Nurburgring. The very word is music to the ears of any petrol-head. Situated in Nurburg, Germany, the Nurburgring is the Mecca of the car world, where car manufacturers bring their hottest models to the Nordschleife layout to wring them out over the 20.81 kilometres of twisting tarmac and obtain a coveted time. These times are hotly coveted as a prized trophy. The circuit is a winding strip of tarmac among pine forests that has a 1,000 foot elevation change! Everything, from the latest hypercars to high-mileage heroes and even vans have taken to the circuit (recall ring Queen Sabine Schmidt driving a Ford Transit).
Why the lengthy explanation? Well, front-wheel drive cars, while they can be performance heroes are not typically associated with the Nordschleife. A manufacturer may bring the car and record a time but it is not trumpeted. Honda decided to do just that, when their latest Civic Type R broke the front-wheel-drive car record, scoring a time of 7 minutes 43.8 seconds. A time that would be troubling for many rear-wheel drive cars too. And now we get to enjoy the latest FK8 Type R in Sri Lanka, and give it our full test experience with the limelight solely on it.
The car is owned by Glenn Jayasekara and was imported by Cars@Duplication. Glenn is extremely pleased with Cars@Duplication, stating enthusiastically that they helped him to the very end to bring this unique car down at the best price. He personally chose the specification and colour and opted not to go for the £2000 GT Pack, as it brings little useful features for our market.
Remember how in the past, Honda Civics were the targets of cosmetic modification? Recall the “ricer” community who used to adorn sky-high spoilers, splitters and body kits that you couldn’t slide an envelope under? Honda have given the middle finger to third party “sculptors” and decked the car out to the nines. Need-For-Speed-esque rear spoiler? Check. Side skirts? Check. Sculpted front bumper with air intakes and chin spoiler? Check. Twenty inch rims with bright red brake calipers behind? Check. The downside to all this is that cops tend to stop the owner and ask ridiculous questions such as “three tailpipes too much no?” He has to pull up stock images of the car on his phone from Google and show them that yes, this car comes with three pipes and the spoiler from the factory. Personally, I’d lose the spoiler but keep the rest. However, the kit has an aerodynamic purpose, with Hideki Kakinuma - Type R's Assistant Project Lead confirming to website Car Throttle that it “provides negative lift” – downforce.
The front has the typical Civic face, LED headlamps and all but the red-backed Honda badge and red “R” leave you in no doubt that this ain’t the one-liter. The rear is even more aggressive with those THREE tailpipes! Rawr!
Mech & Tech
Honda’s K20C1 turbo two-liter four pot powers the Type R. It’s rated at 316bhp at 6,500rpm for the European and Japanese markets with a peak torque of 400Nm at 2,500rpm. Redline is at 7,000rpm. The engine drives through a six-speed manual gearbox (Yay!) and a mechanical limited-slip differential to the front wheels. The engine can rev-match on downshifts automatically, which can be turned off for heel-and-toe aficionados. You get traction control and stability control too.
The front suspension is a dual-axis set-up that serves to separate steering and suspension forces with the aim of reducing torque steer. At the rear you have a full independent multi-link set up. The dampers are adaptive (between Comfort, Sport and R+).
Braking is by mighty six-pot calipers at the front and four-pot at the rear, Brembo of course. They are paired with sticky 245/30R20 tyres all round and give truly eye-widening stopping power. Weight distribution is 61% front 39% rear.
Oh I almost forgot. Honda tuning aficionado Zakie Ismail has worked his magic on this engine. So instead of 316bhp we get 50bhp more for around 366bhp, and a similar increase in torque. Glenn has also fitted a custom intake that enhances the sound further.
Step over the sill into the low-set bucket seat. Ahead of you is a digital cluster. Thumb the starter button and the engine fires up with a distant grumble from the triple exhausts. I read that at lower RPMS all three pipes exit the gases while at higher RPMs the centre pipe is used to provide negative pressure and minimize any boominess in the cabin. So you do need all three!
Dip the clutch and its lighter than you’d expect. Slot into first with the short-throw shifter, ease out the clutch and the Type R sets off like any other car. We are in Comfort mode where the ride is very forgiving even on the 30-profile tyres. It jostles a bit on side-to-side bumps but you can definitely daily drive this car. The steering is Japanese light in this setting.
Floor the throttle and the car just takes off. Many expletives come to mind. You get a whoosh of turbo noise from the front, a groaarrr of exhaust from the rear and the horizon starts getting closer and closer at an increasing rate. Triple figures come up very quickly. Stock, the car is around 5.5 seconds to 100km/h from rest and with Zakie’s tuning, it feels a five-second-flat car. It’s a very tractable engine too; driving in sixth at 80km/h with 2,000rpm on the dial, I floored it and the Type R reached 100km/h quicker than it would take many lesser machines to do the same in third.
Sport mode is a good middle ground for an out-station jaunt on clearer roads. The suspension is harder but still pliant and the steering effort weights up a bit.
Switch into R+ (this is the mode in which the Type R took the Nurburgring record) and the steering weighs up so much it feels like the power assistance was switched off. The suspension allows you to feel every pebble in the road and the throttle is much more responsive. I love it! Hustle the Type R and it hunkers down and gets the job done. We enabled the “G force” display in the cluster and were pulling lateral forces of 0.5Gs in long sweeping corners at speed. The tyres didn’t feel anywhere near their limits and the car still had much more to give.
The car’s party piece is “Zero Torque Steer” which means that no matter how hard you mash the right pedal in any gear, the car will track straight and the steering wheel won’t tug. I tried this several times and even did a first to second gear shift at full bore with “hands off” on a very empty piece of tarmac and the Type R just didn’t budge from a straight line. Traction is just crazy – we try to do a “burnout” for the video shoot. I dial in 4,000rpm and drop the clutch. A brief scrabbling of wheels and the Type R just rockets away with nary a wisp of tyre smoke. Thwarted by technology!
Those Brembos deserve a special mention! Coming at triple digits, I gave them a healthy push to the pedal’s limit and the Type R stopped like the Road Runner in the Wile-E-Coyote cartoons when he sees an obstacle. Straight and true, no squeals from the tyres and in a very short distance. The G meter showed that we pulled 1.2G. I repeated the feat for our cameraman and he actually missed the car in one take as he didn’t expect it to stop quite so sharply.
Living with it
Reading the above paragraph you might think that this car is some low-slung two-seat sports car. No. It’s a four-door five-seater family hatchback. It’s got climate control, auto headlamps, auto wipers, cup holders, curry hooks, door pockets, a 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system, eight speakers, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple Carplay. The boot is a very respectable 420 litres and you can split fold the rear seats down and get around 1,000litres. Headroom and legroom are ample in the rear, but there aren’t any AC vents for the rear. The 12V accessory charging port is at the front.
Of course the interior has touches that scream “Type R”, such as the bright red front seats, bright red seatbelts, the red accents in the dash and door cards, the red ambient lighting, the D-shaped steering wheel, the characteristic Type R gearknob and the metal pedals. Let’s not forget the Type R plaque on the centre console with the build number.
Those monster brakes alone are a very good safety feature in my opinion. The only thing you need to watch out for is that the vehicle behind is not tailgating you at the time. The brakes have ABS and EBD behind them, of course.
You get six airbags which is very good and will keep you and your passengers well cushioned should the unthinkable happen.
EuroNCAP is a very reassuring five-star performance, with 92% for Adult Occupant and 75% for Child Occupant ratings.
Fuel Economy & Price
It’s a high-performance turbo engine, not a hybrid fuel-sipper. With that out of the way, the owner said he can achieve 8km/l in city if he is very careful and short shifts. However 6km/l is more realistic as the car encourages you to give it a little push every now and then. Highway figures should easily crack 12km/l at the posted speed limit in sixth gear.
The car was bought last year for around 13 million with a permit, but with the changed tax structure it will cost nearer 20 million. That puts it head to head with a lot of European luxury metal, but let me put it this way; the owner came to this from a very popular Euro mid-sized sedan, so if you are one of those people who wants a stirring driving experience over a badge, by all means please go for it.
One of the most exciting test drives I have had. I actually woke up that morning in a state of excitement and slight fear. Would this car be nice to me? Or would it want to bite my head off and cut me down to size? By the end of the test drive however, we were best-est friends.
Despite having tested many cars over the last two and a half years, few tests leave a lasting imprint in your memory. The Type R has firmly etched itself in mine. I didn’t think it possible that a manufacturer could make a front wheel drive car this good. The combination of this car, and Zakie’s tuning have really turned it into one of those that you should keep an eye out for on the roads Good decision, Glenn!
Torque Steer – What’s the Hullabaloo?
What is this “Torque Steer” that front-wheel-drive cars are afflicted with? A front-wheel-drive car sends power through the same wheels that steer the car. Torque Steer is when the engine’s torque causes the wheels to deviate from the set steering path, often manifesting as a “tugging to a side” on the steering wheel. On cars with electric steering, the effect may be less felt through the steering but observed as a deviation of the vehicle from the intended path.
There are many conditions under which Torque Steer can occur. For example, let’s say that one front wheel is on gravel and the other one on tarmac (you stopped on the side of the road to buy some mangoes). Accelerate hard and due to the differential, one wheel will spin more than the other, causing an asymmetric pull on the vehicle.
Most front-wheel-drive cars have unequal-length drive shafts - that is because the engine and gearbox are side-by-side and therefore the wheel further from the gearbox will require a longer drive shaft than the one closer to it. This can cause Torque Steer, as can worn out suspension and drive train components.
Torque steer can be reduced to imperceptible levels (as in the Civic Type R) by clever suspension design, engine torque management and the use of a limited-slip differential.
2.0L four cylinder
316bhp at stock
400Nm at stock
Six speed manual
Front wheel drive
Four pot Brembo
Wheels & Tyres
245/30R20 all round
Kerb Weight: 1,350kg
Fuel Tank: 47L
Boot Space: 420L
0-100km/h in 5.5s
Top speed 270km/h
In stock tune)