When Honda launched the sport hybrid CR-Z, I tried my best to love it. It did have a slick-shifting six speed manual gearbox, and it did handle reasonably well despite the weight penalty of the electric motor and batteries. Even the regenerative brakes weren’t half bad, and offered better pedal feel than most hybrids. Still, after a week behind the wheel, and a road trip to Savannah, GA, the best I could do is move the CR-Z into my “like” category, no small accomplishment for a hybrid. If only, I thought, Honda had offered the car in a gasoline-only Si version, it could have been an out-of-the-park home run.
If Left Lane News and Autocar are correct, all hope may not be lost. Autocar’s sources report that Honda is working on a turbocharged 1.6 liter inline four for the CR-Z, and that the car will be offered in both standard (160 horsepower) and Si (200 horsepower) versions. Despite winning “Car of the Year” in Japan, demand for the sport hybrid CR-Z is already declining, and Honda is willing to take dramatic steps to broaden its appeal (and, undoubtedly, recover the cost of tooling and production). If the rumors prove to be true, don’t expect to see the gasoline only versions of the CR-Z before the end of 2011, assuming that Honda agrees to build them for the US market. I hope they do, since a lighter CR-Z with 200 horsepower sounds like a blast to drive, even if it does power the wrong wheels. On the down side, that does ruin my business idea of building K20Z3-motored Honda CR-Zs for the US market.