The annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas is always a monster. And for the 2005 edition last November, that monster orbited around Honda as the "Vehicle Manufacturer of the Show." And the car Honda wanted to feature most prominently was the new 2006 Civic Si. You know, the car that's supposed to restore all the good will among enthusiasts that the company stupidly pissed away with the misbegotten, unceasingly boring 2001 redesign of the Civic.
So, strewn about the Las Vegas Convention Center's acres and acres of automotive innovation and utter crap, were at least 15 new Civic Si coupes decorated in the latest zippy styles and/or hardcore performance components. Were they all totally awesome? Eh, nope. But some were worthwhile. And the new Si is so good; we've already forgiven Honda for the previous edition and now love them very much. Again.
Totally EclipsedSEMA's obsession with the new Civic Si didn't mean that there weren't other makes and models on display. It only meant no one was paying attention. Too bad, because Mitsubishi's Eclipse Ralliart concept is exactly the Eclipse the company should be building.
Forget the Eclipse Ralliart's decorations for a second, because what really matters here is that it has the heart-and we mean that almost literally-of an Evo transplanted into it. That's right, the Eclipse has a turbocharged 4G63 2.0-liter four under its hood making something like 400-horsepower, thanks to a few HKS plucks. And it sends that power through a six-speed manual transmission to an all-wheel drive system, too. Didn't Mitsu once build an Eclipse like this? You know, like, way back in 1990?
Shoving AWD under the current generation Eclipse should be straightforward since its fellow "Project America" vehicle, the Endeavor SUV, is already equipped with an AWD system similar to the Evo's. And of course, the 4G63 is a smaller engine than the monstrous 3.8-liter V6 that's the current top powerplant in the car, so it has no problems fitting.
Sure the carbon fiber hood, roof, fascias, and front fenders are neat, the interior's redecoration with Recaro seats is sweet, and those 20-inch carbon fiber wheels are wicked, but Mitsu should forget all that and just shove this drivetrain into the Eclipse. What's stopping them?
Meanwhile At Acura...Despite all the attention being paid to the new Honda Civic Si, Acura is continuing to sell the RSX. And at SEMA, Honda's little-sister division displayed its latest variation on the RSX A-Spec. The RSX A-Spec Concept has a track five inches wider than stock, a wide-body kit to cover the stuck-out-there 19-inch black chrome wheels, Michelin F1 racing tires and a load of carbon fiber wings, spoilers and fascias. Big brakes are also part of the package, naturally, but the engine is basically untouched.
So, can the RSX still thrive in a world where the Civic Si offers so much? And will a concept car like this help?
HHR You Serious?GM's SEMA presence was vast and noggin boggling, but just one of the vehicles on display was undeniably interesting-this Chevy HHR was massaged into a two-door, with rear window styling swiped from the classic '55 Nomad sports wagon. It's better looking in real life.
Called the "HHR Concept," the two remaining side doors are six-inches longer than the front doors on a standard HHR and the B-pillars lean forward to achieve the Nomad roofline. But the HHR Concept also has a new hood, a new grille and new front fascia with polished billet air ducts. It's also been chopped four inches and widened by two inches up front and four inches in the back. Power comes from the Cobalt SS' supercharged 2-liter Ecotec four and, of course, there are the expected show car doo-hickeys like big wheels (19 inches up front and 20 out back) and a cargo area covered in Zebrawood.
The production HHR has been selling spectacularly well for Chevy, so there must be a lot right with it. But if there were a version like the HHR Concept available, well, even we'd muster up some enthusiasm.
Your $280,000 RX-8 Is Ready!For many, housing values have appreciated greatly during the real-estate boom of the last few years. Well, now there's finally a reason to cash in on all that stagnant equity! Refinance the abode; call Mazdaspeed Motorsports Development and order up your very own RX-8, complete and ready to enter in the Rolex Series GT Class sports car racing. All you need is driving talent!
Covered in a carbon fiber skin and powered by a 20B rotary in full race trim, the Mazdaspeed RX-8 is being built on an on-order basis for teams interested in running in the Grand American Road Racing Association's GT Class. Of course, these are full-on racecars... but when you sell your house, is there any better way to blow the proceeds?
Mass ConFusionFord's push at SEMA centered on their new Mazda6-based Fusion front-drive sedan. Not necessarily a car destined to dominate the sport compact world, the Fusion is still a neat-looking machine that drives well and looks good in big wheels and tires.
The 3D Carbon Fusion (pictured) was the prettiest Fusion, relying on an air dam that extends the stock front Fascia, some subtle side skirts and a set of glorious five-spoke wheels. It didn't really need anything else.
More aggressive was the Fusion customized by Funkmaster Flex. It used the same body kit as the 3D Carbon version, but went for more aggressive paint, really shiny wheels and some dorky graphics. It's not bad, but not great either.
There isn't much in the way of performance parts for the Fusion and no one knows if there ever will be. But it may be the best-looking Ford sedan in decades. And it's just as easy to make a good-looking car ugly as it is to make an ugly car pretty.
Roush JobRoush Racing runs five different Ford Fusions in the NASCAR Nextel Cup series. But Roush Engineering in Livonia, Michigan, provides specialty services to virtually every car manufacturer operating in America. As such, it wasn't that surprising to see Roush playing with the Pontiac G6 sedan.
Called the "Roush Signature Edition Pontiac G6," it won an award from GM for Best New GM Exterior. And it deserved it. Designed at Roush's Livonia Design Studio, the G6 got a new hood, front and rear fascias, side rocker panels, rear spoiler, forged 19-inch wheels, exhaust tips, modified headlamps, Sparco seating, and Autometer gauges. Beyond that, there's an AEM Cold Air Induction Kit, Brembo brakes, DC Sports strut-tower brace, Eibach lowering kit, and a GM performance exhaust. The paint is Merles Opus Orange Yellow and you could fry an egg on it.
Just Driven: Mazdaspeed6In so many ways, the Mazdaspeed6 is a technological wonder. From its turbocharged and direct injected four to its advanced all-wheel drive system and very well sorted chassis, this thing just oozes forward thinking and engineering. But, if you're old enough, don't mistake it for the rowdy 323 GTX that was Mazda's last all-wheel drive with a turbocharged-four. And no matter who you are, don't think it's a substitute for the Mitsubishi Evolution either. This is the most sophisticated sedan Mazda has ever offered for sale in America, and it drives like a sophisticated sedan.
Originally, the Mazdaspeed6 was to have gone on sale here last spring. However, it wasn't until late autumn that the car finally made it onto American roads. And the road is where this car belongs.
Though the Mazdaspeed6 looks pretty much like the Mazda6 upon which it is based, in fact, just about everything in the car is different. It starts with where it's built. The Mazda6s sold in America all come from the same Auto Alliance plant in Flat Rock, Michigan, where Ford builds the Mustang. All the Mazdaspeed6s, on the other hand, come from Mazda's plant in Hofu, Japan. There's little apparent difference in assembly quality between the two sister cars, but detail differences are apparent if you look hard enough.
There's no huge rear wing on the Mazdaspeed6, and it takes a trained eye to notice the unique elements of its appearance. But once pointed out, they're obvious. Up front, the bumpers and grille are much deeper and the modified hood has a bump along its center. Under that hood bump, cold air from the front grille is channeled to the top-mounted intercooler. The front fenders are wider to cover the 18-inch wheels and the P215/45R18 tires around them. Along the body, there are skirts, twin exhaust outlets and a small deck spoiler to help define the rear. It's not a radical-looking car, and it would look better if those wheels had more style than they do spokes, but it's still solidly attractive.
The really attractive part of this car, however, is in the engine bay. Though it's based on the all-aluminum 2.3-liter, DOHC, 16-valve four that's standard in the Mazda6, it behaves like the completely different animal. Thanks, in part, to what Mazda calls Direct Injection Spark Ignition (DISI), which injects fuel directly into the combustion chamber-instead of the intake tract. Then there's the turbocharger; hustling a peak 15.6 psi of boost into the engine from as little as 2500 rpm.
While the engine is rated at 274-horsepower at 5500 rpm, the more impressive number is the 280-pound feet of torque it produces at just 3000 rpm. In comparison, the 3.2-liter V6 in an Acura TL is rated at 258-horsepower at 6200 rpm and just 233-pound feet of torque at 5000 rpm. The Mazdaspeed6's four doesn't have the authoritative off-idle grunt of a V-8, but it's more tractable and easier to live with than many of the V6s that crowd the entry-level luxury market. Particularly since it's mated to a very sweet six-speed manual gearbox that doesn't shift with absolute precision-but the gears are perfectly matched to the engine's character.
The Mazda6 already had great steering, and that comes over to Mazdaspeed6 pretty much intact. But it's the all-wheel drive system that defines the car's handling. An on-board computer analyzes the data stream, which determines whether the system should be in Normal, Sport or Snow modes. When it's running in Normal, most of the power is delivered to the front wheels and the car drives very much like a Mazda6-not a bad thing. Throw a brick at the accelerator and the system heads into the Sport realm, where torque is split evenly front to rear. Throw in the ability of its limited-slip differentials and the result is neutral and capable power delivery, which lets the all-independent (wishbones up front, multi-link in the back) suspension do its work without undue burden.
Snow mode takes over when the car is hunting for traction -any traction it can find.
Of course, the standard ABS-equipped four-wheel discs do their job admirably. In fact, everything about this car's driving experience is very sweet. But it isn't really exciting. This isn't a car with the explosive personality of an Evo or WRX, but the subtle confidence of a BMW or Mercedes. Fortunately, it carries pretty much all the same equipment as those luxury brands-the Sport model is well equipped and the Grand Touring version has almost too many features-including xenon headlamps and a remote start feature should you just want to stand outside the car and listen to it idle.
Both versions get gauges that glow red inside brushed aluminum-looking bezels and alloy pedals. The interior is a nice place, but doesn't reach the standards set by cars like the Acura TL or Lexus IS. But then again, the Mazdaspeed6 starts at $28,555. And that's a deal.
Sport Concept Civic SiEasily the best-looking Civic Si came out of Honda's own "Sport Concept." With a widened track, new front and rear bumpers, a big deck-wing, a neat center-exit exhaust, special 19-inch wheels shod in 245/35R-19 Michelin Pilots, and Brembo brakes big enough to stop a tsunami, this car managed the neat trick of being both tasteful and totally badass. Of course, none of the parts that make this car so tasty are available... but damn it, imitation is still the sincerest form of flattery. So copy away!
But if you wind up in a lawsuit after Honda sues you, don't come whining to us expecting help to pay the judgment.
MJH Sound Civic SiNaturally, at least one Si had to have a turbo wheezing into it at SEMA, and one of those was from MJH Sound. The custom-fabricated system for this car uses a Garrett GT28RS turbo, heaving air through a Garrett air-to-water intercooler with a Tial 50mm blow-off valve plumbed in to avoid an Etna-spec detonation. Lots of other stuff is tweaked as well, with the body kit coming from TC Sportline, the wheels from Racing Hart and the 235/40R18 tires from Sumitomo.
DVR Concept SiRR.J. DeVera's name is familiar to SCC readers mostly because R.J. works so damn hard at making his name familiar. But that doesn't mean that the DeVera-nator doesn't have a ton of good ideas crammed into his 9.4-pound head. And one of his best was painting this Si the colors of the 1966 Honda 273 Formula One racecar. It's iconic and a lot more memorable than covering every square-inch with sponsor stickers.
The car itself has a Comptech supercharger pushing air into a 2-liter K-series engine, a Comptech exhaust system, and a bunch of other Comptech stuffed glued to it. The body kit comes from Honda Factory Performance, the wheels are 17x8-inch Motegi Racing Tracklites, and there's an Apple iPod integrated into the sound system for those times when the car's self-generated entertainment field dissipates.
Team Honda Civic SiOf course the new Civic Si will be raced, but Honda wanted to ensure that they were among the first to do so. So, inside the grounds of Honda R&D America, back in Ohio, they took a freshly-built Si and fortified it according to NASA US Touring Car Championship rules for competition in the 25 Hours of Thunderhill-which ran early last December (a week after this was written).
There's a rollcage and the suspension has been lowered with H&R Springs. The engine's been massaged and tweaked, breathing through a new intake and exhaust. This Civic grabs the ground with Michelin tires outside of Volk Racing wheels. Since the car was built by the same guys who put together an Acura TL that kicked butt/hiney/ass at last year's 25 hours, we're sure it did really well at California's Thunderhill and that all involved-and their parents-are very proud.
Ryan Shutt Civic CoupeJust when it seemed all the Civics on display would be tasteful, we stumbled across this Civic (non-Si) done by Ryan Shutt alongside Polk Audio. A custom turbo system with a Precision wheezer is part of the package, but it goes further by adding a nitrous system atop that. And those big-ass Davin 19-inch wheels have all the subtlety of a sledgehammer hitting a cantaloupe.
Sure it's got big brakes (SSBC Force 10), lowering springs (Eibach), and fancy seats (OMP), but it's the sound system that's really intimidating. With all the LCD screens involved, this thing ought to be hard-wired to Hoover Dam to ensure adequate amperage.
Skunk2 Racing Stealth Civic SiR Skunk2's Civic won the informal SCC Sinister Intent award for its flat-black paint over an otherwise unmodified Civic Si body. When someone is playing it that low-key, you know damned well they're hiding some serious firepower.
In this Civic's case, the armaments locker includes a seriously cracked Skunk2 powerplant, packing everything from titanium valve retainers on top to forged connecting rods down in the bowels. The head has been opened up so thoroughly that you could crawl in through the intake ports and walk upright out the exhaust ports. There's a Hondata computer aboard for command and control, the RC Engineering injectors flow enough fuel to keep Cleveland heated all winter, the Brembo brakes are the size of an extra-large cheese pizza, and the Volk Racing wheels with BFG KDs are held fast to the hubs with special Skunk2 alloy lug nuts. Of course, the suspension is wicked and low. Naturally, the interior has a cage and Recaro seats. Come on... when the lug nuts are trick, well, what else on the car can't be?
K&N Civic SiRK&N put their Civic SiR on a strict nitrous oxide diet and the result was that it turned orange. The nitrous kit comes from Edelbrock, the body kit from Import Trenz and the Sunset Pearl paint from House of Kolor. The wheels are from Volk Racing with Toyo T1-R 225/40R18 tires. The fireball on the hood was so realistic that we were able to roast our weenies on it.
Tein Civic SiTein's Civic Si packed a turbo-slammed K20, but the real glamour here is the chassis constructed around newly developed components from Tein. And it's those suspenders that make the wide-body kit both necessary and functional. On this car, those big fenders are done in metal. You know, the stuff to which magnets stick?
Meanwhile Also At Acura...The wide-body look was also applied to the TSX as part of Acura's TSX A-Spec Concept displayed at the SEMA show. Not as radical as its RSX brother, the TSX A-Spec has been ballooned by 20-millimeters and is shod in 19-inch wheels with P245/35R19 Bridgestone Potenza S-03 tires. Of course, there are big Brembo brakes aboard, the car wears new front and rear fascias and there's a fiendish centered exhaust outlet. But the engine is just stock. Still, looks good.
Throw a brick at the accelerator and the system heads into the Sport realm, where torque is split evenly front to rear.