Ahhh, the great debate: boost versus NA. In the Honda world, it has been “discussed” over and over again. And while the horse carcass has been thoroughly beaten enough times to serve as a stunt double for a zombie killing on The Walking Dead, the war rages on.
Hey! Honda never intended that!
Let’s be honest, if you did exactly as Honda intended, you never would have lowered your car, swapped the motor, added that set of nasty cams or any of the other aftermarket options that you’ve reached for over the years. It’s true that Honda motors made available to U.S. residents over the past 30 years or so were never intended to be force fed gobs of air. The engineers also never intended for you to rip apart their motors to completely rework them with custom chosen internal components and every go-fast goodie under the sun in preparation for all-out automotive war. The truth is, we ignore all of their original intentions and focus on personalizing our little project to quench the insatiable thirst for more.
Tall tales and outright B.S.
If you’re a little newer to all of this and have never had the opportunity to drive or even take a ride in a turbocharged or supercharged Honda, you definitely need to give it a try. If nothing else, you’ll get a feel for why people go crazy over forced induction. The finesse followed by downright violent acceleration that you get in a properly tuned, even mildly boosted Honda is just good old-fashioned fun. There’s something to be said for breaking loose in third gear as you drop the hammer and the sound, the SOUND! Try it out.
In the late ’80s/early ’90s, turbocharged Honda performance was archaic at best, and motors were popping left and right. Too much boost, not enough fuel, no way to manage the boost and fuel—in short, it was messy. Today, things are much different. We take for granted the massive leaps and bounds that have granted us a number of aftermarket management, fuel, and ignition options to not only optimize performance, but also do it a safe manner. You’ll no doubt still hear an “expert” spouting off about how turbos will cut the life of your motor in half and that your car is a ticking time bomb with one of those demon snails strapped to the exhaust manifold. The truth is, with regular maintenance and some decent self-control, your boosted powerplant can last just as long as any other motor. And that’s another thing: maintenance. Somewhere along the way, someone came up with this imaginary list of insane maintenance that you must perform if you rely on forced induction. Ask them to name anything beyond the normal realm of regular oil changes, plug checks, etc., and they’ll shake their heads and tell you “you don’t want to know!” Sure.
Ooooh baby I like it raw!
If you’re a die-hard Honda fan, few things in life are as pleasing to the ear as the sound of naturally aspirated bliss, only slightly interrupted by the little jewel that is VTEC crossover. Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing the spool and spit that comes from a turbo/blow-off valve symphony, it’s sultry and unmistakable, but there’s just something very raw and sinister about an aggressive all motor build. It’s no secret that many of our communities’ favorite Honda motors seem to borrow their characteristics from the streetbike world. High revving, hyperactive, and begging to be pushed to a boiling redline, the all motor army is hell bent on improving upon what Honda has blessed us with. Loud and proud, NA builds have always served as the underdog compared to more powerful boosted cars, and who doesn’t love an underdog?
Years ago, reaching the coveted 200whp mark with a B-series motor was a huge accomplishment, and one that few had the know-how to reach. These days, 200+ is obtainable with just a few bolt-ons, and 300hp seems to be the current holy grail of NA performance. The numbers are impressive, but nowhere near the astronomical quadruple-digit numbers being pushed on the turbo front. Nevertheless, if you meet an all motor soldier, you can spout off until you’re blue in the face, you still won’t change their mind. Their loyalty is immeasurable.
Back on track
On the road course where high-revving abuse is the norm and instantaneous, usable power is always vital, NA Hondas seem to shine. But over the past few years, there has been a shift in attitudes as the very top of the food chain has taken on boosted applications to push lap times into unchartered territory, which in turn produces even more testing and information that trickles down to the average end user. Still, naturally aspirated Hondas make up the majority of track days, and in a world where driver skill is every bit as important as brakes, tires, and suspension, the envelope is being pushed harder than ever. Again, the advances in performance make their way from competition, to street cars. In short, we all benefit from their research and development.
On the drag front, the all motor street car classes have seen an influx of fierce competitors battling for the belt. As I’m writing this editorial in November, there are a few cars that have collected incredible 10.1-sec timeslips. I’m pretty sure that if the 9-second pass hasn’t been run yet, it will very shortly.
But what does it all mean Basil?
In the end, it comes down to a simple decision of what you prefer: forced induction or natural aspiration. If you haven’t sampled both, do yourself a favor; ignore everything you’ve heard from the self-appointed experts and just experience them firsthand, or you might end up regretting it.