Concept-Honda CR-Z Preview

FAST FACTS
  • Next-generation lightweight sports car

  • Gas-electric hybrid powertrain

  • Shares design cues with Civic coupe as well as the past CRX sports car

  • Lightweight construction and high-torque powertrain

  • on sale August of 2010

Introduction

Honda's CRX sports car, a 2-seat version of the Civic that was produced from 1984 to 1991, is the stuff of legends. Even today, more than a decade and a half after the last one was produced, the CRX is still highly sought after by Honda enthusiasts because of its small size and light weight-factors that translate directly into speed.

Though the CR-Z (which stands for "Compact Renaissance Zero"), introduced at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show, clearly has its roots in the CRX, it adds a new twist: a gas-electric hybrid powertrain. According to Honda, the electric motor imbues the hybrid powertrain with excellent low-end torque, a key ingredient to sporty performance. It also improves fuel economy and lowers emissions, the automaker states, making the CR-Z a true "green" sports car. Honda has announced plans to build a production vehicle based on the CR-Z; it's expected to make its debut in 2009, along with a small hybrid family car.

Exterior designThe CR-Z concept's design clearly shows the influence of the CRX; the profile and overall proportions are similar to the second-generation (1988-1991) CRX, though the roofline bears a resemblance to the 2-seat Insight, Honda's first production hybrid car. The 2-piece rear window, with a second pane stretched between the taillights, is lifted directly from the CRX. But viewing the CR-Z concept from the front reveals several more recent Honda design cues: The sharp lines of the headlights and the pronounced snoot are strongly-emphasized versions of those found on the 2008 Honda Accord coupe, while the bold diagonal lines that run from just behind the front fenders, under the side glass and right to the back of the car, give a strong resemblance to the current Civic coupe. Big 19-inch wheels, strongly emphasized fender lines, and a tall rear end give the CR-Z an aggressive, muscular look.

Interior design

Inside, the CR-Z concept makes extensive use of mesh material on a simple framework to emphasize what Honda calls a "light, sophisticated image without being oppressive." The instrument panel is designed to look like "glass artwork." The layout resembles a single-level version of the current Civic's split-level dash, with the digital speedometer moved to the center of the tachometer, which is flanked by digital fuel and temperature gauges. Like the Civic Si, the CR-Z concept features a three-spoke steering wheel, though the flat-bottom design is similar to that found in sporty Audi and Volkswagen models, and the flat-panel "floating" center console recalls one of Volvo's trademark design details.

Hardware

At the time of writing this preview, Honda had released no official details of the CR-Z's powertrain, a reference to "Honda's original gas-electric hybrid system" suggested that the CR-Z would use the existing Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) architecture, a "series" hybrid design with the electric motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission. For final powertrain information, read the which details information on the production model. The original CRX used the same engine as other Civic models, relying on its light weight to provide rapid performance (and, as an added bonus, excellent fuel economy). The CR-Z's powertrain will be tuned to take advantage of the electric motor's inherently broad torque curve to maximize performance.