Tuesday 11th December 2012


Shadow of the 'ring looms large over next Type R but there's no need to worry

We already know Honda is aiming for a new front-wheel drive 'ring record with the next Civic Type R. But is that bad news for those of us without a year ticket to the Nordschleife?

It'll be very different from the last one
It'll be very different from the last one
The launch of the new Civic 1.6 i-DTEC turbodiesel doesn't seem like the obvious place to find out - though the long-awaited smaller capacity diesel impresses with a 94g/km and 120hp combo. But when the R&D Large Project Leader for this car expresses surprise nobody's asked about the forthcoming hot hatch yet, even we know when to take a hint.

We'd already triggered the appearance of a Honda-wielded Dictaphone by asking about turbo petrol engines in general - "we must win against all our competitors" the gist of the response from engineers feeling the pressure of being late to the party. But the sudden shift in tempo at the mention of the Type R is palpable. VTEC just kicked in, etc.

Except, we already know it won't be a VTEC - at least not in the traditional sense. Instead it will be a new 1.6-litre turbo petrol of as yet unspecified performance, which also forms the heart of the firm's World Touring Car Championship challenger (albeit with Mugen's help). On this basis, and given the stated target of eclipsing the Renault Megane 265 Trophy's 8min 8secNurburgring lap, we'll make a stab at around 300hp.

New turbocharged VTEC just kicked in?*
New turbocharged VTEC just kicked in?*
Or can we? Our R&D man, Suehiro Hasshi and his translator Kotaro Yamamoto - himself not only an engineer but also a long-time driver for Honda's European R&D racing team - are quick to point out that power isn't everything. Where the Nurburging's concerned, they tell us, it's actually torque that's key. An interesting statement, given Honda's high-revving heritage.

Similarly, any observation that the Civic's space-efficient twist beam rear suspension is out of touch with the latest multi-link competition is swiftly brushed aside. For the Nurburging, brakes and tyres follow power and torque in priority for Honda. And anyway, what the back of the car is doing is probably of lesser consequence assuming the front is equipped with a proper mechanical limited-slip diff - which judging by the glint in their eyes it will be.

Renault's 'ring record is in Honda's sights
Renault's 'ring record is in Honda's sights
All this talk about the 'ring is beginning to make the B-road in our soul a little nervous, though. But Hasshi and Yamamoto are quick to acknowledge the UK is the biggest market for Type R in Europe; it will be built here, at Swindon, and as a consequence it will also be tested here. This is a relief.

For while the 'ring - and the Mégane - are important benchmarks for demonstrating the Type R's speed, Honda's approach remains reassuringly multifaceted. When we ask about other benchmarks, we're told, "in terms of daily practicality it would be the Volkswagen Scirocco R." That sounds like excellent news to us; you'll also note the VW, like the Renault, channels 'just' 265hp through its front wheels.

Plenty of questions remain, including about the transmission - the inevitable dual-clutch is being evaluated - but it's too early to get any more specifics. Still. "I think it will not disappoint you," says Hasshi-San. "You can be sure it will exceed your expectations - both in terms of specification and performance." Roll on 2015, then.

*Slightly disturbing picture from a series of photos in which "Honda showcases racing spirit and passion for engineering..." and too good to resist! - Ed.



Author: cjhubbard
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