2017 Honda Civic Type R: Blistering drive in Dresden

By THOMAS HUONG | 1 August 2017

Malaysian motoring thrill seekers would remember the third-generation Honda Civic Type R which was launched here in August 2007, featuring a powerful 225PS/215Nm 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine matched to a 6-speed close ratio manual transmission with limited slip differential.

Limited units were allocated for the Malaysian market, and that 2007 Civic Type R in a four-door sedan body was priced at RM199,800.

This time, Honda Malaysia is keeping very quiet about whether they would be bringing in the lightning-fast 2017 Civic Type R, which comes in a five-door, five-seater hatchback form.

But you know something’s up when a bunch of Malaysian motoring writers are sent to Dresden, Germany to check out the new hot hatch at the Lausitzring race track.

The 2017 Civic Type R, developed in parallel with the new standard Civic hatchback, is a maniacal machine built for speed enthusiasts.

This is underlined by a lap record for the fastest front-wheel-drive car at the Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit in Germany.

That lap record of 7 minutes 43.8 seconds was set by a development car, which was similar to the production version, in April this year.

Let’s look at the tarmac scorching numbers for the new Civic Type R, which covers the 0-100kph sprint in just 5.7 seconds and will go on to a top speed of 272kph.

This means it is both the fastest-accelerating and quickest car in its class.

It’s powered by a 2.0-litre VTEC turbocharged engine with 320PS at 6,500rpm and peak torque is 400Nm from 2,500rpm to 4,500rpm.

This is mated to a slick six-speed manual gearbox with a rev-matching function that smooths shifts, and eliminates transmission “shock” due to excessive or insufficient revving.

However, if you don’t like the rev-matching function, it can be switched off via the user settings.

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It has a 1,380kg kerb weight, and is shod with huge ultra high-performance Continental SportContact 6 tyres sized 245/30 wrapped around 20-inch berlina black alloy wheels.

The Civic Type R also has a high performance Brembo brake package to manage its prodigious power.

It’s noteworthy that the Civic Type R is produced in Swindon, England - the global manufacturing hub for the 10th-generation Civic hatchback.

The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, however, is made by Honda of America Manufacturing at its Anna, Ohio engine plant and shipped to England.

Muscular and athletic design

The new Civic Type R is 165mm longer, 36mm lower and 2mm wider than the previous-generation model.

The low and wide proportions underpin the distinctive design and classic hot hatch styling cues.

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The aerodynamic body has a best-in-class balance between lift and drag, which improves high-speed stability.

Like all Type R models before it, the nose is adorned with Honda’s famous red “H” badge.

A substantial carbon fibre effect diffuser runs below the wider rear bumper, which frames three tail-pipes.

This three tail-pipe design is eye-catching but it isn’t for show; the smaller centre tailpipe control noise levels as it acts as another exhaust outflow, with a more aggressive tone produced under acceleration.

However, at mid-load engine speed, the pressure in the centre tailpipe becomes negative, sucking in ambient air.

This eliminates the exhaust booming sound in the passenger cabin and results in a less noisy cabin at cruising speeds.

High-speed stability

With a monstrous 400Nm of torque on the Civic Type R, Honda engineers came up with an advanced dual-axis strut front suspension to reduce torque steer - where under hard acceleration, a front-wheel drive car has a tendency to pull to one side.

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It uses a front MacPherson strut suspension, and a new rear multi-link setup for improved high-speed stability.

For exceptional road holding, there’s a revised four-wheel adaptive damper system which is used in the “Comfort”, agile “Sport” and track-focused “+R” drive modes of the car.

Each drive mode changes the adaptive dampers, steering force, gear shift feel and throttle response of the car.

Sport mode remains the default setting when starting the vehicle.

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The +R mode remains the choice for track driving.

Engine responsiveness is heightened, with the torque-mapping changed to a more aggressive and performance-focused configuration, allowing more of the available torque at lower engine speeds.

The throttle ‘blipping’ effect from the rev-matching function is also enhanced.

Practical daily usage

Although the true home of a Civic Type R is on a race track, it doesn’t mean that the car isn’t built for daily urban commuting.

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It has a 2,699mm wheelbase, and the spacious sports-themed cabin features sport seats covered in striking suede-effect red and black fabric.

We found adequate leg and head room for 1.7m tall people, interior trim unique to the Civic Type R include a steering wheel with red leather inserts and hexagonal stitching, and a spherical gear lever knob made from machined alloy.

There are 4 one-touch powered up/down windows, an electric parking brake and ISOFIX points for child seats.

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Interior storage options include cup holders in the lower centre console, a deep centre box with an arm rest, and bins to store water bottles on all four doors.

There’s a seven-inch Honda Connect colour touch-screen display for infotainment and climate control, mated to a reverse camera.

You will find a decent 414-litre boot, with a side-sliding and removeable tonneau cover.

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Rear seats split or fold 60:40, and a low sill height and wide boot opening allow easy loading of wide and long items.

The test drive units in Dresden were the higher-specification GT model, which gets extra kit such as Blind Spot Information including Cross Traffic Monitor, dual-zone climate control, auto-dimming rear view mirror, Honda Connect with Garmin Navigation, a wireless charging pad, 542-watt 12-speaker audio system and LED front fog lights.

Driving in Dresden

The Civic Type R features a dual pinion variable-ratio electric power steering, and drive-by-wire throttle.

We took the car for a few laps on the Lausitzring race track, and this is where the Civic Type R truly shines.

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On the long straight stretch, you can hit speeds of more than 200kph, and when we attacked the twists and turns on the track, the Civic Type R feels very planted under hard cornering.

However, the electric power steering isn’t very communicative although it is very responsive and precise.

The manual stick has a short-throw shift and closely spaced ratios; this took a bit of getting used to, and we took a cautious approach to gear shifting in our initial sessions with the car.

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On the uneven and bumpy countryside roads around Dresden, ride quality is compliant; not too harsh or jarring - this is quite an achievement when you consider its low profile tyres and sporty suspension.

On the highway, particularly on the stretches with no speed limit, the Civic Type R shows what a speed freak it is, especially on the long straight sections.

A helical limited-slip differential (LSD) is fitted for better cornering traction, even during hard driving, and this was something we really appreciated when we drove the car hard at Lausitzring and the German Autobahn.

Highly-skilled drivers will definitely enjoy the blistering performance of the Civic Type R, while amateurs will find the car quite forgiving.

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2017 Honda Civic Type R
Engine: 2.0 litre VTEC Turbo, four-cylinder petrol
Maximum power: 320ps at 6,500rpm
Maximum torque: 400Nm at 2,500rpm to 4,500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual with rev-matching function
0-100 kph: 5.7 seconds
Maximum speed: 272kph
Features: Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) with traction control, and Indirect Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), Honda Sensing active safety technologies including Collision Mitigation Braking System, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Road Departure Mitigation, Lane Keeping Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Traffic Sign Recognition, Intelligent Speed Assistance, Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control.
Extra features on Type R GT model: Blind Spot Information including Cross Traffic Monitor, dual-zone climate control, auto-dimming rear view mirror, Honda Connect with Garmin Navigation, wireless charging pad, 542-watt 12-speaker audio system, LED front fog lights.
Price: Starts at 30,995 pounds (RM174,108)

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