Archive for 2009|Yearly archive page

Honda CRZ Update

In Honda on February 27, 2009 at 5:05 pm

With Takeo Fukui now packing his pencils away and fellow engineer Takanobu Ito now readying himself to take the helm of the big Hall eyes will be on the company to see if they can regain some of their lost passion for sports models following the cancellation of the NSX and the postponement of the next generation S2000.

Apparently Mr Ito feels that future sports models are essential and integral to Honda’s future. 

The first new model to carry at least sporting pretensions that is set to arise from the new leaner Honda will be the much mooted CRZ.

Currently due to be launched at the beginning of next year, Honda plan to introduce the car as an exceptionally handling sporty car rather than a pure sports car as such.

Although some perhaps erroneous reports of late suggest the CRZ will be receiving a 1.8 litre engine, it still appears more likely that the car is going to launch with a tuned version of the Insight’s 1.3 litre VTEC connected to the same IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system to complete its hybrid credentials.  With the combined power of the engine and motor, the CRZ should be able to output 120 ps.  

Speculation is rife that the CRZ wil only weigh 1100kg which these days is pretty trim.  Honda hope that the light weight will help the car to achieve sprightly performance whilst still making 30 km/l fuel efficiency.

Honda are set to build the car on the same basic platform as the Insight however the CRZ will be both shorter and wider.

Another note of interest is that the worlds first potential drivers hybrid is now thought likely to be released with its old namesake of CRX instead of the development code CRZ in order to truly show its spiritual link to the legendary 80’s predecessor.

Honda’s mini sports hybrid is expected to go on sale at between 2 to 2.5 million JPY bringing it in line with current Insight pricing.

Sounds rather promising but here’s hoping that the rumours of a bigger more powerful 1.8 litre unit serve true to really give the car the balls it will need to compete against Europe’s finest.


Honda CR-Z

Honda CR-Z


Honda Nsx Memorial

In Honda on February 11, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Honda now resigns itself to surviving the utter crapness of today by flogging cheap hybrids and some other rather bland cars (for the enthusiast, you understand) in their current line up just to keep the company afloat.

Ironically Honda were on the brink of unleashing onto the world probably the fastest normalish sports car ever seen, by normalish i mean to discount silly irrelevant cars that any manufacturer with the cash and will could produce because the buyer has to pay as much as a private jet to own one, a Bugatti Veyron for example.

As everybody knows, Honda’s supercar prototype was cancelled abruptly.

Although Honda have now ruled the car out for the foreseeable future it is worth knowing a few things about what a stunning proposition the new NSX was.

Firstly and sadly it was not going to be cheap, over 20 million JPY was mooted which would have sat it nicely between the Nissan G-TR Spec V and the still confirmed Lexus L-FA.

Weighing in at only 1600 kg and featuring a 90 degree angle,550 ps, v10 front engine connected to a 4×4 chassis it would have been no tortoise. 

Indeed Honda reputedly posted a Nurburgring lap time of under 7 min 20 seconds and at a November 2008 official but secret test session at Suzuka Circuit unceremoniously pulled both Porsche’s 911 and Ferrari’s 430 pants down in quick succession.

The car was apparently almost production ready and it’s hard to believe that Honda have now just stuck the design up one of their engineer’s arses.  If they did, they surely used a little Colombian inspiration and at least put it in an XL condom.

When and if Obama goes nuts like his predecessor and decides to invade Canada, Honda will be donning the white gloves and putting a call through to that engineer no doubt.

Honda Insight

In Honda on February 9, 2009 at 6:30 pm

It finally arrived.

The new Honda Insight made its Japanese sales debut last week.

Honda’s hugely anticipated Eco warrior is now available to sit in, stroke, tyre kick, suspension push or even buy at showrooms across the country.

The little hybrid was widely reported on for months so we all know that it features a 1.3 litre Vtec engine matched to a nickel metal hybride battery in similar style a current Prius.

This results in a very impressive 30km/l which will certainly be less than the upcoming Prius 2 but then that car will be considerably more expensive than the lead in 1,890,000 JPY for the Insight.

A way that Honda has been able to keep the cost of the car down is by utilising basic parts from other existing models.

The insight receives an unremarkable CVT automatic transmission already employed on other lines

Except an exceptionally aerodynamic body and some paddle shifters mounted behind the steering wheel for when you’re feeling a bit frisky, the Insight doesn’t seem to differ tremendously from Honda’s previous hybrid Civic sedan which already featured their IMA battery.

What does warrant mention though are some of the useful and sometimes hilarious eco assist technologies that come as standard.

With the touch of a button you are able to engage ECON mode that rather cleverly adjusts engine output, extends the duration of idle stop, increases regenerative charging during deceleration and achieves energy saving control of the air conditioning.

The  guidance function assesses driving style for fuel efficiency and changes the colour of the speedometer display accordingly.  Presumably green when you’re driving like Jesus would and red for when you drive like a dickhead.  Worst of all is that all your passengers including the dreaded pots and pans will be able to comment on your hybridness.

The best bit is the scoring function.

An information display shows a score in which the number of leaves displayed indicates the level of your cumulative fuel efficiency.

Apparently if you’re a complete twat you can access your personal score on the Internet to compare against other insighters.

it’s easy to imagine the scene.

After feeling pretty smug about the small forest that you’ve been nurturing on your instrument panel, you’ll be seeing red and preparing hate mail when you discover that you’ve been knocked down the order by user 941 from Kawasaki City whose got a fucking herd of deer running through his as well as some previously extinct flora and fauna making a comeback.

I thought that i might have bought one of these cars.


It’s cheap motoring and i really do care about the environment, honestly!!!!!

The concept looked stunning and i thought that it was something that it isn’t, a genuinely stylish alternative to a Prius.

I thought it was bigger.

I wanted to buy one to antagonise the weird hybrid despising militants in my home country.  Plans were already afoot to post pictures of me licking my Insight exhaust with my family around me clapping with huge smiles on our faces to various anti hybrid motoring forums.

I had visions of meeting up with other insighters drinking cabbage juice and telling tall tales of driving from Tokyo to Osaka for the same price as a box of surgical masks.

However Honda won’t be receiving my custom yet, largley because i haven’t got any money to give them but also because i found myself disappointed at the car.

With all of  Honda’s public scrimping they seem to have come out with a car that is no more upmarket than a current Fit model.

It seems that the increased price is to cover the hybrid tech only.

The design is neither particularly attractive or indeed ugly like most people.

No doubt though that it will sell well.  It is a very sensible buy and is perfect representation of Honda’s current mindset which is to produce cars that are cheap, fuel efficient, unpolarising and will turn a profit.

Good luck Honda.  You won’t need it.







Honda Insight

Honda Insight

Next Honda S2000

In Honda on January 30, 2009 at 5:42 pm

Honda must be a depressing place to work at the moment

The company is winding down production, people are losing their jobs and Honda is seemingly trying as hard as possible to turn themselves into the frumpiest of all Japanese manufacturers by axing everything that might make the company still appear to cling on to Soichiro Honda’s original dream of producing world class affordable or not sports cars as well as their bread and butter line.

This is a shame because up to now Honda has represented all that is arresting about Japanese Automotivity past, present and future.

They are without doubt the most passionate of all their domestic competitors  when it comes to engineering driving flair .

In Formula 1 Japanese fans were ecstatic to see Honda do well in their glory days and loyally supported them even in the non Japanese driver crap years of late.  Toyota has yet to carry or be able to garner the same interest in their largely more successful F1 campaigns of recent.

The company has now cancelled the NSX for the forseeable future and this week announced that production of the popular S2000 would complete in June of this year. 

Worst of all is that Honda have not announced any plans for an expected S2000 replacement or haven’t they?

According to Japanese media a possible spiritual replacement is still in the works and will make an appearance at the end of 2011 or early 2012 depending on market conditions.

The new car will feature another 4 cylinder 2 or 2.5 litre and may make use of a turbo or super charger (previously sacrilege in Honda sports cars).  A power increase is expected but Honda will utilise technlogy to improve petrol consumption ( diesel or hybrid is not being considered currently) such as a stop/start system and developing more efficient engine management.

Lay out is likely to assume a classic FR guise.

Heres hoping that Honda have another go at  it.  


Current Honda S2000

Current Honda S2000

GT-R SUV 2012?

In Nissan on January 26, 2009 at 5:03 pm

It seems that Nissan are determined to follow in Porsche’s footsteps with their GT-R brand. 

Both the upcoming 4 door GT-R and also an increasingly possible SUV version envisaged to Rival some of the premium cross-over vehicles from Europe, specifically the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X6 are still planned as of now.

Originally expected to make an appearance in 2010/2011 the 4 door version of Japan’s fastest ever sports car is now not anticipated until 2012 with the less secure SUV version to follow.   No need to tell you that the delay is as a result of the world not having any money at the moment and especially America which is the intended main market for both models.

Mechanically both cars are still predicted to use the same engine as the current GT-R super car although the 4 door in particular may receive something different.

New Lexus RX350

In Lexus on January 23, 2009 at 5:20 pm

Earlier this week Lexus launched its new RX model replacement in Tokyo.

Japan will receive both the RX350 and the RX450h hybrid model.

The RX350 gets a 3.5 litre V6 engine that produces a very reasonable 280 PS.

As expected the car is dripping with technology focused on fuel economy, safety and comfort as well as driving dynamics.

Making such a large and powerful SUV fuel efficient must be quite a challenge but Lexus have endeavoured to do so.

Most of these improvements are naturally focused on the RX450h but the RX350 achieves a figure of 9.7 km/l which is actually worse than the outgoing model (sold as a Toyota Harrier here) although largely irrelevant because the new car now has a much larger engine (3500 cc vs 2400 cc) with an incomparable power increase.  To put it straightly the RX350 is not very fuel efficient at all but probably about as good as it gets for such a large capacity petrol unit.

Lexus claim that the RX has emission levels 75% lower than the standard adopted by the government for low emissions vehicles.  With that knowledge in hand you might wonder what monster of a car would only just scrape through the approval process. 

The new car has apparently been manufactured using more environmentally friendly materials and most fascinatingly the company say it has reduced the volatile organic compounds (their words) used in some of the interior parts to reduce discomforting odours.  So if you are the owner of a festering stink bomb of a previous generation RX then know that you won’t have to suffer anymore cold winters with the windows open if you trade in now.

All a bit of a mystery to me.

Safety is enhanced by side monitors that enable the driver to avoid obstacles that may lie within the turning radius.   A pre-collision system that uses radar to predict a frontal impact works with a brake assist function and no less than 10 airbags (which is 8 more than my car) are fitted.

All this risk decreasing adds to the disconcerting evidence that if you can afford an expensive car you stand less chance of being injured or worse in a car crash although it is nice for some to know that they’re money is appreciated and that Toyota are taking care of their high value customers. 

The rest of us are just cannon fodder.

Fundamentally, handling is said to be improved by a re-designed rear suspension as well as computer assisted stabilising while cornering.  A number of less dramatic steps have also been taken to aid driving enjoyment.

The old RX styling was loved by some, disliked by others but for the most part left people feeling indifferent.  I myself thought it looked a bit like a boat with its downward sloping front under body.

Thankfully the new car has lost most of its maritime influence and now presents a more solid form than its predecessor.

The front looks particularly well resolved with an attractive light and grille arrangement.

Lines across the body are well executed although i can’t help feeling that the front wheel arches are a little too distinct.

The rear is frankly conservative but perfectly acceptable.

People who like to buy premium SUV’s are a difficult bunch.  They don’t want the car to look or be utilitarian but at the same time want it to have some degree of off road ability if only for when they are asked to defend their purchase.  It is of course doubtful that any Lexus RX’s will ever experience much mudplugging however. 

Because of these unique requirements, all makers of this class of vehicle try to design their car to look as close to its more conventional family members as possible but with a rasied ride height.  

The RX is no exception and and it has me wondering if after employing a stable of sumo wrestlers to sit on the body for a day or two the end result would be a Lexus IS350.

Inside the RX exudes quality and certainly looks to be a comfortable place to spend time. 

Leather and lots of tactile surfaces seem to be the order of the day topped off with some tastefully appointed wood.

Prices for the RX350 start at 4,600,000 JPY.  The much higher spec hybrid RX450h won’t be released for sale until April.

Lexus RX350

Lexus RX350

New Honda Beat

In Honda on January 19, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Speculation still fuels the rumour that Honda may be planning to produce a successor to the famous Beat model of the 90’s.

The old Beat is now a cult car if ever there was one.  Loads of them exist on the roads of Japan both kept standard and also delightfully tuned.

Although the little Honda was hardly especially fast as it couldn’t really be with only 64 PS to play with produced from its tiny 660 cc engine. Most owners however felt that this was largely offset by the car’s sublime handling.

If the new car goes ahead it will debut in a year or two and will feature either a turbo charged or intelligent (as in the old one) engine management system to reach the maximum 64 PS permitted under Japanese KEI car regulations.

 The car will of course be a two seater and and this time will have an automatic folding metal or soft roof.

Honda will aim for a starting price of below 2 million yen.

I love the old model and would like to buy one but some problems exist. 

Firstly i have a car

I don’t have any money. 

My wife doesn’t like the car.

It isn’t practical.

More than any of these however is that I’m a foreigner living in homogeneous Japan and as any foreigner will tell you who has lived in this country for a time, we like to keep as low a profile as possible when going about daily business for self conscious reasons.

This just isn’t possible in a Honda beat.  It is so small and foreigners look so gigantic in it (with the roof down) that frankly you end up looking like a tit proudly on display for all others in the traffic jam to have a gawk at the interesting chap from overseas in his little Honda.

A bit like an Adult riding a child’s bicycle  

Old Honda beat

Old Honda beat

Lexus LF-A Update

In Lexus on January 15, 2009 at 5:03 pm

 Adding further fuel to the fire that the Lexus LF-A will finally make it to production in 2010 comes the news that the Nagoya company will unleash the racing car version once again at this year’s Nurburgring 24 hours race. 

The 4.8 litre 570 PS V10 powered super car is expected to priced at a  horrendous 25 to 30 million Yen when it finally reaches the market putting it firmly in the realm of the very well heeled.

Weight is reported to be an impressive 1550 kg.

Production is apparently going to be kept to only 200 to 300 units initially but will increase as the car gathers momentum in sales. 

Previous rumours have suggested that the car is not as fast around the Nurburgring as the GT-R but then neither is a Ferrari  F430 or Lamborghini Murcielago which are both cars that the fast Lexus will compete against.

This car will have to be not just good but bloody marvellous if it hopes to compete in the prestigious European market (a target area) where at such a large price it will find itself very much in badge snob territory.

New GT-R edition, Spec M

In Nissan on January 14, 2009 at 6:15 pm

Whilst Honda has been continually slapping itself on the wrist for entertaining the idea of a new NSX replacement,  trying Formula 1 and indeed have been making noises about forever committing to making mundane cars from now on, luckily a little more optimism exists at Nissan.

Whether they like it or not the Yokohama Firm created the GT-R before the world went tits up and so they are forced to make it sell and plan on introducing more models to achieve their dream of offering a like for like range to rival Porsche’s dominance in the niche and it is very much a niche where the Stuttgart company resides in.

Within the GT-R brand may come the still planned 4 door and seperately an SUV model but before those two models arrive a more comfort orientated version of the standard car is set to debut in 2010.

Designated Spec M, the new GT-R is conceived as a more luxury alternative to the standard.

Although mechanically the same, Spec M customers will have the choice of outfitting their cars with all kinds of interior trim options.

It is though a range of softer less motor-sport inspired seats will be offered in a range of colours and materials.  A very, very high end audio system will be a part of the package and further exterior colour options are to be made available.

Apparently the focus of the Spec M is flexibility of order with the car to be available in in any mixture of trim or bells and whistles that the customer wishes.

Pricing is not clear but you would have to be a bit silly not to imagine it’s going to be somewhere north of the standard GT-R.

Nissan GT-R Spec V Released

In Nissan on January 8, 2009 at 9:56 am

Nissan today released the long awaited Spec V version of its Porsche beating GT-R super car.

Designed to be a more extreme and performance focused version of an already phenomenally fast car the new Spec V goes on sale at only seven specially selected dealers across Japan for an almost breathtaking 15,750,000 Yen.

Naturally in order to justify such a large premium over the existing standard model, Nissan have been busy making the Spec V a little special.

Just so that everybody knows that yours is a Spec V the specification includes a carbon fibre rear spoiler,  a carbon fibre grille and carbon fibre brake ducts.  The carbon fibre theme continues inside where the material embellishes various trim areas (basically there is a lot of carbon fibre).  Unlike the standard model, Nissan’s Spec V only comes available with two seats and features very expensive carbon fibre Recaro buckets. 

Most wonderfully of all is that the Spec V is finished in its very own unique black opal body colour (no other colour is available).

Although Nissan don’t seem to have increased the power output of the engine they do claim to have enhanced performance with a new high gear boost control device, which momentarily increases boost to the twin turbochargers for greater torque and better acceleration.

The Spec V is also adorned with an exotic titanium coated exhaust system and carbon ceramic brakes showing through some new lightweight wheels shod in sticky rubber and all looked after by an exclusive suspension set up. 

Of course all the attention that has been lavished on the car has resulted in a lighter vehicle than the standard GT-R.

Although this car was already highly developed by the time the global recession struck it is still a wonder that such a fabulously excessive automobile has made it to production.  If Nissan were Honda it would have been axed already but thankfully that is not the case and the Spec V has seen the light of day.

Deciding whether the car is really worth 7 million Yen more than the standard GT-R will be down to those who can afford to think about it but it does seem to be priced more to maintain exclusivity than for the level of equipment.

This is a rather historical moment in Japanese automotive history as the Nissan GT-R Spec V represents the most expensive and fastest new car ever to go into production in Japan.


Nissan GT-R Spec V

Nissan GT-R Spec V