From the moment the Honda CR-Z arrived in 2011, plenty of Honda enthusiasts have been hoping that the car would evolve into something more a Mazdaspeed 3 and less like a fuel-efficiency special meant for sporty nerds.
Fortunately the people at HPD (Honda Performance Division) have been doing something the last few years aside from building racing engines for Indy cars and ALMS sports cars. HPD has in fact developed a comprehensive kit of parts that can now transform a CR-Z into something more like an old CRX Si – the 2014 Honda CR-Z HPD Supercharged.
Even better, the kit includes a supercharger that will make the Honda CRZ’s 1.8-liter engine deliver 187 hp and 171 lb-ft f torque.
We are about to make some unkind remarks about Honda’s belated recognition that there’s a market for cheap, fast cars, but then the Rotrex centrifugal supercharger under the hood of this 2014 Honda CR-Z brings the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine alive. Suddenly we are a little too busy shifting the six-speed manual gearbox to think up any mean things to say. Plus there’s that whole business of making sure the car is headed straight down the road.
So we’ll skip over the unkind remarks.
HPD has made specialty kits for Honda street cars in the past, but generally what you got for your money (a lot of money) was just a box of suspension bits. And really, when your pal drives by in a Scion FR-S or Subaru WRX, it’s hard to hold up a plastic bag of suspension bushings and look happy.
Now, we won’t kid you and pretend that what HPD offers here is anything other than another box of bits, only this time it’s for any Honda CR-Z built since 2011 that has a six-speed manual transmission (about 30 percent of the model mix, we’re told). You can pay your Honda dealer to install the bits or you can bolt them in yourself. But for the first time, there’s some stuff to substantially modify the engine, plus the result not only carries a Honda warranty but also has been certified for street-legal air emissions in 49 states and even California, too. It’s a miracle.
Alive at Last
It’s hard to know what sporty nerds dress like, but you’ll be going right out and buying a new wardrobe from a yard sale if that’s what it takes to get your hands on a 2014 Honda CR-Z with the full kit of HPD speed parts.
We’re humming down the road in what has always been a great-looking car, only now it looks alive and feels alive. The secret lies in a simple pocket-size, belt-drive centrifugal supercharger. It takes a while for a centrifugal supercharger to spool up, but the power delivery higher in the rpm band feels natural in a Honda, especially when you have such a quick-shifting, short-throw, six-speed manual transmission to keep up. And while the belt-type drive might seem low tech compared to a gear-type drive, there’s a lot less noise.
The supercharger kit includes the Rotrex supercharger, drive system, air-to-air intercooler, high-flow fuel injectors and a new ECU calibration. It meets LEV II SULEV air emissions regulations and even CARB standards in California, so you can put this car on the street in any state you want. HPD offers a limited-slip differential and a high-capacity clutch if you want them, not to mention a sport exhaust system. The bottom line from the combination of 9.5 psi of boost from the supercharger and CR-Z’s 1.8-liter engine is 187 hp @ 6,300 rpm and 171 lb-ft of torque @ 5150 rpm.
All the Other Stuff
It’s true that a plain old Honda Civic Si coupe is more powerful than this modified 2014 Honda CR-Z, but we can tell you that it’s not nearly as much fun to drive. The Honda CR-Z is kind of high strung, just as you expect a Honda to be, and it takes some commitment by the driver to get the most out of the package. We like that.
Fortunately there’s more to the HPD package of hardware than just the supercharger, so you can get a little help in the driving department. To begin with, this car rides on HPD sport dampers (they’re red!), plus springs that deliver a lower ride height. The grooved, 11.8-inch, front brake rotors carry four-piston aluminum calipers (they’re red!) with high-performance pads. Finally the 18 x 7.5-inch wheels carry 215/40R-18 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.
You can also dress up the CR-Z with a little aero splitter for the bodywork’s front fascia, a little spoiler for the tailgate, and an aero diffuser beneath the rear fascia. Plus an HPD badge for the bodywork, of course.
Naturally all this adds up to some money (about $6000 in the fully equipped 2014 Honda CR-Z that we were driving), and you could do as well in a plain old Civic Si Coupe, just as we said. But if you’re one of those guys with a Jackson Racing T-shirt in the bottom of a dresser drawer, the CR-Z will be your car.
The Honda guys have also made the purchase and installation of the HPD kit for the CR-Z as practical as can be, aside from just giving it away for free. The kit is available for 2011 and later CR-Zs with the six-speed manual transmission. A Honda dealer will install the kit or you can install it yourself. If the Honda dealer installs the supercharger kit on a new CR-Z, then the powertrain carries a warranty of 3 years/60,000 miles. If the kit is installed on a used CR-Z or you install the components yourself, the only the kit components are covered under the 3 years/60,000 miles warranty. The suspension kit goes on sale now, while the supercharger kit will follow next spring.
The guys at HPD have long wanted to build a car like the 2014 Honda CR-Z HPD Supercharged, but their obligation to things like practicality and reliability (you know how the Honda guys can be) have held them back. With this Honda CR-Z we’re reminded again that a Honda Civic has a unique personality, and driving excitement is meant to be part of the program.