Accelerating toward the late, late apex of a sphincter-tightening right-hand sweeper at the 16-turn International Center of Advanced Racing (Circuit ICAR) just north of Montreal, I squeeze down on the throttle. This unleashes the full fury of 306 turbocharged horses, and I then do what I always do when cornering at max lat in a potent front-drive car: I brace for torque steer. But the new 2017 Honda Civic Type R I’m wringing out does not try to yank the steering wheel from my fingertips. It does not dart off line. It does not scream “yeeeeehaaawww!” or use its 22.8 psi of turbo boost to burn the 20-inch front tires into acrid black jelly.
Instead, with absolutely zero fuss, the Type R blasts me out of the turn and into the next corner so fiercely I have to stand on the ventilated, cross-drilled, four-piston Brembo front brakes just to keep from launching straight into the nearby village of Saint-Antoine. (It would be especially embarrassing to admit that you crashed into a city with your own name on it.)
The headline is this: The new Type R is the fastest production front-driver ever to circle the Nurburgring Nordschleife, accomplishing the feat in just 7 minutes, 43.8 seconds. That’s 7 seconds quicker than the previous, fourth-gen car I tested in Slovakia in 2015 (but which we Americans never got a chance to buy). If the new, gen-five Type R’s time doesn’t mean anything to you, join me down on Memory Lane for a moment. Back in 2005, a Pagani Zonda S lapped the same circuit in 7:44 flat.
That car cost $500,000, seats just two with no cargo, and looks like a cross between a Ferrari Enzo and a Hercules missile. The Type R costs $34,775, seats four, delivers more than 46 cubic feet of cargo room with the rear seat folded down, and gets 28 mpg on the highway. It looks like a cross between a Hercules missile and a Honda.
The dual-pinion, variable-ratio electronic power-steering system gets a larger motor for 2017 and needs just 2.1 turns lock to lock. It’s not great—as with other EPS systems, it lacks road feel—but it’s better than before, noticeably so. I found myself using Sport or R+ modes almost exclusively, though; in Comfort the steering takes on a power boost that’s somehow murky. In R+ the response is much more direct and satisfying.
Honda plans to bring 2,700 Type Rs to our shores almost immediately (they’re built in the U.K.), and after that will likely settle at a rate of about 3,000 annually.
For sure, this new car is equipped to meet those lofty targets. Even without the four-wheel drive of its main rivals, the Civic Type R displays remarkable poise and an uncanny ability to put its power down. It’s utterly refined but unquestionably fast. It’s happy puttering around town but hungry to scorch any track any time and feels like it could do it all day.
The last time I reviewed a Civic Type R I had to tell you, “It’s cool all right, but it’s not coming here.” This time I’m happy to say, “This one was worth the wait.”