Dial R for reputation

by Andy Bryenton

Pedigree. It’s an all important factor in the world of automobiles — the difference between a new up and coming supercar like the Koenigsegg and an old and established marque like Lamborghini.

Both are blisteringly fast, but one is the stuff of petrolhead dreams just because of the name.

The thing is, that name has to be earned, and backed up with solid performances, building one on the other every time a new machine hits the tarmac. So it is with the Honda Civic Type R — a strange case in point indeed. With its roots firmly planted in the stolid dependability of the Civic, that extra letter has meant poise and power for 30 years. Here comes the anniversary, then, and a new model for 2017, which aims a withering broadside at not just the other Japanese automakers, but at the best of Europe as well.

Honda picked a great way to assert its dominance as it launched the sleek, sharp new Civic Type R. Those slippery lines, festooned with gills, splitters, spoilers and blades cut through the chilly air at the Nurburgring in Germany on the morning of April 2, preparing to smash some records. When the dust settled the new Honda had blitzed the 20-kilometre ‘green hell’ in just 7 minutes 43.8 seconds. That’s the fastest time ever posted by a front wheel drive car, breaking the record set by VW’s Golf Clubsport. It’s a whole seven seconds faster than the old Type R, which in motor racing terms is a geological age. It’s a testament to the sheer attention to detail which has been lavished on this predatory-looking road missile. Even the stand out triple exhaust system is cleverly designed with a smaller central pipe to create a precisely tuned sound at both low and high revs. Handling has been tuned to razor precision, and the power from the two-litre, double-overhead-cam turbo i-VTEC engine hits the ground through a six-speed manual box. This, then, is a driver’s car pure and simple. And the best news of all — it’s coming to New Zealand. While we don’t have the twists and turns of Germany’s most famous racetrack, we certainly have the wide range of surfaces, corners and straights represented there. No word yet on price, but fans of the big red R will be fixated on that other number — 7:43.8 — more than any other.