Road trip­ping to Per­isher in Honda’s hottest hatch

Motor (Australia) - - LONG TERMERS -

THE VERY LONG DRIVE (VLD) is a bit of an Aus­tralian thing. Ev­ery so of­ten, an op­por­tu­nity comes up to drive some four-fig­ure dis­tance, one that would cause the eye­balls to pop from the head of any Euro­pean. But you take said op­por­tu­nity, be­cause there is some­thing sooth­ing, cathar­tic and qui­etly soul-sat­is­fy­ing about the bore­dom of a long drive in Aus­tralia. This month, we put our Honda Civic Type R to this very test with a VLD from Mel­bourne to Jind­abyne, NSW, and the Per­isher ski slopes. Six hun­dred kilo­me­tres doesn’t sound very far un­til you con­sider that a great deal of that is on twisty roads with a rel­a­tively low av­er­age speed. In the­ory. The Hume High­way out of Mel­bourne was our first op­por­tu­nity to get to know the long-dis­tance cruis­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties of our be­winged snowwhite hot hatch. And the big, fat ticks come rolling in. There’s the ride for a start, which we’ve banged on about mul­ti­ple times, re­mark­ably com­pli­ant and sup­ple for 30-pro­file tyres and truly more com­fort­able than many ded­i­cated, new lux­ury cars. Mercedes-Benz Magic Body Con­trol? Erm, a Civic Type R might ac­tu­ally be more com­fort­able. No joke. This is great for the Type R’s abil­ity to get its oc­cu­pants a great dis­tance and out the other end feel­ing rel­a­tively fresh. Which would be the case, if it wasn’t so noisy. Okay, so the Type R doesn’t roar like an old 747 at 38,000 feet, but a lot of tyre noise gets into the cabin on a coarse-ish chip free­way. Some­times, at 110km/h, it’s nec­es­sary to raise one’s voice ever so slightly in con­ver­sa­tion. As un­pop­u­lar a thing it is to say, an­other 25kg of very strate­gi­cally placed sound dead­en­ing could be worth the weight penalty. Very in­ter­est­ingly, the Type R has


the abil­ity to drive it­self down the mo­tor­way if you so wish. Clever radar cruise con­trol with so-called Lane Keep As­sist Sys­tem con­trols speed rel­a­tive to other cars, but also picks up lane mark­ings to steer the Type R with­out in­put, sur­pris­ingly ef­fec­tively. On a straight dual car­riage­way with gen­tle curves, bumps and dap­pled light, the LKAS sys­tem “drove” the Type R for 10 min­utes with­out us touch­ing any con­trol – in­clud­ing the steer­ing wheel – and could have gone for longer. Im­pres­sive, yet its util­ity, other than let­ting you take lids off wa­ter bot­tles with both hands, is not en­tirely clear. Mean­while in the fuel stakes, the best range we saw af­ter a fill of the 47-litre tank was 461km and our best high­way econ­omy was 7.6L/100km. Help­fully, the Type R will take 91-95RON fuel if push comes to shove. Which it did, as we ar­rived in Cor­ry­ong, the last real fuel op­por­tu­nity un­til Jind­abyne a cou­ple of hours later. What we couldn’t be helped with was chains, which you must carry in your non-AWD ve­hi­cle dur­ing the ski sea­son. A lady who rented snow chains in Khancoban, NSW, took one look at the 245/30 ZR20 wheels and tyres and wished us luck. As it was near­ing the end of the ski sea­son and on the warmer side, and with a favourable weather fore­cast, we pressed on. Be­tween Khancoban and Thredbo lies ap­prox­i­mately 75km of fan­tas­ti­cally scenic roads, wind­ing through a rocky gorge be­fore plung­ing up and down through thick forests, open­ing back up for glimpses of an Aussie alpine land­scape tempt­ing you to pull over for a photo, be­fore spit­ting you out into a win­ter won­der­land near­ing Thredbo. On the dry bits, with sur­pris­ingly light traf­fic, we were re­minded yet again of the Type R’s lovely, ad­dic­tive, easy han­dling and the way it rel­ishes be­ing driven up a twisty road. It is a hugely fun and sat­is­fy­ing car on a moun­tain road. And ex­tremely quick, too. Yet it was here we rued an an­noy­ance, that be­ing you have to stop and ap­ply the hand­brake, and dig around the in­fo­tain­ment menu, to switch the rev match on and off. There’s a blank but­ton right next to the man­ual gearchange – why not make this the rev-match on/off but­ton? As the tem­per­a­ture plunged near Thredbo and snow blan­keted the land­scape, we were glad for the Type R’s feed­back and com­mu­nica­tive con­trols as we anx­iously drove over what could have been icy patches. We wouldn’t have wanted any other tyre but the Con­ti­nen­tal SportCon­tact6, ei­ther, for th­ese con­di­tions, with their proven wet-weather abil­ity. Hav­ing en­joyed Per­isher for a few days we headed back to Mel­bourne. And per­haps en­joyed the Type R’s tur­bocharged per­for­mance a lit­tle bit too much, al­most run­ning out of fuel – or so it seemed, with “8km to empty” there was still 4-5 litres in the tank. Still, you wouldn’t want any in­ac­cu­racy around the other way. There was also a scare as we hit a mon­ster pot-hole, the pas­sen­ger front wheel thud­ding like a shock was go­ing to pop through the bon­net. In the USA many own­ers have buck­led the 20-inch rims in pot-holes and have had to make war­ranty claims. Also, there is no spare tyre. If I owned the Type R, I’d be cu­ri­ous to know what it would be like on 245/35R19s for the im­prove­ment again in ride, but also for styling. And I’d buy five. Next month the Type R goes back and for this, we are gen­uinely sad. Time has helped to dis­til our thoughts on this car. Those be­ing, quite sim­ply, it’s a magic car to drive if you can get over the boy-racer styling and what is a bit of a plain and slightly cheap in­te­rior with a fid­dly in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem. The Type R is also a bit dull to drive at low speeds. As for its VLD abil­ity, the Type R has us tempted for the VFLD. –

ABOVE All-wheel drive? Yes, Mr Tyre Chain Pa­trol­man, that’s cor­rect...

01 ONE Type R’s fronts are some of the busiest tyres in the busi­ness. Dot­ing own­ers would do well to ro­tate of­ten

03 THREE Alpine Way kisses the bor­der be­tween NSW and Vic­to­ria and wraps around Mt Kosciuszko. Not a bad drive

02 TWO 60/40 spit-fold rear seats handy if you have to cart both an enor­mous snow­board bag and two pas­sen­gers

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