300+ Horsepower; No Torque Steer

Honda’s Batshit Crazy-Looking Civic Type-R Drives Like Magic

June 27, 2017 Cars By Photo by Eric Adams

The three types of performance-car drivetrains are typically ranked thusly in order of preference: 1) All-wheel-drive; 2) Rear-wheel-drive. 3) Front-wheel drive. In reality, that ordering is arguable.

Front-wheel-drive isn’t a preference for performance enthusiasts because the physics don’t work well for the kinds of driving we demand. Asking the front wheels to steer, power, and brake a car is, well, asking an awful lot. Plus, when you pump more power to the front, you’re usually rewarded with wicked torque steer — the jarring tendency for the front wheels to twitch left or right under acceleration. Anything above, say, 250 horsepower, can put you into a wall if you’re not careful.

But, behold the Honda Civic Type R: the witheringly quick front-drive, track-ready, batshit-crazy-looking sedan that’s bowing for the first time in the United States, after several generations of success abroad. Honda’s engineers have all but eliminated torque steer — a heroic achievement, if ever there was one — and the result is, frankly, fantastic. With a 306-horsepower, turbocharged two-liter four, the Type R is the most powerful car in Honda’s lineup, and also the fastest, with a recent record-setting 7:43.80 time at the 12.9-mile Nurburgring and a staggering 170 mph top speed. (Yes, 170 mph. In a Civic.)

How’d Honda pull this off? The keys in taming the torque steer can be found in two places. First, the front suspension geometry, which is often necessarily awkward in front-wheel drive cars, has been modified in this setup — in technical terms, the steering axis offset has been reduced. Second, the Type R comes with a helical limited slip differential, whose mechanical gearing more evenly transmits torque to the front wheels.

2017 Honda Civic Type-R

Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4
Horsepower: 306
Torque: 295
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel-drive
0-60: 5 seconds (est.)
Top Speed: 170 mph
EPA combined/city/highway: 25/22/28 MPG
Base Price: $33,900

On the track, the car inspired as much confidence as any equally powered rear-drive machine. Engaging track mode tightens up the steering, throttle response, automatic rev-matching, and stability systems, and also stiffens the dampers. The car eerily felt as though it always wanted to be pushed harder, but, encountering tire-squeal and loosening grip, I found the car’s limits sooner than I might have expected. That’s because I was instinctively giving it the Porsche 911 treatment — it just felt that capable. Once I dialed back my expectations to more appropriate levels, I was rewarded with a thrilling ride, effortless handling, ultra-satisfying action from the tight six-speed manual gearshift, and brake/throttle engineering optimized for fast-in/fast-out cornering.

The overall Type R treatment includes far more than hidden mechanical improvements. Key enhancements include enhanced disc brakes and Brembo calipers, lightweight 20-inch wheels, chassis stiffening, and functional aerodynamic modifications that are far beyond cosmetic. The fairly tight and stiffly-cushioned seats have been designed to improve performance too, and kept me anchored as I tossed the machine around. On a post-track street drive, I eyed them warily, but they proved comfortable enough for an…aggressive road trip.

Speaking of aerodynamics and cosmetics, visually there’s an awful lot going on with this car, for sure: scoops, divots, and ports, an expansive rear spoiler (that’s mercifully invisible in the rear-view mirror), plenty of additional strakes and protrusions meant to tame the slipstream. It’s all very dramatic, and complements the already edgy design of the base Civic nicely. The Type-R’s look may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but its performance is absolutely beyond reproach.

Honda’s Type-R Is In Good Company

The best cars under $50,000. Read the Story

Eric Adams

More by Eric Adams | Follow on Contact via Email
Sign Up for Gear Patrol Newsletters
Get the best new products, deals,
and stories in your inbox daily.

By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy and to receive email correspondence from us.