Red Devil!

Hondaís new Civic Type R loses 1000rpm, gains twice the torque and, despite the looks, gets a little bit grown up on us

by LOUIS CORDONY

HONDAíS Daisuke Tsutamori, principal designer of the new Civic Type R, nailed it when describing it as a ďwar machineĒ.

Because warís exactly what the new Type R will wage on rivals when it lands in Australia this September.

At $50,990, itíll bait foes in both all- and front-wheel drive guises, with Fordís identically priced Focus RS first springing to mind. But the lairy hatch better take a ticket. Subaruís WRX STI, Peugeotís 308 GTi 270, Renaultís incoming Megane RS, and hot Golfs of both persuasions, too, will be looking to punch-on for the title as hottest $50K five-door.

More than 250 punters have already confirmed they want one sight unseen, while Honda plans to sell 1000 in the first year. Before it arrives, though, weíve been flown to Dresden, Germany, to meet Hondaís new contender. Itís some way from Japan, but suits the fifthgeneration Civic Type Rís global appeal. Think about it.

A Japanese car developed on the Nurburgring, built in the United Kingdom, and powered by an engine from Ohio, USA. Then, itíll be exported to Asia, Europe, the Middle East, America, and us Down Under.

In Australia, Hondaís red badge has been missing since 2012, when the high-revving, harsh-riding, angry-looking atmo 2.0-litre Euro Civic Type R was sent packing by better, faster rivals. Timing issues robbed us of the Japan-and-Euro-only 2015 model, and so many rivals have sprang since, we almost forgot Honda could make ballistic road rockets for the masses.

But the companyís back at it. So weíre here to judge a couple of things. First is whether the Type R will honour the hype. Honda fired a loud warning shot by setting the fastest Nurburgring lap for a front-wheel drive car, by a fair margin. Secrecy surrounds what tyres were used.

On top of that, it needs to uphold reputation. Aussies are quite fond of the Integra Type R sold here from 1999 to 2004 (an example of which yours truly has in the garage) and thatís not to mention the NSX and S2000. And if the new Civic Type R is Hondaís way of saying it remembers we take driving seriously, itíll need to reward and thrill in equal measure. Type Rs also went where no other car dared in terms of noise (and vibration, and harshness) to make gains in connection, feel and excitement. Thereís room for that, but progress in this highly competitive segment means it canít be its only trick.

One thingís for sure, though, it looks the part. Made up of bulging guards, gaping vents, aggressive angles, and a huge rear wing, the Type R is as subtle as North Koreaís missile program. The carís combative intent is pretty clear. But Honda claims itís not just for show, everythingís been done for a reason, and that blistering H lap reveals why.

Seven minutes and 43 seconds is how quickly the Civic Type R tore around the 20.8km Nurburgring Nordschleife. Remarkably, the lapís more than six seconds quicker than the 2015 carís effort and was achieved with only seven extra kilowatts. But weíll reveal more on that later.

Engineers havenít just bolted on a turbo and dusted their hands, theyíve also focused on darker arts like aerodynamics and chassis tuning to unlock even more speed. They were clever, too, to make the new tenth-gen Civic the best canvas for the Type R. A smaller frontal area was crafted from a lower bonnet, flat underbody, and cleverly directed cooling air. All up the Civicís drag figure was cut by 12 per cent. Meanwhile, using

Honda fired a loud warning shot with its Nurburgring record lap

adhesives instead of spot welding for the new chassis made it lighter and stiffer.

Downforce was the next target.

Little roof-mounted teeth called vortex generators, a la Evo IX, feed air onto that mighty rear wing. A front splitter pushes the nose down, while guardvents and body-sills also help. The result isnít elegant, but Honda says itís the only downforce car in its category. Yuji Matsumochi, the Civic Type Rís Powertrain Assistant Large Project Leader with us at the launch, is proud of the fact, ďwe confirmed and measured every speed [for downforce]Ē. But wonít reveal much more, saying the speed it produces downforce at is, bizarrely, a ďsecretĒ.

Heís happier focusing on its turbocharged inlinefour.

With the company moving to an all-turbo Civic line-up engineers have left behind shrieking atmos to face not only growing emissions constraints, but

competition where 200kW-plus is the norm. Now that its 1998cc fill with 22.8psi of intercooled boost, VTEC lifts only the exhaust valves, while variable cam timing now features on both sticks for maximum overlap.

Other technical morsels include direct injection, an 86mm square bore and stroke ratio, a lightweight crank, and trick oil-cooled pistons.

Meanwhile software and VTEC tuning unlocks an extra 7kW for 235kW and 400Nm Ė if you live in Europe, Japan, or America, but not in Australia. Hondaís held back boost and fuel flow to protect our engines from our hot weather and crap fuel. The result is instead 228kW/400Nm, keeping it in line with the previous overseas-only turbocharged model.

The turbocharger stirs a change of character as well as more power. Urge swells from about 3000rpm, building to a 6500rpm power peak, and then wilts near the 7000rpm redline. Yep, you can now short shift a Type R. That said, itís very refined, feeling more responsive down low than a Golf R and linear than a Megane RS. Donít expect an epic noise, though.

Besides a small whistle from a deflating turbocharger when the throttle closes, the Civic Type R keeps its voice down, sounding like a twin-cam atmo donk with a sock stuffed in its mouth.

The Autobahn linking Dresden to the launchís racetrack component doesnít offer much start-stop driving, so the verdictís out on how the car manages life at less than 3000rpm. But the exclusive six-speed manual is a treat. Topped with a titanium gearknob, it slots with slick precision, enables 5.7sec 0-100km/h sprints, and the clutch engages without fuss. The drive-by-wire throttle has also let engineers develop a new rev-match system.

Thatís right, rev-match, on a Type R. Hondaís embraced electronic assistance like a new religion, and ties it to a drive-mode system defined by Comfort, Sport, and ĎR Plusí settings. Youíll find the toggle switch to the gear leverís right, which fiddles with the adaptive dampers, electric-steering assistance, ESP, rev-matching, traction control, and throttle response as you cycle through.

Comfort mode loosens damper travel and deals well with Dresdenís potholes, even with 30-profile tyres, while Sport mode sharpens throttle response and firms the suspension. R Plus prompts the most significant changes to the car, blipping revs when the stick hits the gate, rather than at clutch-lift, and increasing steering weight. But youíll need to unleash on a racetrack, like the Schipkauís Lausitzring, to reveal whatís really going on underneath.

Engineers flicked the old carís old rear torsion-beam suspension for multi-links and stiffened the bodyís mounting points. New 245mm tyres add 10mm of tread to each corner, while 20-inch wheels hang over a 95mm longer wheelbase.

The rear track, too, sits 65mm further apart.

At the same time, Honda shunned an automatic

The turbo stirs a change of character as well as more power

Even Hotter?

Honda on those reports Honda on those COULD WE see a Civic Type R cranked to 11?

Hideki Matsumoto, the Civic Type Rís lead engineer, has told Automotive News that Honda will release more variants of the Type R in the future Ė although itís not clear if this would include a Megane Trophy-R style car.

Reports of more models would corroborate with a conversation MOTOR had those reports with Yuji Matsumochi, the assistant powertrain lead engineer, who said thereís more power in the Type Rís engine when explaining the decision to use a mono-scroll turbocharger.

ďOf course [thereís more power], however, I canít say [how much exactly],Ē said Matsumochi. ďWe did many, many tests in R&D. So we have good guarantee into the market.Ē Boosting outputs mid life-cycle is almost unprecedented in Type R history, but so are turbochargers. - LC

transmission, and even more complex differential designs, to prioritise weight and balance. They also moved the fuel tank aft, at the expense of IKEAfriendly ĎMagicí folding seats, to again shift its centreof- balance rearward. Now, centreof- balance rearward. Now, 62.5 per cent of its 1380kg lies over the front treads, while 37.5 per cent of it is carried on the rear.

The bigger footprint allows the Civic Type R to tackle long radius bends at more than 160km/h with rock solid directional stability. Itís also helped braking. Even though huge four-piston Brembo front calipers slow the car like parachutes have deployed, it doesnít twitch nervously into corners.

Hondaís white coats tweaked the dual-axis suspension system that splits the steering and damping axes like in a Megane RS or previous-gen Focus RS with a new aluminium lower arm.

Renault Sport or Ford might find more turn-in with their arrangements, however, the Honda feels more sorted after the apex. The combination of inside wheel braking, a helical LSD, and extra toestability give it phenomenal traction, and precision, under full throttle at corner exit. With no push or torque steer whatsoever.

What lets the package down is that dual-pinion electric steering rack. The weighting feels artificial, and darty off-centre gearing requires quick corrections to keep a smooth cornering arc on highways. Thereís not a whole lot of feedback, either.

Inside, the rear seats are a bit drab, thereís no satnav available on Aussie models, and weíd appreciate electrically adjustable front seats. But the interior feels solid, forward visionís great, and the Type R-specific seats comfortable and well bolstered.

are extremely comfortable and well bolstered.

You wonít dread interstate trips, either. A shorter final drive in the transmission means revs are still relatively high at 100km/h, humming along at 2450rpm in top gear, but it doesnít feel like itís going to shake itself apart. The exhaust systemís been upgraded, and thanks to a new centre pipe that cuts booming noise at mid-range rpm, you can quietly yarn with passengers at any cruising speed. Although we canít vouch for speeds nearing its 272km/h V-max.

Those polarising, juvenile looks might say different, but this is a car Hondaís built using its head, rather than its heart. If you didnít know there was a red Honda badge on the front of it, you wouldnít pick it. Thereís a broad range of ride compliance, a quiet tractable engine, an insulated interior, unflappable chassis, and lots of electronic assistance. Not VW Golf R levels of plushness, but different to a Focus RS or WRX STI dayto- day, then.

Such characteristics make it an accomplished car, addressing all the flaws of Hondaís original Type Rs.

Although they replace the frenetic redline-chasing, visceral feedback, and tactile handling that made its forebears equally as popular. However, weíre not going to let rose-tinted glasses cloud Hondaís efforts here.

No way. In fact, not only does it make the Civic Type R an all-rounder, it also leaves room for Honda to inject old-school mongrel back into the mix. Weíre already salivating at the idea of a stripped-down model with more power. And there are whispers such a thing lurks somewhere down Hondaís product timeline.

Itís just fitting Dresden was chosen as the launch location. The small city in Germanyís south was its cultural jewel before allied air forces levelled it in World War Two. It remained in ruins until, over the past 30 years, Dresden citizens rebuilt it to former glory. So maybe thatís what happens when you rebuild something from the past. You must lose its original foundations to make it better.

The Specs

8000rpm out, 400Nm in

HONDA CIVIC TYPE R

BODY DRIVE ENGINE POWER TORQUE TRANSMISSION WEIGHT SUSPENSION (F) SUSPENSION (R) TYRES L/W/H WHEELBASE TRACKS 0-100KM/H PRICE 5-door, 5-seat hatch front-wheel 1998cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo 228kW @ 6500rpm 400Nm @ 2500-4500rpm 6-speed manual 1382kg dual-axis struts; anti roll-bar; adaptive dampers Multi-links; anti roll-bar; adaptive dampers 245/30 R20 (f/r); Continental SportContact 6 4557/1877/1434mm 2669mm 1599/1593mm (f/r) 5.7sec (claimed) $50,990

Despite the looks this is a car Hondaís built with its head, rather than its heart