The development bogey for the new Honda Civic Type R was clear and simple in its scope if not its execution—beat the Nürburgring lap time of its predecessor.
Mission accomplished. The vehicle shaved 7 sec off that time, dropping it to 7 min. 43.80 sec and setting a new track record for a front-wheel-drive production car in the process.
“Though it’s difficult to quantify, there is value to halo [vehicles]. It's important to build cars for people who love cars,” spokesman Sage Marie said, by way of introduction to Honda’s fastest, most-powerful production vehicle ever offered in America.
The fifth iteration of the Type R—the first to be available in the U.S.—is based on the tenth-generation Civic hatchback. Though the platform is the same, it’s plain to see the myriad changes adopted for the racing (R) version; the result is a Civic that’s anything but plain.
R-exclusive turbo engine, 6-speed manual
Beyond the most obvious exterior elements—the red-trimmed air splitter, rear vortex generators, hatch-mounted wing and 20-in wheels and high-performance tires—what truly distinguishes the Type R sits under hood: a 2.0-L direct-injected turbocharged four-cylinder with a popping peak output of 306 hp (228 kW) at 6500 rpm and 295 lb·ft (400 N·m) between 2500 and 4500 rpm. Compared to the 1.5-L turbo-powered Si, the next-most-powerful Civic, the Type R powerplant delivers an increase of 101 hp (75 kW) and 103 lb·ft (140 N·m).
The low-inertia, high-flow monoscroll turbocharger with electric wastegate offers maximum boost pressure of 22.8 psi, up from the 16.5 psi in standard 1.5-L Civic and 20.3 psi for the Civic Si models. Also contributing to the high specific output is Honda’s i-VTEC technology, which combines dual variable cam timing for intake and exhaust camshafts, as well as VTEC, which is variable lift control on the exhaust side. “Cooling gallery” pistons and sodium-filled exhaust valves help improve combustion efficiency and response, as do a two-piece water-cooled exhaust manifold and “class-topping” lightweight cranktrain.
Compression ratio is 9.8:1, compared to 10.3:1 for the Si's 1.5-L turbo. Bore and stroke measure 86 x 85.9 mm (vs. 73 x 89.4 mm for 1.5-L turbo).
The Type R's 6-speed manual transmission—an updated version of the previous-generation Type R transmission now also shared, a bit incongruently, with the 2018 Accord—offers a short-throw shift action and closely spaced ratios suited to the engine's power delivery. Acceleration is aided by a 7% lower final gear ratio, while a 25% lighter single-mass flywheel sharpens engine response by minimizing clutch inertia. For improved cooling, the transmission incorporates case design that incorporates cooling fins, along with a new water-cooled oil cooler.
Compared to other Civic 6-speeds, the Type R transmission has a more-rigid exterior case, high-strength bearing system, high-strength gears and greater torque capacity, according to Rob Keough, Senior Product Planner for the Civic lineup.
Driver-selectable automatic rev matching, a Honda first, enables smooth, comfortable upshifts and downshifts when in Comfort or Sport modes. In +R mode, the system assumes an aggressive, quick-revving profile that complements more spirited driving. Also standard is a launch-control system that helps optimize off-the-line traction and a helical limited-slip front differential.
A three-pipe exhaust system is centered at the rear of the car. The center outlet—the resonator—is a key factor in the sound of the exhaust note in the Type R interior, according to Keough. The system is engineered to offer a “stirring” exhaust note under acceleration, and quiet cruising in low-power situations, he said.
The Type R's powerplant is manufactured at Honda of America’s Anna, OH, facility, then shipped to Honda of the U.K. Manufacturing in Swindon, England, where the Type R is assembled.
Stiffer body, track-tuned chassis
Also distinguishing the Type R from its less high-strung Civic brethren are a stiffer body and specifically-tuned chassis. The unibody structure shared with the Civic hatchback is fortified with an additional 42.7 ft (13 m) of structural adhesive at key stress areas. Applied at the seam of key panels—including the corners of all four door openings, the rear hatch opening, and inside the rear wheel houses—just before welding, the adhesive stiffens the unibody by 12% in lateral rigidity, enabling more-aggressive suspension tuning.
The Type R shares its 106.3-in (2700-mm) wheelbase with the base hatchback, but is 3.1 in (79 mm) wider—73.9 in vs. 70.8 in (1877 mm vs. 1798 mm)—due to wider front and rear track (+2.1 and +1.2 inches, respectively), its 20-in wheels and tires, and the accompanying wider fenders.
The Type R’s aluminum hood saves 11.7 lb (5.3 kg) compared to the hatchback’s steel lid, contributing to the racer’s lower center of gravity.
“Every component of the car was engineered for dynamic performance on the track and road,” Keough asserted, running down an exhaustive list of performance-boosting refinements in the chassis.
The geometry of Civic’s dual-axis strut front suspension was redesigned for sport handling, and includes more initial negative camber (-1.0°) for crisper turn-in and more caster for enhanced stability. It features aluminum knuckles, strut forks and lower arms and a 0.75-in (19-mm) reduction in steering axis offset (each side) greatly reduces torque steer. The lower suspension arms are aluminum and the Type R uses a 29-mm (1.14-in) tubular stabilizer bar.
The multi-link rear suspension uses more-rigid stamped-steel control arms and has more negative wheel camber (-0.3°) to increase handling response, cornering agility and overall stability. Mounted on a rigid subframe, the system also incorporates aluminum hub carriers and a 20.5-mm (0.81-in) solid stabilizer bar.
Spring and stabilizer bar rates are significantly stiffer than the base Civic hatchback’s: the front spring rate is twice as stiff and the stabilizer bar is 1.7 times stiffer; at the rear, a 1.6-times higher spring rate, a 2.4-times higher stabilizer bar rate and bushings that are more than twice as firm, set the Type R apart.
The 3-mode Adaptive Damper System is “more sophisticated” than the system on Civic Si, according to Keough, with a wider range of variable damping force. ADS takes inputs from three g sensors, four suspension stroke sensors and steering angle to determine the appropriate damping force for the driving condition. In +R mode, the driver can choose to switch off VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist) and traction control.
“In addition to conventional control assist for sprung mass input, the system begins assisting earlier, depending on the movement of unsprung mass,” he said.
Electric power steering (EPS) incorporates dual pinion gears and a steering ratio that’s variable over a 17% range, with a final full off-center ratio of 11.7:1 and an on-center ratio of 14.9:1. This provides a quick 2.1 turns lock-to-lock. A beefed-up motor handles the additional dynamic inputs of the track experience and unsprung mass of the larger tire/wheel package.
Braking is also “considerably upgraded” over base and Si models, according to Keough, with the largest front and rear rotors ever fitted on a production Honda Civic. The ventilated and cross-drilled front rotors are 13.8 in (350 mm) in diameter (1.26-in rotor thickness), clamped by red Brembo 4-piston aluminum calipers. The rear disc brakes feature 12.0-in (305-mm) diameter solid rotors (0.43-in rotor thickness) paired with single-piston brake calipers.
Braking power is impressive, for sure, but flinging the Type R around road and track, you don't want to do much stopping.