This article is part of an IEEE Spectrum special report: Top 10 Tech Cars of 2010.
To wealthy environmentalists, hybrid cars have always been more than transportation: They are a roving statement of their convictions. Sadly for such drivers, though, the only mainstream hybrids available in North America are dowdy family cars and boxy SUVs. Anyone wanting a hybrid with more pizzazz has been out of luck. That’s about to change.
For the 2011 model year, Honda will be offering a hybrid sports car, the CR-Z. The car is modeled in both name and styling after Honda’s diminutive sports coupe of two decades ago, the CR-X, which was celebrated for phenomenal fuel economy.
Naysayers disparage the Environmental Protection Agency’s disappointing mileage projections for the CR-Z—31-city and 37 highway miles per gallon (7.6 and 6.4 liters per 100 kilometers, respectively) for the standard-transmission version. But they should note that drivers of Honda’s new Insight hybrid can easily beat the EPA’s fuel economy rating around town by about a factor of two. So it remains to be seen what kind of mileage careful drivers will be able to eke out with a CR-Z in the real world.
Opting for the continuously variable transmission would help in that regard, because it is expected to provide an EPA-estimated 36 city and 38 highway mpg (6.5-and 6.2 L/100 km). But, come on now, what sports-car enthusiast is going to buy an automatic?
With the CR-Z, the driver selects one of three modes: sport, normal, or economy. The choice affects the setting of the car’s electric power steering, engine responsiveness, electric power assist, and air-conditioning -compressor, managing them so as to save gas to a greater or lesser degree. So the economy mode may provide very respectable fuel efficiency—and in a car that should have no problem impressing a date.
This article originally appeared in print as "Honda tunes its hybrid for power."
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