Driving

the peterborough examiner Thursday, August 24, 2017

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SECTION C

Type R smashes AWD competition

From left: Volkswagen Golf R, Honda Civic Type R and Subaru WRX STI

Track Test: Honda Civic Type R

David Booth and Graeme Fletcher Driving.ca David Booth: This year?s most sought after car is not a Ferrari. It?s not a Lamborghini. It?s not even a McLaren. It?s a Honda. Yes, a Honda. The company?s Civic Type R, to be specific. It?s not the most expensive or luxurious car to be introduced this year, or even the fastest. And its intended demographic ? that would be fairly well-to-do twentysomethings ? is one I left behind some time ago. But there?s no denying that it dominates the automotive news cycle right now and, judging by the number of times I was given the thumbs up by Young Turks cruising in their slammed Civics/Golfs/ Ford Foci on the streets, this may be the most important car Driving. ca will test this year. So, it?s got everyone?s attention! Now the big question: Can its performance justify all this adulation? Or, more specifically, can the little Honda keep up with the segment?s stalwarts ? Volkswagen?s Golf R and Subaru?s WRX STI ? even though it?s a mere front-driver scrambling to keep up with turbo demons driving all four wheels? Driving took to Calabogie Motorsports Park in Ontario to find out. Graeme Fletcher: Logic dictates that running 306 horsepower through all four wheels is the only way to go. However, for every rule there has to be an exception, and the Civic Type R not only breaks the rule, it smashes it! The only time it showed any sign of overpowering the front wheels was under full throttle while exiting a corner. Occasionally ? and it was only occasionally ? it would break the inside front wheel free and spin off a little speed. Other than those few moments, the manner in which it laid down the power was smooth and seamless. The other thing that impressed was the raw power available over a very broad range. I guess force-feeding the engine its air at 22.8 psi works! The 295 From left: Subaru WRX STI, Honda Civic Type R and Wolkswagen Golf R pound-feet of torque was available any time it was needed. DB: You?re absolutely right, the new Type R is the best frontdriver I?ve ever tested on a racetrack. Indeed, it felt more like an allwheel-driver than the Golf R, which pushed its front tires like a Loblaws shopping trolley whenever the pace hotted up. By comparison, the new Civic stuck to the tarmac like glue, extremely little understeer evident even at the limits of adhesion, and almost none of the off-throttle oversteer that plagues lesser frontdrivers. Even the torque steer that Graeme mentions was minimal, a mere momentary wiggle that was easily ignored. That the Civic Type R leaves the Golf R in the dust is no big surprise. Volkswagen, after all, makes no claim to racetrack prowess for its ?grand touring? hatchback, but the fact that it also eclipses the STI version of Subaru?s stalwart WRX is worthy of note. In any other company, the STI would be a racetrack demon, but trying to keep up with the Type R turned it into a slightly squidgy, softly-suspended street car that needed more brakes, stiffer suspension and stickier tires. GF: The Civic Type R does pay a penalty for all this racetrack prowess. Even with the adaptive dampers set to ?comfort,? the Honda?s ride felt too harsh to be an everyday driver; my dental plan would need upgrading to have my filling tightened every second drive. That aside, Honda has the sportiest version of Canada?s best-selling car dialed in to a tee. The Golf R was the biggest disappointment for me. I drove it on the street, and it was the most civilized. It was comfortable in spite of its tauter-than-the-GTI suspenders and it?s fast as needed when strafing a series of back-road sweepers. On the track, the fact it is a frontdriver until rear drive is needed saw it get confused at times. Likewise, the electronic stability control system stepped in and wagged a very annoyed finger the second anything remotely resembling a liberty was taken. It was here the WRX STI came as a pleasant surprise. With a helical front differential, Torsen rear differential and an adjustable centre diff, it can be set up to suit just about any eventuality in both race and rally environments. Hauling out of a corner, it just seemed to make the best use of the available grip. It hunkered down and peeled out, no muss, no fuss. The fact it is a heavy car (1,596 kilograms) saw it heat up its brakes during David?s, um, exuberant lapping. That aside, I found it an entirely palatable experience, sitting ahead of the Golf R and just lagging the Civic Type R. DB: I would agree with your assessment, Graeme, in fact, I?ll go one step further in praising the WRX STI on the track. It is slower than the Honda and, yes, I cooked both tires and brakes to full sizzle, but it is hugely entertaining to drive quickly. Unlike the Honda, which resolutely grips the tarmac, the little Sube slides magnificently. Indeed, so ably do all those differentials that Graeme detailed spread the power among the four wheels that you can slide either the front tires, the rears or both sets together at will. Need to slow down? Just turn the steering wheel tight and feel the front P245/35 R19s scrub off speed. Need to turn a little tighter? Feed a little more of the boxer four?s 290 lb-ft of torque to the rear tires and oversteer is at Driving.ca the ready. As for the Golf R, I think we should be a little more gracious with its abilities. Yes, it seemed a little like a fish out of water here, but its engine is suitably powerful ? 292 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque at 1,900 rpm ? as well as smoother to boot. And the ride, compared with the vertebrae-crushing gait of the Type R you mentioned, is positively plush. The Golf R, for all Volkswagen?s pretence otherwise, is a street car, and does a good job of offering Joe Dad and Deb Mom some sporting bona fides along with its duffle bag-toting practicality. Just don?t take it to a track. GF: The tendency is to go into these shootouts with a preconceived notion on how things will play out. This time it did not go as I envisioned. Point taken on the Golf R: it was fun but, as you say, a little like a fish out of water. The plus was the twin-clutch gearbox. It had the uncanny knack of being in the right gear and it rev-matched on a downshift heading toward the apex of a corner. The Golf R has a plush on-road ride and more than enough power for drivers to get their jollies. In the end, I loved the Civic Type R and its overt track ability, but hated the ride quality beyond that discipline. The fact it dusted two all-wheel-drive competitors was the notion that got smashed. However, for me the best compromise was the Subaru WRX STI. It did an admirable job on the track, yet does not beat the rider up on a grocery run. DB: I, too, came away both surprised and amazed at the little Honda. I had assumed the STI would walk away with the racetrack trophy. And, indeed, Graeme, you?re right; the little Subaru, judged objectively with points given for both performance and practicality, is probably the best overall car here. But, my Lord, don?t tell the legion of twentysomethings that followed me home, cornered me in shopping malls or simply gave me the thumbs up while they snapped iPhone photos on the highway. The Civic Type R is the hottest ticket on four wheels right now and every bit deserving of the attention.

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