Mugen Euro high-performance Honda CR-Z Hybrid
Gazoo Racing Lexus CT 200h race carEnlarge Photo
Hybrid cars, often defined in the public eye by the distinctive shape of the Toyota Prius, are frequently derided as dull and no fun to drive.
While the Tesla Roadster smashed the stereotype of plug-in electric cars as slow and dorky, hybrids haven't been as lucky.
So here are a couple of hybrid hot rods that stand up nicely to their higher-emission, lower-gas-mileage counterparts.
First, Toyota's motorsports partner Gazoo Racing (yes, really) recently entered a Lexus CT 200h in an endurance trophy series held at Germany's notorious Nürburgring circuit.
2011 Lexus CT 200hEnlarge Photo
Its first race in the VLN series, in which the compact hybrid hatchback competed for the Adenauer ADAC Rundstrecken-Trophy, ran six hours. The new little Lexus finished 108th overall.
In typical German compound-word fashion, VLN stands for Veranstaltergemeinschaft Langstreckenpokal Nurburgring. It translates to roughly "community-organized endurance cup."
It's an annual endurance series at the 'Ring in which amateurs in road-legal cars (plus roll cages and safety harnesses) compete with each other and everything else up to professional factory race teams.
The racing CT 200h replaces the production car's 1.8-liter engine, similar to that used in the Prius, with a 2.4-liter engine like the one used in the 2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid. Its nickel-metal-hydride battery pack and Hybrid Synergy Drive system, however, remain unchanged.
The engine switches off at stops and under certain braking conditions, with the electric motor moving the car alone from start and contributing extra torque under acceleration. Lexus says the racing CT 200h has the lowest fuel consumption of any car in its class.
Then there's the CR-Z Mugen model, from the European arm of Honda's tuning division, known as Mugen Euro.
It will make its public debut at the 2011 Goodwood Festival of Speed, held in the U.K. every July.
Initial plans for the high-performance Honda CR-Z hybrid hatch included modifications to the 1.5-liter engine and Honda's Integrated Motor Assist mild-hybrid system to boost power and torque.
Mugen Euro now says it's eked out an additional 15 percent of power and cut more than 110 pounds from the overall car. But sadly for all you tuners out there, it's a one-off project with no plans for production.