Automobiles

Driving Honda's insane quad-motor, quad-steering, all-electric prototype CR-Z

With its massive, bolted-on fender flares and ridiculous carbon fiber interior, this one-off CR-Z screams performance. Thankfully, it has the muscle to back that up.

TOCHIGI, Japan -- To many, the Honda CR-Z is a bit of a disappointment. It was pitched as a properly fun, legitimately sporty hybrid, but Honda's final product was simply too tame for most. However, after driving this CR-Z-bodied, one-off concept, the word "tame" was the last thing on my mind.

At this point it sadly lacks a name beyond "4-Motor EV with Precision All-Wheel Steer," but this custom-built, all-electric machine is truly something special. It starts with the bodywork, which has been extensively augmented to expand the CR-Z's petite dimensions well into buxom territory. Fenders have been flared and numerous vents added -- and on the inside things get even more intense.

The deep bucket racing seat is a bit too narrow for my western frame. And, even though it's been gutted, the cockpit is still somewhat claustrophobic. That did little to dampen my enthusiasm for driving this racer, however, which was inspired by Honda's recent all-electric entrant to the historic Pike's Peak International Hillclimb.

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This monster of a CR-Z features four electric motors, one for each wheel, all drawing current from a battery that's said to offer some 100 kilometers of range. Combined, all four motors deliver roughly 250 horsepower, all available immediately at any RPM. And, with a motor at every corner, the system can dynamically adjust torque for individual wheels, spinning up those on the outside of a turn to help the car stay balanced.

If that weren't enough, the car features four-wheel steering, which makes the little thing even more lithe. The result is a car that accelerates like a rocket and, despite a short wheelbase, moves smoothly and steadily into tight turns. At the limit of adhesion it tends toward understeer, but only slightly. The squeal from the front tires seems to have little impact on the handling. Soldier on and you'll find that the car cuts a precise line through every turn.

Though my time behind the wheel was short -- just one lap around a twisty handling circuit -- it was an eye-opening experience. This prototype CR-Z felt incredibly poised, and after I hauled myself out I only had one question: When can I buy one? The answer is probably "never." Honda's engineers and marketeers on-site said only that the technology developed here will be used in future vehicles.

Future vehicles exactly like this one, please.