A Faster Pregnant Civic First off, let's get this out of the way. We have not become some sort of wimpy publication with a soft cottage cheese butt. We don't really care about cargo space, cup holders, or powdercoated brushguards. We still curse the day Nissan announced it would stop importing the 240SX. And we only watch reruns of Matlock when there is nothing else on. That said, how has another Honda CR-V squeezed its way into the semi-rarefied pages of Super Street?
Answer: Mugen. Yep, the Japanese parts manufacturer from Japan that's dedicated to improving Hondas and Acuras. Talk to Honda enthusiasts here in the States and you will hear Mugen (pronounced moo-gen) obtain praise worthy of the Pope. Maybe even more. But they will also tell you that Mugen parts are very expensive.
So when we saw this King Motorsports CR-V at 1998's SEMA show, we figured it was our negative-paycheck duty to drive it and see just how much the magic of Mugen could work on Honda's only true entry into the SUV market (the Passport is built by Isuzu). King Motorsports the exclusive importer of Mugen parts in America, and it decided to build up this '98 CR-V LX to showcase available parts.
Before our time with the Honda, we were hoping that these Mugen parts would address some standard deficiencies. The biggest gripe about CR-Vs has always been the lack of power. Back in 1997, Honda introduced the Civic-based CR-V with a 2.0L engine. Tuned to provide useful power lower in the rev band, it produced 126 hp at 5,400 rpm and 130 lb-ft at 4,300 rpm. However, the only available transmission was an automatic. In its July '97 issue, Motor Trend reported a lethargic 0-60 time of 11.7 seconds. Listening to its customers, Honda offered a five-speed manual transmission in 1998. This helped, but 0-60 times were still above 10 seconds. So for this year, Honda has bumped the compression ratio and revised the intake and exhaust for an additional 20 hp.
Being a '98 version, the King Motorsports CR-V lacks the bonus '99 factory horsepower. But it does have some serious engine parts. Exhaust gases are now routed through a Mugen header and exhaust system. There is also a ported and polished cylinder head, lightweight valves, a larger throttle body, 10:1 compression, billet cam a lightweight flywheel. King says horsepower is 134 at the wheels. Underneath, the CR-V wears Mugen high-performance springs, shocks, top-mount bushings, and antiroll bars. The Mugen body kit includes side skirts, a rear valance, and a chin equal to Jay Leno's. There's also a molded spare tire carrier instead of the factory soft cover. The 16x7-inch MF10 wheels are shod with 225/50R16 Bridgestone Potenza S02 tires. The only interior change is a blue Mugen shift knob.
All of the changes worked as advertised. Acceleration was noticeably better than that of the last CR-V we had. While the only testing equipment available was a Tesla Electronics G-Tech Pro, three averaged 0-60 runs netted us a time of 8.7 seconds. This compares nicely to a '99 CR-V's time of 8.6 seconds. Replacing the stock 205/70R15 tires with the Potenza S02 tires also had a major effect on grip. We hammered the CR-V on curvy mountain roads normally traveled by Honda CBRs and Kawasaki ZX-9s. We were reserved at first, worried about the CR-V's normally tipsy nature. But with the Mugen springs and shocks and factory 53/47 percent front/rear weight distribution, it stayed firmly planted to the pavement. At one point during this abuse, one of our editors distinctly recalls blurting, "This thing rocks!" That's something not normally said in the confines of a CR-V, boys and girls.
Back in the real world, however, things were not as positive. As you would expect a car to be with stiffer springs and shocks, the CR-V is much less apt at soaking up bumps. On broken pavement, it felt like, well, a lowered Civic. This seems to detract from a CR-V's primary mission: traveling around town, comfortably hauling kids and soccer balls.
Every Mugen part worked as it was intended. The engine parts increased performance. Handling-wise, the CR-V can outperform a stock Integra GS-R. King's creation is commendable. But based on the fact that most Americans buy CR-Vs as plebian transportation, the use of Mugen parts is not for everyone. Mugen parts on a Civic Si; now that's more like it.
Inside Track I like Mugen. I like CRVs. What I don't like is Mugen and CRV in the same sentence. True, sporting the equipment and logos of one of the most popular engine tuners to emerge from Japan is cool, but not necessary for everyday usage. I want to go camping and drop my little brother off at school with a CRV and not worry about getting it keyed or stolen the moment I turn my back. The Mugen exhaust delivers a raspier tone, while the stiffer springs and shocks offer greater handling characteristics than stock. Although the definition of Mugen is "no limit," King should have some restraints and keep its focus on Civics and Integras, not sport/utility. -JW
One thing is certain: You know the Mugen CR-V when you see it. The company stamps its name on it in its design as much as Honda. With the heavy-duty body kit, it looks much more threatening than stock. And the closest thing to an urban assault vehicle you can get with the H tag on it. The motor kicks out more horsepower. It's faster, but what this thing still needs to realize its full potential is a supercharger. -RC
The Mugen/King Motorsports CR-V is rolling proof that you can make any vehicle stand out-if you use genuine Mugen parts and accessories. Anything and everything you would ever need to make your CR-V look good and go faster is available from King/Mugen. Our short time in the Mugen CR-V proved that the pregnant Civic has what it takes to turn heads on the street. Cruising around L.A., we attracted our fair share of stares from Civic and Integra owners (and no matter what he thinks, it wasn't due to Brent's new haircut). We even had a stock CR-V owner looking at the Mugenmobile at a stoplight long enough for him to receive a horn blast from an impatient L.A. motorist trapped behind him. The Mugen CR-V also seemed to out-perform its stock brethren thanks to the engine mods that King put in place. We have yet to drive a '99 CR-V that has the more powerful engine, but in our opinion this Mugen-powered sample will serve nicely. Don't expect Type R power, but if you're looking to take your CR-V to the next level, give the folks at King a call.