Yup…we can confirm that it’s still an incredible car
Words by: Adam Allen
Those who hang out often and stop by the Carpages Garage regularly may be feeling a sense of déjà vu. Didn’t you guys test the Type R about a year ago, you might be thinking? The answer is yes, but in the name of continuing to provide you with astute fact gathering on the automotive industry we decided another go in Honda’s Type R was necessary. For 2018, there are big changes we felt we needed to address, like the fact that it’s now available in Rallye Red like our tester. OK, so that’s really all that separated our 2018 tester from the version we drove in 2017, but much has come to pass where the Type R’s track cred is concerned. We also felt that after our initial review we could delve into what makes this car so special to drive in greater detail.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way right away: it still is awkwardly styled, to put it charitably. A friend summed it up thusly after taking the Civic Type R in from all angles and concluding- “it’s um, overdressed.” The infotainment hasn’t benefited from the trickle down of the hardware found in the new Accord, so it therefore sill the same slow, frustrating unit from before. And like the exterior hue, the interior makes no bones about it’s love for the colour red; perhaps a little too much. Those gripes are the only real flies in the ointment.
Moving on- since our last stint in the Type R, it has made its way around the world to visit some very challenging race tracks to see how this front-wheel drive performance car that shares its bones with one of the world’s most popular economy cars might fare. At Europe’s greatest and most storied circuits- namely Silverstone, Spa, Monza and the Grand Daddy of them all, the Nürburgring- the Civic Type R was pulled off a showroom floor, unloaded from a truck, tire pressures were checked and then it proceeded to set lap records at all the above while slackening jaws from car enthusiasts across the globe. One of our favorite metrics of how blisteringly fast the Type R is we gleaned from our friends at Car and Driver, one of the more popular U.S. based car mags. Every year, they descend upon Virginia International Raceway (which has an amalgam of corners based on what you get from the world’s best circuits) to see what’s what. While the Type R competed in a class that was based on it’s price and was perhaps a little unfair, it set a time of 3:03.9. We’ll save you the time of Googling what that means in the broader context of this grueling performance test, but how’s this: The Type R set a time which matched the 2019 444 horsepower Audi RS 5 exactly as well as a 2012 Porsche Cayman R; and it is actually faster than the following seriously fast sports cars: the current V8 powered Chevy Camaro 1LE, the near 700 horsepower 2011 Ford Mustang GT500 and the wicked previous generation Cadillac CTS-V (Coupe and Sedan alike) are all inconceivably slower than Honda’s front-drive Civic Type R. What an amazing time to be alive.
You’d think that a car straight out of a Honda dealership but with such dizzyingly high capabilities would be a pain in the ass to drive, but you’d be wrong. This is a car you could effortlessly use every single day, in any season. In fact, the Type R excels at being a regular car just as much as it’s at home on a race track. It is surprisingly refined, the seats are comfortable, ergonomics are spot on- even the 20” wheels skimpily shod in sticky performance rubber offer a ride that isn’t at all harsh, even feeling comfortable. These are towering achievements folks, and when you really want to beat on your Type R at a track or autocross, it can take the abuse with no worries- in fact it seems to thrive, all with a factory warranty stowed safely in its back pocket. There are a scant few cars on sale today that can boast the same bandwidth of shocking competence.
You’re no doubt impressed at this point, but we still have not touched on what it’s like to live with the Civic Type R every day. Of this much you can be sure: it never fails to delight and awe anyone lucky enough to be behind the wheel. We should first address the powertrain. We don’t say this lightly, but there are few out there in the automotive kingdom which feel as sorted and robust compared to this hot rod Civic. The 2.0 turbo four still feels as strong as ever, goading you to wring it out- not as rewarding as the stratospheric engines of the past, but it still mighty satisfying all the way to the redline- most turbo engines give up the ghost as the tach rounds the home stretch. It’s makes crazy serviceable power throughout its operating range, but you’ll be tempted to row the gearbox because it’s such a joy; maybe only a Mazda MX-5 or Porsche GT3 could match it for tactility. There’s standard automatic rev matching to make you look like a hero, and it works very well- but guilt overwhelmed us and so we switched it off poste haste to manipulate the shifter and pedals without the aid of admittedly well written code. The brakes are unfazed by anything you throw at them and they never lose their feel of precision when summoning deceleration ranging from the benign to the hyper aggressive. Also, it doesn’t dive or squirm around when you really stand on the Brembo binders. Probably the most shocking dynamic trait that will reveal itself to unsuspecting pilots is the unbelievable grip. This car might be pulled around by its front wheels, but it simply doesn’t know the meaning of surrendering adhesion. Part of that goes to the sticky rubber, the slick limited slip diff and the trick front suspension geometry that all but eliminates torque steer and allows you to put the hefty power to the ground without hesitation. We drove our tester through wildly fluctuating temperatures, and the dogged grip it served up is nothing short of astonishing.
And so, we leave you with this thought- and it’s a heavy one- that the Civic Type R could pass for a front-wheel drive Porsche, such is its impressive dynamic resume. Keep in mind folks- this car is based not on some accomplished and revered sports car platform like the 911, but rather the humble but well sorted Civic and will in turn force you to recalibrate your expectations of what a front-wheel drive platform is capable of. That should be impressive enough on its own but please be aware- cars like this don’t come along very often. If they offered an option to tone down the exterior and interior embellishments, we’d sign on the dotted line immediately. If you can look past the short list of flaws, the Honda Civic Type R exists as one of the most compelling performance buys in recent memory. Get off the fence if you’re thinking about pulling the trigger- you really should buy one.
2018 Honda Civic Type R – Specifications
- Price as tested: $42,876
- Body Type: 5-door, 5 passenger hatchback
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
- Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged inline 4, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 306 @ 6,500 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft.): 295 @ 2,500 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- Curb weight: 1,415 kg (3,120 lbs)
- Observed Fuel consumption: 10.1L/100km (23 mpg)