2017 Honda Civic Type R: Forbidden fruit no more – CNET

 In Technology
This, dear readers, has been a long time coming. The 2017 Honda Civic Type R is finally here. Honda’s been making lightweight, race-ready Type R versions of its cars for about 25 years now, with the Civic first getting the nod in 1997. Those cars have shown up in Japan, Europe, Australia and… basically everywhere but the US of A.

Finally, finally, that’s changing. For the 10th-generation Civic, Honda decided to throw America a bone — a 306-horsepower, turbocharged bone. It’s the fastest Civic ever, the fastest production front-wheel drive car on the planet, the most powerful Honda ever released in the US and it’s really, really good.

Fifth time’s the charm

2017 Honda Civic Type R
If the wing doesn’t tell you, the badge is pretty hard to miss. 

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

R is for racing and so when the humble, sixth-gen Civic received the “Type R” nameplate back in 1997, it seemed like a bit of a curiosity. But as any fan of Japan’s Best Motoring program will tell you, or indeed anyone who’s ever obsessed over Gran Turismo, the Civic Type R has always been something worth respecting. And, for those of us in the US, something worth coveting.

For this 10th-generation Civic, and fifth iteration of the Civic Type R, Honda changed the rules somewhat. The biggest shift? It’s a four-door hatchback. While the eighth-generation Civic Type R was a four-door sedan, the car has traditionally been a two-door hatch. The extra doors will be controversial to some, but the platform is important. That the 10th-generation Civic is largely the same car globally meant Honda could practically clear the necessary regulatory hurdles to bring this thing to the States. And boy are we glad they did.

This new car sports a refined version of the 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-four motor that drove the previous Type R, too. Yes, it’s turbo’d and so it isn’t quite the screamer of yore, but it still has i-VTEC, so you can at least still make all the Fast & Furious jokes you want.

That turbo means a very healthy 295 pound-feet of torque at just 2,500 RPM and a maximum output of 306 horsepower. (That figure is slightly lower than the the car is rated for elsewhere, thanks largely to higher octane fuel in the rest of the world.) It’ll also do 28 mpg on the highway, 25 combined. That turbo blows air through a front-mount intercooler and the engine spins a slick-shifting, close-ratio six-speed manual transmission. For the first time, Honda’s outfitted the car with an auto-blip downshift system. Haven’t quite mastered those toe-heel downshifts? The Type R has you covered.

No peg-leg burnouts here

2017 Honda Civic Type R
Rubber-band tires and a trick front diff help keep things moving in the right direction.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

306 horsepower sure seems like a lot to shove through the front wheels of any car, but Honda brought an awful lot of tricks to the table to keep it in play. First up, and probably most important, is a helical limited-slip differential. This is a proper, mechanical LSD, not one of those half-assed virtual diffs that brake one wheel to try to mitigate wheelspin.

A good differential ensures both wheels spin at close to the same speed, giving you far better drive out of corners while also helping to mitigate another dreaded front-wheel drive trait: torque steer. Many powerful FWD cars require a firm grip on the wheel as they try to jerk the steering to one side or another under hard acceleration. There’s barely a hint of this in the Type R.

I did launch after launch with my hands off the wheel, even with wheelspin, and the car tracked perfectly straight. The only whiff of torque steer you get here is that the steering gets a bit vague when accelerating hard out of turns, self-centering slightly reduced, but that’s barely worth a mention.

To fight torque steer, Civic Type R features a custom suspension setup up front. The steering knuckles, to which the wheels and brakes mount, are shaped such that the steering axis is inline with the center of those giant, 20-inch wheels. When the delivery of the torque lines up with the turning axis, that greatly reduces the amount of stress applied to the steering.

How’s that understeer?

2017 Honda Civic Type R
Torque steer? Perish the thought. 

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

The real test of just how good the Civic can put all that power to the ground is to hit the track, and that’s exactly what we did. The circuit at ICAR in Mirabel, QC, is small and flat but fun and deceptively fast, with walls everywhere ready to punish the slightest indiscretion. It’s also quite bumpy in places. In other words, it’s perfect for testing the Type R at speed, and the car passed with flying colors.

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