When we first laid eyes on the clenched-fist styling of the Honda
CR-Z we thought it had potential. But when we discovered it produced only 122 hp from its gas engine and electric motor combined, our enthusiasm waned. Something that looks this exciting, and has such a capable chassis underneath it, deserves more power.
Well, give it up for Mugen Euro, the U.K.-based subsidiary of the official Honda
tuner, which spotted the CR-Z's potential and turned our desires into reality. This is the Honda
CR-Z Mugen, a 200-hp hybrid coupe than retains the standard car's fuel economy in Eco and Normal modes, but when you push the button marked Mugen, it unleashes its inner beast.
Rather than throwing out Honda's IMA hybrid system altogether and slotting a racing engine in its place, Mugen used the powertrain as a starting block, keeping the fundamental characteristics of the car. By strapping a centrifugal supercharger to the 1.5-liter gas engine, strengthening its internals, and tweaking the ECU to ensure it works in harmony with the untouched 14-hp electric motor, Mugen has managed to find almost 50 percent more horsepower.
The brilliance of the supercharged hybrid engine is all in the torque curve. Although the electric motor provides only a small percentage of the total torque, it delivers its maximum almost instantaneously until around 1500 rpm. In the standard car, the torque drops away from this point on, but the supercharger is tuned to maintain and increase torque levels once the electric motor runs out of puff. The result is a flatter, longer, and higher torque curve that makes the car feel more muscular at every point in its rev range.