2017 Honda Civic Type R: Four Sea­sons In­tro

Automobile - - Contents - By Nel­son Ire­son

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


The Honda

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.

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