I am sure you have heard all the superlatives by now…like it’s quicker than the DC-5 Integra Type-R on track laps and that
Truth be told, I wasn’t really enthusiastic about this dressed up (or stripped-down for that matter) 8th generation Civic in a white tuxedo, with matching white ‘socks’, not at least initially. Seeing that the new Lancer Evolution (X) was also up for sampling with its turbocharged output of 295ps/366Nm, the Type-R is ‘only’ worth a 'nerdy' 222ps and 215Nm. With Mitsu Evo’s WRC heritage plus an armamentarium of S-AWC, AYC, ACD, TC-SST, ASC, Sports ABS et al, I had a foregone conclusion that the relatively cheaper Honda will be a plain walkover, even before the ignition key or start button is turned or pushed on respectively. I guess you would too, wouldn’t you?
Now, almost a month after sampling the Honda Malaysia’s officially marketed Type-R, I am still like a kid yearning to able to toy around with it again someday, even if I have to beg, borrow or steal it! The sweetness of its K20A - in Spec-R state and tune - cannot be described in words. It never gets breathless and is probably the best N/A 4-pot in the world. This epitome of Honda’s internal combustion engineering (much like the NSX-R) sounded like it can spin and sing happily all day, all night, at its 8,400rpm redline. The scream of the wild-cam VTEC past 5000rpm was reminiscent of the facelifted 911 Carrera 4/4S - though on a toned-down, lightweight scale – and needless to say, an auditory delight. Along with the stripped-off insulation materials of the anterior wheel wells, firewall, dashboard and floorpan, I reckon this is about as connected as you can get - between man and machine - in a road legit car. Yes, in this sense the Type-R resonates a purer driving experience than the Mitsu in red.
And oh! The close ratio manual gearbox with its quick action, perfectly weighted short shifts definitely played a significant role as well. With gears 3rd through to 6th keeping the rev bumped up circa 4500rpm and beyond, the K20A-R is kept at its sweet spot, raring to rocket the Championship White (you can't have it in any other shade!) Civic at a moment’s notice of your right foot. These relatively low gearings apparently also kept the drive from hovering anywhere near the K20A-R’s inherent torque dip in the 3500rpm whereabouts. Neat.
The Civic Type-R’s steering is accurate and sharp off-centre but never jittery on a high speed run. In fact, the rack is very nicely weighted for a FWD set-up. I maxed out at an indicated 186km/h before the speed limiter kicked in by executing what felt like fuel starvation. Never have I ever imagined that a FWD vehicle can have such tremendous front grip, knowing the limitations of having both front donuts executing propulsion forces, apart form the obligatory steering and braking duties. The limited slip differential (LSD) is beautifully and discreetly working in keeping the FD2R faithful to its intended cornering line, with nary a tyre chirp or whimpering. Credit also has to go to the standard issue Bridgestone Potenza RE070A incorporating semi-slick tread compound. The traction is so enormous that I couldn’t ruffle the rear axle from its leeching claw to the ground.
Comfortably noted were the excellent bucket seats. Recaro-made or not, the pair in front is better sculpted to most of us Asians, as opposed to the more premium Recaros in the Evo X, which hugs tighter at the scapulas (shoulder) and thoracic rib-cage. Spotted in the big, proper sedan-size practical boot is an extra strut brace across the rear seat backrest.
The biggest bugbear of the FD2R has to the unyielding damping (read: stiffness) of its suspension. This translates into an utterly harsh ride across lumpy tarmacs. Sometimes to the extent of hopping over speed humps at its rear. Also, the Type-R can be choppy on some poor motorway’s undulating surface at speed. But the FD2R isn’t exactly made or tuned for straight line motoring. It’s actually quite track-ready and is utmost happy on B-roads. So will the driver ever be, with that silly glee on his/her face along with moist tears of joy, as he/she strings up the corners one after another. Savouring an experience that is going to be etched long and hard in the temporal lobe of his or her grey matter.