2017 Honda Civic Type R: Four Seasons Intro
The Honda Civic Type R will change the way you think about beauty.
LET’S GET SOMETHING out of the way straight off: The Honda Civic Type R is one of the best cars to be sold new in America in a generation. In a dozen years, it’ll be the stuff of legend. In 30 it’ll be a collector’s item. I know this because I’ve already spent weeks driving our medium-term test vehicle, which will be with us for six months. That time span isn’t too long, but hopefully it’ll be enough for us to convince you of these claims.
In fact, those six months are already nearly half over, and this is the first thing we’ve written about the car. What gives? It’s simple. The Type R is so good we haven’t stopped driving it long enough to put finger to keyboard. We’re trying to eke as much out of our time with the car as possible.
We couldn’t nab the car for a full year, so high is the demand for it even among us drive-a-new-(free)-supercar-every-day types. That’s remarkable but also totally predictable if you’ve already spent time in it. Driving the Type R, there’s almost no situation where you’ll wish you were in a different car. Going to the grocery store? Perfect. Taking the dog to the beach? Perfect. Dinner and a movie? Perfect. Thrashing slow drivers in fast cars at every opportunity? Perfect.
So good is the Type R on real-world roads that the onceintimidating presence of a Porsche Turbo S in the rearview transmutes into the hustler’s thrill upon spotting a new mark. You might not leave that Porsche for dead (then again, you might), but you’ll have its driver berating his dealer later that week, swearing there’s something wrong with the car— there’s simply no way a silly little Honda could hang with one of Germany’s finest, right?
But for many, it’s not all about flat-out pace, subtle balance, and driving joy. Cars are, after all, our mobile living rooms, especially in places like Los Angeles or Dallas or Atlanta, where the blessing of employment typically comes bundled with the curse of a gnarly commute. The importance of a good in-car electronics suite becomes acute. And surprisingly, the Type R delivers well enough on that front: Bluetooth pairing is painless, the sound system is decent, and ultimately, if you have a smartphone, it’s as good a navigation/infotainment setup as anything installed by any manufacturer in any car. Interaction with the weirdness of the Honda interface
is limited to the handful of functions you can’t control through your phone or the steering wheel’s buttons.
It’s true, though, that the Type R is only available with a manual transmission. Although we wouldn’t have it any other way, some folks find rowing their own simply too onerous a task in traffic. If you typically count yourself among those types, you might still want to give the Type R a chance. Its clutch pedal is light, engagement is smooth and intuitive, and the combination of gearing and engine torque mean you don’t even have to apply the gas to get the car rolling forward smoothly. Add to that a shift lever with precise, short throws, and you end up with a manualtransmission car that’s so easy to drive as to become transparent, even in bumper-to-bumper traffic. If we had to teach someone how to drive stick, we’d use the Type R. It’s that intuitive.
There is, however, one big “but.” Well, one big wing, anyway, and enough angles, planes, and seemingly pressed-on protuberances to shame a fourth-grader’s most extreme flights of daydream-doodle fancy.
What we’re saying is if you own a pair of semi-operable eyes, you might be, at this point, mumbling to yourself something like: “Yeah, yeah, it’s fun to drive. But then you have to get out of it and look at it. I’m not sure my stomach can handle that more than once a week.” And you’re not wrong. Except for the part where you’re totally wrong.
You see, we have a working theory about what happens once you’ve driven the Type R for a week or two: You become infected. It’s a benign infection except for one small detail: It screws up your brain’s aesthetic perception node, the anterior insula, tucked deep in the cerebral cortex. Call this ailment “R-itis.”
When an uninfected person looks at the Type R, they can’t help but see the incongruent angles, the pasted-on lumps, and the overall Transformers-meets-Pokemon-meets-WTCC racer look. When the afflicted gaze upon the Type R, however, the ridiculous wing and all the other gussied-up details are still there, but they don’t have the same effect. Instead of perceiving a geometric and aesthetic dramedy, they see beyond the surface to the distilled essence of pure driving fun within, and that, my friends, is beautiful. It makes the Type R beautiful.
Sadly, R-itis isn’t communicable between humans. It can only be contracted directly from a Type R, and it requires several weeks to infiltrate and incubate before expressing symptoms. The first sign of infection is a growing urge to defend the Type R’s looks as functional. Soon after, you’ll catch yourself thinking, perhaps even saying aloud, “Actually, from this angle, it’s kinda hot.” The small headshakes and concerned sideward glances from your co-workers, friends, and family that result are the final confirmation of the diagnosis.
I’ve been infected for a little more than three weeks now. If there’s a cure, I’m not sure I want it. There are three-plus months left to find out. Will complications flare up?
We’ll keep you posted. AM
Civic Type R’s garish wing is nearly as visible from inside the car as from out, but there’s not a single thing wrong with the slick six-speed manual ’box or its shifter.