Vintage & Classics

1985: When sports cars were exclusive and the Honda Civic CRX Si was the nouveau punk

The 1985 Honda Civic CRX Si is a throwback to a time when sports cars were sports cars and Honda broke the rules.

Photo by Chris Tonn

There was a time, not long ago, when enthusiasts had strict definitions of what makes a sports car. Rear-wheel drive was required. Manual transmission, of course. Light weight. Removable top. Good handling. Heritage from a blue-blood manufacturer and car-building nation.

A few of these were negotiable – toplessness became unfashionable as automakers worried about increasingly-strict U.S.-market safety regulations – but front-wheel drive was seen as heretical among "pure" enthusiasts.

1985 Honda Civic CRX Si The CRX is a unique breed and there's a lot to love.Photo by Chris Tonn

There were certainly a few others before – the original Mini and the first-gen Volkswagen Golf GTI come to mind – but when Honda applied their brand of engineering to the hot-selling Civic to create this 1985 Honda Civic CRX Si, it became a sensation among those willing to look at driving enjoyment just a bit differently.

Honda has been pulling pristine cars out of their museum lately, letting journalists get a taste of their early hits during a lull in product cycles. This 1985 CRX Si has under ten thousand miles on the odometer and looks nearly showroom fresh. Nearly, you'll note – there are a couple of flaws, including slightly saggy vinyl on the door cards, a missing vent deflector on the upper dash, and a bit of bubbling on the plastic front fender.

Sadly, I added a flaw of my own during my day's drive in the Detroit area – an eighteen-wheeler tossed half a tire at the wee Honda's windscreen as I journeyed west on Interstate 96. Quick survival calculus weighed avoidance of the retread against the results of impacting either the center Jersey barrier to my left or the full-sized SUV to my right in a priceless 35-year-old subcompact without airbags. I'm pretty sure the scratch on the hood will buff out.

1985 Honda Civic CRX Si This engine yields just 91 horsepower.Photo by Chris Tonn

I've driven a fair number of classic cars over the years – both recently, and back in the day when they were just used cars. I've found few that can stand up to modern traffic demands as well as the CRX Si. Ninety-one horsepower sounds minimal; consider, however, the light curb weight of 1864 pounds. I had no problems getting up to extra-legal speeds on the interstate. The short (86.6 inches) wheelbase might lead you to think that high-speed stability will be compromised – no nervousness was noticeable while I diced for position at eighty-plus.

Note the red badge on the tail of the CRX – Si. No, this isn't Honda trying to emulate Chevrolet by inadvertently adding a Spanish-language meaning to a model. Here, it stands for Sport Injected. Remember when fuel injection was so novel it warranted a special badge? Indeed, this was one of the first Honda subcompacts to use fuel injection rather than the funky three-barrel carburetor that had brought the brand into prominence in the emissions-choked Seventies. PGM-FI, Honda calls it – Programmed Fuel Injection, meaning a rudimentary computer meters the fuel into the 1488cc four. Power comes on beautifully from just off idle up to well over 6000 – no stumbling, no surges like one might expect from Eighties-era electronics.

The five-speed manual has a remarkably long lever that quite neatly rests within an inch or so of my right knee, perched as I am with legs splayed around the non-adjustable steering wheel so I can recline the seatback enough to fit my head against the headliner without denting the thin sheet metal. This is one disadvantage to the Si trim compared to lesser first-generation trims of the CRX – the standard sunroof pares headroom for this driver, six-four and long of torso, to barely manageable heights. I make it work – but when I started shopping Craigslist for a bargain CRX of my own, I found myself carefully considering the sunroof-free HF and DX trim models that had been modified for extra power.

1985 Honda Civic CRX Si Driving an old car will help you appreciate how advanced new cars are.Photo by Chris Tonn

That long handle on the shifter does not mean long, vague shift throws. Notching into the next cog is simple and direct. Clutch action is light and progressive. The brakes, lightly boosted but built well before anti-lock brakes were dreamed of for budget commuters, are firm and communicative, whoa-ing the featherweight Honda with ease. The CRX Si is genuinely easy to drive, and quickly.

The air conditioning is one letdown – it was cool, but not as cold as a modern, oversized system. Further, switching the compressor on while sitting still seemed to drop the engine idle speed down a bit – causing a bit of roughness while I sat at stoplights. I opened the manually-cranked windows and the standard electric sunroof with ease for the majority of my driving on a hot, humid August afternoon – scattered rain encouraged me to persevere with the air con at times.

I was initially disappointed with the factory radio reception as I headed west from the Motor City – I quickly lost connection with the local classic-rock station as I approached the northwestern suburb of Novi. I drove on in radio silence until I emerged near the town of Hell to realize that I hadn't raised the manual radio antenna atop the driver's A-pillar. The strains of Bon Jovi quickly filled the tiny cabin, augmented by the dealer-installed graphic equalizer. I still wish I'd thought to grab some cassettes out of the basement to slide into the dividers below.

1985 Honda Civic CRX Si The interior has held up rather well, with the exception of a few spots.Photo by Chris Tonn

In some ways, driving enthusiasts have it great these days. Many mainstream manufacturers offer a car straight from the showroom that can best limited-production supercars from the 80s or 90s down a drag strip or around a road course. Many of these cars, you'll note, have but two pedals.

Honda has signaled that they'll stop offering manual transmissions except in a few performance models. Enthusiasts - the same ones who once told us that a real sports car has two doors, was front-engined, rear-drive, and was made in Germany, U.S.A., or the U.K. – have displayed their lament, as one would expect.

1985 Honda Civic CRX Si Despite its small size, the interior of the 1985 Honda Civic CRX Si is spacious.Photo by Chris Tonn

While I love rowing my own gears - especially in a vintage hot hatch such as this 1985 Honda CRX Si – the picture of a sports car has changed over the years to become more inclusive. No longer must a manual transmission define performance. No longer must the ability to manipulate a manual transmission be a shibboleth for driving enthusiasm. Drive what you like. Me? Like I said, I'm looking for an old Honda of my own. But if what fits you, your roads, and your needs best has two pedals – don't let some old fart give you the "save the manuals" line.

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Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor Group

Hyundai Motor Group, the parent company of Hyundai, has announced the formation of a new unit - New Horizons Studio. The new venture is focused on the development of what Hyundai calls Ultimate Mobility Vehicles (UMVs).

New Horizons Studio is part of Hyundai's larger focus on the future of mobility. Unit workers will work to envision vehicles that wander with "unprecedented mobility". These products will focus on target customers that have unconventional travel needs whether it be to access places they have never been or adapt their mobility limitations to their surroundings.

Hyundai 'Elevate' Walking Car Concept

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor Group

New Horizons Studio is led by Vice President Dr. John Suh, who has held several leadership roles at Hyundai Motor Group since 2011. He served as founding director of Hyundai Ventures, and then led Hyundai CRADLE (Center for Robotic-Augmented Design in Living Experiences) as its founding director based in Silicon Valley. He brings over 35 years of expertise in the automotive and emerging technology sectors, including roles at Stanford University, Palo Alto Research Center (PARC; formerly, Xerox PARC), and General Motors Company.

"We aim to create the world's first transformer-class vehicle, also known as the Ultimate Mobility Vehicle," said Dr. Suh.

Dr. Ernestine Fu will move to New Horizons Studio as Director of Product Management. She has led research on human operator and autonomous vehicle interactions at Stanford University's Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab, as well as scaled emerging technology companies for over nine years as a venture capital partner at Alsop Louie Partners.

The Hyundai Elevate is the first vehicle being developed by the Studio. It debuted at CES 2019 and does not rely solely on wheels to makes it way across urban, suburban, and rural landscapes. The unit sees the Elevate as being able to respond in emergency situations like natural disasters or assist with persons who do not have access to an ADA ramp.

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The Lamborghini Urus Graphite Capsule adds new interior and exterior color choices for buyers.

Photo courtesy of Lamborghini Automobili

Expressions in color and trim meet at the Urus Graphite Capsule, a collection of SUVs produced by super luxury automaker Lamborghini. The Urus itself sits at the intersection of performance and practicality, and is the best-selling model in the Lamborghini lineup.

The Urus Graphite Capsule lets buyers push the limit in a pick-and-choose fashion. Lamborghini will offer the Urus Graphite Capsule in four new exterior matte colors including white Bianco Monocerus, black Nero Noctis, and grey Grigio Nimbus and Grigio Keres. The lower parts of the car, the front, rear, and side sills, are all finished in the color.

Lamborghini Urus Graphite Capsule

Photo courtesy of Lamborghini Automobili

From there, buyers are able to choose from four tiny accent colors: orange Arancio Leonis and Arancio Dryope, yellow Giallo Taurus, and green Verde Scandal. Those accent colors are shown on the front splitter, door inserts, and rear spoiler.

The cabin of the Urus sports the same traditional design the SUV has had during this, its initial generation. The Urus Graphite Capsule check box adds dark, anodized aluminium trim on the dashboard and door panels, with new matt-finish carbon fiber inserts. The buyer's choice of exterior colors are carried over to the inside where upholstery is contrast stitched. Q-citura stitching and the embroidered Lamborghini logo reside on the headrests.

The ventilated Alcantara seats are an exclusive option only available on the Urus Graphite Capsule and the recently launched Pearl Capsule.

"The new Graphite Capsule endorses the inimitable versatility of the Lamborghini Urus as the original Super SUV: its color and styling is as adaptable and versatile as its presence in every high-performance and lifestyle environment." said Automobili Lamborghini Chief Commercial Officer Giovanni Perosino. "The inherent design of the Lamborghini Urus, with the DNA of our super sports heritage, lends itself to virtually limitless potential for personalizing color and trim. The Urus Graphite Capsule is the latest collection to offer our growing clientele the opportunity to stamp their individuality and way of life on their Lamborghini."

The Urus Graphite Capsule is available on Urus model year 2021. It has a starting MSRP of $218,009 in the U.S.

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