In big brown Australia, a road trip means hundreds, even thousands, of kilometres. The countryside is as varied as the cars that traverse it. There is a myth, a myth that says a road trip must be made in big bodied, big engine, full sized vehicle with an ego the size of the Simpson Desert. It must have an engine with a minimum is 6 cylinders but fuel efficiency is secondary to power and the ability to get from zero to 100 in the smallest possible time. Better still let’s have 8 Cylinders with the drinking habits of Charlie Sheen. These days anyone with any sense will hire a diesel for the trip but perhaps there are other options?
I telephoned the nice people at Honda and asked them if they thought one of their hybrid cars was up for a little a little spin, from Sydney to Melbourne then back again. They loved the idea of a good old fashioned road trip. They threw me the keys to Sport Manual CRZ and said “go for it”. We’ve driven the both CRZ models several times and have been itching to give them a good long distance thrash. It’s a shame we don’t have a manual in the Luxury version but there it is, so, the Sport was the choice. It’s better to forgo leather seats, a glass roof and satnav for a cracking 6 speed manual with a delightful clutch and the whole package which works, well, like a well-oiled machine.
I collected the car with anticipation on the lip of my tips. I was about to commit to a very long drive in a class of car not known for long distance travel, the hybrid. Hybrids are city cars aren’t they? What if I’ve made the most dreadful mistake? Time, and 2,000 k’s would tell.
Friday arrived and we packed the car and set off. The bag was the large one of course, and some pillows and a blanket just in case a tired driver needs a roadside nap. It’s a very long drive.
The first order of business was to set the Satnav up. I fixed the Belkin Iphone windscreen and inserted the phone phone. It only took a jiff to enter the address of my digs in Melbourne and we were on our way. The Satnav apps also give you street names instead of “turn at the next left”. You also get an arrival time and other trip info, which along with the music makes the trip go faster. I’ve done several stories on using Satnav as an iPhone app. Once set up, you must switch your audio system to either streaming or USB. USB has the added advantage of charging and gives the user better control over the music selection. By far the best thing is the voice commands being given will come through the car speakers.
Can you imagine the SUV these tyres fit onto?
Attempting a drive of such duration in one go is a tough ask, as it takes about 10 long, long, long hours. We undertake such journeys in the hopes that it will highlight little problems that might not show up on a shorter test-drive. All road trips always start off the same way with a car is clean and fresh and everything feels shiny and new. As usual the M5 tunnel just west of Sydney Airport was slow, but once traversed it was clear sailing, at least until the foul weather hit. For the rest of the trip the wipers were on and off like policy at a Liberal Party policy convention. A few hours in the saddle got me to the first waypoint a garage 200 k’s south west. By now the seats would have presented a problem but so far so good. There were firm but supportive with no annoying pressure points. The only thing I hadn’t noticed previously was the very limited rear vision rear of the front doors. The tiny side rear windows are very small, and this may come as no surprise but they offer no view. You have to be a little careful when overtaking because there is quite a big black spot. The mirrors become your best friend. On an earlier drive I noticed my left leg resting on the centre console. I wondered if this would be a problem and a longer drive but it too seemed un-noticeable.
A break in the rain brought the sun out, and another coffee break. Getting back into the car I noticed some smart-alec had written “wash me I’m a dirty boy” in the grime on the bumper. I agreed with the sentiment.
I eagerly worked my way through the 6 gears and was at the speed limit in a jiffy. In highway use the acceleration is more than ample. Once in cruise mode, I had time to reflect on the CRZ. It’s been very comfortable and although compact, the cabin felt roomy, even spacious. My backside hadn’t once gone to sleep like it did in a BMW I once owned. An hour in that baby and your nether regions screamed for mercy. Now, let’s talk about the sports button: I like to keep it firmly pressed in and around the city. It gives the engine a bit of poke which comes in handy when you need to be nippy in traffic. On the open road however, no such nip is required. Personally I think the Economy setting sacrifices far too much for the sake of a small saving in fuel and should be thrown into the dust bin. Normal mode is adequate for most situations but it doesn’t boost as much as the sport setting. This simply won’t do. I want it all and I want it all times, that is until I’d been on the road for some time. Anticipated needs for power can be sorted out by a quick poke of the Sport button. I needn’t burn up petrol when I don’t need the power need I? It seems that man at Honda was right drat it all! The situation might run something like this: you pull of the roadhouse in Sport because you want to make sure you have the assistance at top boost. Once in 6th there is no need of the full Monty so going back to normal won’t put too much of a strain on your nerves.
CRZ won Wheel Car of the Year, and here is the actal award.
A wind Farm on the Hume Hwy
I was wrenched from my musings as I rounded the next bend where massive wind turbines appeared through the mists like a group of mystic gods waving their great arms in a ritual dance. I stopped to take a few snaps and put my cunning “button” plan into action. I pulled out into the traffic with the Sport button pressed and the accelerator pushed into the carpet. The CRZ took off like scalded cat, not at all hybrid-like. Once at cruising altitude I switch back to normal and with the cruise control in charge I sat back for a few hours of comfy, cheap motoring. Even in 6th the CRZ sees off all by the steepest rises in topography. It was a joy quite frankly.
Another few hundred k’s and all was well weather-wise.
Back to the trip: ay now we have covered 1,000 k’s and entered the outskirts of Melbourne. I was very glad of the IPhone app guiding us through the dizzying array of highways. Melbourne is tangled in a web of black ribbon and trying to navigate your way through it without help is unthinkable. The closer I got to my digs in Port Melbourne rooms, the more I wished that Honda had a manual in the Luxury CRZ. The cords draped over the dash board had become a trifle annoying.
The cords supporting the Iphone with its Satnav app (Navigon).
A Chevrolet Caprice Police (an Aussie made Caprice being sold to USA enforcement agencies for under a half of what they are sold here for)
The next few days were spent recovering and seeing a few friends. Why not mix business with pleasure. I stopped by to visit with my friends at Honda’s OZ HQ because I’d managed to collect a screw the size of Norway in the rear tyre. In a flash I was on my way again.
Chrysler 300C S T R E T C H L I M O filling up on the way out of Melbourne.
100 Burley Bikers Blasting By in a Blur of Butchness. The NOISE! Oh the Noise!
I stopped at MacDonalds Glen Rowan (Bushranger- Ned Kelly was caught here) Can you believe Maccers looks like this in a country town?
The Melbourne Eye half finished looks like a scene from The Day After
The row of terraces from Nine’s show “The Bock 2012”
I spent a little while touring the mansions open to the public. As in Sydney, the CRZ excelled in sports mode. I darted in and out of traffic, parked in shopping centres and had now covered a substantial number of kilometres in two states and something occurred to me: I was driving a Hybrid. I hadn’t thought the CRZ as a hybrid since I left Sydney a few days before. I was driving the CRZ like a sports car because it felt like a sports car. And that was it, that’s when it hit me. The revelation was that the CRZ was a sport car and it happens to be a hybrid.
A view from the road (Hume Hwy near Glen Rowan. Bushranger Ned Kelly was captured here.
The trip back was fun but uneventful but it gave me another 1,000 k’s to mull over the pros and cons of the CRZ. If possible there was even more crammed into her for the return journey, with two huge bolts of fabric being added to the detritus.
As I rolled back into Old Sydney Town I was given cause to reflect on the week. 2,500 k’s of driving with about 6L/100 of fuel used. There was no hint of the electric engine being anything other than a useful add on. More importantly I answered the question: Are hybrids any good on a trip. It is as good as, or better than any sporty hatch asked to do the same thing. I expected to compromise on handling or space of comfort but none of that was the case. She was as good as she was around town. My only question is why aren’t all hybrids this good?