Rabu, 18 April 2007

New Hardcore Civic Type R - R


New Hardcore Civic Type R - R

Few cars have been as eagerly anticipated or made as big an impact as Honda's Civic Type R. The British-built sensation saw off all-comers in a first test against key rivals in Issue 946, and established itself as Auto Express's favourite hot hatch in the process.

Now there's worse news for the opposition. The Japanese firm has created the Type R-R, an even more focused version of the class winner, and a spiritual successor to Ford's Escort Cosworth - and it looks set to kick the Focus ST into touch! We were first to put it to the test.

Its basis is a standard Type R, but a series of modifications swell engine power and reduce kerbweight.

Honda has stripped out the cabin, removing anything that isn't absolutely necessary in the name of shedding the pounds. Gone is the stereo, and for the moment sound deadening is absent, too. The standard seats have now been replaced with figure-hugging racing items, and what these lack in adjustability they make up for by giving a sportier, lower driving position than in the regular car. The racy feeling from behind the wheel is suitably amplified when you press the dash-mounted starter.

As the engine bursts into life, it sounds far more raucous than that of the standard model. Bosses were adamant the original Type R didn't need buckets of power, yet engineers clearly couldn't help themselves when it came to specifying the R-R's motor.

Thanks to careful tuning, this car kicks out a tyre-burning 260bhp. It's the same basic i-VTEC 2.0-litre unit, but Honda has reduced friction on the internals and redesigned the camshafts. However, the greatest power gains have come from electronic improvements made using the ECU to operate the VTEC system.

Now, the engine doesn't go into fuel-sipping mode at lower revs, improving throttle response as a result. Meanwhile, the VTEC set-up cuts in at 5,100rpm instead of 5,400rpm. So rather than the perceptible increase in power you get when VTEC is unleashed on the standard model, the R-R's engine feels stronger throughout the rev range thanks to a 30 per cent hike in torque. Combining a compliant ride with taut handling is one of the standard hot Civic's greatest attributes. And although this car's suspension has been revised to give it more focused handling, it still rides bumps surprisingly well.

Probably the biggest change is to the steering. It has been made even more responsive, so the smallest input to the Alcantara-clad wheel has an immediate impact on the vehicle's position on the road. However, you do have to put your faith in the system because it's lacking in feedback, particularly at low speeds. Still, the car's handling remains nimble and sure-footed.

Another area that doesn't fall short on the standard model is the gear-change. Yet while the original is a manual, this car gets a six-speed sequential unit. You use the clutch to start off, and then simply pull the lever back to shift up and push it forwards to go down through the box.

Changes are made in only 80 milliseconds, which gives a brutal edge to the Type R-R, particularly as the steering wheel writhes with every upshift. Considering how much extra power is going through the front wheels, traction is remarkable. You'd expect to spend a lot of time sitting in a cloud of expensive tyre smoke, but engineers have been careful to tune the suspension so that does not happen. Instead, the car gets on with the job of entertaining its driver with even more purpose than the standard car.

Our drive has left us in no doubt that Honda's Civic is the undisputed hot hatch champion. With more power, it just gets better!

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