Honda Punches Up Performance of 2013 CR-Z

Sport compact hybrid now gets Sport-Plus mode.

by on Sep.28, 2012

Honda hopes to kick-start sales of the CR-Z with a significant boost in performance.

Though its new Accord may be winning favorable reviews, Honda has admittedly missed the mark with a number of recent niche vehicles – especially hybrids like the Insight and CR-Z. The latter was a particular disappointment coming as the long-awaited replacement for the Japanese maker’s old CR-X sport compact.

So, there were some anticipatory celebrations when Honda revealed plans to unveil an updated version of the CR-Z in Paris designed to punch out a bit more performance than the hybrid-powered model that debuted in 2009.

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Honda came through with a royal purple update that gets a number of welcome modifications – including 13 more horsepower and a new lithium-ion battery pack that allows the 2013 Honda CR-Z to operate in S+ mode – a hybrid alternative to turbocharging – for up to 10 seconds.

With the switch to a lithium battery, Honda adds a new Sport-Plus electric turbo mode.

Visually, the 2013 model will be recognizable by its new grille, fascia and LED accent lights surrounding new headlamps.  Inside, there are revised fabrics and other generally minimal changes.

Surprisingly, at a time when even Porsches and Bentleys are promoting better fuel economy, Honda says the 2013 will maintain its old mileage rating – at least in Europe, at the equivalent of 55 mpg.  We’ll have to wait for word from the EPA on its official U.S. numbers.

But at the current rating of 39 mpg City, 35 Highway and 37 Combined, few were complaining about mileage. It was the original CR-Z’s performance that fell into the lackluster category. And that’s what Honda appears to have focused on.

The sport compact’s 1.5-liter gasoline engine benefits from an updated variable valve-timing system and modified computer software to now generate 121 hp, up from 114.  The electric motor, meanwhile, gets another 20 hp.  Combined, the output jumps to 137 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque, the latter up 16.

The switch to lithium power also plays into the equation.  That replaces the old nickel-metal hydride technology Honda had clung to since its very first Insight hybrid debuted a dozen years ago.  But despite some original reluctance by the maker, lithium is proving to be more robust than feared – and it can store significantly more power in a given mass and space.

Notably, Honda now provides a Sport-Plus button on the steering wheel.  If the battery has at least a 50% charge it can be harnessed for electric turbocharger duty with a punch of the S+ button.  At maximum power, the 2013 Honda CR-Z will launch from 0 to 100 kmh (62.5 mph) in 9.0 seconds, a 0.7 second improvement over the old model.  Top speed, meanwhile, is now 124 mph.

Look for the 2013 Honda CR-Z to roll into European showrooms in January.  We’re likely to hear more about the American version at the upcoming LA Auto Show.

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