2011 Honda CR-Z Mugen: first photos revealed

Article by Christian Andrei, on May 18, 2011

The MUGEN version of the CR-Z hybrid has been hyped extensively but only recently have pictures of this model been released. There also aren’t many details available about it yet since this project is ongoing. So far, the first tests have been very promising when it comes to the performance and fuel consumption.

Tests made earlier on a prototype car based on a standard CR-Z and given a mid-tune engine show that it can have an acceleration time from zero to 60mph (0-98 km/h) that’s comparable to the Civic Type R due partly to supercharging.

This means that it has a sprint time that’s somewhere in the mid six-second range. MUGEN said that this was achieved by adding 15% more power to the engine compared to the ‘stage 1’ level of tune. Even with the big wing attached to its back, the car is lighter by about 50 kilograms (110 lbs).

Colin Whittamore from MUGEN Euro said that the early tests on fuel consumption have been “encouraging” as well. He said that the company has kept the three driving modes from the standard car. Upon turning on the supercharged power in a special 'MUGEN' mode," it boasts an economy that ranges from 50+mpg in 'eco' mode to mid-30 mpg.

The Honda CR-Z has been vastly tuned up by Mugen Euro, improving the hybrid’s powertrain to produce 200 PS and 215 Nm torque.

The objective of this project was to show that a thrilling driving experience is also possible with a hybrid car, especially if a Civic Type-R-like performance can be approximated, while staying true to the original Honda CR-Z philosophy.

Mugen Euro’s Collin Whittamore says they aimed to produce a car capable of high performance at a button’s touch but can revert to standard CR-Z performance with fuel efficiency whenever wanted. To achieve this, three driving modes were made available. The ‘normal’ or ‘eco’ are for regular driving as these are fuel-saving, low-emission modes. Then, there is a Mugen button if “full-blown weekend warrior settings” are desired.

This version of the Honda CR-Z still uses the standard version’s Honda IMA electric motor. However, the original 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol engine has been modified to Mugen’s settings with strengthened and upgraded custom components.

Whittamore says that initially, when they thought about how they should use the Honda IMA system, they quickly just decided to “utilise it and build on it.”

A new centrifugal forced-induction boosts the Honda CR-Z Mugen’s petrol-electric drive train to produce 50 percent greater power and torque. This is the Mugen iCF system or Integrated Centrifugal Forced-induction. It synchronises all the components of the electro-mechanical system so that the forced induction system, petrol engine and IMA motor all run harmoniously.

Whittamore further explains that their theory was to build upon the early torque produced by the Honda IMA electric motor by progressively making more torque available from the petrol engine. Mugen designed the iCF and improved the electronics to make the IMA and the additional power and torque of the engine work seamlessly together to provide a smoother, more synchronised and more dynamic driving experience.

Whittamore admits that everyone in Mugen who has tried their version of the CR-Z ended up delighted because it is exactly how they envisioned it to be. Furthermore, it can also be driven the same way as the standard CR-Z.

In terms of looks, the Honda CR-Z Mugen was designed as subtly and aesthetically distinct from the standard CR-Z. Mugen is known for making custom parts that conform to the fitment and quality standards of the original manufacturer. As such, their objective was to show how their high-quality parts can be perfectly incorporated into the original CR-Z style to enhance its identity.

Among Mugen’s notable modifications are its front and rear spoilers, 17-inch lightweight forged alloy Mugen GP wheels, side skirts and a rear wing. The bonnet and doors were replaced with lightweight carbon fibre versions that also make the vehicle look sportier. Finally, there is the head-turning orange metallic paint finish.

The car’s sporty look is also evident in its interior, starting with the lightweight Recaro sport seats and Mugen’s carbon rear view mirror cover and weighted gear knobs. New assist meters indicate and record water and oil temperatures and oil pressure in a more detailed manner than OEM meters, in order to easily inform the driver of any gradual or sudden fluctuation, especially in difficult road conditions. They also serve to alert the driver of any reading outside the customisable pre-set value limits.

How is power increased?

The power advantage is achieved because Mugen used the torque produced by the electric motor at low RPM and added on to it. This was done by using a supercharger to induce torque after the electric motor’s peak torque has been attained. A more sustained and constant torque curve is thus produced. Consequently, more torque is usable through the entire rev range.

The electric motor produced less than 20 PS of the total power, but it contributes this very early on and achieves maximum torque between 1,000 and 1,500 RPM. In the standard CR-Z, this would mean peak torque is seen before 25 percent of the engine range. However, the Mugen iCF ensures that performance is maintained. The ‘stage 1’ engine power/torque graph reflects this.

A prototype car which was basically a standard CR-Z with a mid-tune engine was initially tested to accelerate from 0-62 mph in roughly 6.6 seconds. This is similar to the official time of the Civic Type R. Mugen is confident that their original Type R targets can be met because of the upcoming 15 percent power increase over this ‘stage 1’ engine, as well as the chassis weight reduction of roughly 50kg.

Difference between Honda CR-Z Mugen and standard Honda CR-Z

One of the main differences made by Mugen was in the engine, which they modified greatly to improve durability and reliability under increased loads. Supercharged forced induction was also added to produce greater power and a torque curve that ascends more constantly.

Apart from the engine modifications, Mugen improved the chassis dynamics based on their vast experience in motorsport and Honda tuning. Front and rear 5-step adjustable dampers were added and the track was widened. The chassis weight was made lighter to improve handling and acceleration/deceleration. There is also a new sports exhaust for better engine breathing.

Stability has also been improved. An upgraded suspension system enhances body roll control. New 17-inch lightweight forged alloy Mugen GP wheels permit larger tyres to be fitted without any additional unsprung mass. This results in more traction and responsiveness. It also takes full advantage of the new limited slip differential. Brake discs have been enlarged and the 4-pot monobloc callipers safely help stop this vehicle.

A Mugen body kit has also been fitted to optimise performance with the increased power. This consists of the front grille, fender under skirts, side skirts, the rear wing and the carbon fibre bonnet and doors. Altogether, these make the Honda CR-Z Mugen look as aggressive as it is powerful.

Press Release

Honda CR-Z Mugen

Mugen Euro has developed a highly-tuned version of the Honda CR-Z that aims to deliver up to 200PS and 215Nm of torque by boosting the hybrid's petrol-electric powertrain

The goal of the project was to prove hybrid cars can be exciting to drive, by producing "Civic Type R-like" performance from the hybrid coupe while remaining sympathetic to the original Honda direction for the CR-Z.

"We wanted a car that has genuine performance available at the touch of a button, but can perform just like a standard CR-Z and offer good fuel economy when the driver wishes," says Colin Whittamore from Mugen Euro. "For that reason we've kept the three driving modes, so the driver can select 'eco' or 'normal' to switch to economy and low emissions for the daily drive, but press the Mugen button for the full-blown 'weekend warrior' settings!"

The car retains both the Honda IMA electric motor and the original 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol engine, which has been rebuilt to Mugen specification with bespoke upgraded and strengthened internal components.

"When we first approached this programme, we considered what to do with the Honda IMA system, and the answer was immediate and obvious - utilise it and build on it," explains Whittamore.

The addition of centrifugal forced-induction under the bonnet helps the Honda CR-Z Mugen deliver over 50 percent more power and torque from the Honda's petrol-electric drive train.

In order to give a fully integrated and smooth power delivery, Mugen Euro has developed the Mugen iCF system, the Mugen acronym for Integrated Centrifugal Forced-induction, which allows all the elements of the electro-mechanical system, including the forced-induction system, IMA motor and petrol engine, to work in harmony.

"The idea was to use the significant advantage of the early torque provided by the Honda IMA electric motor, then increase the torque available from the engine progressively," says Whittamore.

The iCF, along with an electronics upgrade, allowed Mugen to very neatly map the IMA to the extra power and torque of the engine, giving a smooth, integrated and powerful driving experience.

"I have to say that when any of us have jumped into the Honda CR-Z Mugen it has delighted us all," says Whittamore. "It's exactly what we were looking for. And the real beauty is that it can still be driven in the way customers of the standard CR-Z would recognise."

The Honda CR-Z Mugen needed to be visually different enough to attract attention, yet subtle enough to be aesthetically pleasing. Mugen also wanted to demonstrate the high quality of its parts, offering a solution that enhances and integrates with the original CR-Z styling, in line with the Mugen philosophy of custom parts with original manufacturer standards of quality and fitment.

Additions to the exterior of the car include Mugen front and rear under spoilers, side skirts, rear wing and 17-inch lightweight forged alloy Mugen GP wheels. Carbon fibre bonnet and doors not only reduce the overall weight of the car but enhance the sporty look, while the eye-catching Brilliant Orange Metallic paint provides the finishing touch.

The interior of the car continues the sporty theme, with lightweight Recaro sport seats and Mugen accessories, including a weighted gear knob and carbon rear view mirror cover. The assist meters display and record water and oil temperatures and oil pressure. These dials are able to display these in finer detail than the OEM read-outs and allow the driver to more easily see sudden changes or fluctuations under hard driving conditions. They can also be used to warn the driver if any of the values fall outside the customisable pre-set parameters.

How is the increase in power achieved?

Mugen took advantage of the torque given by the electric motor at low rpm and built on that, boosting induction using a supercharger to provide torque after the electric motor peaked, resulting in a flatter and longer torque curve. This means that more torque is available throughout the rev range.

Although the electric motor contributes less than 20 PS to the overall power, it does this almost instantly by generating its maximum torque between 1,000 and 1,500 rpm. However, where in the standard car this causes the peak torque to occur at less than 25 percent of the engine range, with the Mugen iCF the performance does not drop off at this point - as the power/torque graph for the 'stage 1' engine shows.

Early tests with a prototype car based on a standard CR-Z and a mid-tune engine have given 0-62mph times around that of the Civic Type R's official time of 6.6 seconds. With up to a further 15 percent increase in power to come over this 'stage 1' engine and with approximately 50kg reduced from the chassis, overall performance is on course to meet Mugen's original Type R targets.

How does the Honda CR-Z Mugen differ from the standard Honda CR-Z?

Mugen stripped and rebuilt the engine to enhance durability and reliability under increased loads and added supercharged forced induction to provide more horsepower and a flatter ascending torque curve.

As well as improvements under the bonnet, Mugen has used its extensive motorsport and Honda tuning experience to further develop the chassis dynamics, with 5-step adjustable dampers fitted front and rear, and an increase in track width. A sports exhaust has been added to aid engine breathing, and chassis weight has been reduced to assist handling and acceleration/ deceleration. The suspension also improves the control of body roll, while 17-inch lightweight forged alloy Mugen GP wheels allow the use of larger tyres without any unnecessary increase in unsprung weight, to promote better traction and response and to maximise the benefit offered by the limited slip differential that has been added. Bigger brake discs and 4-pot monobloc callipers help stop this powerful car.

Complementing the increased power is the addition of a Mugen body kit including bumper under-skirts, front grille, side skirts and rear wing along with a carbon fibre bonnet and doors to give the car a fierce appearance which matches its powerful credentials.

How much lighter is the car than the standard CR-Z?

The Honda CR-Z Mugen is 50kg lighter than the standard model which, when coupled with the power uplift, gives the car an impressive power to weight ratio approaching 5.4:1.

This has been achieved by using full dry carbon fibre bonnet and doors, which reduce weight considerably, as does the replacement of the front seats with lightweight racing versions, and the removal of the rear passenger seats.

Some components actually add to the weight of the car but earn their place in the specification with their enhanced capabilities. The front brake callipers are a good example. As 4-piston callipers they offer superb stopping power with minimum brake fade even after extended heavy use, and being made completely in one piece, the installation is extremely rigid, ensuring consistent contact between the disc and the pad.

What are the changes to the suspension?

Mugen has developed the suspension in two different directions:

The car will spend most of its time on the "fast road" suspension which is designed to provide better handling on the road without being excessively hard for passengers. The springs are stiffer than standard, but are controlled by 5-position adjustable dampers, which are based on Mugen's commercially available products and control the movement of the chassis in both compression and rebound. Mugen has also widened the track width at the front of the car to improve stability during weight transference in cornering and to help lower the centre of gravity.
Although not initially presented as a focused track-day car, Mugen has referred to the racedeveloped suspension components originally used at Motegi circuit in Japan to develop in parallel a track-biased suspension that while much stiffer than the road set-up further limit the body roll and vertical movement; ideal for consistent flat surfaces of most race circuits.
Can I buy one?

The Honda CR-Z Mugen is purely a concept car at this stage, designed to demonstrate the potential and versatility of the Honda IMA system, with no confirmed plans for further production. Mugen and Honda (UK) will consider media and customer feedback before deciding on any next steps.

How much is this car worth?

Excluding many of the design and development costs, the materials and labour costs for this one-off 'halo' prototype put its value in excess of £150,000. However, if a limited run of cars, with a specification based on this concept, went into production, the price would be totally dependent on final specification, volume and frequency.

Can I buy any of the parts to add to my own CR-Z?

There are parts fitted to the Honda CR-Z Mugen which you can purchase through the Honda UK Mugen authorised dealer network.

These include:

Bumper skirts, grille, side skirts and rear wing - £2600
Interior assist meters, gear knob and rear view mirror - £1600
Exhaust, wheels, and suspension - £6500

Topics: honda, honda cr-z, mugen

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