Performance hybrids gather pace

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News of Nissan’s giant-killing GT-R going hybrid in its next generation raised plenty of eyebrows among sports car fans recently, but the electrified supercar is not the only Japanese performance hybrid in the works.

The Toyota Prius put hybrid cars on the map way back in 1997 and Japan’s biggest car-maker has launched more than a dozen petrol-electric vehicles since then.

Indeed, widespread deployment of hybrid drive technology is what most manufacturers are now undertaking to meet the more stringent emissions regulations and fuel consumption expectations of the motoring public, spelling hybrid power for everything from smallest hatches to the mightiest supercars.

In fact, as demonstrated by the Porsche 918 Spyder and LaFerrari hyper-hybrids, the only way to produce ever more powerful performance models that deliver acceptable emissions levels is to hybridise them.

Now, with hybrids getting known not just for their fuel-saving abilities but also their performance-enhancing traits, Japanese car-makers Honda, Mazda and Subaru are getting in on the hybrid act with high-performance models in the pipeline, as these renderings from Japan’s Best Car magazine suggest.

The first kid on Japan’s high performance hybrid block will be Honda’s Jazz Hybrid Type R. understands Honda engineers are currently finalising details for a hybrid version of the new Jazz that would boost total power to an impressive 140kW (up from 80kW in the standard 1.5-litre Jazz RS model upon which it’s based) while returning fuel consumption of 3.6L/100km.

Honda’s first hybrid Type R will be fitted with the same seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT) seen in the upcoming Jazz Hybrid and will employ specially tuned suspension.

Slated for a 2015 debut, the Jazz Type R should start at around $25,000 – just a few thousand dollars more than the existing Jazz Hybrid.


Mazda will also enter the hybrid fray with its Mazda3 Hybrid. Based on the new-generation Mazda3 due here in a few months &, the electrified Mazda3 will combine a Toyota-sourced hybrid system from the Prius with a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine to deliver total power output of around 221kW (300hp) and 392Nm of torque.

While that should be enough for the Mazda3 Hybrid to wear an MPS badge, fuel economy will remain at a frugal 5.0L/100km. However, Mazda has so far committed to releasing its first hybrid model by the end of this year only in Japan, where it should be priced around the Australian equivalent of about $30,000.

Meantime at Subaru, the new WRX line-up due here in March following its LA motor show debut next month will be crowned by the 220kW-plus WRX STI due in late 2014, but Subaru has something else on the table -- a WRX Hybrid.

As we’ve seen with the BRZ and Toyota 86 joint-venture sports cars, Subaru has a strong relationship with Toyota and has no doubt borrowed some hybrid technology from its sizeable partner. But the hybrid system Subaru will use for its ground-breaking WRX Hybrid comes straight from its big-selling (in Japan) XV Hybrid, which was developed in-house after over a decade of research in the Tochigi R&D centre.

To be initially fitted to the WRX and later to the Liberty, Subaru’s 2.0-litre boxer-powered hybrid system will also employ a turbocharger to generate total power of more than 220kW and 387Nm of torque.

This is a combination that Subaru fans worldwide have been waiting for; loads of performance (in this case from a powerful turbo-petrol and electric drivetrain) that also delivers fuel consumption of around 5.5L/100km -- something that has eluded boxer engines up until now.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Expect more performance hybrids, combining the torque of turbo-petrol engines and electric motors, from other Japanese manufacturers like Toyota and Nissan in the near future.

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By Peter Lyon