Honda: Supercar Sour Grapes?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

After months of teases and race-car previewing, Toyota is publicly unveiling its production-spec LF-A supercar at the Tokyo Auto Show [via Automotive News [sub]]. And it’s a legitimate front-engine supercar, with a 4.8 liter V10 motivating it to 60 MPH in 3.7 seconds. It even has a true supercar pricetag: $375,000. But how does this car square with Toyota’s appliance-and-environment-driven image? “It’s our mission as automakers to offer cars that possess the ‘fun’ spirit that should be at the base of any car,” explains Akio Toyoda, who sees the supercar as a way to gain attention in developing markets. But having axed its own front-engine V-10 supercar, Honda is reacting to the LF-A by retreating into greener-than-thou sniping. “Sure, there are folks who like that ‘vroom’ of the engine out of nostalgia,” snickers Honda prez Takanobu Ito. “The era of V10 engines is gone.” And you’ll never guess what vehicle Ito offers up as Honda’s counterpoint to the LF-A.

Ito claims that, in certain ways that are apparently more evident to firms that recently canceled their own supercar development, Honda’s FCX Clarity is a comparable sportscar. Sort of. But the sour grapes are so evident here it hurts. “It’s light because it’s not weighed down by a ton of batteries,” Ito says, making what may be the first Hydrogen-versus-battery sport-factor argument in history. “When you weigh a car down like that, it undermines the characteristics of a sports car.” Take that Tesla! “But if you have a light car like the FCX Clarity that’s powered by a motor, you get maximum torque from a zero start and acceleration is incredible. In a way, that’s a sports car.”

And Ito is right. Cars, especially enthusiast-oriented cars, should be as light as possible, and an EV sportster without the battery weight does sound appealing. But an FCX Clarity? That’s like calling the Volt a sports sedan. And calling V10’s “the past” is no more accurate than calling hydrogen “the future.” Now if Ito had said that the world needs a new-age NSX that was actually true to the original concept (which, incidentally, Ito created), we’d be listening. Holding up his California-only, lease-only fuel cell experiment doesn’t make Honda look any more prescient or admirable.

[Thanks to Joesph Kaitschuck for the video tip]

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Lorenzo All the efforts made over decades to reduce/eliminate NVH in ICE cars, and now they're putting noise and vibration into electric cars. It reminds me of efforts to make veggie burgers taste like meat. Vegetarians don't want the taste of meat, and meat eaters will want meat, not veggie burgers.
  • Jalop1991 A true golf cart.Sure, it's a penalty box inside. But you're not in it for more than a few minutes at a time during commutes and in between charging stops.Ergo, it's the cart.
  • Zipper69 I'm sure it will sell just fine at all trim levels.I'd only note that IMHO the dashboard is a bit of a busy mess.
  • MaintenanceCosts Why do you have to accept two fewer cylinders in your gas engine to get an electric motor? (This question also applies to the CX-90.)
  • Zipper69 Do they have unique technology that might interest another manufacturer?