Why We're Glad the 2013 Honda CR-Z Mugen RZ Isn't Coming Stateside
Honda announced earlier this week that it was bringing a tuned version of it's sporty hybrid, the Honda CR-Z , to market. The tuning, done by Honda's version of AMG; Mugen, features a host of performance and cosmetic upgrades. In typical Mugen form there's a a gigantic rear spoiler, a coil-over suspension to ensure the ride is rock hard, and a weight savings of exactly zero. There is the generous addition of 20 horsepower to the standard CR-Z's anemic 136. It's really typical Mugen- adding expensive parts to a car that could really do without. Which is why we were very happy to hear that the CR-Z Mugen RZ is not coming to the United States and will be a Japan only model. Because it's target customer would be a Honda fanboy and a smug environmentalist, which is possibly the last person on earth you would ever invite to dinner. Full disclosure: I used to drive a 2008 Honda Civic Si. It was fun. Every car company has it's fanboys. They can be some of the most annoying people on the planet. But you could (and they will) argue that they're fanaticism is based on some redeeming trait of the cars they love. For example BMWs are pretty nice cars. BMW enthusiasts will argue that no other car company offers as much speed, luxury and technology on four wheels. Mustangs, despite appalling build quality up until 2005, have loyal fans who state that cheap performance and an awesome sounding V8 makes build quality irrelevant. Saab owners, who know Saab builds airplanes, will argue that questionable reliability and monstrous torque steer are quirky and interesting. What boggles my mind are Honda fans, in particular Mugen fans. Like the disclosure says I owned a 2008 Honda Civic Si for sometime. It was nice, reliable and handled better than any four door car in that price range. It had a limited slip differential up front, a six speed with ridiculously short throws, and an engine that loved to be revved. And man did I rev the living crap out of that little 2.0 liter. I liked it even more after I bought springs, sway bars, and a full exhaust (I hated my neighbors anyway). It was by no means fast, but I was only pulled over once the entire time I owned it. That's a win in my book. Being the kind of enthusiast I am I was active on the Honda forums, and even went to a few meets. Some of the guys were really cool, offering to help me install parts and provided tips on how to handle small problems that come with owning any car. Others were idiots robbing people and then posting the parts in the for sale section of the forum two days later. While others were just arrogant pricks. These were guys who drove the Mugen Si.
While I could understand the arrogance of a BMW or Porsche owner, the arrogance surrounding the Mugen Si still irks me to this day. Have you ever tried to have a friendly conversation with someone who is so arrogant, so incredibly stupid and flat out boring at the same time? It's beyond frustrating. It's like trying to reason with a small child. Or better yet, trying to talk to a non-native speaker who's convinced that the way you speak is the reason why he can't understand you.
The Mugen Si was the "coolest" Si you could buy. The guys who bought them cherished these cars, swearing that they were the holy grail and that they would one day become collectible. Some of them never drove their cars except on sunny weekends when the weather was perfect or the humidty was just right. Others parked them once it started to snow. Keep in mind the Mugen was powered by the standard 197 horsepower motor that came on all 2007-2011 Civic Si's.Not only were these guys idiots, they were pretentious assholes.
Similar to the Mugen CR-Z RZ, the Mugen Si came in a special shade of blue. Admittedly the blue is really nice in person. Funny thing is it was also available on the standard Si, Honda called it Fiji Blue Pearl. The Mugen Si also came with "special" 17x7 in. Mugen GP wheels, suspension, exhaust and perhaps one of the ugliest body kits I've ever seen. It featured a front lip, a gigantic rear spoiler and and a rear diffuser to help manage air flow underneath the car and increase stability at the cars blistering top speed of 130 mph.
Which is what is most annoying about Mugen. They actually race cars and sell the parts engineered for their race cars to the public, albeit at outrageous prices. But when it comes to actually putting together a complete car to sell in dealerships it's usually an incredibly expensive, riced out econobox. That's not to say they aren't good cars. The Honda Civic Si Mugen RR remains one of my favorite Honda's of all time, after the NSX...and the Integra...and the CR-X...and the RSX.
Jeremy Clarkson drove the first iteration of the Mugen CR-Z and he liked it. It's a good car and proves that the tuning will still have a place in car culture going forward. Which is to say that it is still stupid.
Tuning a hybrid, like any other econobox, is ultimately a waste of time. A hybrid is supposed to be effeicient and frugal,why the hell would you want a car with a gigantic rear spoiler (increase drag), sticky tires (increase rolling resistance), extra power (increased fuel consumption), and a booming exhaust (sound pollution)? Why not just buy a cheap sports car and put a V8 in it?
Why try so hard to tune a car in an attempt to turn into something it was never meant to be? The Civic Si isn't a cool car and neither is the CR-Z, they're efficient, sometimes sporty, but always reliable transport. Why ruin it with a gigantic rear spoiler and a bloated price tag?