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2017 Honda Civic Type R Tested: It's Worth the Wait!


The hottest Hondas offered to Americans often wore an Acura badge, including the NSX supercar and the oldie-but-goodie Integra Type R. But with Ford's wild Focus RS joining the Subaru WRX STI and Volkswagen Golf R in the U.S., the time has come for Honda to finally introduce a machine here that wears its vaunted scarlet H emblem: the 2017 Civic Type R. While we've endured a long 20 years of seeing its predecessors rack up accolades on foreign tarmac, this scaldingly hot hatch was worth the wait.

We knew the new Type R was good from our first experience on the less-than-perfect roads of Quebec, Canada. Here, though, are the headline facts from this instrumented test: Zero to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, 1.02 g of lateral grip, and the ability to stop from 70 mph in a Porsche-like 142 feet-in a tweaked, front-wheel-drive commuter car with 61.8 percent of its 3111 pounds resting on the front wheels. So, yeah, extremely solid.

A Domesticated Heathen
What sets this Honda apart from other sport compacts is how it balances speed, body control, and outright cornering prowess with the day-to-day ride comfort that you would never expect given its rubber-band-like 30-series tires. Indeed, those 245/30ZR-20 Continental SportContact 6 performance treads offer seemingly no cushion for the spindly 20-inch aluminum wheels, and they're pricey at $320 a pop. Yet, despite having significantly stiffer springs, dampers, bushings, and anti-roll bars than even the new Civic Si, the Type R traverses pockmarked pavement better than nearly any other car with this much stick. Even with its driving-mode selector in its full-attack +R setting-which slightly weights up the steering over the lesser Sport and Comfort modes and puts the three-position adaptive dampers in their firmest tune-the ride is fully livable. Combined with a high level of standard amenities and wonderfully comfortable and supportive sports seats (available in red cloth only), there's little compromise to having a Type R as your sole mode of transport.

This being the age of the turbocharger, we won't dwell on this hot Honda's lack of a spine-tingling, naturally aspirated engine. The R's boosted 2.0-liter inline-four sounds like a steroid-enhanced vacuum cleaner at high rpm and is a bit too quiet overall. But it is a super-smooth powerhouse, churning out a stout 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque and ripping to its modest 7000-rpm redline with zeal. Lots of neat chirps and whooshes can be heard from the big snail under the hood, and the trick, three-outlet exhaust keeps droning and booming sounds to a minimum, even though short final gearing has the engine turning 3500 rpm at 75 mph in top gear. We bettered the car's 22-mpg city rating by 1 mpg in our overall driving, and surpassed its 28-mpg highway figure by the same margin on our 75-mph highway test loop.

The aluminum shift ball atop the Type R's standard six-speed manual transaxle is a close reach from the leather-wrapped steering wheel. It is as rewarding to snick through the shifter's gates as it is easy to burn your hand on after the car's been sitting outside on a sunny day. But working up a sweat driving this car is unnecessary: The engine's thrust quickly builds low in the powerband; cleverly tuned rev-matching software can remove the driver from the heel-and-toe shifting loop; and the Type R's dual-axis strut front suspension-Honda's take on Ford's Revo Knuckle and GM's HiPer Strut-almost magically eliminates torque steer when you're pointed straight ahead.

Built to Run
All this civility should, in no way, suggest that the Type R cannot hustle. The engine's computer lets it free-rev to only 3500 rpm, making the optimal launch the result of carefully modulating the clutch and throttle to avoid bogging. Get it right and you'll be running at a 108-mph clip when the quarter-mile flashes by after 13.5 seconds. That makes the Type R easily the quickest front-driver we've ever tested, and just a couple ticks slower than most of its more expensive, all-wheel-drive competition. And none of its rivals can shed speed like the Civic can, its four-piston, 13.8-inch Brembo front brakes and upgraded 12.0-inch rear stoppers biting hard via a firm-if longish-travel-brake pedal.

On the road, the Civic Type R blasted down our favorite two lanes with precision and nearly unflappable composure. The sharp and moderately tactile helm makes it easy to probe the car's huge grip limits. Driven hard into a corner, the R rotates smartly, yet never abruptly so, with the helical limited-slip differential yanking it out of bends with only a slight tug at the steering wheel. It may lack a drift mode or a rally-bred AWD system, but this feels every bit the fastest front-drive production car to lap the Nurburgring.

Yo Dawg, We Put Spoilers on Your Spoilers!
Helping the Type R attain that record pace are its many external vents, fins, and protruding air manipulators, including a massive rear wing perched just above the driver's rearward line of sight. Most of these elements may be functional, but the visual effect is obnoxiously juvenile on the road. If a car could run on a slurry of Mountain Dew and Doritos, it would be this thing. And you had better like red because, along with the vibrant seats, the color graces all Type R's seat belts, some trim pieces on the dash, part of the leather on the steering wheel, the Type R?specific 7.0-inch gauge-cluster display, and the exterior's accent stripes and R badges.

The latest Civic's 7.0-inch capacitive-touch infotainment system is another bane of living with the Type R, though it becomes less of an issue once you learn the convoluted menu layout and configure a few primary settings. The rest of the R is familiar from the everyday Civic Sport that beat out the hatchback Chevrolet Cruze, Mazda 3, and VW Golf in our latest compact-hatchback comparison test. There's also 26 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 60/40 split-folding rear seat and 46 cubes with it stowed. Available only in the Civic's top-level Touring trim, the Type R has no options other than paint color, and it comes well equipped with LED headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, a 540-watt premium stereo, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

Designed from the start to include the U.S market, though sold globally, the 2017 Civic Type R slots nicely into our vehicular landscape. Its $34,775 asking price is considerably more than lesser front-drive sport compacts such as the Ford Focus ST, VW GTI, and Honda's equally new Civic Si, yet the Type R is thousands less than its AWD performance peers. Even with its fast-and-furious styling that looks ready to sprout a mohawk in traffic, this thoroughbred Civic is the hardcore hot hatch we've been waiting for.

Text Source: Car and Driver