Close games are the most agonizing to lose. Sure, the glass-half-full perspective says to walk away with your head held high with pride for your effort and a calm understanding that the cards of fate just weren’t dealt in your favor this go-around. I envy that positivity. The ones where you’ve done damn near everything in your power and still came up short — those suck the hardest.
It’s the same with cars. Today’s Question of the Day asks us to reflect on vehicles that were nearly there. Painfully close to perfection, or at least veneration. Cars that got it mostly right, that we’d remember with fondness had it not been for that one critical element that was missing.
If you ask most enthusiasts these days, more often than not the absent element happens to be the transmission. It was the one constant, unavoidable barb lobbed at the auto-only Toyota Supra, until the Japanese automaker finally rectified that oversight with the latest model year. But my nomination for this QOTD is the rare case of an ostensibly sporty hybrid that had the proper gearbox, but a feeble heart: the Honda CR-Z.
No, the CR-Z wasn’t a bad car, and it didn’t deserve the full brunt of the scorn it received for the five years it lasted in this world. But it deserved, like, 25 percent of the scorn. Quarter-scorn. Listen, I’m always that guy preaching that power isn’t everything, and even I can’t justify the sum total of 130 horsepower through the CR-Z’s front wheels. I probably could if it got better than 36 miles per gallon combined. My Fiesta ST will manage about 4 MPG less on a good day, and that has 70 more ponies and no electric motor.
We’re all aware of the problem, but perhaps not so much the solution. See, 12 years ago Honda tuning specialists Spoon flirted with transforming the CR-Z into the best version of itself. That process didn’t involve a K-swap, because Spoon respected the car the CR-Z was meant to be. Instead, the company made every piece a little bit better, per Speedhunters, and gave it a carbon hood and its trademark yellow wheels for good measure. The final product had just a 20 hp advantage on the stock version, but coupled with a limited-slip differential and a 300-pound diet, 20 hp was enough. I’ve desperately wanted to drive it since the moment I saw it in Gran Turismo 5.
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That’s me, though. What car broke your heart with how almost perfect it was?