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2011 GT-R & Skyline Cruise & BBQ

For the first time ever on the east coast we managed to collect more GT-Rs in one location than Nissan did…anywhere.

I want to give a very large thank you to everyone that stopped by that day, braved the light rain and cold, and donated to make this such a wonderful time.

Enjoy the photos.

2011 Lexus IS-F First Drive

From an enthusiast perspective driving the 2011 Lexus IS-F is like taking in a one nighter in Vegas with your buddies, knowing that everyone has already signed that internal non-disclosure agreement.  In all practicality it’s the “Whose idea was this?” or “Why did I do that?” conversation you have with yourself on the flight back.

From the moment I laid eyes on it I couldn’t help but think of how pleased I was with being a budding automotive journalist.  Like that Vegas trip, as you get closer your level of excitement grows because you know you’re in for something special; that what you’re about to experience could very well make some of the greatest moments in your life but with a very real possibility that it might land you in jail.  My goal was to capture as much of the former while avoiding coming anywhere close to the latter.

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With the styling of the IS-F Lexus has done a fantastic job including noticeable features that separate it from the other IS trims, but just.  I’ve had opportunity to enjoy a few of the other trim levels and the IS-F is such a departure mechanically from the others that I expected that fact to be reflected with more aggressive body styling as well.  On the performance front the fact that this is no normal IS is blatantly obvious.  From the moment you touched the Engine Start button and hear the unmistakable hunger of it’s 5.0L V8 to the second it shows you the first corner.  You’re quickly left with the impression that this is a wolf in poorly tailored sheep’s clothing.

On second thought this slight styling evolution may be the perfect natural defense for this IS.  While being anything but, it is nice to have a vehicle that at least looks relatively non-threatening.  This would help me realize the second part of my goal without having to worry too much about meeting Johnny Law.

Eventually I would get close enough to see the interior of the IS-F which did nothing but continue to siren me closer.

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Its two-tone black on cream leather seats with blue stitching can only be described as one thing – Fresh To Death.  The contrast of the Lexus Ultrasonic Blue Mica, Black and Cream is so stark.  You get a sense of how well it stands out in the photos but trust me, it is a completely different thing to see it in person and it only gets better from here.  Because then you sit on those seats and you experience something truly unique.  Don’t ask me how they do it, but there is a perfect balance of soft leather married to firm bolsters for both legs and torso.  The result is a very comfortable fit that somehow seems to swaddle you in.  Apart from the seats themselves the only things that are specific to the IS-F on the inside are the stitched in F logos on the sides of the seat, another logo between the rear seats and again at the base of the steering wheel.  That’s it.

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(Warning: If you aren’t used to or have never owned a true sports car the realistic impact of owning an IS-F will be a big surprise and I don’t plan on holding back any more than the IS-F does.)

Flash forward and it’s only the second day with the IS-F and I can tell I wouldn’t want to daily drive one.  the witchery of its suspension is downright deceptive.

For instance, any other time I am in an area with a 25 or 30 mile an hour speed limit I get so anxious my knees ach.  In the IS-F I almost didn’t realize I was ever driving that slowly.  The suspension is so smooth it really does encourage you to take it easy and enjoy having a bit of a cruise.  But is this what you buy a 416 HP 371lb-ft 5.0L V8 Sports car for?  Of course not!  Why is driving slow in what can only be described as a rocket sled such a wonderful feeling?  I may be confused by this but if it weren’t such a comfortable experience I would really hate driving this car in the city.  I would be bald from pulling my hair out between traffic lights.

Many journalists have complained about the 8-Speed “Sport Direct-Shift Transmission” with Paddle Shifters.  I will have to admit that working with the paddle shifters has a bit of a learning curve, however it really doesn’t take long to get used to the short amount of lag between pulling on either paddle and receiving the gear change you want. Give a little bit of thought to timing your changes and it will feel like second nature and result in taking very little effort to get the gear you want when you want it.  Really the 8-speed isn’t something to be afraid of.  I can understand why many reviewers say that the car “searches” for the right gear but this breaks down to learning how to drive this car.

If you accelerate by holding a steady throttle position and simply back off to hold your desired speed when you reach it the transmission will shift at the same RPM for ever gear change, predictably, every time.

On the highway or giving the IS-F a bit of a workout is a different story all together.  It’s here that 8-Speed has to do some thinking and makes things a little interesting.  The same lag that you get from the paddle shifters manifests in the throttle play as well.  Even with a healthy dose of gas pedal it takes the IS-F a quick second to realize, “Oh you don’t just want a bit more speed, you must need to pass something quickly”.  So when you step on the gas pedal you’re given a stepped approach to accelerating.  First a bit more gas to pick up the pace, then a downshift or two but you have to leave your foot there just a second longer to get the serious acceleration.  You can however easily get around this.  You see I noticed that what seemed like the floor was really the top of what felt like a button that can be pushed to reveal a surprise. A feature built into the pedal that will cut all that nonsense out and give you what you’re looking for in an instant.  Careful though.  Do that and you open the floodgates.

No literally.  Under full throttle and at full song I swear the injectors of the IS-F are projectile vomiting fuel into the engine.

Just having shot around town for a bit the night before, we hit the road in the AM for a short day trip…I was already down to a half tank.  This is where the IS-F decides to confuse me again. On this trip, we left our home for what ended up being an 89 mile trip into Pennsylvania. For the return trip we drove a total of 108 miles to eat at a place called the Blue Moon Café in Sheaphardstown West Virginia. It would be another 19 miles until we got back in town and when we did the tank only had a 38 mile range left.  When you stop and think about it, that’s half a tank for about 3 hours and 216 miles of driving with potential for a total 254 miles, which is quite frankly phenomenal for that engine.  But what happened to the other half a tank while I was enjoying myself around town?

While enjoying and getting familiar with the Lexus’ party piece it was nothing to watch the Distance To Empty change to 38 miles left in the tank and less than a mile later watch it fall to 36.  The IS-F has a 16.9 gallon tank and by the time I parked it for good the tank average was 16.7, even after babying it it’s last few hours with us.  $50 later we’re not quite full but still ready for another 180 mile trip the following day.  Three quarters of a tank later, we were back home again.  Admittedly, I enjoyed the highways a bit more that morning so I can’t blame the IS-F for drinking as much that day. The rest of my time with the IS-F I cruised leisurely though. I was surprised at this point as I would notice the transmission shift up at 1500 RPM, every gear.  No wonder it’s outfitted with an 8-speed; a rather smart way to save fuel if you ask me.  Having read this far…you kinda have.

Its also worth noting that whether shifting at a low RPM or in the high end of the IS-Fs rev range, every single change up is almost imperceptible.  A bit laggy as weve mentioned, but you really cant feel it. Downshifting on the other hand is a completely different story.

The IS-F is equipped with a downshift rev matching feature that, when done at higher RPMs, sounds unbelievable, seductive even.  Its V8 has an asolutely intoxicating snarl that is delivered in such sharp bursts; no matter how many times I did it, it never got old.

Not at all what you want in the middle of a corner though.

How can I explain it?  The IS-F seems to simply “let go” from the moment you request a downshift to when it applies the next gear.  The resulting weight shift is so strong that there is a split second where deceleration almost seems to turn into acceleration.  If you ever brake heading into a corner and downshift, there is a good possibility that you and the Traction Control are going to be good buddies.  That or, those cream and black with blue stitched seats may end up with an additional color. And trust me when I tell you that earth tones dont mix well with that creamy interior. Want to try and drive the IS-F with the Traction Control off…may the force be with you.

In slow tight corners it suffers as well from the addition of a 5.0L power plant as opposed to the much lighter 3.5L V6 of the IS350.  The 3.5L still leaves the IS chassis with a 52/48 weight distribution biased to the front and a curb weight of 3527, which sits pretty comfortably in the mid range of the IS models.  The IS-F sits at 3780lbs, a 253lb difference that gives it a 55/45 weight distribution.  Doesn’t sound like much, but trust me.  When those front tires decide to lose traction, you’re going to remember me saying it.

Any attempt at a nimble low-speed direction change only leads to a turret of under-steer.  I say that because it manifests with 0 warning.  Honestly I’m trying to find a nicer way of putting this but nothing has surfaced in the last few weeks.  In much cheaper vehicles you can find under-steer that comes on in very slight doses and as you continue to over drive the car it increases.  This is simply not the case with the IS-F.  When it decides it is time to push thru a corner it seems almost eager to do it.

I’ve been on a short rant about the things I didn’t like about the IS-F however the things that I really enjoyed stand out far more than those negatives.  To be honest my personal driving style met with those negative characteristics very few times and the average driver may indeed never notice or have opportunity to experience any of them.

When all is said and done the IS-F is the car that many people have been waiting for the Toyota/Lexus engineers to produce for over a decade.  It may not be the next Toyota Supra but it does deliver tones of fun, two of them in fact. And much like that trip to Las Vegas theres a real good chance it will leave you with a happy ending and huge smile on your face.  If only we could find a way to give IS performance a diet, hmm.

Can anyone say IS250 F-Sport?

TCPFI

The 26B 4 Rotor – New Arrival of the Total Car Produce Magic FD.

In the world of performance vehicles the FD3S RX-7 has stood out as somewhat of a dark horse thanks to the heartbeat of its 13B rotrary power. In the world of rotary power the 26B 4rotor trumps all.

From Mazdas 787B to the 792P. Rotary and RX-7 ledgendary gurus such as RE/Amemiya who built the 26B for Fujita Engineering AKA FEED. These have all lead up to more and more 4 rotor drift and race cars including Brian Gray of New Zealand and Mad Mike’s MadBull which have been tearing up drifting for quite some time now. But theres a new kid on the block, and since when have rotaries been known to play well with others?

Its always crazy to see these well put together one off pieces of engineering dumping well over 400 normaly asperated horse power at the drop of a hat, without breaking a sweat and I have been studying them off and on for years now. Im very happy to see more and more of these engines popping up and whats more so, not hearing about them popping!

So enjoy the videos and pics of the latest terror to hit the tracks from my new favorite tuning house, Total Car Produce Magic.

Photo Credit: SPEEDHUNTERS.COM

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Lexus CT200h

Lexus CT Hybrid

 

I like the idea of a hybrid for 2 reasons, as both daily commuter and for long trips to visits friends and relatives. The conservative gas consumption is appealing on both fronts. For the first 2 days the Lexus CT 200 was used simply to transport me to and from the office, which would include quite a bit of errand running in-between. This would tally up to about 36 miles a day. I was pleasantly surprised as I watched the gas needle throughout my travels.

The real test however would come on Friday as we loaded up the CT for a 900 mile round trip southward, from MD to NC.  This is where we got a true feeling of what this car was like to own. The trip took us through heavy stop and go traffic, Back country roads and open highway with speeds upwards of 80mph.  So with that back drop, let’s get into the review.

Exterior – Breaking away from the bland and odd styling of the Prius was a good move for this Lexus. Actually, quite a few people we introduced this car to didn’t know it was a hybrid. And that’s a good thing. That said, the styling of the CT is a departure from the other cars in the Toyota/ Lexus line up. It’s a  bit edgier but its not quite bold enough. So it doesn’t particularly appeal to me.  Its foot print is just a little over 170” long. Making it about 9” shorter then the Corolla. The Creases down the sides of the car give it a slightly more mature look, which I like. The roofline is pretty low standing at 56.7” and it tapers to the hatch which was designed to minimize drag. This is where I feel the design fails. The lines stop too abruptly at the rear giving it that minivan look. This design works on crossovers like the venza as it’s a large car. But it simply fails on such a small frame cars as the CT. I do like the front end of this car as the face of the CT doesn’t scream “economy” as most hybrids do. Rather it has an aggressive stare and low dropping air dam giving it a sporty look. Changing the 17” wheels to 18s would be a step in the right direction. Even though you would lose a step or two in efficiency you would gain points in style as the car would look more balanced.

Interior – The interior of the CT is both Clean and simple. Which is fitting for a sport hybrid. I particularly like the thick wrapped steering wheel and the seats. The car is very welcoming to the driver. The seats are countered as more of a sport seat so they held us snugly in place as I swept through corners. Typically seats that hold this well come with a price, which is a sacrifice of comfort. Not so with the CT. They provided a form fitting seat that proved soft and comfortable, even on long rides. Kudos to Lexus. On another note, we found a few pieces not fitting as snug as they should. For instance, the door trim was pooping loose on our loaner car as did the plastic trim at the bottom of the hatch. Minor problems that may have stemmed from abuse from the previous reviewer.

The cock pit layout is straight forward as well. All of your common controls are in reach and easily identifiable. All accept the gear lever, you can identify it but the feel and placement of it is all wrong. Like the prius, your gear shifter puts your car in drive or reverse with tap in the respected direction. The shifter then returns to center position and your input is shown in the tachometer area. I would much rather have real shifter with a leather shift boot. The current lever feels plastic and out of place.

The steering wheel controls can change media function modes as well as control the volume and presets. It also allows you to answer your phone and activate the cars voice recognition, which also controls many of the cars features. Lexus has incorporated a joystick like control called “Remote touch” which selects and toggle features that appear on the pop up multi function display. This screen shows everything from AC to the navigation controls. Unlike BMWs I-drive the lexus control works and feels more like a PCs mouse. Complete with a sort of right and left click feel. The one button is “enter” and the other is “display” which can back you out of your current screen. I get the premise of keeping your head up and eyes forward instead of downward but I found my eyes constantly focusing on that screen to guide the pointer where I needed it.  So even though the positioning of the joy stick is ideal and comfortable, I’m just not a fan of it as it doesn’t save time. I found myself using the standard controls to operate temperature and radio as it was faster.

The back seats were not as tight as I thought they would be. We loaded up the CT with 4 adults and took a trip to the local store. Our back seat passengers reported that shoulder, head and leg room was OK. So despite the compact car looks, it has more of a mid size interior.  Your Storage space however is going to suffer. This car was not built to haul a lot of luggage or anything else. So if you have the urge to buy a  TV or a Desk chair getting it into the hatch may be a struggle. We were able to pack 3 small travel bags and a notebook bag. We did still have some room up top as well. But fitting in larger luggage sets simply wouldn’t work

Performance – The CT achieves 43/42 MPG, to achieve this, the CT is equipped with a 1.8 liter 4 cylinder engine coupled with a magnet, electric drive motor. Yet, the combo only produces 134HP. Which is a bit disappointing when you consider that models like the Mazda 3 Delivers 155Hp and is still able to achieve 28/39 MPG without the use of a extra battery and magnetic motor. When cruising along in city traffic the car is fine. It’s when you take it on the open freeway or in back twisty roads that the car begins to feel sluggish and under powered. The slow climb to 60-70 may leave you craving a bit more power. On the other hand, the MPG on this car will put a smile on your face. We averaged 41MPG on a trip from MD to NC while maintaining speeds of 80MPH, quite impressive. You can dial the CT into 3 different driving modes, Eco – the most economical mode but also the slowest. Normal –An efficient blend of battery and engine. Sport – Which demands the most from the engine and is the least fuel efficient. The later is the only mode that gives this little car life from 0 – 50.

So the car looks sporty but doesn’t perform like a sports car. It does OK in the corners but I can’t call this a driver’s car. It falls into the category of a “point A –B appliance”. Which is not my cup of tea. If you don’t need the pep in your daily driver then this car should suite you well. Its interior room and comfort is more than we expected. It also carries plenty of creature comforts like heated seats, voice recognition (which works rather well) and the MPG on this hybrid well drastically shorten your visits to the gas station.  All and all, I enjoyed my time with the CT. Now if only they would couple that high output electric motor with a 2.2 liter engine and a sport exhaust. Ahhh now were talkin.

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2011-mazda-mazda3-FL

2011 Mazda 3 – Test Drive

Its rather bitter sweet this one. Sweet because, well lets face it, a little Zoom Zoom in your life is always a good thing. Bitter in that it wasnt quite the zoom I was expecting.

Let me save you some worry right up front. The 2011 3 is a worthy vehicle. It has everything one looks for in a fun and sporty compact. Whats more is, on the visual side of it all, it deliveres the total package quite impresivly.

After the redesign of the 2009 car everyone can finally stop making fun of the smiley face. To tell you the truth though, it grows on you. Especially after spending a little time behind the wheel and learning that the 3 isnt just another pretty face.

It didnt take too long to fall in love with the styling on the 5 door we drove. I often found myself leaving somewhere not all that pleased with wherever I had just come from only to be greated by its atractive body lines. Instantly my mood changed for the better. Then there were two smiles. ::wink::

The interior continued the them as it is quite the comfort zone. What once was a sea of amber washed instrumentation is now a crisp and contrasting aray of guages and available selections. Most notible is the replacement of said amber explosion with the warmest and richest glow of blue you have ever seen. It surrounds the tach and speedometer and is also present in the center console as a text only information display as well as around the volume control and continues to devide the remainder of the audio controls as in previous models.

The look and feel of every button was quite solid. Which is something you grow to expext from Mazda. Its been noted that they are quite possibly the only car companies that make cars with a European style feel of solidness. This is also true in the ride quality.

Once on the streets the Sport model we tested had a very comfortable way of getting us back and forth but with enough feedback thru the steering and seat to keep you “connected” to the road. This however eventually became the 2011 models downside.

As I stated before, it is indeed a very worthy and capable vehicle. Its my opinion though that the addition of a larger, heavier 2.5L 4 cylinder helping to increase this models curb weight has given rise to the need of a stronger and softer suspension.

Cornering in the ’11 was no where near as impressive as in my own ’04 model. Which would lead you again to assume that it doesnt handle as well as the previous generations also. Again, you would find something other than what you expected. While not as nimble as I would like to have experienced the steering and tracking ability of this current generation is rock solid. With the older car you find yourself constantly correcting to hold a constant smooth turn. Not at all the case with the ’11 Sport. You can almost “set it and forget it”.

The relativlely new 2.5 – liter is also a bit of a lier. In a good way. The larger displacement brings power on alot smoother and sooner than the 2.3 – liter you really dont feel as if your accelerating quickly. Something I rather enjoy in a sport compact. Yet when you check to see if your in danger of catching the attention of Johnny Law you quickly realize your lack of attention to this engines abilities.

When you think about the niche that the 2011 Mazda 3 Sport GT fits in though, all of these points make sense. Its a grand tourer. Not a corner carver. Its meant to be a bit softer, a bit more comfortable. To keep your rear from falling asleep after the first 150 miles or so. To be able to get out of its own way and the way of merging highway motorists who have no clue how to do so, yet think that your the best person to practice it in front of…while on the breaks. And it does it all without waking (or scaring) the misses or little ones.

I love the feel of something a bit tighter. The kind of feedback thats enough to give most drivers sensory overload. As time progresses though I am learning to enjoy the more docile and comforting appeal of cars like this one. Knowing that I can relax and enjoy the journey while still having a capable go getteer when the need arises.

One of these days I may even have to conceed and pick up a car like the 2011 Mazda 3 Sport GT that will pamper me back and forth. But that might have to wait until im IN pampers…

2011 Toyota Sienna Review

thinking outside the "box" in exterior styling

A minivan can be practical in a variety of settings. Comfortably transporting your business colleagues to the airport or an important event, loading up the kids for a soccer game, family vacations with easy access to your infant or infants as it were even hauling sheets of drywall to finish your basement. Today’s minivans do all of the above and quite well. So what are the strong points of the Toyota Sienna and where does it fall short?

Exterior – This is one of the better looking minivans out there. True, it’s basically a box, as the rest are. But by incorporating the new identifiable front bumper onto it, it has become a more stylish box. Joking aside, it does make a big difference giving it a style that sets it apart from the rest. The Sienna is a huge vehicle, measuring just over 200” long and 69” tall. It’s hard to make something so big look sleek and pretty so I found the added rear spoiler simply gets lost in all the mass. The standard 17” tires look out of place on such a large vehicle, but the ride was comfortable and smooth. Larger tires will hurt with MPG but will work wonders for this vehicle visually.

Interior- To say that there is ample room in this van is an understatement. I.e. I wear a size 48 jacket and when I close the driver’s side door, I still have about 6” of room between my shoulder and the door. I typically only have about an inch or two so that extra room is nice. The passenger also has plenty of elbow and head room in this vehicle. Toyota uses a good quality leather on this van as well. I personally wouldn’t buy this van without it as it’s very convenient for quickly cleaning spills. My family and I found the seats comfortable as well. The 2nd row seats not only recline but also have a hideaway foot rest like a lazy boy chair. However, this only works if the front seats are moved very close to the dash and the 2nd row seat is slid far back. Otherwise, you have no room to stretch your legs anyway. This van also has great rear storage space. There’s luggage room for a family of 4 or 5 that shouldn’t impede the passenger area. All and all it’s a solid vehicle with a smart ergonomic layout and a tidy fit and finished package.

Electronics- The first gizmo to strike my eye was the multi function head unit at center dash. This blue tooth compatible device serves as your Navigation, AM/FM radio, Satellite radio, rear-view camera and multi disc CD player. It also has full ipod integration so you can plug in your ipod, tuck it away and control it from the head unit. Although happy with all of the features this unit entails, I found it cumbersome to navigate at times. The most annoying was the ipod integration. I found that my eyes were off the road for too long due to the delay in the touch screens response. Scrolling through playlist is even more annoying. The unit will list about six songs per screen, when you advance to the next six it automatically selects and starts playing song one of the next six. All of this causes more delays. And music is a part of our driving experience nowadays.

Performance – The 3.5 V6 engine powers this massive vehicle with ease. I found it rather easy, not only to keep up with smaller cars but to pass them. We drove the vehicle to PA for the weekend and found that we averaged around 19.5 MPG that’s pretty good for a fully loaded van of this size. I was most pleased with the suspension. Even thought it doesn’t ride like a car (it’s far too big for that), it doesn’t ride like a Truck either. The suspension made even the bumpy roads of PA feel rather smooth. And that’s what I want in a people hauler. There is just too much drinking and snacking going on to deal with a sport suspension of any type. Toyota’s 3.5 as well as the 2.7 i4 are both well tested engines that for the most part will go for a long time requiring minimal maintenance.

I would highly recommend the Toyota Sienna for those in the market for a minivan. It was designed with family in mind and that reflected in the comfort and convenience found from every seat in the van. It’s also well built, comfortable, roomy, and great on gas and, if I may, has a little “swag”. The Toyota Sienna is worth a serious look.

“Making of” the GranCabrio Fendi

After an almost 9 month break, Maser news isnt a bad post to put us back on the boards. Most of you don’t know that Maserati is one of our favorite car companies at Up Shift. The only experience better than watching and hearing a vehicle like this is driving it. The only thing that can one up driving a supercar is watching the skilled craftsmanship that goes into your priceless possession. So get ready to be amazed at the behind the scenes work that goes into creating one of the worlds highest quality rides.

BMW introduces the M3 CRT

P90079403 BMW is set to release yet another special edition M3, this time with a unique name and unique features. The BMW M3 CRT (short for Carbon Racing Technology) uses carbon fiber elements to shave some pounds off the M3 as well as stylize the new sedan. The 4.4 liter 450HP M3 will be 154lb lighter than its stock counterpart pushing the vehicle to 62 MPH in 4.4 seconds flat. The M3 CRT will use carbon fiber trimmings from the BMW i3 and i8 plant and repurpose those for use in a CFRP mat which is Carbon fiber layers wrapped around a “honeycomb” structure providing immense strength with low weight gain.  

 This CFRP process is used on various aspects of the vehicle including the seats, Hood, front splitter and rear spoiler. The Special edition M3 will be hard to come by as it is limited in production to only 67 units and will retail at $185,000.

2012 BMW M5 Leaked Photos

2012_bmw_m5_21  The internet is ablaze with the leaking of some photos of the 2012 BMW M5 ahead of its official release this September at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show. The new M5 is going to pack a punch with a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V-8 pumping out 552 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque all the while only taking 4.4 seconds to accelerate from 0-60. The 2012 M5 is slated for the dual clutch transmission even though Americans can expect a six-speed version to drop as well. We will have a full list of details closer to its official unveiling in Germany this fall, until then enjoy the pictures:

Source: AutoGuide.com

2mugen-crz

Mugen Supercharged CR-Z… this time WITH VIDEO

Almost a month ago details surfaced regarding Mugen’s newest project the Supercharged CR-Z. We reported on its 1.5 Liter hybrid motor pushing 197 HP and 181 lb tq along with the news that there would be 110lbs dropped off the stock CR-Z. We were mildly impressed and numbers are nice and all, but we didnt have any video of the Mugen CR-Z in action. Thanks to Honda UK’s Youtube page thats all about to change, check the video out below: