By Jeffrey Ross, Photos by Pepe Delfino

The August SAMA luncheon was held at the Viceroy Hotel with a beautiful view overlooking Miami from the 50th floor, and Honda was the sponsor with its all-new 2011 Honda CR-Z sport hybrid on display.
Sara Pines, a new SAMA member and Honda’s Southeast Regional Public Relations Manager, made the trip down from Atlanta and was joined by William Walton and Gina Cappelletti, both from Honda’s North American headquarters in Torrance, Calif., to talk about the CR-Z.

President Paul Borden kicked off the lunch by giving updates about this year’s Rides-N-Smiles, which is expected to be on the same weekend as last year although nothing is definite as of yet.

From there, Marcello Serrato, treasurer, said that SAMA is close to 100 members with new members joining from Orlando and Jacksonville. He also touched on the annual Christmas party which is still in the works and is being planned for December 10.

After the business part of the lunch, Pines and her team began talking about the different aspects of the new CR-Z.

With the CR-Z set to go on sale on August 24, Honda is expecting the number of hybrid vehicles to increase by 22 percent over the next five years.

Cappelletti, assistant manager for Honda public relations, said that the CR-Z will start at $19,200 for the base model and up to $23,200 for the top-of-the-line CR-Z EX with Navigation.

Walton, Honda’s manager for product planning, talked about the four key elements that were designed into the CR-Z: Design, Hybrid Performance, Linear Dynamics and Everyday Comfort.

Like any hybrid, the CR-Z pairs an electric motor with an internal combustion engine to help maximize fuel economy. For the CR-Z, it uses Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) and a 1.5-liter SOHC i-VTEC inline-four to produce a combined 122 horsepower and up to 128 lb-ft of torque.

The IMA uses a 10-kilowatt electric motor mounted between the engine and transmission that assists the engine in acceleration or acts as a generator to help recharge the 110-8-volt nickel-metal hydride battery pack.
The Honda CR-Z will be the only hybrid-electric vehicle on the market to come with a six-speed manual transmission, but the fuel-sipping continuously variable transmission (CVT) is available.

Although no official EPA fuel economy estimates have been released yet, Honda expects the CR-Z to get up to 35 miles per gallon in the city and 39 mpg on the highway.

Following the in-depth presentation, those in attendance were welcome to test drive one of the three models parked in front of the hotel.

Tony Sheffler and his staff at Interstate 1 had a nice route set up around the hotel to test out the CR-Z models on hand.

Around town, the CR-Z is able to switch from a fuel-efficient hybrid to a sporty hatchback by using a unique a three-mode drive system consisting of Econ, Normal and Sport modes.

We want to thank Honda again for its sponsorship of the August meeting, and we look forward to future events.

Our next meeting is scheduled for September 23, so be sure to check your e-mail box for updates.


Click on pictures to enlarge