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Honda Performance Envelope - Road Rage

Toys "R" Us Kids

Aaron Bonk
Jun 1, 2010

It's the middle of February, 2010, and I am not impressed. Except for the proliferation of V6 engine swaps, the Honda performance envelope has been pushed just short of nil this past year. Sadly, concepts of unusable negative camber, tires stretched like old underwear waistbands, and circus-colored engine bays have all trumped those of performance. And I am not impressed. Sadly, even Honda has all but given the finger to its nearly completed NSX replacement and discontinued its S2000 entirely to better focus on more environmentally friendly modes of transportation. Oh, and I am not impressed.

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The 1990s and early 2000s were exciting times for Honda enthusiasts. Honda introduced VTEC, an Si that you had to take seriously, and fitted twin-cam powerplants to nearly every model. Engine swaps, forced induction, and engine combinations otherwise considered unstreetable were taken to the streets. Drag racing peaked, and FWD Civics and Integras unpredictably-yet handily-began to overtake most of the big cubic inch American lumps that waddled out of Detroit. The time slips proved as much and, like clockwork, the numbers dropped from the twelves to the elevens to the tens to the single digits and so on. Enthusiasts pushed the envelope in the name of performance. Late nights spent crafting palm trees and ponies onto valve cover surfaces they did not do. Forcing suspension components and tires to do things they weren't meant to do for the sake of aesthetics but at the expense of proper handling was a concept to scoff at.

Some may argue that the performance envelope's peaked. It hasn't. Despite that, it seems as though Honda enthusiasts as a whole have lost, well, their enthusiasm. I am not impressed but perhaps wrongfully so. Indeed, delight may be found in sacrificing the ability to go around corners all for the sake of "hella flush" notoriety and a guest spot on any number of blogs that'll help themselves to your snapshots. Perhaps enlightenment lies with the pastel-colored stuffed animal ever so carefully dangling from the rear tow hook-which, incidentally, cannot actually be used for towing-and not with the satisfaction of shedding a near new set of tires in just a matter of weeks due to boost levels so high they'll make babies cry. Like sticker placement, stuffed animal selection is now serious business. Perhaps the key to true Honda enjoyment lies with the K-series engine swap matched with Honda's factory-yet convoluted and restrictive-intake system and exhaust. Performance be damned because it looks "clean." Or is it "minty"? I can never keep up with this stuff. Perhaps all of this is true, but I don't think it is. At least not for everyone.

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There's much to be said for aesthetics and clean looking Hondas. To be sure, things have come a long way in the last 20 years. The pioneers considered not things like tucked and shaved engine bays, matching color schemes, or proper wheel fitment. No, performance trumped all. And if I had to choose, I'd too err on the side of performance. But a common ground there must be-a way to combine the best of both worlds, a way to pair proper aesthetics and performance the way they were meant to be. It's time to revolutionize Honda performance again. There must be more to life than an automotive shopping spree that includes a Toys "R" Us pit stop followed by a consultation with your mother's interior decorator.

Honda likely won't be taking the lead to fix any of this either. You'll have to. Or at least you should. Why offer Americans the Type R or the Si when indeed all it takes to satiate the average Honda enthusiast's modification pallet is a base-model hatchback and a box of crayons? Prove to Honda that sticker real estate is more important than horsepower and that leaves the company little reason to not steer completely away from its performance heritage and cater solely to the nature lovers. Unfortunately, it already seems to be heading in that direction. What'll you do to change that?

By Aaron Bonk
405 Articles

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