At the 2018 Texas Auto Roundup I had the pleasure of driving menagerie of great cars around the track at Eagle’s Canyon Raceway in Decatur, Texas. As the day wore on and the laps added up, I made a short list of the cars which were most exciting to drive. The 2018 Civic Type R has to be among the top three.
In a previous article, I said the 2017 Civic Si could be the best Civic yet. That was before I had a turn in the 2018 Type R. I drove it and the 2018 Golf R practically back to back. Honda’s Type R is the clear winner for fun. However, the Golf may be a better choice for those who appreciate a less shouty aesthetic. While the Type R is $10k more than the Civic Si, it seems like a bargain when you put your foot down or chuck it into a corner. The $13k separation between the Golf GTI and the Golf R is a little less dramatic.
The in-your-face looks are a departure from the typical understated Honda styling. Its brash appearance almost beg for descent from on-lookers. The canted LED headlights glare at on-comers as if to say, “I look wild as hell, what are you gonna do about it?” It’s the vehicular equivalent of a punk rock band. It’s fast, it’s loud, and until you understand it you may not like it. This car makes zero apologies.
The crazy looking exhaust makes a little more sense when you understand what’s going on with the triple tailpipes. The center pipe is fitted with a resonator. At lower RPMs you’ll hear more exhaust noise. However, when the exhaust pressure increases at higher speeds, more of the exhaust gasses are routed through the mufflers to each side. This eliminates drone on the highway.
I’d still like a pair of tips or maybe a big central outlet like the one on the Si. The over-the-top aero bits affixed to the back back of the car look garish at first glance, as if e a 17 year old boy had final say at the design meeting. But Honda is quick to assure us that all those wings and gills add up to some real downforce.
Inside, the high-bolstered, bright red, Type R front seats are plenty comfortable for a long commute. Drivers are rewarded with quality materials like a leather wrapped wheel and aluminum shift knob. Below the shifter, mounted in the console, there’s a metal plaque with the car’s serial number printed on it. There’s ample trunk space behind the rear seat which can be folded forward to almost double the cargo area. What other is so much fun to drive and has this level of practicality? Driver and passengers can both appreciate the dual-zone automatic climate control and 540-watt stereo with Apple CarPlay controlled with a seven-inch touchscreen in the dash.
Honda engineers manage to wring 306hp out of the 2 liter turbo-charged four cylinder. This power makes its way to the ground through a six-speed trans, and limited slip diff differential. Stirring the gears in Honda’s excellent six-speed manual is a treat. When down shifting to power out of a corner, the Type R automatically blips the throttle to rev match for the down shift. The sprint from zero to 60 mph is a brief 4.9 seconds. You can brake late into corners thanks to Brembo brakes.
Unlike the all-wheel-drive Golf R, the Type R puts down all that power through the front wheels exclusively. Typically, when front-wheel drive systems are forced to cope with this kind of power they become difficult to manage. Honda engineers must have worked some kind of magic under the front of the Type R because torque steer is all but absent. There was only the slightest waggle in the wheel when accelerating hard over uneven surfaces. This is not a knock against the Type R, I think it’s what known as feedback.
In my heart, there’s a tie for most fun drive. I drove this car and the Dodge Hellcat Widebody on the same day. It’s like picking between lovers. They’re both a whole lot of fun in different ways. The Hellcat is certainly the winner for horsepower and downright insanity. While insanity can be fun for awhile, you don’t marry crazy. Deep down, I know which one we’d put a ring on. Maybe it’s a sign I’m getting older, but if I had to take just one home, it would be the four-door Civic Type R. It’s half the price of the Hellcat at $35k, it’s hilariously fun to drive, I can get a carseat in it and it gets great gas mileage. Oh yeah, and it probably won’t kill me in my sleep.