Ah, the Honda Inspire. It brings back memories of Acura Vigors and really awkward five-cylinder engines. After all, the Inspire was really nothing more than an Accord, which was really just a sister car to the Vigor at the time. The Inspire has since traced itself back to its Accord roots, sans all that Vigor silliness. Its fifth-generation model launch took place late last year on the heels of the U.S.-spec Accord unveiling.
Honda will offer two variants: the 35iL and 35TL...no, not that TL. Both come powered by the same 3.5L i-VTEC V-6 we already know about. The SOHC J35A engine features individual cylinder deactivation and is good for slightly more oomph then the U.S. Accord's 268 hp and 248 lb-ft torque. The Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) system allows anywhere from all six cylinders to fire or as little as four, or three, depending upon driving conditions. Do the math-this translates into either a 2.3L inline-four or a 1.3L three-banger.
The differences between the Inspire and our Accord do not lie up front. The HID headlamps and unique grille remain but the rear is slightly different with an altered tail lamp configuration and that's about it.
But back to the VCM, which is what makes the J35A so interesting in the first place. Six cylinders remain active during startup and while accelerating. Then a couple of cylinders drop off during high speeds or when accelerating moderately. Finally, three cylinders are cut off completely while cruising. The results are pretty darn good fuel economy without any power losses when it counts-at wide-open throttle. Since the system automatically closes the unused cylinders' valves, intake and exhaust pumping losses are eliminated too, giving the mpg boost. Cylinders are deactivated via VTEC, which closes the intake and exhaust valves while the ECU cuts fuel. The rear cylinder bank shuts down during three-cylinder mode. Only the front bank's left and center cylinders and the rear bank's right and center cylinders operate during four-cylinder mode. The spark plugs don't stop firing though, which helps minimize plug temperature losses and fouling caused by incomplete combustion during cylinder re-activation. The system adjusts ignition timing, drive-by-wire throttle position and torque converter lock-up to ease transitions between six-, four- and three-cylinder modes. Clever.
There's a new guy over at Honda Racing's F1 team. Ross Brown, of team Ferrari notoriety, took the helm at Honda late last November where he'll serve as team principal. Ross' appointment follows a period of strengthening across the entire team including aerodynamicists, designers, engineers and those on the race team. The job isn't a light one. Ross will assume responsibilities for the design, manufacturing, engineering and racing departments.
Not familiar with Ross? The 30-year motorsport's veteran helped secure six Constructors' Championship titles in a row during his 10-year Ferrari stint as technical director. Prior to employment with the Italian supercar team Ross filled the same shoes but for Benetton's F1 team, securing back-to-back World Drivers' Championships in 1994 and 1995 and he helped take the Constructors' Championship.
Rally Prepped Civic?
JAS Motorsport's Civic Type R R3 rally effort came out ahead at its gravel debut last November, despite an off for former Junior World Champion Dani Sol on the first day and a punctured tire the second. Yes, the CTR has proven itself on asphalt but gravel appeared to be a whole new challenge for the boys across the pond.
Britain arguably has the toughest gravel of the entire World Rally Championship-bad weather and altering levels of grip give it its reputation, all of which make the CTR all the more impressive given its maiden race took place in Wales. The CTR demonstrated mechanical reliability to be expected from a Honda, pacing itself within two seconds per kilometer of even the AWD Super 2000s of the 121-car field. Impressive, to say the least. It finished 25th overall and won the A7 class. Keep in mind, after all, the CTR's two-wheel-drive configuration remains and it is, indeed, the first Group A two-wheel-drive, class-winning A7 car ever. The CTR has been built to the latest FIA regulations that will come into force next year as a template for the future of world rallying and is powered jointly by JAS Motorsport and Mugen.
Oh yeah. Wanna rally? Stefano Fini, the technical director at JAS, says that the new R3 is now on sale for customers. The R3 is about as close to a turnkey rally solution as you'll ever get. Gravel sold separately.
Ings co., LTD, maker of Fit, Civic, Integra, RSX and S2000 body cladding and interior bits, has just recently opened its official USA office in Southern California. The official ings USA facility was established to better serve the North American market by stocking product for faster availability and offering direct customer support for retail and wholesale inquiries of all JDM ings products. Contact ings for information regarding the company's body kit and wheel lineup at:www.ingsusa-net.com.
Look out for Honda's latest Pilot iteration, or at least a could-be version of it. A next-generation prototype is scheduled for unveiling shortly at the Jan. 2008 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, which by the time you read this would have already happened. The Pilot prototype looks to be a step in a slightly different direction for Honda with more SUV cues then before and a more brazen appearance. There's little more to say about it other then that we expect to see a bump in engine size and horsepower here as Honda is seemingly taking on the likes of the current sport utility greats such as Ford and GM. Yeah, this is just a sketch but if this rendering is anything like what Honda gave us with last year's tease of the Accord coupe, we're thinking this isn't too far off from the real thing. The current Pilot offers eight-passenger seating, a 244hp, 3.5-liter V-6 and medium-duty, off-road capabilities. If the prototype is any indication, we're guessing improvements in each area.
The company behind one of the largest automotive repair, maintenance and customizing manuals, Haynes, has unveiled its new consumer website (www.haynes.com), which is said to be the do-it-yourselfer's ultimate resource. Haynes' site offers time-saving tips and info like video downloads with repair topics from the pros, message boards catering to the DIYer with special Haynes technical representative access and a "live garage cam" that gives consumers an inside look at how Haynes' manuals are put together.
In case you didn't know, all Haynes manuals are written based off hands-on vehicle teardowns, allowing for just about the most complete documentation you'll find this side of an OEM manual. Haynes offers over 450 manuals in the U.S., some of which are sure to apply to the Honda name. Now get to work!
Civic SE+, What?
That's right, the Europeans get another Civic variant this time dubbed the SE+, which, interestingly enough, is just a mild improvement when compared to the S or regular SE. Were not even sure it's worth the +. Outside it isn't a whole lot different then what they've already got-16-inch wheels, color-matched pieces including the spoiler and skirts and its metallic-looking Vivid Blue or Alabaster Silver paint are about all that separates other Civics from the SE+. The SE+ is even equipped with the1.4 i-DSI (intelligent dual and sequential ignition) powerplant, which is worth talking about. The i-DSi is a twin-spark ignition system that uses just two valves per cylinder. It's highly efficient, reducing fuel consumption and emissions yet skimpy when it comes to power. Each cylinder's two plugs fire at different times making sure the mixture completely burns, despite the conditions. At low engine speeds the spark nearest the inlet valve fires earlier than typical while the plug nearest the exhaust valve fires later. At higher engine speeds they fire simultaneously. The benefits? Cylinder pressures increase as fuel burns allowing higher than conventional compression ratios without causing knock. It's like VTEC for spark plugs. Only 1,000 SE+ Civics will be made.
The 100,000 Mile Club
100K: That's the number of miles it takes to drive around the equator's circumference, four times. That's the number of miles you've got to hit to be a part of Honda's new "Honda Mile Makers" website. Honda's new Internet club forum remains exclusive to such owners and is a place where they can share unique stories, post vehicle photos and read about other high-mileage Honda success stories.
The most impressive post so far? An independent contractor from Las Vegas who drives his Civic Hybrid 10,000 miles a month. He's logged 595,000 miles to date. A Los Angeles EF CRX owner has posted an almost as impressive 400,000 miles-that's 16 trips around the globe. Honda's Mile Makers website can be found at www.automobiles.honda.com/mile-makers.
Honda's Marysville Ohio-based plant celebrated 25 years worth of operation last November. Just so you know, the U.S.-based Japanese auto plant was the first of its kind, setting up roots in America before Nissan, Mitsubishi and even Toyota. The Ohio plant marked a milestone for the auto industry, allowing Honda to gain its leadership position early on. Although, don't think that the plant's 5,300 hard-working employees took the day off to celebrate. No, more than 1,800 cars were churned out that day, bringing the plant one car closer to its 9-millionth production car target hit later that month. Another Honda milestone.
The Ohio plant was the first to spawn the eighth-generation Accord. Incidentally, the Accord was the plant's first vehicle and remains the plant's core product. The U.S. is the most important market for the Accord by far, with sales of more than 300,000 units through Sept. 2007, all of which were mostly built in Ohio. Nearly 80 percent of all Honda and Acura vehicles sold in America are built at one of Honda's six North American auto plants. Now you know.