Generation Why: Honda PSIches Us Out With Turbo Type-R

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler

It is a sound that is familiar to anyone of my generation, the manic buzzsaw howl of a Honda 4-cylinder. Unfairly tarnished in the minds of the public by legions of single-cam D-Series breathing through a potmetal Pep Boys muffler, the Honda 4-cylinder produced a truly moving tune in its highest iterations, the twin cam VTEC B-Series models, as they growled their way to stratospheric redlines. That era is officially over.

As part of [s]its online marketing campaign[/s] a teaser series released by Honda, a video has emerged showing the next generation Civic Type-R undergoing a shakedown at the Nurburgring. In a startling break from tradition, this Type-R will not be powered by a high strung naturally aspirated 4-cylinder. Instead, it will get its motivation from the ubiquitous two point oh tee powerplant that seems to pop up in everything from the Tiguan to the Taurus.

Honda appears to be going to great lengths to ensure that the newest Type-R is the top hot hatch in the segment, even going as far as to chase the nebulous Nurburgring lap time crown for bragging rights – something I can’t help but think the Honda of old would never condescend to. They would have been content to have made the most raw, engaging and brilliantly engineered car, with red Recaros and a redline north of 8000 RPM. But without a screaming engine and double wishbones, what does a Type-R have left to define itself by? Not a whole lot, I’d say. In a commodity car like the standard Civic, these things may not matter, but they sure do for an enthusiast product. Ergo, we have a whole bunch of amorphous hot hatches powered by 2.0T’s and DSGs chasing a rather meaningless metric of performance on some German race track.

On a gut level, this seems plain wrong. Honda has always adhered to an iconoclastic way of doing things that bordered on arrogance. Think about their steadfast refusal to build a rear-drive V8 luxury sedan, or a bigger motor for the NSX or put a V6 in the Accord for so many generations or even enter the light truck market. Their way was the only way, and they’d be damned if it cost them market share or profits.

Their resistance towards forced induction was a prime example of this. I have long suspected that they felt that forced induction was in some way “cheating”, an easy path to a sublime motor. In their eyes, VTEC was more efficient, more reliable and undeniably more thrilling. The RDX seemed like an odd anomaly at the time, and the fact that it wasn’t a great motor (while drinking vast amounts of fuel for such a small engine) didn’t help matters.

But when we view things through a dispassionate lens, it’s clear that Honda had to relent to increasingly onerous regulatory and market pressures for improved fuel economy and low emissions, especially in Europe, where the Civic Type-R is most important. The latest crop of turbo motors appear to be the only way to achieve these goals, which, unfortunately have ended the lineage of the B and K-Series VTEC motors in high performance applications. Understanding why this came to pass helps make it easier to swallow – but it does little to diminish the sense of loss.The Type-R could very well be brilliant, but it will also be a victim of the relentless regulation and market pressure that is driving performance cars to an unprecedented level of homogeneity. How sad.

In the mean time, turn up your speakers

Join the conversation
6 of 66 comments
  • Reino Reino on Sep 20, 2013

    Has America EVER gotten a 'Type R' of any Honda? The only one I can recall was the Integra Type R. Maybe if we had gotten more Type-Rs all along, people would have been less apt to 'rice' up a base model.

    • See 3 previous
    • Speedlaw Speedlaw on Oct 08, 2013

      @Demetri I saw a Type R Civic in a dealer in NY a few years back. The bastard put a 10,000 ADM sticker on it after full retail, overpriced floor mats and a wax job. It is just sad to see what Honda offers in Europe, and the vanilla (insult to vanilla) bore-mo-biles here. Diesel ? High Po versions....nope. Stiff suspension ? Surely you jest.

  • Krayzie Krayzie on Oct 03, 2013

    Derek you need to send that first video to Honda for immediate distribution to all their employees for mandatory viewing!!! Also this video with gansan driving S2000 prototype on Nurburgring

  • Robert I have had 4th gen 1996 model for many years and enjoy driving as much now as when I first purchased it - has 190 hp variant with just the right amount of power for most all driving situations!
  • ToolGuy Meanwhile in Germany...
  • Donald More stuff to break god I love having a nanny in my truck... find a good tuner and you can remove most of the stupid stuff they add like this and auto park when the doors open stupid stuff like that
  • John Williams Sounds like a Burnout Special you can put together on any 5.0 F150. Whoever said this was Cars and Coffee bait is right on the money.
  • ToolGuy Question: F-150 FP700 (  Bronze or  Black) supercharger kit is legal in 50 states, while the  Mustang supercharger kit is banned in California -- why??