Honda is dead, long live Honda

If that title isn’t click bait-y enough…

Well, Yesterday Honda new CEO Takahiro Hachigo held a press conference and basically threw a lot of thing upside down inside out left to right and back and forth.

You can read Hachigo-san summary here, but here’s what I think.

Hachigo-san took a butcher knife and hack the hell out of Honda management and decision making process.

Buried under all that rose colored wordings, is the management change that Honda sorely needed or not… I don’t know… It’s all very confusing. Under Takanobu Ito leadership from 2009 to 2015, Honda for lack of better term is going through a peculiar time. During Ito-san leadership we saw Honda great three hybrid solution and the first ever mass produced turbo engine for almost than 3 decades on the Civic and JDM StepWGN. We also see the development of NSX and plenty of interesting cars such as ILX and TLX coming equipped with 8 speed dual clutch transmission and 9 speed auto that puts it finally with the “numbers aficionado” that is premium car buyers. We also see the record breaking Mobilio introduced in Indonesia that boost Honda sales beyond whatever they can imagine.

Yet, for every new interesting products Honda made for that time period under Ito-san, there’s always a hitch here and there. The Fit hybrid, employing the new hybrid system had a back and forth recall. The JDM StepWGN turbo engine is acceptable but not as revolutionary as expected, almost as if the usage of turbo is unnecessary for the car. Honda new (actually outsourced) 9 speed auto has a slight hiccup here and there. The Civic had its new 2.0L engine recalled, not even after 3 months of its introduction. There’s also airbag recall, but that’s third party event, out of reach from Honda.

Hachigo-san statement especially this one worries me… or not…

We will establish a structure where development teams at the spot can concentrate on creating automobiles and focus on the development of one whole vehicle as one product under a consistent concept. To be more precise, we will add some new positions, including new positions in charge of the area of product development, a new position in charge of conducting evaluations from the standpoint of the entire vehicle consistently for all models and new positions in charge of supervising design creation of Honda and Acura models, respectively, on a global basis. Through these changes, we will realize a development structure that can further highlight the unique characteristics of Honda.

This means that product development is going to be centralized. Is this good or bad? As I have concern for Acura in particular about this development.

Acura supposed to be the premium of Honda, but for the longest time, near premium is the only title Acura can be proud of. All of Acura products are basically premium version of the Honda cars it’s based on. ILX = Civic, TLX = Accord, RDX = CR-V, MDX = Pilot. Aside from RLX and Legend which is just basically badge engineered of the two and the NSX, all are just souped up Honda.

In 2014, Acura got a “task force” led by Erik Berkman, Honda America executive vice president, tasked to set up the planning for Acura product for the future. So with Hachigo-san shakedown, what happened with the task force?

In 2008 Honda finally gave in into the premium market market push and actually going to gun for the flagship premium at the likes of BMW and Mercedes. A spy shot was captured showing an Acura TSX with long wheel base and long dash to axle ratio indicating rear wheel drive. This push was part of two previous Honda CEO, Takeo Fukui project.

It seems that for every Honda CEO change there’s always a funky change be it organizational structure or management change. Hachigo-san push for a centralized design hopefully ends up sticking for the foreseeable future, and for every change of CEO doesn’t mean a constant change of strategy. Just make sure that future product planning is done carefully and with prudence.

It’s okay for Honda to take time to roll out new technology, fans will wait. Once somebody has been touched by a Honda product, they will always comes back.

Honda F1 Boss got suddenly replaced

Whatttt… After a successful Barcelona F1 testing (well, McLaren-Honda manages a 35 lap, far better than only 6 the same day 1 year ago), Honda today announced a shocking development about the replacement of Honda F1 technical boss, Yasuhisa Arai effective March 1st.

Replacing Arai-san would be Yusuke Hasegawa, currently (taking deep breath to say it in one sentence) Honda Managing Officer and Director, Honda R&D Co., Ltd. Automobile R&D Center, Chief Operating Office, Advanced Research Division.

Hasegawa-san is not a stranger and if you think this guy is just another R&D guy, you are more than wrong, like wrong wrong. He’s been in many field of Honda research field, from applied technology, component, and most importantly, Asimo and hybrid development. He’s the one responsible for Honda groundbreaking Earth Dreams i-DCD hybrid system that put Honda (finally) at even ground with Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive system. Subjectively, the i-DCD dual clutch transmission offers more engagement and feel unlike Toyota CVT transmission.

Though some would fuss about the impending doom McLaren-Honda is going to face yet again in the recent personnel change, I see the positive side of this. I emphasize Hasegawa-san on Asimo development, why? Because Asimo is a complex thing, and you know what else is complex? F1 power unit…. No, not engine. Formula 1 new power unit is the reason Honda is back, because it offers a challenge that is currently inline with Honda future planning, to provide hybrid solution to the masses.

It looks like Hasegawa-san position as F1 technical boss is a match made in heaven. However the funny thing is, some argue that F1 development never translates to production car development… Looking back, Honda VTEC was never derived from F1 technology, because it is forbidden for F1 cars then and and now to have variable cam. Now with Hasegawa-san involvement, it seems like F1 car will get a taste of consumer grade development experience.

Godspeed Hasegawa-san, now bring back Honda legendary engineering back into that power unit.

Source:

Honda to get new F1 chief

Yuusuke Hasegawa profile on development of earth dreams hybrid

 

The Waku Waku Gate: The sexiest rear hatch ever!

Honda teases the upcoming StepWGN model change with plenty of teaser pictures, but one stood out among the rest… The waku waku gate.

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One view and you will say… Meh… It’s a swing door… My grandparent’s car has one, it’s not a big deal… Yes, it’s not, but look below.ww_ph2

See on the rear hatch above? There’s a cutaway near the lock latch. Yes, Honda new StepWGN will have a dual swing and lift rear hatch.

The inclusion was not just for complexity and being different sake. For us Asians, genetics isn’t too kind on our height, we are great at maths, but most of the time Asians are shorter than average Caucasians or Negroids (damn you politics… Congoids) Opening a lifting hatch is easy, thanks to the gas pistons, but what about closing it down? Shorter people will have a hard time taking that hatch holder (that black area right next to the lock latch). With a swing door, you just open and push/pull the door back to close, rather than have to jump over the hatch holder above.

Sure there is an alternative for closing a lift hatch like with the help of a motorized unit like on some top grade people mover like the Alphard or Elgrand. But it adds cost and complexity actually. What happened if the motor fails? On a swing door, at worst you only need to add oil on the hinge. This is why I like Honda. They add stuff not to increase complexity, but to increase usability without the necessary complexity.

One more news worthy addition of all… The new StepWGN will debut Honda first mass produced Turbo charged engine. A new 1.5L turbo, which have performance comparable (or even exceed) to Honda old 2.0L engine.

The car will debut next month, April 2015.

Okay… So… Where is my Freed replacement Honda!?

Source:

New Honda Freed teaser site

 

Honda Civic Euro Type R – What I think

What I think – is a new segment where Michael ponders about a product release and give a biased and uneven opinion, because hey… He can, it’s there on the declaration of human rights charter article 19 on freedom of opinion and expression.

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Now where do I begin… The Civic (Euro) Type R… See why I always put “Euro” there when Honda only mentions that the car is a Civic Type R? Well, because this is a Civic Euro, ne… Honda Fit XL. Type R has always been the man’s man car, when the little kids argue about how real or classy they are depending on the amount of pedals on their car… The Type R will slap them to the moon and back, 3 times. Type R was a raw car, no AC, no stereo, no sound dampening, thin seat cushion, all manuals, all loud, all encompassing. But most of all, Type R is about how man and machine becomes one.

The only limit a Type R carries was the ability of the driver to take it. The last great Civic hatchback proud to carry the tag was the EP3, known as the Civic Si in the United States and the Civic Type R in Europe. It was a beast. Then comes the segregation era in 2006, where the Civic lineage was broken and gimped into two model version, the hatch and the sedan. The sedan maintains composure fairly well while the hatch was gimped as hell. Honda Civic sedan retains some semblance of performance due to the use of McPherson Strut front and multilink suspension rear, giving the car a proper independent suspension. The Civic hatch however now uses McPherson Strut front and torsion beam rear, a semi independent suspension since the rear wheels are connected to each other.

The use of torsion beam was warranted for an A to B car. A daily car. Your mom’s car. My wife’s car. My kid’s car. My pet’s car. My maid’s car. My grandparent’s car. My car when I just need to go somewhere. Period. Torsion beam cars have awesometacular interior space as it allows for rear suspension housing to be very small and with Honda forward mounted fuel tank, a cavernous cargo bay. But for a performance car… Meh…

Momentum transfers the weight of a car around. On a fully independent suspension, the wheels carries each four points of the car equally (ceteris paribus), a car can even lift its inner rear wheel on a turn. On a torsion beam suspension, since the rear wheels are connected, they drag each other like an overly attached significant other planting the wheels on the road. But Michael, all four wheels planted to the ground is a good thing right? Yes and no. Since the rear grips, while turning it will give the car a tendency to oversteer… But Michael, all the cool kids like to oversteer to drift… Well… Um… Ah… Urr… Drifting a front wheel drive? What kind of nonsense is that? Please differentiate between drifting and skidding. Drifting is a controlled powered maneuver, skidding is when you just go fast and turn abruptly with an extra bonus of failing English vocabulary. The thing is, on a front wheel drive cars, this propensity to oversteer is transformed to forward momentum which actually means massive understeer, which is compounded with the trait of a nose heavy front engine front wheel drive cars.

Long story short (seriously, suspension knowledge is vast and quite deep, I won’t go blabbering in this one post), a fully independent suspension will allow for a car to turn better in speed versus semi independent suspension ANY. FRIGGIN. TIME.

Just take a look at this old Top Gear video comparing the last great Civic Type R (EP3) and the abomination they called Honda Fit XL… I mean Honda Civic Euro Type R (FN2).

Mind you that there’s a confusion between Top Gear magazine which gives the car a hot hatch pick for 2007 with Clarkson personal opinion who really dislikes the car. But the video just shows, the new Type R was a botch failed disillusioned attempt at being better than the outgoing model. The Fit XL… Drats… Honda Civic Euro Type R meet its demise in 2010. As emission requirement becoming more and more tight, the high revving K series engine had to bow down and the legacy of the Type R ended in Europe.

Honda fans are left out cold… Feeling the chill of Sweden’s cold winter breeze, alone, with just a little camp fire made out of sadness and cruelty. But in 2012, Honda came out with a grand plan to resuscitate the Type R brand in Europe with a twist (turbochargers, get it?), stating that the new Type R will be the fastest front wheel drive car. You can feel the vibration of excitement when Honda announced that since the Type Rs before were never about speed, it’s always about balance (do you start to get my rant?). Theories abound about what kind of car the new Type R would be. The high revving engine by that time was already obsolete, to punch through to anything fast, the new car needs to be turbocharged.

Then Honda finally unveiled the concept, an amazing display of over the topassery with plenty of PR speaks and bits of information.To say the Civic (Euro) Type R concept was amazing was an understatement, with that huge ass wing, it’s borderline Kamen Rider car of choice… Funny enough, Honda NM4 was Kamen Rider bike… For two series!

The new Civic Euro Type R was truly the pinnacle of Honda engineering, especially the new turbocharged engine… But then here comes my rant… WHAT? 938 words and I just start my rant? Prepare your butt dear readers, because it’s just getting fun.

The new Civic Euro Type R is unquestionably the best performance car Honda can put a badge on (NSX 2.0 was Acura). The new turbocharged engine is amazing. 310 PS and 400 Nm of torque is class leading for a front wheel drive. The Renault Megane RS 275 Trophy R has only 360 Nm of torque, and that is @3000 RPM, the Honda turbocharged 2L torque is reached at just 2500 RPM, giving it more power earlier. The dual axis strut front suspension trying to emulate a double wishbone to a degree, and it’s expected to reduce torque steer by 50%, a first for any Honda/Acura.

It’s all good until you look at the back suspension. The dreaded torsion beam… Ugh… Any European media will slightly give praise the Civic Euro cargo bay but all will bash the handling aspect of the car. The semi independent suspension kills any point of sporty driving and like previously stated, you can only adjust a torsion beam suspension only for stiff back braking race hard or soft as my belly on new year’s eve. So Honda applied a trick suspension add on, giving it an adjustable damper with select modes. I’m pretty sure the mode will include comfort and sport, or to lament term, soft and hard.

But hey! Credit due is credit due. The fastest front wheel driven car in the famous Nürburgring race track Germany is the Renault Megane RS 275 Trophy R. With an official lap time of 7:54 ish second. Honda said that the Civic Euro Type R will top it… And they did, unofficially.

During its development in 2014, the Civic Euro Type R was caught testing in Nürburgring and this car looks like the one photographed with the tiger stripe camo. The Type R got a respectable 7:50 ish with no AC, no audio and roll cage, faster than the Megane. Hey, no AC, no audio and a roll cage! CHEATER! … Umm… The Megane version which got the 7:54 also has no audio and AC. So even with AC and audio system, at worst, the Type R will get around 7:52, still a solid number and here’s my biggest gripe with the Civic Euro Type R lies.

With the botch crap fail suspension, Honda managed a good time… But what if they use a proper independent suspension? The new Type R would not just DESTROY the record time, but it will hold it for considerably a lot longer. This dick waving move of lap times are akin to asking your male friends how long their dicks are. For automotive, through technology and efficiency, lap times are going to be beaten every damn year. Just look at http://fastestlaps.com/tracks/nordschleife.html and see the cars below Renault Megane RS… Ferrari F430, Porsche 911 Turbo, NSX-R, some more old exotics which you cannot even buy right now because it’s worth more than 6 of your kidneys and both your testicle. Technology advances, and newer will always better (except for abomination like Honda Fit XL).

If Honda got official with the lap time, Renault will really loose face since on their website they put a lot of emphasis on Megane being the fastest front wheel drive car Nürburgring. They will hold the title fiercely, and it’s only a matter of time that Renault will out a special edition of the car to retake the lap time back… A silly move but it’s about pride and human pride is the weirdest thing of all.

There’s glory and sadness for the new Type R. Sure it’s the most technologically advance Honda, the fastest Honda, but also a confused Honda. If the car came proper with an all independent suspension, nobody will ever criticize the car and really cement the first turbocharged Type R in the history book. But for now, the new Type R is significant but also brings wary to those who waits for 5 years or even 9 years since the Honda Fit XL Type R introduction for a proper EP3 Type R successor. Let’s see what real people got to say with the car.

Honda Civic Euro Type R 2015 – The New Hotness

With as much fanfare as Geneva would allow, Honda Europe unveils the new Civic Euro Type R for the new generation.euro R (2)

Motivation comes from a newly developed turbocharged engine with an official power figure of 310 PS @ 6100 RPM and the accompanying massive torque of 400 Nm @ 2500 RPM. That massive power is channeled through the front wheel with limited slip drive and Honda newly developed dual axis strut, a modified McPherson Str  ut which allows axis movement, to emulate double wishbone degree of freedom. Even though the torsion beam rear suspension is unchanged, Honda engineers employs another trick suspension add on with an adaptive suspension.

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The striking visual difference from the Civic Euro Type R to the vanilla Civic Euro is the addition of aerodynamic bits which has been significantly tested on wind tunnel. The aggressive front lip, wheel arches, diffuser and massive wings are all tested and added for the benefit of aerodynamics.

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The sum of all is a car which Honda Europe stated goes from 0-100 Km/H in 5.7 seconds and reaches 270 Km/H, which is class leading for a base model.

Source:

Honda News EU

IT ALL STARTS NOW: 2015 Acura NSX

With a new slogan, “Precision Crafted Performance”, Acura finally unveiled its king in slumber, the second generation NSX on Detroit Auto Show with a fizz, a buzz, and a poof.

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The Acura NSX concept dated from three years ago is obsolete as the production model has bigger dimension and gain plenty of surface detail while losing some minor ones. Most notable is the bigger side intake pods and the bigger hood vents, now positioned more towards the middle of the hood. The rear loses some intricate detail but retains some unique details such as sculpted opening at the base of the trunk. The front fascia screams Acura through and through with the signature LED jewel eye headlights and the now sedated beak which now looks a lot like Mazda signature smile with massive openings. Many are as  king about what the purpose of those three huge opening is on the NSX concept NSX chief engineer, Ted Klaus giving an explanation, it is to cool the electric motor and components as well to provide aerodynamic ground effect as the air comes out from the hood vents towards the back.

The unique floating c pillar, made famous by gothic church architecture dubbed a flying buttress serves both as structure and aerodynamic aid. It is stated that as air sucked into the front of the car, it comes out from the hood vent, flows through the flying buttress and give the rear an aerodynamic push.  The NSX rear, largely unchanged from the concept, features a huge bottom diffuser and two openings near the edge of the bumper. This is also an aerodynamic aid as air exits through it to help with down force. By Ted Klaus statement, an active aerodynamic aid (mostly in the form of electronically controlled rear wing) is not needed for NSX as it achieved all of its aerodynamic function from just its design.

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The biggest change and one that is very important for the car is the change of engine from a transversely mounted naturally aspirated V6 combined with electric motor, to longitudinally mounted turbo charged V6 combined with electric motor. Even though the combined output from the original design should be respectable, it would not be enough in the world of big V8 and turbocharged engines from the likes of Nissan GT-R and the new German performance line. Being transverse, the engine package will be compact to allow many utilities such as bigger trunk like the original NSX. But like the original NSX, it was damn hard to add more power to a transverse drivetrain, adding turbocharger is almost impossible without major change in the internal tubing, wiring, and mounting. There are even rumors about major infighting in Honda about the engine choice as the American team wanted a turbocharged engine while the Japanese team wanted a naturally aspirated one. Somehow, logic prevailed, and the NSX finally gets its much deserved turbocharged unit.

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Why the NSX needs to go the force induction route? Because a lot of things really, but mostly it’s all about future proofing the car. The original NSX went through its 15 years of life with just two engine revision, with 20 horsepower increase between both. If somehow Acura didn’t go into the 6 year cycle to update styling and power, with a turbocharge engine, they can just increase boost, refine the engine mapping and get more power easy. For comparison, Nissan GT-R, was launched with “only” 480 horsepower back in 2009. The same engine now produce 545 horsepower in the base trim while the performance Nismo variant gets 595 horsepower, an increase of 115 horsepower in 6 years from the same engine.

Ted Klaus stated that the NSX will come “north” of 550 horsepower, and like the Civic Euro Type R, that number is a base estimate with production version gaining more power . With this route, Acura can easily offer an NSX Type S with around 600 horsepower.

The NSX utilizing a hybrid setup also should achieve great numbers on paper, especially for spec hunters who only see numbers instead of real life performance. An internal combustion engine achieves its maximum power at peak engine rotation, which takes time. Compounded with turbochargers which takes time to spool to boost the engine, you’ll have plenty of “where is the power” moment or the famous “Vee-TACH just kick yo!” when the engine finally reaches peak power. With an electric motor which provides peak power as low as 1000 RPM, it can help boost the engine power early before the turbocharger spooled and provides boost on the top.

Another technical aspect to note is the new dual clutch 9 speed transmission. Honda introduced its own developed dual clutch 8 speed transmission for the new line of Acura TLX and ILX. While there’s a ZF sourced 9 speed transmission that is being used on the V6 version of TLX and rumored to be available on the upcoming Honda Pilot, it is a single clutch design aimed to increase fuel efficiency rather than outright performance.

It’s too early to say that Acura is back to form of its greatest era, the nineties. The Legend, a car with classical design, performance and value that rivals the Germans. The Integra, a car that proves engine size is nothing without balance. The NSX, a supercar with sense, reliability and value. Those three cars opens up what defines Acura as a performance luxury brand. Over the years however, Acura became diluted, chasing an imaginary numbers which should be the domain of Honda. The pursuit of performance grinded and Acura became a Honda+ solution, down to its mechanics.

The NSX was not the start, Acura TLX was the breakthrough product for the brand. Yes it uses Accord engine and platform, but even just using a different transmission, it is enough for the car to differentiate itself from the supposedly “pedestrian” brand. It would be great if the Acura brand can get its own platform, but that’s another story, as everything starts now.

For an abridge design change for the NSX, here it is, in its 3 glory years of development.