There was a special treat waiting for the auto journalists who were invited to the San Francisco launch of the 2011 Honda CR-Z. There on a test track somewhere in Sonoma County sat a 1985 Honda CR-X in factory condition with only 9,000 miles on the odometer. It had been taken from Honda’s very own private museum collection for this occasion.
It was black with the original cassette player and cassette holders still in the dash. The only thing that gave away its age was when I made the mistake of turning on the air conditioning and the engine felt like it was going to stall indicating that maybe the compressor had succumbed to age issues.
But boy, oh boy, that CR-X sure made you feel like driving was a strapped in, visceral experience yet again. The steering had so much feel it was like your knuckles were scraping the ground (which they could given how low the car is) and the manual transmission was utterly sublime even after all these years.
The 1.5 liter 4 cylinder engine was eager to rev and made, even back then, that inimitable Honda 4-cylinder roar that separates this brand from the herd. Why can’t other automakers make four cylinder engines as good as the ones in Hondas? Other automakers-(see the 2011 Honda CR-Z and 1985 CR-X for guidance).
No matter what Honda Corporate, fanboys, internet chat rabble-rousers or anyone else might say, the 1985 Honda CR-X Si is the spiritual successor to the 2011 Honda CR-Z. I already hear you crying heresy and preparing your torches to burn me at the stake.
But hear out my argument. The 1985 CRX, thanks to modern safety regulations, is a car that could never happen again at the same small size and low weight. It had no airbags, no side impact protection and it didn’t even have power steering or windows which are among myriad convenience features that the market demands now.
The only thing that keeps you protected from a vehicle that t-bones you in the 1985 CR-X is a wafer thin car door that would not withstand the forces of a 40 mile per hour Chevy Suburban. So now if you consider all the safety, emissions and feature content that Honda needed to add for 2011 buyers and you will see that the CR-Z sport hybrid is the correct weight and it has plenty of power. Just like the 1985 Honda CR-X Si.
If you looked at the statistical figures for the 1985 CR-X Si you might not come away all that impressed either. The 1.5 liter 4 cylinder engine pumps out 91 horsepower and the original models rode on 14-inch wheels although it did come with a moonroof and sweet 80’s style sport seats. But just as with the 1985 Honda CR-X Si the 2011 Honda CR-Z is so much more than the sum of its part. It is, quite simply, magic.
How Honda does it I’ll never know.