The Honda CR-Z hasn’t exactly been a runaway success. The little car was supposed to combine sportiness with fuel efficiency in a relatively low-cost package. But the sad reality of the situation is that it isn’t especially sporty or fuel efficient, and taking these things into account, it’s actually pretty expensive. The car doesn’t quite capture the spirit of the lightweight CR-X of the Eighties, which the CR-Z is both named and styled to resemble. So Honda has been trying hard to improve the sporting image of the CR-Z. The European version has been given a number of performance upgrades, a supercharged version of the CR-Z has been built for racing purposes, and Honda brought a supercharged CR-Z engine on a stand to last year’s SEMA show.
Mugen actually makes a supercharged CR-Z in small numbers for the Japanese market, but North America is still without a respectable performance version of the CR-Z. For this year’s SEMA show, Honda brought a supercharged CR-Z concept. The car produces 185 horsepower and 169 lb-ft of torque, thanks to its centrifugal supercharger. That’s a pretty noticeable improvement over the 122 horsepower and 123 lb-ft of torque that the 1.5-liter engine normally produces. Honda hasn’t told us what the supercharger does to the CR-Z’s fuel economy, but it’s a safe bet that it doesn’t exactly improve it.
Honda has promised us the same performance upgrades for the CR-Z that it gave to the European market, but there is no word on a factory supercharged version for any market. It wouldn’t be terribly unusual if one was never offered, but at this point it seems that Honda has gone to an awful lot of trouble to promote the idea of a blown CR-Z to not offer one. Of course, the downside to such an upgrade is that little voice in the back of your head saying that the same performance and fuel economy figures could probably be achieved much more cheaply by simply ditching the heavy and expensive hybrid drivetrain.
Whatever Honda decides to do, some kind of performance version of the CR-Z is probably needed. The car does not sell especially well, and consumers need something other than a racing version to get excited about it. The report from Car & Driver is one in a long series which seem to be promising something more from the little car, and it seems high time that Honda actually deliver on this.