Aug 172012
 

Some cars are lauded for their ability to produce raw power, while others are lauded for exceptional fuel economy or styling. I am taking a slightly different approach for praising this week’s Car of the Week by taking a look at specific output, which is a calculation of an engine’s power generation efficiency. I, along with others, calculate and compare this by looking at the horsepower to displacement ratio (in terms of HP/L). This week’s Car of the Week is not the absolute best in specific output, but it is best I found in the “under $100,000″ category. With this being said, we give you this week’s Car of the Week:

2000 Honda S2000

Why?

Well I guess I already started this discussion, so let’s jump into some details. The first generation Honda S2000 sported a “small” 2.0-liter engine —  so small you would think it is out of a Honda Civic. However, this engine surprised us with plenty of horsepower and a redline around 9000 rpm. If you have the room to rev, this engine delivers: its power peaked at 240 hp, giving it a specific output of 120 HP/L.

Now, we have to look at some other power packed cars to get a flavor for just how efficient this engine really is. I looked at every manufacturer selling cars in the USA, from A to V. What I found surprised me a bit. Some of the fastest, most powerful cars were also the most inefficient. Take a look at this list. I only found one car that beats the Honda S2000 in terms of specific output. (All specific output calculations given as HP/L)

  • 2010 Dodge Viper SRT-10 — 71
  • 2011 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe — 90
  • 2005 Acura NSX 6-speed — 91
  • 2011 Ferrari 612 Scaglietti — 93
  • 2010 Bentley Continental GT Speed — 100
  • 2011 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 — 103
  • 2012 Mazda Mazdaspeed 3 — 114
  • 2011 Porsche 911 GT3 — 114
  • 2000 Honda S2000 — 120
  • 2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS — 172

Let’s talk about this list for a minute. I’ve put some pretty super cars on this list just to show how exceptional the Honda S2000 is, not only in its time but also when compared against today’s models. The S2000 was way ahead of its time in terms of specific output. Only the Porsche 911 GT2 model line (introduced in 2002) does better. Most surprising to me is just how inefficient the Dodge Viper is in generating its power. Now, of course if you’re simply looking for raw power and the ability to burn up some tires, the Viper does the job just fine.

The S2000, though, is in a class by itself.

About the Car

The 2000 Honda S2000 was offered in only one trim level with the one engine and transmission choice. The car was equipped with a 2.0 L I4 generating 240 hp @ 8300 rpm, which was mated to a 6-speed manual in a rear wheel drive configuration. That’s right, Honda actually made a second production RWD vehicle. All of it put together made for perfect 50/50 weight distribution.

The S2000 was Honda’s successful launch into the two seater roadster market, going against the likes of the BMW Z3 (69 HP/L), Mazda MX-5 Miata (78 HP/L), Porsche Boxster S (78 HP/L) and Mercedes-Benz SLK 280 (80 HP/L) being offered same year. With the S2000 falling right in the middle of the price range, it gave buyers a lot to think about in terms of what they were getting for their money. If only it was marketed using this argument…

I found only one model line that beats the S2000 in the specific output category. It took a turbocharger to achieve that feat. Now I challenge you…can you find another model line that matches up to the efficiency of the S2000?

Other Resources

Wikipedia: Honda S2000 (To be taken with a grain of salt, of course)
S2000 Owners Club of America
S2KI Owners Community
Edmunds.com road test of the 2000 Honda S2000 

Chuck can be followed on Twitter @ChuckWhatTheF where he tweets about cars and other things “dudebros” are talking about.

Some photos in this article are freely sourced from Google. If you take issue with the usage of any image, please contact us and we will remove it.

 

May 042012
 

You know how some cars are an indelible part of your childhood? Maybe not for everyone, but for most gearheads there are a few key cars (and sometimes only one) that stand out as the ones that kept them hooked in the formative years of automotive addiction. For me there were a few, but this week I wanted to look at the one that was always at the top of the list:

1993 Acura NSX

Why?

When I first started getting in to cars, I devoured every Motor Trend, Car & Driver, Automobile and Road & Track I could find. From the years of 1995 through 1998 I read nearly every issue in my quest to learn as much as possible about my new interest. In particular I loved the comparison pieces, where the writers would take a group of similar cars and rank them.

Simple car reviews were well and good, but for a 14 year old kid who had little interest in reading about whether Honda had added leather seats as an option for the new Accord, these comparo pieces were where the real meat was. And when, inevitably, one of the magazines did a supercar comparo, it was akin to Christmas for about 20 minutes while I read it, poured over the stats, then read it again. A perennial favorite of the editors, and of mine, was Acura’s NSX.

Though it was always out-powered and frequently out-egoed by European stalwarts like  Ferrari and Lamborghini (and often the Dodge Viper and Corvette as well), the NSX could still be found near or at the top of the rankings virtually every time. What made this car so great to the testers was that, despite is high performance potential, it still drove like a Honda. It was great fun, easy to drive and reliable – all things that the Italians and Americans of the time hadn’t really figured out how to do at once.

It was, then, a dream come true when a member of my extended family bought one (a ’93 model) back in ’98 and I actually got to drool on it in person. He still has that car and I have been privileged enough to do a few tune-ups and some light work on it. So it was formative in my imagination and again even more so as I got more experience in getting my hands dirty.

Yeah, I guess now that I think about it, there really was only one.

About the Car

Acura introduced the NSX in 1991 in the U.S. market to great fanfare. Its all-aluminum body and engine were, for the time, an engineering masterwork. It was designed and tuned with input from the likes of Ayrton Senna and Alex Zanardi and featured a mid-engine, rear wheel drive layout and near-perfect weight distribution. It was recognized at the time (and still is) as one of the most forgiving mid-engine cars ever built. The 3.0-liter V6 made 270 horsepower and was available in either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic.

In 1995 Honda added a targa top to the NSX and in 1997 it was given a more powerful 3.2-liter V6 and a 6-speed manual gearbox. The automatic trans cars kept the old 3.0-liter.

Other than the t-tops, the body went unchanged until 2002 when Honda updated it to include fixed projector headlamps and HID lights. Even that, though, did not significantly change the character of the car. It was made in this form until it ceased production in 2005.

Honda has toyed with a replacement a number of times and all have come to naught. Until the last one, that is, which will apparently see production in 2015. I will believe it when I see it. If the images we are seeing now are to be believed, it will be markedly different than the car I grew up loving. It will, however, be pretty cool.

Other Resources

Acura NSX Registry (online registry for current owners)
NSX Club of America
NSXprime.com
(online community for NSX enthusiasts)
Wikipedia: Acura NSX (to be taken with a grain of salt, of course)
Car & Driver review of the 2002 model

Some photos in this article were freely sourced from Google. If you take issue with usage of any image, please contact me and I will remove it.

Apr 042012
 

When it comes to cars, Americans love their tradition. Ours are some of the oldest carmakers in the world, with the rich histories of OldsmobilePontiacPlymouthAMCEagle and Mercury adding to the culture of their parent companies.

Hm.

Okay, so maybe I exaggerated a little; maybe we have killed off more car history in the last 25 years than we have created. The fact remains, though, that America is the source of some of the greatest continuing nameplates in automotive history – the Mustang and Camaro, the Chrysler 300 line, the Corvette, the Charger and Challenger; the list goes on for quite a while.

But it’s not just the American companies that have long-lived, historic nameplates. The Honda Civic has been around the U.S. market for 40 years (it was introduced in ’72 as a ’73 model). The Toyota Corolla, introduced in 1968, is even older. It is a similar story with regards to their larger siblings, the Accord and Camry. These cars have been with us for so long that the names, and the cars themselves, it seems, have become beloved.

Or have they?

Last year, Toyota put out a press release detailing its upcoming 2012 Corolla. Included with the usual self-congratulatory descriptions of the car’s features was the following line: “The Corolla’s design, created with input from styling studios in Turin, Italy, strikes a sporty profile.”

Predictably, that quote was greeted with something bordering on raucous guffaws by the automotive world. The folks at Jalopnik had a particularly tongue-in-cheek reaction that I found thoroughly amusing. All joking aside, though, this does raise an interesting question from a communication perspective: if these cars have come to a point where their makers are reaching this deep to make them appear to be something that they clearly are not, simply to make them interesting, might it be time for a reboot?

2012 and 1973 Civics

Let’s take a moment and reflect on what these cars were and what they have become. The 2012 Honda Civic is roughly the same size as a Honda Accord sold 20 years ago, and more than 10 inches longer and 600 lbs. heavier than a similar Civic of 1988 vintage. Those disparities only grow the farther back we go. Similarly, the Corolla has grown in size and weight to match the Camry of 20-odd years ago – some 600 lbs. heavier and 7 inches longer than the “same” Corolla was in ’88.

So these are pretty clearly not the same cars that they were even two decades ago, let alone at their introduction. Why, then, do their makers continue to cling to the same old maddeningly incremental updates to the same old cars with the same old names? Why do they try to paint them as something they are not in order to make them look interesting?

Year after year the Civic, Corolla, Camry and Accord are all top-10 sellers in the American market. Is it the name that carries the weight? If so, why would automakers like Toyota feel the need to try to paint that name in an unreasonably flattering light?

Honestly, I think that Honda and Toyota don’t really know what they want cars like these to be anymore. In an effort to be everything to everyone, they have become, boring, soulless hulks, lacking the personality that once made their namesakes so interesting and attractive to car buyers.

I think it’s time to reconsider continuing model lines like these; time to toss out the old and tired and see where some new blood and new ideas lead you.

What do you think?

Mar 052012
 

The ’90s were an interesting time for me as an automotive enthusiast. It was in 1996 that I first developed a more-than-passing interest in cars. It was in 1998 that I got my license, and it was in 1999 that I first drove a car that I could call mine.

But the ’90s were also a formative decade for the auto industry. Gone were the old ways of the ’80s – slow, heavy, dubiously-styled cars encumbered by emissions controls that no one really understood. Yet to come were the huge technological leaps that would make cars more than just transportation, but mobile computers nearly capable of driving themselves. Continue reading »