Enthusiastic Honda fans have been slobbering over this one for years. Japan and Europe have always had a version of this car, but we’ve only ever had access to the red badges and most have only ever driven simulated Xbox and PlayStation examples. But now a real live 2017 Honda Civic Type R is finally heading to American shores. Was it worth the wait? The specifications say yes.
Outwardly, it’s a 2017 Honda Civic hatchback that looks as if it spent a fraught weekend in the hands of a Fast and Furious prop master who tattooed it with an outlandish wing, fiddly aerodynamic appendages, a hood scoop, a dubious triad of tailpipes, high-bolstered red seats with race-harness pass-through holes and, of course, red Honda badges. But we may be willing to overlook much of this now that we have looked under the hood and inside the wheelwells to see what makes the Type R a seriously desirable machine.
The engine that powers the normal Civic Hatchback is a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder that makes a respectable 180 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. But the Type R lives on an entirely different plane of existence. Its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder VTEC engine with variable intake and exhaust timing belts out a full 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque on 91 octane fuel. Now you know why Honda fans have been clamoring to get their hands on this one.
The only available transmission is a six-speed manual, and compared to the one we know from the normal Civic, it benefits from a short-throw shifter and a shorter final-drive ratio to further enhance acceleration and responsiveness — as if an extra 126 horsepower wasn’t enough. The Type R’s gearbox also works in concert with the engine control unit (ECU) to enable rev-matching, a system that blips the throttle during shifts to help those who don’t quite have the heel-and-toe method down pat. For those who do, there’s a way to switch it off.
Certain upgrades had to be made to control that much power flowing through the front wheels, and chief among them are a new helical limited-slip differential and an entirely unique front strut suspension that features lots of lightweight aluminum bits and a unique camber compensation link. Additional benefits come from variable-ratio gearing in the dual-pinion electric power steering system. One of the more invisible upgrades has to do with extra rigidity added to the body itself; the already stout new hatchback body is made even stiffer through the application of structural adhesive at the joints of body shells destined to become Type R Civics.
The Type R rolls on massive (for a Civic) 245/30R20 Continental summer performance tires, which are over an inch wider than the rubber found on the last Civic Si we tested. And it’s hard to miss the Brembo four-piston front brake calipers and cross-drilled rotors through the spokes of the 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels, which are painted black with a red perimeter line. The suspension tuning is completely unique, of course, with three-chambered adaptive dampers at all four corners that can be set into Comfort, Sport (the default) or +R modes. But the mode switch doesn’t just alter the ride and handling profile, it also changes the steering and throttle response, the rev-matching and the permissiveness of the stability control system.
Pricing will be announced closer to launch, but it won’t come cheap. All of the above-mentioned Type R performance gear costs real money, and the underlying car it is built on is similar to the top-level Civic Touring, only with heavily bolstered Type R sport seats, aluminum trim and other Type R-themed interior dress-up pieces. A price well under $40,000 seems likely considering the all-wheel-drive competition, but we will add confirmed pricing and specific driving impressions in the coming weeks as more details emerge.