2017 Honda Civic Type R first drive review: track attacker Page 2

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The 6-speed manual plays the near-perfect wingman. It has Honda’s first rev-matching system, programmed to smooth out shifts until it’s in +R mode, where it zings throttle and plays some acoustic tricks to heighten the driving thrill. The system can be toggled off through the Type R’s Android-based display.

It stops when it needs, too. Ample four-piston Brembo brakes clamp on 13.8-inch front rotors and 12-inch rears. All Type Rs wear 20-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in 245/30R 20 Continental ContiSportContact 6 tires.

2017 Honda Civic Type R

2017 Honda Civic Type R

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2017 Honda Civic Type R

2017 Honda Civic Type R

Enlarge Photo
2017 Honda Civic Type R

2017 Honda Civic Type R

Enlarge Photo
2017 Honda Civic Type R

2017 Honda Civic Type R

Enlarge Photo

Elephant, meet room

The Civic Type R strains at the leash in the best ways, but finds the limits of front-wheel drive about as quickly as you think a 306-hp car would.

The front wheels have a lot of work to do here, with acceleration and steering and braking. All-wheel-drive rivals like the WRX and Golf R thread corners instinctively, masking sloppy footwork with balance.

The Civic Type R rewards a more careful tack. Pivot it into moderate bends, like the lump-free left-hander that leads into Mirabel’s middle ess, and the Type R deftly drifts through. As the pivots get tighter, patience rears its head in the form of understeer. Push the Type R hard into hairpins and it just slides off-line, waiting for you to back off.

Lift the throttle abruptly, and the Type R whips its tail as if to smack your hand with a ruler. Back off carefully, and the track-mode Type R will tuck its tail and move briskly around the bend.

MORE: 2018 Audi A5 Sportback first drive review: a niche worth exploring

Honda’s set it up to do just that, to overcome its fundamental biases. The Type R gets its own spring, damper, and bushing settings. The front springs are 200 percent stiffer than those in the base hatchback; the rear stabilizer bars, 240 percent stiffer. It also sports new control arms and knuckles, retuned electric steering, and a specific damper setting for each of its three driving modes.

A few laps of Mirabel’s slot-car track and that technique turns into second nature. In +R track mode, the Type R lays way off the steering assist, gives the dampers almost total rein over ride motions.

The dance grows more graceful with each lap. Slash through the straights, wait for the car to shift its weight and limbo just below the understeer threshold. Lift the throttle, rotate the car. Throw it through the wide corners, encourage it gently through the narrow ones. The Type R doesn’t like ham fists and ham feet, but there’s not much else it doesn’t like about going fast.

2017 Honda Civic Type R

2017 Honda Civic Type R

Enlarge Photo
2017 Honda Civic Type R

2017 Honda Civic Type R

Enlarge Photo
2017 Honda Civic Type R

2017 Honda Civic Type R

Enlarge Photo
2017 Honda Civic Type R

2017 Honda Civic Type R

Enlarge Photo

Line it up

The Civic Type R loves a racing line as much as it loves a body line. It wears lots of them. Possibly, almost all of them. It’s the angriest-looking Civic ever, what with its flared fenders, massive air intakes, and big brake ducts. Honda must have found a sale on aero bits at nearby Bombardier: the Civic’s huge wing flanked by side sills and front winglets.

Tone it all down with gray or black paint, is our suggestion. The other available colors—red, white, and blue—won’t give your eyeholes a moment’s rest.

The cabin’s sewn up with red and black fabric and red thread. The deeply bolstered seats come off spongy but supportive, though like other Civics, we have a hard time finding a perfect seating position. (The Civic’s telescope-wheel adjustment sits near the firewall, so bring your long arms.) The gauges have a multi-mode meter that switches from grip levels to a boost gauge to a lap timer. Aluminum cools the tip of the shift lever.

Your Type R money—$34,775, with no options—gets you 20-inch wheels with 245/30ZR Conti tires, the aero add-ons, performance meters, sport seats and pedals, sport steering wheel, 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment, navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a 12-speaker 540-watt stereo, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition, LED headlights, and a serial number plate on the console.


 
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