CARS.COM — Anticipation for the 2017 Honda Civic Type R — the first generation available in the U.S. — has been running high, but I didn't realize how high it ran for some people until recently during Honda's introductory drive for the car near Montreal.
I was filming some video late in the day when an impressively preserved Honda CRX drove up and a guy jumped out and asked if he could take some pictures of the car. After talking about the Type R for a bit, he mentioned that he'd seen a social media post about the drive event and had hopped in his car and driven an hour and a half to come see the new Type R. Yep, an hour and a half to see a car that very well could have been long gone by the time he arrived. I was stunned.
It's that kind of enthusiasm that speaks to the reverence the Type R name has developed despite never being sold in the U.S. (or Canada, for that matter) until now. After spending the better part of a day driving it on a track as well as public roads in the Canadian countryside, it's clear that many of the qualities we like about the regular Civic remain — they've just been turned up to 11.
It starts on the outside, where new aggressive styling cues go way beyond what any other Civic offers, even the new Si. Many of the changes are functional: Winglets direct air around the wheel openings, the hood vent cools the engine and reduces lift, roof-mounted vortex generators channel air to the massive rear wing and that wing generates downforce at higher speeds. The resulting look might be a little much for some shoppers, but it recalls previous Type Rs.
The turbocharged four-cylinder carries over from the prior Type R. The engine makes 306 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 295 pounds-feet of torque from 2,500 to 4,500 rpm. It works exclusively with a six-speed manual transmission that sends power to the front wheels through a limited-slip differential. Estimated gas mileage is 22/28 mpg city/highway.
The regular Civic offers adequate power from its range of engines but little more. As you might expect, the Type R's engine is operating on a completely different level. The engine pulls hard and pours on power very linearly. You do need to keep the revs up or it starts to feel sluggish, but that's easy to do because the motor is happy to rev as much as you want. The exhaust system has a center resonator for low-speed sound that's flanked by outlets designed for high-speed flow. Automakers tend to take more liberty with exhaust loudness in their top performance cars, but the Type R's exhaust isn't much louder than a regular Civic's.
The six-speed manual's throws are very short and have a satisfying mechanical feel. It's easy to make quick gear changes most of the time, though it did feel like the shifter wasn't completely engaged in the chosen gear a few times. A Honda-first rev-match feature is included; it automatically raises engine rpm when downshifting so you don't have to blip the throttle to ensure a smooth shift. It worked quite well on the track and street. The clutch pedal feels springy when you press it down, but it engages easily without any jerkiness.
The current-generation Civic helped return the car to its fun-to-drive roots thanks in large part to its great handling, and handling is one of the Type R's standout features, too. The car feels hunkered-down and planted, and even when pushed hard on the track, body roll wasn't excessive. The car has a unique dual-axis front suspension that separates the steering axis from the stroke axis to help keep torque steer at bay. I didn't feel any torque steer on the track or the street.
The standard adaptive suspension has three modes: Comfort, Sport and Plus R. I was pleasantly surprised that the Comfort mode lives up to its name: It does a good job soaking up road imperfections and delivered a comfortable highway ride. Sport, the default mode, firms up the ride noticeably, while Plus R gives you very taut suspension tuning that creates a bumpy driving experience on rougher public roads but worked well on the track's smooth concrete.
Besides suspension firmness, the modes vary steering feel, gas pedal responsiveness and the rev-match feature. The steering felt a little artificial — especially in Sport and Plus R, which add more heft to the wheel.
The Type R's brakes are another highlight. Featuring four-piston Brembo-brand calipers in front, the brakes had no trouble shedding speed on the track, and the firm pedal has good feel.
When Can You Get One?
The Type R begins arriving at dealers June 15. It comes in one version with many of the same features that go in Touring versions of other Civics, like navigation and a premium stereo. Notably absent is the Honda Sensing active safety system.
We'll dive into the rest of the Type R's features in a later full review, but it's clear that, from a performance standpoint, those who've been waiting a long time for the Type R have finally been rewarded.