Sunday, October 29, 2017

Review: 2017 Honda Civic Type R Touring

2017 Honda Civic Type R Touring - Subcompact Culture

Just mention the phrase "Type R" and you're bound to set any car enthusiast into a bit of a tizzy. The kind of tizzy depends on how the phrase is used. If used to talk about a real Honda Type R vehicle, you can expect passionate praise and respect. If you're talking about putting a Type R badge on the back of anything other than a real Type R, then you can expect vitriol and jest at the very least. However, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the Type R gets a lot of flattery.

The Type R moniker (when used on a real Honda product) is about as iconic as any other performance designate, especially to those of us who were into the late 1990s/early 2000s sport compact craze. Honda's Type R vehicles are the top of the Honda heap for performance and were found on many of the manufacturer's models including Accord, Civic, Integra, and the iconic NSX. However, the Type R performance editions have mostly eluded North America. The exception being the 1997–1998 and 2000–2001 Acura Integra Type R. But after a 16 year hiatus, Honda is bringing the Type R back, this time as a Civic. A turbocharged, 306 horsepower Civic with a huge rear spoiler, giant brakes, 20-inch wheels, and amazing seats.

2017 Honda Civic Type R Driving
Photo by Doug Berger/NWAPA

Let's face it: Type R badge or not, the first thing you're going to notice about this vehicle is its crazy looks. Much unlike the old Integra Type R, which had understated styling, the '17 Civic Type R is in your face and looks like it may have been styled by a Japanese Manga illustrator. Overstyled? Maybe. However, like it or not, these styling bits are actually functional.

Civic Type R Roof Spoiler - Subcompact Culture
Take the enormous wing. Yes, it's functional, putting 66 lbs. of downforce on the ass-end at 124 mph. The upper-rear spoiler (with the little nubs)? Yep—functional. They help guide air over the big trunk-mounted spoiler. And yes, the hood scoop, front splitters, lower-front vents, side skirts, and all the other boy-racer-looking stuff is not just a scene from a late 1990s video game. Even that third tailpipe on the back isn't just for an extra helping of wacky styling. It acts as a resonator, and as engine speed increases, it forces the other two pipes to work on their own.

I will say, the styling is a bit much for me. Too many wings, lines, splitters, etc. Functional or not, it's more than my simplistic taste can handle. Then again, I bought Mitsubishi Mirage so my taste could be suspect. (PS: I love my Mirage ...)

I'm not going to turn this into a Honda history piece, but it's great to see Honda offering up a host of unique, innovative technology on their cars, just like they did in previous decades. (Example 1: Honda designed engines so clean in the '70s, they didn't need a catalytic converter. Example 2: Ever heard to VTEC?)

2017 Honda Civic Type R interior

Much like the Type R's exterior, there are two things you'll immediately notice when peeking inside the Civic, and they're both the bright red, highly bolstered red front seats. Actually, to call them highly bolstered is an understatement. These body-hugging, "suede-effect" seats wrap you in a racecar-like cocoon that's assured to keep you in place during the most spirited of driving. They are amazing and I love them. They do make entry and exit a bit of a contortionist's affair, but I don't care one bit. They're worth it. However, I suspect those lower bolsters will likely show quite a bit of wear after years of dragging one's ass across them. Oh, bonus points for red seat belts, too.

2017 Honda Civic Type R serial number

Other than the serialized number plate, the interior is pure Civic, which is a good thing. Great overall ergonomics, and as Mercedes pointed out (my wife, not the car company), everything falls exactly where you'd expect—another great Honda trait.

My biggest beef, however, is with the infotainment system. Sure, the 12-speaker system (with subwoofer) sounds fantastic. However, interacting with its 7-inch touchscreen is a chore. There are multiple menus to get to a lot of basic functions. There's no volume knob to quickly turn the sound down. And the climate control system is also partially integrated into the touchscreen. It's frustrating, I hate it almost as much as I love the seats.

That being said, the mutli-function trip computer (operated with the steering wheel-mounted buttons) offers scads of menus, from radio stuff to turbo boost gauges. There's a lot to play around with for both information and performance purposes.

By the way, if you have a family, the Type R is still a practical five-door hatchback with a good amount or rear seat room and cargo carrying ability, especially if you fold the rear 60/40 seats down.

2017 Honda Civic Type R shifter

Honda is "saving the manuals" by only offering the Type R in a six-speed manual transmission—as it should be. The machined aluminum knob falls perfectly in the hand, and each shift showcases that trademark Honda precision, with each movement of the shifter being better than the next. So good; so, so good. Honda—may you never lose that shifter feel! Clutch uptake is predictable. There is hill hold and brake hold, too. The whole transmission is fantastic and should be the bar at which others strive for.

2017 Honda Civic Type R engine

The '17 Type R has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot making 306 horsepower and 295 ft./lbs. of torque routed through the front wheels. Let me repeat that: 306 horsepower and 295 ft./lbs.through the front wheels. Amazingly, there's very little torque steer. But, as you can imagine, traction with that much power must be carefully modulated.

Despite the very wide 245/30/20 tires (and yes, you read that size correctly), traction can be an issue once you reach about 3,500 RPM; the tires simply claw at the earth for traction. And if it's wet, forget about it. Now, this doesn't mean the Type R can't accelerate quickly because of traction loss, but it does mean that you need to be careful with the skinny pedal.

If you are careful, you're rewarded with excellent performance. The engine is sewing-machine smooth and revs up faster than Donald Trump's temper. Thankfully, the Type R is equipped with a genuine, honest-to-goodness limited-slip differential which shines in the twisties. In fact, the Type R holds the Nürburgring record for front-wheel drive lap time (7 minutes, 43.8 seconds, if you were wondering). Having driven the car on some amazing curvy roads, I can see why.

When you're on those curvy roads, you'll be happy to know that there are three drive modes, each of which not only adjust throttle modulation, but also steering and suspension damping. The modes include comfort, sport, and Type R. The Type R setting stiffens things up like crazy, and it's what you'd want for track days or perfectly smooth roads. Most of the time, I drove the car in sport mode, which was still stiff (and is the default setting). Comfort mode is, well, comfortable.

The Type R won't empty your wallet at the pump, by the way. The car is EPA rated at 22 city, 28 highway, and 25 combined on high-octane fuel.

2017 Honda Civic Type R 20" wheels

When it comes time to slow the Type R down, have no fear, big four-piston Brembo brakes adorn the corners. The front discs measure in at 13.8-inches, rears are 12-inches. Just to put things in perspective, our 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage has 14-inch wheels. Our 1979 Honda Civic 1200 had 12-inch tires. Yes, these are big Brembo stoppers! Brake feel is excellent and stopping distances are minimal. Our tester did have quite a bit of brake noise at low speeds, possibly due to glazed pads, which a new Type R would not have.

2017 Honda Civic Type R
Photo by Doug Berger/NWAPA

While the FWD performance market isn't as hot as it has been, it still includes big players like the Ford Focus ST, the Volkswagen GTI, and arguably the Hyundai Veloster and Fiat 500 Abarth. But none of these are as hardcore as the Type R. The Type R seems more at home with AWD competition, such as the Subaru WRX STI or Ford Focus RS—at least on dry pavement.

The Type R really does deliver a megaton of fun at a price that isn't in the stratosphere—$34,775 as tested. We have heard of giant dealer markups (rumors of $65,000 Type R price tags), and even found a used one on craigslist with 2,100 miles for $46,950!

Frankly, the Type R is what every Honda fanboy always wanted. Turbo, racy styling, and performance to match that big spoiler, right from the factory. While the styling is over the top, so is the performance. And for those of us who were dyed-in-the-wool Hondaphiles in the 1990s and early 2000s, seeing the Civic Type R come to fruition in North America is satisfying.

The legend of the Type R will certainly live on, and once again, it's obtainable. Oh, and as the kids would say—If it ain't a Type R, then it ain't a tight car. (Apologies in advance)

2017 Honda Civic Type R  rear
Photo by Doug Berger/NWAPA

THE BASICS: 2017 Honda Civic Type R Touring
MSRP As Tested: $34,775
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged/intercooled four cylinder
Transmission: 6 MT
Horsepower: 306
Torque: 295 lb/ft
Curb Weight: 3,117 lbs.
Wheelbase: 106.3"
Overall Length: 179.4"
Suspension: F: Dual-Axis Strut
R: Multi Link
Brakes: F: 13.8" Brembo 4-piston disc w/ABS
R:12" Brembo disc w/ABS
Wheels: 20" alloys
Tires: 245/30/20 Continental SportContact 6
Fuel Economy (MPG): 22 city, 25 combined, 28 highway
Fuel Type: Premium (92 octane)

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