We knew the 2017 Type R was good from our first experience on the less-than-perfect roads of Quebec, Canada. Here, though, are the headline facts from this instrumented test: Zero to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, 1.02 g of lateral grip, and the ability to stop from 70 mph in a Porsche-like 142 feet—in a tweaked, front-wheel-drive commuter car with 61.8 percent of its 3111 pounds resting on the front wheels. So, yeah, extremely solid.
A Domesticated Heathen
What sets this Honda apart from other sport compacts is how it balances speed, body control, and outright cornering prowess with the day-to-day ride comfort that you would never expect given its rubber-band-like 30-series tires. Indeed, those 245/30ZR-20 Continental SportContact 6 performance treads offer seemingly no cushion for the spindly 20-inch aluminum wheels, and they’re pricey at $320 a pop. Yet, despite having significantly stiffer springs, dampers, bushings, and anti-roll bars than even the new Civic Si, the Type R traverses pockmarked pavement better than nearly any other car with this much stick.
This being the age of the turbocharger, we won’t dwell on this hot Honda’s lack of a spine-tingling naturally aspirated engine. The R’s boosted 2.0-liter inline-four sounds like a steroid-enhanced vacuum cleaner at high rpm and is a bit too quiet overall. But it is a super-smooth powerhouse, churning out a stout 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque and ripping to its modest 7000-rpm redline with zeal.
The aluminum shift ball atop the Type R’s standard six-speed manual transaxle is a close reach from the leather-wrapped steering wheel. It is as rewarding to snick through the shifter’s gates as it is easy to burn your hand on after the car has been sitting outside on a sunny day. But working up a sweat driving this car is unnecessary:
The Civic Type R’s 306-hp turbo 2.0-liter is all torque and no steer.
Built to Run
All this civility should in no way suggest that the Type R cannot hustle. The engine’s computer lets it rev freely to only 3500 rpm, making the optimal launch the result of carefully modulating the clutch and throttle to avoid bogging.
On the road, the Civic Type R blasted down our favorite two-lanes with precision and nearly unflappable composure. The sharp and moderately tactile helm makes it easy to probe the car’s huge grip limits. Driven hard into a corner, the R rotates smartly yet never abruptly so, with the helical limited-slip differential yanking it out of bends with only a slight tug at the steering wheel. It may lack a drift mode or a rally-bred AWD system, but this feels every bit the quickest front-drive production car to lap the Nürburgring.
Yo Dawg, We Put Spoilers on Your Spoilers!
Helping the Type R attain that record pace are its many external vents, fins, and protruding air manipulators, including a massive wing perched just above the driver’s rearward line of sight. Most of these elements may be functional, but the visual effect is obnoxiously juvenile on the road.
Designed from the start for the U.S. market, though sold globally, the 2017 Civic Type R slots nicely into our vehicular landscape. Its $34,775 asking price is considerably more than those of lesser front-drive sport compacts such as the Ford Focus ST, the VW GTI, and Honda’s equally new Civic Si, yet the Type R is thousands less than its AWD performance peers. Even with its fast-and-furious styling that looks ready to sprout a mohawk in traffic, this thoroughbred Civic is the hard-core hot hatch we’ve been waiting for.