It doesn’t feel that long ago that we were driving the previous generation Honda Civic Type R for the first time, and yet here we are in Germany, just two years later, sat in the all-new Type R.
I’ll get this out of the way now, I’m still not sold on the looks, but they are gradually growing on me. The previous generation was very aggressive looking and generated very black and white views on its styling. The old car looked full of purpose where as the more blunt front end of the new car positions its looks into the saloon territory.
Before I drive the car I’m already confident it’s going to be good. The clever people at Honda don’t mess around when it comes to the Type R brand. The previous car was phenomenal on track, and while some found it a bit much for the road, stepping from our Private Motor Club Porsche 911 race car it wasn’t really that bad at all. But as a daily driver it was compromised for the average user.
So, here are the headlines, there’s more power, 320PS to be precise, it’s 38% stiffer, longer, lower and wider than the out going model. Throttle response has been improved and there’s a clever rev match feature to ensure you don’t fluff those gear changes. The suspension has been revised – multi-link suspension instead of torsion beam at the rear – and the car is meant to be more usable day-to-day with new engine settings. This is not a Mk2, the new Type R has been designed from the ground up to be a more involving driver experience.
My first drive of the Civic Type R is from Dresden to the Lausitzring, a 1hr drive consisting of town driving on bumpy streets and de-restricted autobahn. Around town in Comfort mode and even Sport mode – the default setting – the ride is much improved, steering weight is progressive and very pleasant. Out onto the Autobahn and much like its older sibling the new Type R is impressively stable as the speedo nudges past 260kmh, in its class, the Type R remains the only car to create negative lift, and the purposeful exterior does go some way to answer the question of the cars looks.
Performance doesn’t feel hugely different over the old car it just feels much more efficient and clever in every aspect. It’s clear you are travelling faster, carrying more speed through corners, but these tasks are preformed with less drama than before.
After a short driver briefing I head out onto the circuit following the instructor in the car in front. I follow his line as we lap in Comfort mode, after a few familiarisation laps we build the speed up in Sport mode. My lines are a long way from being perfect, but the Type R flatters the untrained, allowing you to keep pace even when you’re compensating for not positioning yourself correctly on the track.
Under heavy braking the car behaves perfectly with the only movement from human error by arriving into a braking zone not quite in a straight line. Another lap passes and we move up into R+ mode, the car sharpens up in all areas, there isn’t the distinct change compared to the outgoing model due to the extra driving mode bridging the gap, but on track the changes are obvious.
Personally, I would like a bit more noise, when taking the car to the red line there is a little flutter from the waste-gate, the triple-exit exhaust system has been developed to reduce boom at low revs by actually drawing air inwards through the middle pipe. It’s clever and it works, just more noise for me please, something that can easily be sorted out with an after market company.
In a flash, the thirty minute session is over and it’s time to park up and reflect. The looks for me are still up for debate, the previous model was very aggressive, so obviously Japanese – in a great way. The new car has grown to command quite a large footprint and the blunt styling on the front is not quite doing it for me just yet.
I do love that everything on the outside of the Type R is there for a purpose and at speed it’s very obvious. Around the Nordschleife, in capable hands, the progress is evident. The new car will lap the ring in 7m 43.8s, that’s seven seconds quicker than the old car and amounts to 300 meters over a lap!
Coming late in the product cycle the previous car was always going to have a short life. The new Civic was developed from the very beginning with a Type R variant in mind and that has led to a less compromised car compared to the previous generation. There’s no denying it is a much more well rounded car and it’s a better track car too, so it really is a win win.
2017 marks the 25th anniversary of Type R and my favourite Type R of all time is still the Integra DC2, a raw, focused car that made no apologies for being single minded in its trackday desires and perhaps I miss a little bit of that with the new car, but then I have always been terrible at moving forward with the times.