Red Devil!

Honda’s new Civic Type R loses 1000rpm, gains twice the torque and, de­spite the looks, gets a lit­tle bit grown up on us

Motor (Australia) - - FIRST FANG - by LOUIS CORDONY

HONDA’S Daisuke Tsu­ta­mori, prin­ci­pal de­signer of the new Civic Type R, nailed it when de­scrib­ing it as a “war ma­chine”. Be­cause war’s ex­actly what the new Type R will wage on ri­vals when it lands in Aus­tralia this Septem­ber.

At $50,990, it’ll bait foes in both all- and front-wheel drive guises, with Ford’s iden­ti­cally priced Fo­cus RS first spring­ing to mind. But the lairy hatch bet­ter take a ticket. Subaru’s WRX STI, Peu­geot’s 308 GTi 270, Re­nault’s in­com­ing Me­gane RS, and hot Golfs of both per­sua­sions, too, will be look­ing to punch-on for the ti­tle as hottest $50K five-door.

More than 250 pun­ters have al­ready con­firmed they want one sight unseen, while Honda plans to sell 1000 in the first year. Be­fore it ar­rives, though, we’ve been flown to Dres­den, Ger­many, to meet Honda’s new con­tender. It’s some way from Ja­pan, but suits the fifth­gen­er­a­tion Civic Type R’s global ap­peal. Think about it. A Ja­panese car de­vel­oped on the Nur­bur­gring, built in the United King­dom, and pow­ered by an en­gine from Ohio, USA. Then, it’ll be ex­ported to Asia, Europe, the Mid­dle East, Amer­ica, and us Down Un­der.

In Aus­tralia, Honda’s red badge has been miss­ing since 2012, when the high-revving, harsh-rid­ing, an­gry-look­ing atmo 2.0-litre Euro Civic Type R was sent pack­ing by bet­ter, faster ri­vals. Tim­ing is­sues robbed us of the Ja­pan-and-Euro-only 2015 model, and so many ri­vals have sprang since, we al­most for­got Honda could make bal­lis­tic road rock­ets for the masses.

But the com­pany’s back at it. So we’re here to judge a cou­ple of things. First is whether the Type R will hon­our the hype. Honda fired a loud warn­ing shot by set­ting the fastest Nur­bur­gring lap for a front-wheel drive car, by a fair mar­gin. Se­crecy sur­rounds what tyres were used.

On top of that, it needs to up­hold rep­u­ta­tion. Aussies are quite fond of the In­te­gra Type R sold here from 1999 to 2004 (an ex­am­ple of which yours truly has in the garage) and that’s not to men­tion the NSX and S2000. And if the new Civic Type R is Honda’s way of say­ing it re­mem­bers we take driv­ing se­ri­ously, it’ll need to re­ward and thrill in equal mea­sure. Type Rs also went where no other car dared in terms of noise (and vi­bra­tion, and harsh­ness) to make gains in con­nec­tion, feel and ex­cite­ment. There’s room for that, but progress in this highly com­pet­i­tive seg­ment means it can’t be its only trick.

One thing’s for sure, though, it looks the part. Made up of bulging guards, gap­ing vents, ag­gres­sive an­gles, and a huge rear wing, the Type R is as sub­tle as North Korea’s mis­sile pro­gram. The car’s com­bat­ive in­tent is pretty clear. But Honda claims it’s not just for show, ev­ery­thing’s been done for a rea­son, and that blis­ter­ing lap re­veals why.

Seven min­utes and 43 sec­onds is how quickly the Civic Type R tore around the 20.8km Nur­bur­gring Nord­schleife. Re­mark­ably, the lap’s more than six sec­onds quicker than the 2015 car’s ef­fort and was achieved with only seven ex­tra kilo­watts. But we’ll re­veal more on that later.

En­gi­neers haven’t just bolted on a turbo and dusted their hands, they’ve also fo­cused on darker arts like aero­dy­nam­ics and chas­sis tun­ing to un­lock even more speed. They were clever, too, to make the new tenth-gen Civic the best can­vas for the Type R. A smaller frontal area was crafted from a lower bon­net, flat un­der­body, and clev­erly directed cool­ing air. All up the Civic’s drag fig­ure was cut by 12 per cent. Mean­while, us­ing ad­he­sives in­stead of spot weld­ing for the new chas­sis made it lighter and stiffer.

Down­force was the next tar­get. Lit­tle roof-mounted teeth called vor­tex gen­er­a­tors, a la Evo IX, feed air onto that mighty rear wing. A front split­ter pushes the nose down, while guard­vents and body-sills also help. The re­sult isn’t ele­gant, but Honda says it’s the only down­force car in its cat­e­gory. Yuji Mat­sumochi, the Civic Type R’s Powertrain As­sis­tant Large Project Leader with us at the launch, is proud of the fact, “we con­firmed and mea­sured ev­ery speed [for down­force]”. But won’t re­veal much more, say­ing the speed it pro­duces down­force at is, bizarrely, a “se­cret”.

He’s hap­pier fo­cus­ing on its tur­bocharged in­line­four. With the com­pany mov­ing to an all-turbo Civic line-up en­gi­neers have left be­hind shriek­ing at­mos to face not only grow­ing emis­sions con­straints, but

Honda fired a loud warn­ing shot with its Nur­bur­gring record lap

com­pe­ti­tion where 200kW-plus is the norm. Now that its 1998cc fill with 22.8psi of in­ter­cooled boost, VTEC lifts only the ex­haust valves, while vari­able cam tim­ing now fea­tures on both sticks for max­i­mum over­lap. Other tech­ni­cal morsels in­clude di­rect in­jec­tion, an 86mm square bore and stroke ra­tio, a light­weight crank, and trick oil-cooled pis­tons.

Mean­while soft­ware and VTEC tun­ing un­locks an ex­tra 7kW for 235kW and 400Nm – if you live in Europe, Ja­pan, or Amer­ica, but not in Aus­tralia. Honda’s held back boost and fuel flow to pro­tect our en­gines from our hot weather and crap fuel. The re­sult is in­stead 228kW/400Nm, keep­ing it in line with the pre­vi­ous over­seas-only tur­bocharged model.

The tur­bocharger stirs a change of char­ac­ter as well as more power. Urge swells from about 3000rpm, build­ing to a 6500rpm power peak, and then wilts near the 7000rpm red­line. Yep, you can now short shift a Type R. That said, it’s very re­fined, feel­ing more re­spon­sive down low than a Golf R and lin­ear than a Me­gane RS. Don’t ex­pect an epic noise, though. Be­sides a small whis­tle from a de­flat­ing tur­bocharger when the throt­tle closes, the Civic Type R keeps its voice down, sound­ing like a twin-cam atmo donk with a sock stuffed in its mouth.

The Au­to­bahn link­ing Dres­den to the launch’s race­track com­po­nent doesn’t of­fer much start-stop driv­ing, so the ver­dict’s out on how the car man­ages life at less than 3000rpm. But the ex­clu­sive six-speed man­ual is a treat. Topped with a ti­ta­nium gear­knob, it slots with slick pre­ci­sion, en­ables 5.7sec 0-100km/h sprints, and the clutch en­gages without fuss. The drive-by-wire throt­tle has also let en­gi­neers develop a new rev-match sys­tem.

That’s right, rev-match, on a Type R. Honda’s em­braced elec­tronic as­sis­tance like a new re­li­gion, and ties it to a drive-mode sys­tem de­fined by Com­fort, Sport, and ‘R Plus’ set­tings. You’ll find the tog­gle switch to the gear lever’s right, which fid­dles with the adap­tive dampers, elec­tric-steer­ing as­sis­tance, ESP, rev-match­ing, trac­tion con­trol, and throt­tle re­sponse as you cy­cle through.

Com­fort mode loosens damper travel and deals well with Dres­den’s pot­holes, even with 30-pro­file tyres, while Sport mode sharp­ens throt­tle re­sponse and firms the sus­pen­sion. R Plus prompts the most sig­nif­i­cant changes to the car, blip­ping revs when the stick hits the gate, rather than at clutch-lift, and in­creas­ing steer­ing weight. But you’ll need to un­leash on a race­track, like the Schip­kau’s Lausitzring, to re­veal what’s re­ally go­ing on un­der­neath.

En­gi­neers flicked the old car’s old rear tor­sion-beam sus­pen­sion for multi-links and stiff­ened the body’s mount­ing points. New 245mm tyres add 10mm of tread to each cor­ner, while 20-inch wheels hang over a 95mm longer wheel­base. The rear track, too, sits 65mm fur­ther apart.

At the same time, Honda shunned an au­to­matic

The turbo stirs a change of char­ac­ter as well as more power

Honda’s Civic Type R is vis­ually, erm, ‘busy’ – to put it nicely. While aero­dy­nam­ics and cool­ing are key, the com­pany’s also go­ing af­ter new blood and hop­ing the ag­gro look will at­tract younger buy­ers

the mar­ket.” Boost­ing out­puts mid life-cy­cle is al­most un­prece­dented in Type R his­tory, but so are tur­bocharg­ers. - Man­ual trans­mis­sions and he­li­cal LSDs are main­stays of Honda en­gi­neer­ing, how­ever, dual-axis sus­pen­sion is em­ployed to help deal with...

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