This is a kind of special episode of Jay Leno’s garage because this week they feature the first vehicle Jay ever bought new, the 1981 Honda CBX. The CBX is another classic that didn’t sell well when new but has since become a collector’s item. The inline-6 cylinder engine along with the air suspension made it a great sport tourer but those features also made it intimidatingly complicated. The inline-6 actually made a return to motorcycles this year on the BMW K-series sport tourerers. The natural balance of the configuration make is smooth and powerful for putting away a ton of miles on the highway. It’s pretty cool to see that Honda put together the same formula before the world was ready for it.
I’ve been curious about the Honda CR-Z since it debuted a couple of years ago. Honda touted it as a sport hybrid which they backed up with a 6-speed manual transmission and aggressive CRX-inspired styling. The CR-Z’s front MacPherson struts and rear torsion beam suspension is also based on the Honda Fit’s which has set the standard in fun, tossable sub-compact cars for several years. The drivetrain department is where things get a bit interesting. The CR-Z’s combined power output is listed at 130 hp and 140 ft-lbs of torque. The Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) permanent magnet electric motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission is responsible for 23 of those horsepowers and a whopping 78 ft-lbs of torque. As with all electric motors, the torque is available starting at 0 rpm which makes a noticeable difference as the Everyday Driver guys note.
The fact that the engine and motor are linked to a manual transmission brings up a couple of interesting points. The first is that the EPA has rated the 6-speed CR-Z as less efficient than the CVT version because most people clutch in when coming to a stop which robs the electric motor of any chance to do any regenerative braking. This can be solved with some heel-toe downshifting and relying more on engine/motor braking. The three pedal configuration also opens the option of tuning the CR-Z as shown by the HKS Green Monster Project. Traditional hybrid vehicle architecture involves a controller that balances the power inputs of the gas engine and electric motor. Adding a turbocharger to a car like the Toyota Prius won’t actually make it any faster without reprogramming the supervisory controller since it’s designed to request the stock amount of power from the engine. Not so with the CR-Z. You can definitely add power to the drivetrain with the trade-off being that you manually have to engage regenerative braking which is something an enthusiast probably does anyway. I think a CR-Z will make for a fairly interesting project one day when they get cheap enough. Too bad they’re not selling really well since there doesn’t seem to be many people in the market for sporty hybrids, yet.
“The value of life can be measured by how many times your soul has been deeply stirred.” You might think that quote came from some kind of philosopher, artist of philanthropist. In a way it did. That sentiment came from Soichiro Honda, a mechanic who eventually went on to start one of the world’s largest car companies which is also the world’s largest motorcycle maker. He’s a man who knows what i means to speak to the soul of us gear heads. This is a tribute to what is widely considered as the best car that Honda has made and a stalwart of the golden age of Japanese sports car, the NSX. Regular people won’t get it and that’s OK. We love cars because they make us feel this way:
This is an interesting video for a couple of reasons. The first part has to do with the NSX-GT FR. The story behind the car begins in 2007 when the sanctioning body of the Japanese Grand Touring Car Championship (JGTC) announced a regulation change that would require all of the GT500 class cars to be front engine with rear wheel drive (FR) layout. At the time, Honda was racing with the mid-engine NSX. The NSX was Honda’s halo performance car with the rest of their sports car lineup being front wheel drive. The NSX-GT FR was built by Honda R&D to see how feasible it would be to adapt the NSX chassis to a FR layout. That’s why the nose of the car in the video will look abnormally stretched and it’s cornering attitude will seem a bit odd compared to the rest of the NSX’s you’ve seen. Honda ultimately decided to develop a clean sheet design for an FR chassis, the HSV-010, specifically for competing in JGTC. The NSX-GT FR was thought to have been scrapped, but it turns out it was just put into storage at the Honda R&D facility after it was used for testing in 2007.
The second reason this video is interesting is the re-emergence of the NSX-GT FR. Honda surprised the Japanese press when they randomly showed up at the Twin Rings of Motegi circuit with the car in 2010. It turns out they were testing a Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) by Zytek, the same company that makes the KERS system currently used in Formula 1 racing. Honda R&D was seeing if KERS would be feasible for widespread adoption in the JGTC series. The NSX-GT FR was a natural candidate since it was already available and it wouldn’t give Honda any extra testing time with the HSV that was still being campaigned. If you listen carefully, you can hear the KERS working under braking and the car rolling down pit lane in pure electric mode.
Check out this killer K24 swapped EG6 Civic time trial car. The K24 is the 2.4 liter inline 4-cylinder engine that we originally got here in the US in the Acura TSX. It now powers the current generation Civic SI. It’s sort of become the go-to big block engine for naturally aspirated Honda power in racing applications. Wait for the in-car footage to see how well this particular machine is sorted.