Text: Tito F. Hermoso / Photos: Tito F. Hermoso | posted April 14, 2014 11:12
American muscle versus modern Japanese hybrid technology
Lurking at the toll gates
Eton City. All smiles for the boys in blue of MATES (the SLEx O&M contractor) as speeding tickets were at the ready when I sauntered into the E-PASS exit lane. And why not? I was driving Ford's latest Mustang V8 in bright gotta-have-it-in-green-tri-coat. It wasn't (LIDAR) gun shy as its burbling exhaust, slats and hood scoops were flaring nostrils for 426 metric horses. 19 inch alloys in dark brake-dust gray with wafer thin 40 series tires screen over the Brembo brakes. It was reeking 'Performance Package'.
The MATES boys didn't even have to see the overtly sporty body hugging Recaro seats. They didn't even have to know about Mustang apps with the track day g-force meter and the electronic dragstrip christmas tree, track time and acceleration monitor lurking behind the LCD screen and in living color. Already tagged as 'Speed Demon'? Doesn't the FBI and TSA call this profiling? Hollywood would call it 'the usual suspects'.
This 5th generation Mustang is classic long hood, short deck-pony car. In contrast the white Honda CR-Z -while new to most eagle-eyed speeding spotters- didn't register much awe at the E-PASS gate. It's different enough, shaped like a sports shoe. It's Honda small and sporty in a 21st century kind of way. 'Cute' and 'futuristic' were lip read among those who stared at it.
To plug or not to plug...
Instead of a burbling V8, the Honda has two engines; one 'fueled' by electricity (20 bhp) and fossil fuel power (119 bhp), both touting that hybrids are the best of both worlds. As the theory goes the electric motor's instant torque makes up for IC (internal combustion) engine's need to build up revs to deliver max torque. For a given power output, batteries (nickel hydride for the Honda) far outweigh the combined weight of an IC or Internal Combustion engine, generator and a full tank of fuel. Honda's IMA system electric power only assists IC power output and is not like the Prius system which is capable of running on 100 % electric power. What isn't electronic about this high tech compendium is the good ol' clutch and 6-speed gear lever. It's a nice reminder that no one makes manual gearboxes as smooth and as slick as Honda, Toyota, BMW and Porsche. Sorry Ferrari.
Jazz like that...
The CR-Z platform is from Honda's versatile Fit/Jazz which is able to spawn assorted tracks and wheelbase variants, marrying the light weight with torsional rigidity. In tame environments, the CR-Z drives like a Jazz narrowly biased for road environments that are flat, perfectly smooth and covered with end to end speed cameras.
Looks can deceive
From the big iron-block Detroit perspective, CR-Z engines amount to nothing more than a lawn mower motor linked to a sewing machine for added boost. Equipped with the Mugen go-faster intake modifications and Modulo aerodynamic kit, the CR-Z makes no pretenses about track duty. Steering feels light but its not in the kart like league feel of a MINI. The thin, hard but hugging seats cry out 'flog me' on a weekend track day. On a race track, it delivers tons of the right stats whether for high performance, economy or eco-greenery.
Best of both worlds
Yet it is on the track that Honda's CR-Z may yet rewrite the Laws of Physics. In a combined economy and speed all 'CR-Z' race held recently, the winner maximized to 19.7 km/liter and still set the fastest lap of lot at the BRC at 11 mins. 42 secs. Smart car masquerading as sports car? You rev the CR-Z hybrid combo to the upper reaches of the tacho at 4,000 to 6,000rpm and feel it 'happy'. For the emotional quotient, however, the open road or crowded track is a must.
Quiet romance, size matters
Not so in the Mustang as sitting in it while motionless or even just standing outside and looking at it already elicits a response. Start the engine and blip the throttle and anyone within earshot will not fail to 'feel the power' of the ripping canvas burble of them cubic inches. The temptation to pop the hood open just to view the mass of pressed metal and alloy is an occupational hazard. As to the inevitable pundit's query as to its thirst, well, there's always the entry level 309 PS 3.7-liter V-6... then again one doesn't buy a Mustang to save gas.
Half a century ago
Close to 50 years ago Ford created for America what was to be a brand/product image marketing success that lasted far longer than its planned obsolescence. Even if it was a great car, the Mustang will always live under the shadow of its marketing success. It will be remembered more for its impact on baby-boomer-dom than its racing or sales accolades. Exactly 50 years ago, Japan introduced an earthshaking engineering concept and applied into practice what is today considered as just a mundane commuting tool: the 'Shinkansen' or Bullet train. With the CR-Z, Honda is on the cusp of its own 'Shinkansen' moment.
Al Capone masquerading as Steve McQueen vs. Al Gore squeezed fit into Steve Jobs? The one thing these two cars have in common is their '2+2' seating capacity, emphasis on the nominal '+2' rear passengers. Both make fashion victims out of us; the Mustang's sexy image brainwashed us for all those years while Honda's smart 'Earth Dreams' peep into all those years coming. The Mustang excites passions like some deep longing to relive some misspent youth. Phallic as it is, the Mustang is a perfect mid-life crisis car and reveals latent tendencies to juvenile delinquency. The Honda doesn't do juvenile delinquency even if looks like it was inspired by a 'hood rapper's sports shoes. The world is awash with millions of such pudgy ovoid silhouette smart urban cars more than pony cars, so illusions are either all over or non-existent. Mid-life crisis psychosis need not apply.
Meanwhile, back at the gate....
Would the MATES duo know about the brand new plateless white Mercedes SLS and brand new plateless white Chevrolet Camaro hogging the fast lane at a speed camera fearing 100 km/h who were passed on the right most lane of the Skyway by what seemed to be a gotta-have-it-in-green-tri-coat blur? And if both, at great risk to driver's license, took up the challenge to chase the green blur, would they catch up within sight of the tail lights? They'd have to hit the German car's 250km/h max. speed limit in 2 seconds. 'Beep' goes the E-PASS, the barrier rose and the MATES troopers kept their distant focus on the non-existent plate number of two incoming cars. Two white ones.
Bravo to Ford Group Philippines and Honda Cars Philippines for bringing in fun to drive models despite their low sales volume and heavy investment for special servicing facilities because this way, we can all live a little fun whether we relive the past fondly or fondle the future today.