Honda Nearly Killed CR-Z Twice Before Hybrid Powertrain Gave Car 'Wow Factor'

Automobile Staff
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Were it not for the hybrid powertrain, Honda's CR-Z may have never received the OK for production.

The earliest versions of Honda's "sporty hybrid" were designed around a traditional gasoline engine, but according to Honda execs in a recent Automotive News report, it wasn't until a hybrid powertrain was added that the CR-Z had "wow factor." Prior to that point, according to the report, the CR-Z was nearly killed -- twice.

Norio Tomobe, the chief engineer of the project since the summer of 2004, said the president of Honda's American operations was skeptical of the CR-Z's value until he drove a final prototype. The project was signed-off on shortly thereafter.

"I'm satisfied," Tomobe said to Automotive News. "This is what the future of sports cars will be for Honda. We are not pursuing absolute maximum speed. What we aim for is a car that is exhilarating to drive."

Those who want a car with impressive acceleration will have to look elsewhere: the Honda CR-Z has a (leaked) 0 to 62 mph time of 9.7 seconds. Honda may be working on a higher-performance 200-horsepower CR-Z, but for those who think there's more to a sporty car than just power, the success of the regular CR-Z will be in the overall driving experience.

Only 15,000 CR-Zs are expected to be sold annually in the U.S. once the model goes on sale this summer, though some worry a sporty hybrid will confuse customers who associate hybrids with the Prius, which gets much better fuel economy in EPA tests.

Devout Honda enthusiasts could likely snap up the first production CR-Zs that roll out of factories, but those who can wait a few years could get a car with a more compact motor and a stronger battery. Tomobe confirms that "there is room for further evolution."

That's a good thing considering Hyundai claims its upcoming coupe, possibly called the Tiburon, will hit 40 mpg without a hybrid powertrain.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)

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