Honda CR-Z HPD Street Performance Concept Quick Drive
Go Ahead, Call It Si
You may be surprised to learn that despite the popularity of tuning Hondas, the company itself has never offered much in the way of go-fast parts. Sure, there's the odd body part here or lowering spring there, but never a full parts catalog, let alone an in-house tuner. That changes today.
Honda Performance Development, or HPD as it's generally known, is no stranger to going fast. It's the department behind all of Honda's North American racing efforts, from IndyCar down to grassroots motorsports. Now, after 20 years of focusing exclusively on the track, it's taking a stab at the street, and its first project is the car that might need its help the most: the CR-Z.
The CR-Z got knocked about quite a bit when it debuted in 2010 for failing to live up to the legend of the similarly named and similarly shaped CRX of the 1980s. Its two-door, hatchback shape promised sportiness, and while it handles pretty well, the 122-hp hybrid powertrain and its 128 lb-ft of peak torque don't deliver. It's a momentum car through and through. Once it's going, it's fun, but getting up to speed isn't.
Enter HPD. The way HPD tells it, American Honda was clamoring for a CR-Z Si right from the start, but Japan said it wasn't in the cards. In response, the president of American Honda asked HPD to build its first-ever street car. The result is a car that actually performs like the hot hatch it looks like.
This isn't Honda's M division, though. HPD is entering the market wary of overextending itself. This isn't a turnkey car you can buy in the showroom tomorrow. Rather, it's a collection of performance parts you can buy from HPD and have installed at your local Honda dealer, or do it yourself. While the dream is to someday be a turnkey operation, for now, it's all post-title parts with full factory backing.
Right, so what is it? Three kits, actually. The first is the go-fast kit, which includes a Rotex centrifugal supercharger and air-to-air intercooler, high-flow fuel injectors, a computer re-flash that keeps the car SULEV LEV II and CARB emissions compliant, and a serialized dash plaque. Optional go-fast parts include a cat-back exhaust system, a mechanical limited-slip differential (LSD), and a sport clutch, which HPD says is necessary with the LSD.
Altogether, the kit bumps the CR-Z's meager power output to an estimated 187 hp and 171 lb-ft, a more than substantial improvement. The torque curve, in particular, is greatly improved, much flatter than the stock engine. An HPD engineer speculated off the top of his head that the additional power could take as many as 2 seconds off the stock CR-Z's zero-to-60 mph time. In our testing, the stock CR-Z has been good for a sprint as quick as 8.3 seconds, which would drop the HPD CR-Z's run down to the low-to-mid-6-second range. The last Volkswagen GTI we tested, a 2013, hit 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, for reference.
That GTI, though, doesn't get the kind of fuel economy the CR-Z does. (It's not a hybrid, after all.) While you would expect that adding 65 hp and 43 lb-ft would hurt fuel economy, you'd only be half-right. HPD says that with stock wheels and tires, the HPD CR-Z gets the same or better highway fuel economy as stock in their internal testing, which per the EPA is 37 mpg. City MPG does dip slightly, down to 29 mpg in HPD's testing from the stock car's 31 mpg. That's still substantially better than the GTI, which is rated at 24/33 mpg.
The second kit is for cornering. It includes 18-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, sized 215/40R18. That's more aggressive than the standard 195/55R16 Dunlop All-Seasons. Also in the Chassis Kit are HPD lowering springs and sport dampers. The dampers are built by Showa, which also builds the stock shocks, but they've had all the valving changed for sportier response. The last piece of the kit is a set of big front brakes. At 11.8 inches, they're an inch-and-a-half larger than the stock rotors and clamped by new four-piston calipers and sport pads. HPD says the calipers effectively clamp the same total area, allowing them to work with the stock brake booster and ABS systems, but spread out the clamping load for better heat control and more even pad wear.
The final bit is an appearance package. It includes front lip and tailgate spoilers already available from Honda, as well as a rear diffuser, badge, and graphics from HPD. It should be noted that many of the parts in these kits can be purchased separately if you don't want, say, the graphics.
Put it all together and you have a car that finally goes like it looks. HPD says it went with a supercharger for its linear power output, and that's exactly what you get. Power is available immediately at all RPM and builds evenly all the way to redline. No, it isn't blazing quick in a straight line, but it gets up to speed with authority, enough to surprise a lot of other drivers. The sport exhaust emits a mellow but loud tone, something more akin to a Fiat 500 Abarth than your neighbor's buzzy, 9-inch cannon on the back of his beater Civic.
The car available for our short test drive was not equipped with the LSD or sport clutch, so we can't speak to their effectiveness. The six-speed manual transmission is completely stock, and Honda's penchant for building tight, slick-shifting gearboxes with closely spaced ratios is a blessing. Each gear shift drops the engine speed by about 1500 rpm, keeping you right in the powerband and making the most of it. The pedals, also totally stock, are perfectly placed for heel-toe downshifting. It's like Honda wanted this car to be driven fast all along.
The handling kit predictably makes the car's ride more firm, but it wasn't harsh, just a little bouncy. Around corners, the body is well-controlled and stays mostly flat. Mid-corner bumps don't upset the chassis and the Michelin tires have more than enough grip for the car. We'll need a longer drive with the car on better roads to really flesh out its capability.
The brakes, for their part, felt as if they could be factory components, not grabby or vague as some aftermarket kits can be. We didn't have the opportunity to try a panic stop, but in normal driving they were perfectly fine.
If there's a weak point, it's the steering. While it has good weight that builds with cornering forces, it's pretty lifeless. There's no real feedback from the road, but it's pretty quick. It will also torque steer a little if you get on the gas hard with the wheel cranked, something the stock CR-Z can't say.
The HPD CR-Z's best quality is that it doesn't feel like an assemblage of kits. All of the components have been designed to work together and with the donor vehicle, and as such, it feels like a complete car, one that could've just driven off the showroom floor. We're eager to get it out on the test track and some good roads to find out if it holds together like one.
The HPD kits will bolt right up to any 2011 or newer CR-Z and are 50-state emissions legal. The Chassis Kit is on sale now, but the Supercharger Kit won't be available until Spring 2014. Pricing for the Supercharger Kit hasn't been announced, but the rest of the components are priced as follows: HPD Front Brake Kit, $2100; HPD Sport Exhaust, $1400; HPD Sport Suspension, $1550; HPD 18-inch wheels, $315 each; HPD Rear Diffuser, $400; Honda Accessory Decklid Spoiler, $430; Honda Accessory Front Lip Spoiler, $280; HPD CR-Z Door Stickers, $30 each. The tires currently retail for $230 each on TireRack.com. Aftermarket supercharger kits tend to run in the $2000 to $3000 range, so we expect HPD's kit to fall somewhere around there as well. With every box checked, we estimate this car would cost about $31,500 as it sits, or about $2000 more than a nicely optioned GTI.