Honda Seems Serious About New CR-Z to Fight FR-S
Honda awakes from slumber after return of Toyota's 86.
One other critical factor that turned American eyes away from tuned Civics and CR-Zs was the launch of the Toyota FR-S and Subaru BRZ in April of 2012. "The raw driving experience, good power, sporty look, low price and sizeable global sales figures sent a shock wave through Honda's R&D section," says our insider. Within just two months of the so-called Toyobaru's launch, Honda's Tochigi R&D centre north of Tokyo took the unprecedented step of green-lighting a souped-up CR-Z prototype packing the current Type R's 2.0-liter engine. That story was leaked, leading to the international press naming it the "CR-Z Type R." But the concept soon vanished from Honda's plans as it lacked viability and relevance on an outgoing platform.
That's why Honda of America is taking the next generation global Civic platform so seriously. They want an image leader -- like the Type R in Europe -- for their own market. And while Type Rs have never been offered in the US due to homologation and crash test regulations (so we are told) and the fact that the Civic is seen as an entry-level car, a hotter, sportier, redefined CR-Z could be just what the doctor ordered. But it could not be a coupe that nears the $40,000 sticker price of its European brother, when exchange rates are taken into account. It'd have to be priced far below that.
At Honda's R&D division, a new CR-Z prototype sits on a shortened version of the new Type R's wheelbase with a body similar in size to the current CR-Z. It is expected to employ a turbocharged 1.5-liter, direct injection 4-cylinder mated to an updated version of the current CR-Z's hybrid system and a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. A manual, which the CR-Z shipped with before, will not be offered. Total system power will peak at around 220 hp, while the combination turbo-hybrid will generate better mileage and cleaner emissions than the Toyota or Subaru. That's nearly 100 hp more than the current CR-Z and is a bit more than the output of the 2.4-liter inline four that powers the current Civic Si. Production, we are told, will take place in the U.S., which will help keep prices under $30,000.
Our insider tells us that the new CR-Z is expected to land in showrooms around a year after the new Civic debuts in 2015. That just happens to be the time when we expect the next-generation FR-S and BRZ to appear. Let's hope that Honda's rediscovered mojo, in the form of an F1 comeback and the imminent NSX launch, translates into a strong competitor for the lauded and popular Toyota and Subaru coupes.