In 2015 there were two cars that had me quite excited for a long time, one was the new Ford Mustang and the other was this new Honda Civic Type-R, and I was lucky enough to be able to attend the launches of both. Coming from the aftermarket performance side of the automotive spectrum, the Type-R has always been an iconic Honda, even though SA never got nearly enough of them. On the older models grey imports were all that was available and getting them legally registered wasn't an easy process, but they're around albeit few and far between. This fact alone means they're quite valuable, especially to enthusiasts. If the old late 90s Civic Coupe V-Tec's pricing is anything to go by, true enthusiasts with bank won't mind shelling out R586k for the fastest front-wheel drive car to hit the hallowed tarmac of Nurburgring.
Yup, this Honda is the pinnacle of perfection as far as handling (for a FWD) and power delivery are concerned. While that record-setting Honda Civic Type-R was a pre-production model, Honda maintain that it's identical to the one you can buy off the showroom floor. Of course epic driving skill isn't included in the price, that's something you need to get for yourself. Simply rattling off that the Civic Type-R has a King of the Ring title doesn't mean much, but www.autoguide.com put together an article that lists 10 sports cars that the Type-R left in its wake. The list is actually mind-blowing. First off, the Honda Civic Type-R tied the lap times of an E46 BMW CSL which you could say was the then BMW equivalent of this Honda, but the kill list includes some pretty serious metal like the 997 Porsche 911 Turbo, the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4, the C5 Corvette Z06, the Renault Megane RS275 Trophy-R and quite surprisingly, the Nissan GT-R. All of a sudden that price tag starts to look a little more palatable.
The Type-R logo is an iconic one, there can't be many performance enthusiasts who don't recognise the red 'R'. It's for this reason that I've edited my pics in this way, that 'R' must be immediately noticeable along with the other red accents that adorn these cars. Fear not, for those who aren't fans of selective colour edits, the full colour pics will follow below. Besides the 'R' logo, there's a lot to be said for this car's looks. It's very aggressive with so much in your face styling that it's borderline OTT. Of course for me this thing is amazing, but I come from the aftermarket world where spoilers and widened fenders are the order of the day. I also originally hail from the East Rand... Thankfully while there are so many little (and big) things seen around the Honda's exterior, they all conform to a function over form recipe. Everything you can see has a specific purpose that adds to the Civic Type-R's performance.
Aerodynamics have been paid a lot of attention resulting in brilliant downforce and a low drag coefficient. Air has been channelled through the car instead of just around the car, and there's also an undercarriage that's almost completely flat, attributes normally found on pure bred racecars. This means the Honda Civic Type-R quite literally sucks itself down at speed, which is the highest of it's class at 270km/h. You'll notice the front fenders are quite wide but they also have vents in them, this together with the front bumper design inhibits turbulence around the front wheels as well as helps to cool the engine and the brakes by extracting any heat build up (and also accommodate a widened track). These extended arches have been made from aluminium to keep weight down too. Air flow is also directed over the intercooler and up into the engine bay to help keep operating temps as low as possible when giving the car stick. Front spoilers and door sills have a distinctive piano-black finish to highlight the Type R’s wider and lower appearance. The same goes for the rear diffuser between the pronounced twin tail pipes. Bigger wheels and wider tyres are a must for traction and handling and the Civic Type-R features lightweight, high-rigidity 19-inch alloys that have been wrapped in specially developed Continental Sport Contact 6 tyres in a size of 235/35R19. It has also already been confirmed that these tyres will be readily available in SA for new Type-R owners.
Looks and aerodynamics don't set record lap times on their own, you need something special under the hood and that's what the new Honda Civic Type-R has. As with all the previous performance models it features the well-known Honda VTEC (Variable Timing and Lift Electronic Control) system, but this one now has direct injection too in a completely new setup under the nameplate Earth Dreams Technology. Of course the most important component that gives the 2.0 powerplant it's amazing figures is an advanced turbocharging setup. Redlining at a healthy 7000rpm, the Type-R makes 228kW of power with torque up at an impressive 400Nm. The interesting thing is that all that torque comes in at a mere 2500rpm, quite uncharacteristic for a Honda with VTEC - the new VTC (Variable Timing Control) technology is part of the reason for this. "VTC allows a degree of valve timing overlap which is finely controlled across a broad rev range to improve response and efficiency." Oddly for a motor at this state of OEM tune the sub assembly only has cast-pistons fitted, the conrods are forged though. I can imagine many out there changing this setup to run more boost reliably. As it is, there's really no need though. Every component has been constructed out of lightweight materials where possible. The turbo is a mono-scroll setup too, another odd choice as most manufacturers opt for twin-scroll these days. The wastegate is electronic which allows for more precise control of the boost.
The gearbox is equally impressive, the new Honda Civic Type-R has a 6-speed manual 'box that features a helical limited slip diff to aid in traction. Lightweight materials have ensured the 'box is the lightest in it's class. Changes are quick with only a 40mm throw on the gear lever seeing the next selected gear engaged. The ratios feel great, they keep the power delivery constant and acceleration is brutal, yet smooth. If you can find a stretch of highway long enough to take the Type-R to 6500rpm in 6th, the speedo will show you a reading of 270km/h. Not that this is a good idea on a public road of course, but the potential is there. The motor and gearbox combination, together with a very clever suspension setup, gives performance figures of just 5.7-seconds for a 0-100km/h dash, an impressive feat for a front-wheel drive setup.
The cabin of the new Honda Civic Type-R is race inspired, but that's to be expected. Driving position feels like a cockpit (well, how I imagine one to feel, I can't say that I've been in one), the dash and centre console as well as all the controls and screens sort of cocoon around you. The seats are proper race seats but they can recline to get a comfortable position. The high side bolsters keep your butt firmly in place through hard corners, and they don't really get much harder than in a Type-R. The rear seats... well I didn't even look at them because I'll never be in the back of a Type-R, but they are split folding seats for if you need more load space in the boot. I'm pretty sure they match the front seat trim though. The steering is nice and thick and has one of those centre point markers so you know which way is up. The gear lever has a great design and the gaiter matches the rest of the trim, the knob itself is machined aluminium as with previous Type-Rs. I like the interior a lot, it's quite fun if that makes any sense. The quality is good, it's not on par with the German sports stuff but for what this car is, it works just right. The black and red interior theme works best on all the colours except the blue. That said, the blue really is a great colour, especially for when you want to take pics of the car. Style is subjective though so many may disagree.
The Honda Civic Type-R features i-MID (intelligent Multi-Information Display) and this includes display information specific to the Type-R model. These are pretty cool and will be a hit with the Playstation generation, you can see throttle position, boost and a G-meter and a bunch of other cool readings. As you'd expect on a car like this you can find a shift light, well it's a series of lights above the rev gauge that converge as the revs climb eventually telling the driver where the optimum shift spot is to get the best performance out of the car.
So the tech and the spec stuff is out of the way, it's time to tell you how the new Honda Civic Type-R drives... Let me start off by saying that I've been in more turbocharged cars than most people I know, from OEM stuff to aftermarket conversions, so I do have a fair bit of experience. To date this is the most brutal factory turbocharged car I've driven. It's a beast, A BEAST I tell you! The fancy electronics so an amazing job of eliminating turbo lag, as you slowly release the clutch you can immediately feel the torque. It feels like a supercharged setup where all the Newtons come to the party very early on. This feeling also lets you know that there is plenty more coming, especially when you see how much of the rev gauge is still left to fill. That's on a slow pull off like you would on the streets, and angry pull off is just nuts - the tyres scrabble for traction but they don't light up completely, the clever electronics combined with the limited slip diff result in some pretty hectic acceleration. The way the gearing is set up, the rapid acceleration simply doesn't let up, the only time the acceleration stops is when you lift your right foot a little or when you dab the brakes.
I chucked the Type-R around the shortened Killarney track, I pushed quite hard and the car did everything I told it to do. The handling boggles the mind, all four tyres stick to the tarmac and even when I tried to induce some lift of oversteer the Type-R behaved perfectly. I took the car around in normal mode first which is still stupid fast with a stiff suspension setup, but the most fun was had when in R mode. A press of the button sees the clocks all turn red, it's like a cloak of anger settles over the car. Throttle response is improved, steering feedback changes and the suspension firms up even more. It's almost a day/night difference. I pushed it hard, well as hard as I was comfortable pushing it - you never want to be that guy who bins it on a launch. The sad thing is that while I was driving at 9/10ths, the composed Type-R was probably only really running at somewhere around 6.5/10ths. I know this because after that I went around with Deon Joubert at the helm. I almost kakked myself. I'm not even slightly kidding. Deon can pedal like no other and he took the car much closer to it's limits and it stuck to the tar like the proverbial shit to a blanket. One sweeping bend saw me taking it comfortably at around 120km/h while Deon was over 30km/h faster and was still chatting away as if it was nothing, so without a passenger and driving in anger this thing is going to make many people fall in love with track driving. The Honda Civic Type-R is going to rack up an impressive kill list. I'm pretty sure that this car in stock form with a roll cage and harnesses would be able to kick up quite the fuss in the modified production cars series. A modified one would be just something else.
Is it worth that hefty price tag? I think it might just be. It should also hold value well too for when it's time to sell, although I cannot think of a reason to want to ever sell one. It's the fastest of the fast, the hottest hatch to date and a future iconic car. R586 000 is a lot, it puts the Type-R in the company of some pretty damn good cars which (to me anyway) means only true enthusiasts will swing the way of the Honda. The price does does include a large, new 5-year/200 000km warranty though, which can come in handy I'm sure.
Of course, the Honda Civic Type-R looks just as hot in full colour...