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Concept Car of the Week: Honda J-VX (1997)

Fri, 29 Aug 2014 00:00:00 -0700

In 1997, in an effort to preserve its sporty image, Honda needed to bring new exciting models in its showrooms, to park alongside its mainstream Civics and the excellent but slow-selling NSX. The 1995 Integra Type-R proved a fun car to drive but lacked in personality compared to older models of the brand such as the bold CR-X. At the Tokyo motor show, Honda unveiled a prototype of what could be the sports car of the 21st century while also capturing the essence of the iconic CR-X.

Named J-VX, the green concept was designed to be exciting to drive while remaining environmentally responsible. Its futuristic design is accentuated by its simple silhouette using almost a single line from the front spoiler all the way to the rear edge of the roof. As a result of its monovolume teardrop shape and sharply cut roof, its aerodynamics were excellent.

In plan shape, the cabin also tapered to the rear creating large purposeful hips over the rear wheels. The rear itself was not as well resolved but the bravery of the negative rear window, the huge diffuser with central exhaust made up for its clumsiness. Along with a planted stance, the surfaces were a smart blend of clean volumes criss-crossing along crisp edges.

The J-VX was the first sports car concept using the brand's new hybrid technology Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system. The IMA features a slim electric motor connected with the 1.0-liter 3-cylinder direct injection engine and function as an additional power source during acceleration. It also had regenerative braking which converts the physical energy of the car movement from deceleration into stored electricity. All of which contributed to an extremely low fuel consumption of 30 km/liter (84mpg).

Inside, full bucket seats are reminiscent of formula racing cars while the controls were kept to a minimum and adjusted to an optimal position to keep the driver's attention focused on the road. The layout is a 2+2 with foldable rear seats. The full glass canopy creates a light and airy feeling unexpected in traditional sports cars and even less in a compact car. Amongst the J-VX's innovative features, it had air-belts which function both as seat belts, and airbags.

Although J-VX did not make it into production, the project and the technology evolved until 2007 when Honda presented the CR-Z concept also using an hybrid powertrain and an inspiring design and then CR-Z production, although some of the futuristic style and driving excitement faded along the way.

First seen 1997 Tokyo Motor Show
Length 3,840mm
Width 1,750mm
Height 1,255mm
Engine 1.0-liter direct injection 3 cylinder VTEC IMA hybrid

Your author, Flavien Dachet, is a UK-based, French-born car designer. You may know him as the purveyor of KarzNshit, a photo blog that if isn't already in your bookmarks, certainly should be.

By Flavien Dachet