Honda invited us to its Southern California North American headquarters last week to take a spin in a very special CR-Z – one modified with a full complement of Honda Performance Development (HPD) components. While the company has been racing with HPD parts for years, this is the first time the automaker has offered them for its street-legal vehicles, and it has chosen this year's SEMA Show in Las Vegas to be the launch venue. Last year, Honda introduced the HPD Supercharged CR-Z Concept at SEMA – this is the slightly modified production version.

The complete transformation gives the normally placid hybrid hatchback a serious shot of adrenaline thanks to a bolt-on supercharger combined with suspension, tire, brake and exhaust upgrades. In addition to the blower (detailed in a bullet point below), new HPD suspension components lower the car by about half an inch, and firmer spring rates stiffen the ride. Stock 16- or 17-inch wheels are then replaced with HPD 18-inch alloys wrapped in sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires (215/40ZR18 at all corners). The clutch is upgraded, a limited-slip differential is installed and new HPD monobloc four-piston calipers are fitted over slotted and ventilated iron rotors up front (the single-pistons over solid discs on the back axle are unchanged). In the rear, the stock hidden single exhaust pipe is replaced by a free-flow twin-tip exhaust that peers out of a new HPD lower diffuser. Other cosmetic enhancements include an HPD front lip spoiler, rear deck lid spoiler and an HPD emblem kit for each side. To say the CR-Z is transformed by the complete HPD package is an understatement.

Driving Notes
  • Face-to-face with the gussied-up CR-Z, I found most of the enhancements stylish and clean. The design benefits from the new sporty duds and the overall appearance gains some much-needed masculinity in the metamorphosis. The finned rear fascia and bright exhaust are well done, but the rear spoiler set high on the decklid appears too tacked-on for my tastes. I would also skip the silver stickers on the doors, as they are a bit garish. The ten-spoke wheels and high-performance tires look great and the slightly lower ride compliments the look. Overall, the red test car made a statement that going green doesn't have to be boring.
  • While the stock hybrid CR-Z relies on a naturally aspirated 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a 15-kW electric motor for a combined output of 130 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque, the supercharger (providing up to 9 psi of pressure) boosts total output to 190 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque - that's assuming the 'Sport' button is pressed. (The supercharger kit goes on sale later, in Spring 2014, so Honda has not released pricing yet.)
  • The standard CR-Z will burst through the 60-mile-per-hour barrier in about 9.5 seconds from a standstill, which is slower than most of today's minivans. But thanks to the blower adding an additional 53 horsepower to the mix, two full seconds are shaved off the benchmark sprint. Lethargic is replaced with spirited, and the Honda zips around with a newfound youthful demeanor. It is unquestionably fun to drive, and it quickly put a smile on my face.
  • The new exhaust pipes provide a slightly more aggressive audible soundtrack, and - sit down for this one - the fuel economy actually improves a point in the highway cycle as the newfound low end torque means the engine doesn't have to work as hard (Honda and the EPA are still working on the official numbers).
  • This wasn't a racing circuit exercise, so I wasn't able to push the suspension and brakes to their limits, but zooming around crowded Torrance, CA did give me a decent sense of how the platform has been configured. The suspension is firm, but far from abusive, and it seemed to work well with the stickier rubber to provide much better initial-turn in and grip in the corners. The supercharger and associated hardware add a little bit more weight to the nose (figure 60 percent of the mass is sitting on the front wheels), but I pushed the hybrid hard around a circular onramp and it held firmly without annoying understeer. The brakes also felt more than up to the task of spirited street driving, but the pedal feel doesn't inspire - blame the regenerative braking system for getting in the way.
  • My red test car was loaded with everything, including the $60 decal kit, which is a configuration I suspect very few customers will duplicate when you consider that the kit, minus the blower, costs at minimum $6,500 in components alone - the centrifugal supercharger and installation is extra. The automaker says that most of the components will fit all 2011-2014 CR-Z models, and the pieces and parts are offered a la carte through your dealer. And, since Honda promotes its HPD components as "track proven and street reliable," the company will stand behind them with a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty on the parts, and the supercharger meets LEV II SULEV requirements.
  • I found the modified hatchback a talented little two-seater, yet I couldn't overlook the donor vehicle's shortcomings - the cabin of the CR-Z is loud, frustratingly lacks two-plus-two seating and rearward visibility is dismal - once I added up the price. But instead of listing competing alternatives for the same money, of which there are several, I will consider the HPD CR-Z a solid proof of concept that will lead to a slew of HPD-modified Hondas down the road.
  • Tweaking a hybrid is an interesting strategy, and while it's certainly engaging to drive, most of my fellow enthusiasts would much rather see factory-supported HPD components offered to the public for a racy street-legal Civic Si - we likely won't have to wait very long.
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HPD Unveils Street Performance Products At 2013 SEMA Show

LAS VEGAS (November 5, 2013) – Long a fixture at race circuits around the world, Honda Performance Development, the racing arm of American Honda Motor Co., Inc., will now be offering a new range of HPD Street Performance products, starting with the Honda CR-Z sport hybrid coupe.

Two Honda passenger cars featuring HPD Street Performance products are on display at the 2013 Specialty Equipment Market Association Show in Las Vegas, along with an HPD Civic Si Coupe raced in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge by the Honda of America Racing Team (HART):

- The 2014 HPD Supercharged CR-Z (http://automobiles.honda.com/cr-z/hpd.aspx) features a variety of track-proven, street-reliable performance upgrades on sale today at U.S. Honda dealers nationwide. HPD-developed powertrain modifications – tested on-track at the 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb – include a high-efficiency centrifugal supercharger (available Spring 2014); HPD air-to-air intercooler; high-flow fuel injectors; an ECU calibrated to meet CART AT-PZEV regulations with 91 octane fuel; HPD air filter system; and HPD sport exhaust. Chassis improvements include HPD sport dampers, coil springs with reduced ride height, 300mm diameter disc brakes and HPD 18-inch wheels fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport tires. The CR-Z is completed by a graphics package including front lip and tail spoilers, rear diffuser and HPD badge.

- The new 2014 HPD Honda Civic Street Performance Concept is equipped with HPD racing performance parts and street wrap. Modifications include HPD's "Big Brake" kit, HPD performance springs, HPD 25.4mm rear anti-roll bar, HPD 18-inch wheels, and a K24Z7 racing engine. While just a concept, this vehicle offers a glimpse at potential future street performance accessories developed from HPD racing experience.

- Rounding out the HPD display at SEMA is the HPD Honda Civic Si Race Car, as campaigned by HART the CTSCC Street Tuner category. The Civic is fitted with competition equipment developed at HPD, including a sealed K24Z7 racing engine; HPD cold air intake; Accusump oil pressure accumulator; HPD stainless steel exhaust header; and HPD suspension parts including camber plates, suspension bushings, brake rotors and adjustable rear anti-roll bar. The Honda Civic Si is eligible for a variety of series, including Sports Car Club of America, International Motor Sports Association, Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs and National Auto Sport Association racing.

"'Performance' is in our name, and is part of everything we do at HPD, from our kart programs through our grass roots motorsports amateur racing efforts, all the way through our participation in endurance sports car racing and Indy cars" said Art St. Cyr, HPD president.

"Now, with our line of HPD Street Performance products, we're excited to be bringing the same innovation that has driven two decades of success on track to the street, for everyone who desires to enhance an already excellent Honda vehicle with proven performance products, without sacrificing the reliability that comes with the Honda name."

Veteran Indy car driver Graham Rahal will serve as HPD's SEMA Social Media Correspondent. Long associated with both Honda and HPD through the family's race team and Honda dealership, Rahal has detailed knowledge of Honda's success in motorsports and commitment to the enthusiast market.

For more information about HPD and the company's Street Performance products, please visit http://hpd.honda.com/street-performance.

About Honda Performance Development

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, HPD was founded in 1993 as the performance arm of American Honda, to spearhead the company's entry into Indy car racing. No other manufacturer has matched Honda's success in Indy cars, including 204 race victories, 15 drivers' championships, six manufacturers' championships and nine consecutive Indianapolis 500 victories. In 2013, Honda powered veteran Scott Dixon to four race wins and the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series championship; and Tristan Vautier to series Rookie of the Year honors.

HPD's prototype racing efforts have recorded more than 60 victories and multiple American Le Mans Series championships. The company's first outing in 2007 at the 12 Hours of Sebring marked the first win for HPD's LM-V8 engine; and, the first for a Honda racing engine designed and developed outside of Japan. HPD won the LMP2 title in the inaugural 2012 World Endurance Championship and has twice won the LMP2 category at the 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2010. In 2013, HPD and Honda again swept the LMP1 and LMP2 manufacturers', engine, team and drivers' championships in the American Le Mans Series; while HPD-equipped Strakka Racing claimed the LMP1 class win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for private team entries.

HPD participates in competition on both two wheels and four. The company offers a complete line of race engines for cars from grass roots to pinnacle; for professional, amateur and entry-level racers. And now, provides "fun-to-drive" products for your garage.

Pricing:

HPD Front Brake Kit $2,100.00
HPD Sport Exhaust (1) $1400.00
HPD Rear Diffuser (1) $400.00
HPD Sport Suspension $1,550.00
HPD 18-Inch Alloy Wheel $315.00
Michelin Tire (215/40/ZR18) See Dealer
CR-Z Door Sticker, Right $30.00
CR-Z Door Sticker, Left $30.00
Decklid Spoiler $430.00
Front Under Spoiler (2011–12 models only) $280.00