVs on the roads, we've seen designers trying to deal with collision laws making the beltline higher and the windows smaller.
I'd like to try tossing one about - I don't think the CR-Z is that easy to dismiss. Of course, I'll just keep tossing my 20-year-old hatch around, since I imagine for the price of a Spoon-tuned CR-Z, I could really turn this little hatch into a killer!
there's a pretty comprehensive discussion of the CRX vs CR-Z here in the grm forums:
cleary you just like cars not driving. sports hybrid=more diving for less money sounds good to me
Interesting car Dino.
I think your missing the point. I wasn't surprised that Spoon left the stock motor and IMA combo intact.
With that said, it should be a unique experience with the electric motors instantaneous torque.
This is one hybrid I'm interested in driving.
looks good, like the rib cage reinforcements.
i personally love this car, even if its a hybrid with a dinky 1.5.
It wasnt supposed to be a "real" sports car to start, its a friggin hybrid.
Oh so THIS is where all the now middle aged "tuners" from the 90's hang out... waxing poetic, praise the high heavens for God's Chariot and the EF Civic...
It's funny how if this was a discussion 25 years ago there'd probably be similar hate posts from pony driving meatheads you loved to hate back then.
This is just the beginning of Electric Assist, it will just get better as the systems get smaller and lighter. Embrace your new master, appreciate this car for what it is, just the beginning.
However, I do agree the yellow is hideous. =D
I agree with 99roadster and HF. And it's not just Honda, most manufacturers have lost their "touch", so to speak, all because of safety laws and this whole change with hybrid technology.
Still, this is the only CR-Z I really like; it's all the subtle details and parts that really make this car better. By the way, I really liked the photography on this feature! Green touges with a humid weather make beautiful backgrounds.
That's a lot of money to get a "fun" 150HP small car. You'd better get another car (even stock) and have more pleasure driving it. But yeah, it shows the Spoon knowledge in tuning Hondas.
Its like thats qwhat the CR-Z should have been. You know my honest opinion of this car is pretty positive. Its not supposed to be the next CRX. But rather was inspired by it. To be honest its a step in the right direction. Taking cars of this type and making them fun and stylish. It's a great car. If you wanna swap the engine and go for that? Sure. If you want something economical comfortable and sporty? This is a perfect example. I like this car alot. Even if something like this isnt neccesarily someones style. i can imagine someone driving this thing daily a fun daily driver and having that crazy racer for the weekend. Just a thought. Anyways. A great car, good work spoon and honda!
This car is nice, but I also agree that the color of the wheels needs to be changed (like to bronze or something). Other than that, this car is another great example from Spoon Sports.
@Amemiya: GT5 gamer here!
That side mirror looks so small, can you even see anything out of it?
another interesting read! never fails to amaze people. keep up the good work dino!
Throughout this month we have enjoyed some pretty awesome Honda related content from all our contributors
CR-Z into the performance car it so obviously could be. Turbo kits from
HKS can get you anywhere from 200 to 300 HP, while superchargers can
safely boost power of the 1.5L LEA engine. But that isn’t exactly what a
Honda is all about, at least not to the purists out there.
so wait its still a hybrid? i am disappoint.