With common oxymorons like the "The Enthusiast's Hybrid" and "Eco Sports" flying around the Internet, and with the media introducing the CR-Z, I have to say that I was not overly-eager about the CR-Z at all. Come on, how can an enthusiast enjoy a hybrid? You are an enthusiast because you enjoy cars, not your mileage. To me, this was an attempt to hoax sports car buyers into owning a hybrid when the reality of it all is that Honda just doesn't make sports cars like they used to. Honda is out of F1, the HSV project was canned before it even launched, the S2000 ceased production and the JDM Civic Type R just rolled out its last unit off the production line. There is no doubt that there is history in the Honda name but was the hybrid hatchback about to take on the entire sports segment of Honda? Really?
Whether you are an enthusiast or not, many people did not share my skeptical opinion because Honda sold 10,000 units of these things in the first month, which is like triple their target figures. Whoever said listening to my opinion was a good idea anyway? To top it off, Honda tuners all across Japan took up the CR-Z as the next generation of sports cars to tune and were all coming out with new aftermarket products to soup it up. Spoon, one of our favorite Honda tuners, was no exception as they had their hands on a vehicle prior to the official release date and offered parts the same day the car was offered in dealerships. Once again, I hit up their president, Tatsuru Ichishima at their shop in Ogikubo, Tokyo to talk to him about his ideas on the CR-Z.
Super Street: What do you think is the reason for this initial hit of 10,000 units in a month in Japan?
Tatsuru Ichishima: Why? It's simple. The car was something people were subconsciously longing for. It's sophisticated, sporty, saves gas, nicely designed, cute and is very "Honda".
SS: Do you think the CR-Z will do well overseas as well?
TI: Yes, most definitely it will be a very successful car. The key is that Honda sold those units with very little promotion. They hit the market demand right on the spot. Sometimes you need to convince people to buy a product. But this time, consumers sought out this car. It was in demand and no one had thought about meeting that demand until the CR-Z.
SS: The CR-Z is the first manual transmission hybrid. Can sports driving be accomplished with a hybrid system?
TI: Whether it's a hybrid or engine vehicle, as long as humans are driving it, it should be the same. If we can hear a V12 motor from the audio system, would that really make the driver happy?! (laughs)
SS: What is Honda and Spoon's strategy towards this car?
TI: Honda's official comment is to start from zero, hence the "Z". In other words, when they looked at their lineup, they really did not see a car that they in fact wanted to drive. A cool car with good mileage that is also sporty and practical. Was that impossible? They thought it was, so they made one. Spoon merely enhances that experience by providing parts and services to bring out the best of the base car.
SS: Tell us what some of the pros and cons of the CR-Z are as far as a base for tuning.
TI: First of all, it's a pretty light car, despite it being a hybrid. The natural ability of the car is exceptional and also the suspension geometry is very well suited for sports alignment. We believe we can get the horsepower up to about 150hp without damaging results. Already the Spoon CR-Z does the quarter-mile in the 15-second range.
SS: What kind of parts do you offer for the CR-Z?
TI: We will offer a full range of products, just like any application we take on. Aero, suspension, engine tuning, intake/exhaust, drivetrain and more for anyone who is serious about racing the CR-Z, or someone who just wants to enjoy sports driving. The CR-Z is naturally an oversteerer, but with Spoon's suspension and our new subframe rigid collars, the handling improves and the ride becomes much smoother. Our subframe rigid collars are a new concept and patented product we just released and it is being accepted very well. We offer our subframe rigid collars for all kinds of cars and are not limited to Hondas. That's a first for us.
SS: Wow, Spoon making parts for Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi? Why now?
TI: That's right, but only this subframe rigid collar though. It's such a small compatible product that we decided to offer it for other makes. It's compatible because it's basically like a washer that you squeeze shut between the suspension and subframe. Usually this part moves around and causes uneven movements of the chassis. But by stabilizing this point, the chassis becomes rigid and results in a very smooth ride.
SS: Spoon has always been involved with racing. Will you enter any races with the CR-Z?
TI: Of course. Spoon will enter the Super Taikyu Series this year and the NASA 25 hours endurance race in the US again. We have been competing in the 25-hour race for many years and last December we entered the Civic Type R.
SS: You've raced with many people in the past all over the world. How is racing in the NASA 25 hours like compared to the other races?
TI: In my last race in December, Playstation 3 Gran Turismo producer, Kaz Yamauchi, who is good friend of mine, joined us for his first ever 25 hours race. I have known him for a long time but it was the first time I really saw his driving. I knew Kaz was a good driver but I didn't know he was that good. I guess all of that time he spends in front of the driving simulator really pays off. The race itself is a very exciting, long race with many challenges, but we managed to finish the race in one piece. Our hybrid CR-Z racer will be done by this year's race and NASA has a hybrid class in which our CR-Z will compete in. Our foremost goal will be to finish the race but we will also be aiming for the podium this time.
2010 Honda CR-Z (ZF1)
Owner Spoon Sports
Hometown Ogikubo, Japan
Occupation honda tuning specialist
LEA-ME6; Spoon Sports baffled oil pan, magnetic drain bolt, heat barrier tape, big thottle-body assembly, thermostat, oil filler cap, engine torque damper kit, racing sparkplugs, radiator cap, 4-1 exhaust manifold, N1-type exhaust
Spoon Sports limited-slip differential, cross gear set and final gear set
Spoon Sports ECU
Footwork & Chassis
Spoon Sports subframe rigid collar kit, steering gearbox rigid bushing kit, damper kit with springs
Spoon Sports front/rear brake pads, brake reservoir covers and brake lines
Wheels & Tires
Spoon Racing C93 wheels; Bridgestone Potenza RE-11 (front) and RE11S RS (rear) tires and lug nuts
Spoon Sports carbon hood and side mirrors
Spoon Sports carbon bucket seats and steering wheel