Published on July 4th, 2017 | by Seán Ward0
Behind The Wheel Of The 2017 Honda Civic Type R
What do you look for in a car? Rear-wheel drive or front-wheel drive, horsepower or low weight, involvement or effectiveness? In reality I’m sure many of us could agree that there are many different qualities that can combine to create a good car, because how do you define ‘good’? In the same way we’re all different as humans and have different interests and personality traits, so too do we we look at cars in slightly different ways.
Similarly, car companies all look at cars in slightly different ways, as that’s what makes them unique, and in the world of performance hatchbacks the market has probably never been as varied. There’s the double-clutch Renault Clio RS, the all-wheel drive VW Golf R, the rear-wheel drive BMW M140i, discreetly styled, manual-gearboxed front-wheel drive cars like the Peugeot 308 GTI and VW Golf GTI, and less discreet FWD monsters like the FK2 Honda Civic Type R. Or at least there was the FK2 Type R, as just a few months ago the time came for Honda to build the final car.
Now, after months of waiting, twiddling out fingers and fidgeting in anticipation, the FK2′s replacement has arrived: the 2017 FK8 Honda Civic Type R.
Looking purely at the raw performance figures, it appears not very much has changed: 315bhp from a turbocharged 2.0 litre VTEC engine, a six-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive, 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds, and a top speed of 169mph. But, in truth, this is a very different beast.
To start with, as you can probably see, the FK8 Civic Type R is based on the new tenth generation Civic, a platform that comes with all sorts of benefits. Aside from being a lighter and stronger platform, it’s also wider, more aerodynamic, and has a lower centre of gravity than the previous Civic. The Type R is lower, wider, stiffer and lighter still, with a 10mm lower centre of gravity and 36mm lower ride, 2mm of extra width, a 37% stiffer body and 16kg less weight than the FK2 Type R.
It’s a menacaing looking thing, that’s for sure, and with every new photo I like the look of it more and more, but from some angles it does just look like a bit of a mess. The front end is quite elegant and clean, but there’s a grille either side of the radiator and, although they’re the same shape, one is part-filled while the other has some sort of hole behind the mesh. There’s a lot going on at the rear too, probably too much for most people’s eyes, but Honda is adamant that everything you can see on the body of the FK8 is there for a reason.
Take the triple exhaust system as a prime example. Seeing the car in the metal for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show I thought the three pipes looked fairly ridiculous. What’s wrong with two, or four? This is a Honda Civic, not a Ferrari F40.
But while at high revs all three pipes expel gas with maximum efficiency, the centre pipe actually creates an area of negative pressure around the exhaust system at low revs, and this in turn reduces the loud, booming noise you got with the old Type R. Very clever stuff.
As for the aerodynamics, there’s a lot. – the FK2 looks almost tame by comparison. Drag is down by 3% while downforce is up, thanks in part to an almost entirely flat floor but mainly because of all the little wings, lips and flicks you see dotted around on the bodywork. Yes there’s a huge rear wing, but there are small flicks in front of each of the wheels that send air around the wheels to reduce turbulence, and there are fins across the roof that smooth out the airflow before it even gets to the rear wing.
So, what do you think it’s like to drive? In a word: consuming.
Let’s start with the power first of all. 315bhp in a front-wheel drive car shouldn’t really work, and talking to Honda’s engineers current technology won’t allow much more power to the ground, but it really, really does. The Torsen limited-slip differential finds grip where you can’t believe there is any, and transmits the power to the road with ease. There’s a bit of turbo-lag and you still need to be patient with the throttle in the wet, but the way the Type R propels you down the road is hilarious.
The FK2 Type R proved that a turbocharged VTEC Type R works, and the FK8 cements that further. It’s difficult to put it into words, but it’s the kind of car where the engine and performance alone puts a smile on your face.
The rest of the car is pretty good too. The front suspension is much the same as before albeit with a few modifications, but the rear suspension is entirely new multi-link system that both allows for a more controlled and comfortable ride, and greater high speed stability. Seeing as we drove the car in Germany and had some autobahn to play with, I can absolutely confirm that driving at 155mph is no more alarming than driving at 70mph – it’s a doddle. That said, anywhere above 90mph and the bonnet scoop makes the whole bonnet wobble around like it’s not latched down properly.
The steering is a variable ratio electric power steering system, like the standard car, but it’s been tuned and refined to give a better response and more feedback, as well as a bit of extra weight. It’s a very good system, and being variable ratio you’re able to keep your hands in the same place on the wheel where you might have found yourself needing to move with the old FK2.
Braking comes from 350mm ventilated and drilled disks and four-piston callipers at the front, supplied by Brembo, and solid 305mm disks at the rear, 9mm larger than before. The immense brakes on the Peugeot 308 GTI 270 are more powerful, in my humble opinion, but the Type R’s disks are still ferociously powerful and they have an even greater ability to stop the car thanks to new, larger 245/30 R20 Continental SportContact 6 Tyres.
The gearbox remains a six-speed manual, and it’s as nice to use as ever, but the gear ratios themselves are 7% shorter than before meaning you’ll be changing gear that little bit more regularly. Honda have also introduced a rev-mathcing system for the first time, so anyone can climb in the Type R and passengers will think they’re a heel-and-toe demon. For those of us who like to keep our feet well practiced, the system can also be turned off.
What makes the new Type R so useable, though, and what FK2 owners will probably notice more than anything when they drive this new car, is the addition of a comfort driving mode which works alongside the adaptive dampers. The old Type R had a standard, default setting and a ‘Plus R’ mode, but the new car has Normal, Plus R and Comfort.
Normal and Plus R are more or less as they used to be, with Plus R setting the dampers to their firmest and giving a maximum-attack throttle response, and ‘Normal’ remains the default mode as you start the engine. Comfort, as you might imagine, brings another level to the car’s character that sits at the opposite end of the scale to Plus R, and I cannot stress enough what a difference it’ll make to the ownership experience; normal is still comfortable, but being able to relax the car that bit further just makes it a more appealing package.
The cabin, too, is a nicer environment and one that’ll sooth rather than irritate. Yes, the sat-nav already looks old and some of the buttons on the steering wheel feel as if they’ve been designed without any reference to the word ‘ergonomics’, but it’s a comfortable, focussed interior.
The seats have even more bolstering than before, visibility is really good, and the new dials mean you can actually put the steering wheel where you want to rather than fixing it awkwardly low just to see the speedo as you had to in the FK2.
Forget this talk about the Type R going soft because it hasn’t. The FK8 might be a little less raw 90% of the time than the FK2, and it’ll be interesting to drive the two back to back when we get one in the UK, but it can still set your hair on fire and put a grin on your face that won’t go away for hours.
The FK8 is a monster, it’s just now it’s a monster that gives you a massage and tells you a joke before pulling your head off.