Quo vadis Honda – Where are you going?
The recent global economic storm has caught us all by surprise. We see entire nations & communities struggling to make sense of the downturn and adjust to the consequences. The paradigm of constant growth has proven to be a mirage and the situation calls for an assessment of where we are headed and what needs to be done.
Like us, Honda too has been affected by this perfect storm, and being the conservative company they are, seem to be slowing down and change course in terms of the offerings they plan to bring to us. No doubt, we were all excited by the spy images of the next NSX lapping the Nurburgring over a year ago or of Honda bringing Ross Brawn on board to transform them into a credible F1 team. Their were rumors abounding that the S2000 as we know it could change, perhaps be replaced by a roadster with a v-6 and very well become the S3000. Lost in that millieu was the CR-Z concept that evoked the memories of the old CRX, a car that many of us admire and the lucky few own. As things came to pass, one dream after the other became an unattainable pipe dream. The macro situation changed such that Honda killed the NSX, sold the F1 Team to Ross Brawn for the princely sum of $1.00 and went on further to announce the demise of the S2000 with no replacement planned for it. Honda CEO, Takanobu Ito, went on to say that Honda will be focusing more on Hybrid technologies, and used the term “smart-luxury” (whatever that means) to denote the direction in which Acura will be going while confirming that any dreams of V8 or RWD Acura’s were no longer going to happen.
To add insult to injury, we’ve been subject to products like the Insight, the Accord Crosstour, and the Acura Alphabet Soup (ZDX). It hurts more when we see Nissan launching a star like the GT-R (what the NSX should have been) and Lexus trying to build super car cred by building the LF-A and tweaking their IS offerings. What does Honda have to counter them – a Civic Si or Type-R?
Im sure you felt that Honda’s ability to dream is dead (as I did). The power of their dreams no longer holds or captivates us and the future is looking bleak and leads us to question – Where are you going Honda? What about em dreams? But there is a slight hope. A sliver of light that makes me feel that all will be well in the years to come. I probably have you thinking, what then makes me feel positive about the direction Honda seems to be going in. They seem to have laid of their dreamers en masse and replaced them with extreme tree-huggers and soccer mom’s designing bulky yet versatile family cars.
Here is why:
1. The CR-Z – A sporty hybrid with a manual transmission, 122 HP, 128 lb-ft of torque at 1000 RPM, and a kerb weight estimated at 2670 lbs. oh! did I mention the EPA estimated gas mileage is 31/37/33 miles per gallon for the MT equipped car while the CVT version fares slightly better. This car appears to be (on paper) neither too sporty nor a mileage champ and seems to be a flaming disaster quite like the other tepid offerings from big H.
– Honda engineers have benchmarked the car against the the best handling light-weight cars out there (the MINI, the Lotus Elise & the VW Scirocco). According to Terukazu Torikai, the chief engineer for chassis dynamics on the CR-Z, “the performance of the Elise kept on inspiring us throughout the whole development process“. Knowing Honda, I hope that has translated into something substantial.
– A first ever Sport Mode button. This button per Honda’s press release “sharpens the throttle response, changes the behaviour of the IMA hybrid system to provide more electric motor assistance, and increases the weight of the electric power steering“.
– Japanese Magazine’s first driving impressions as translated by Inside Line “the CR-Z’s handling is in an entirely different class. In this department, the car truly feels worthy of the sporty-car label. “The biggest difference is how the rear end feels through corners. Unlike rear suspension in the Fit or the Insight, the stroke of the rear dampers have been increased, resulting in increased stability through corners and over bumps. And thanks the to the CR-Z’s wider track, the car exhibits less body roll and better overall balance than either the Fit or the Insight, making it a delight to drive through turns. And despite possessing firmer dampers and springs than the Insight, it rides just as smoothly”.
– Unknown Honda engineers statement that the CR-Z should remind people of the CRX and therefore should handle like one.
2. The Honda HSV 10 GT – The NSX replacement was resurrected and renamed so Honda could continue competing in the Super GT championship in Japan. Rule changes required Honda to step up with a new car and they seem to have delivered. This could be an indication that the next NSX could be 4-5 years away and we could very well have one at a lower price point as I’m sure Honda would want to go one-up on Nissan.
3. The TSX wagon – All of us here in North America love the way the Euro Accord looks and are we glad that Honda is bringing us the cool looking Accord wagon as a TSX wagon here. Now all they need do is to remove that silly nose they stuck on all the Acuras.
The thought strikes me that the wise druids at Honda seem to have deciphered the path. The path forward is to go back to their roots. Build small slow cars that are beggars for punishment and fun to be thrown around a track in pursuit of the perfect lap time. Who knows, we could very well see the return of the S2000 with the same 2.0 or 2.2 liter engine, but faster because its lighter and built using more composite materials. Who knows, this could have a retractable hard top and put the likes of the pretenders from Mazda & BMW to shame.
So keep going Honda and enable us to keep powering your dreams.
Images courtesy of Triple-H and Honda
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