2021 Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition Road Test | The farewell drive
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If I had to buy a new car today, this 2021 Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition would be in my driveway. Aside from nearly six-figure sports cars and even more expensive supercars, there is no performance car more fun than this screaming yellow Honda hatchback. Limit choices to cars under $ 50,000 and it wins without breaking a sweat.
Honda made this limited edition model - only 600 copies are sold in the US - as a farewell to the 10th generation Civic Type R. It builds on the updated and improved 2020 model year car, making this the most focused version and dialed-in Type R of the bundle. Think of it as a Porsche GT model. Or a BMW CS. Or an AMG Black Series. The idea is to take an already great performance car and then make it even more extreme.
It's easy to screw up this idea, however. Take the BMW M4 CS 2019 as an example. BMW has eliminated key parts like the armrests and traditional door handles in an effort to save weight. This just made daily life with the car annoying, and the performance advantage over the M4 Competition was negligible. The Type R Limited Edition offers the most comfort and reduces weight (50 pounds total) in places that enhance the driving experience. For example, 28 pounds of sound deadening material is removed, increasing the engine and exhaust noise in the cabin over that of a normal Type R. Yes, it creates additional road and tire noise, but it is a much less negative car in which you want to feel at one with the road.
New forged BBS wheels reduce an additional 18 pounds of unsprung mass. Honda doesn't advertise a faster 0 to 60 mph time - the 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder still puts out the same 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque as the regular Type R - but this Type R feels as if he had an extra feather in the crotch. The sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires also contribute to this. You don't get these tires with the regular Type R, but I can clearly say you want them. The car engages better in first and second gear - it is less spin-tastic. In addition, the grip in corners is absolutely amazing.
The comfort items that Honda removed are not missing. The rear luggage compartment cover is gone, as are the rear heating ducts. The rear wiper is also omitted. I drove the car in heavy rain and the lack of a rear wiper wasn't an issue - water effectively drains off the rear window. In Europe, the Limited Edition is also losing the infotainment system and air conditioning to save even more weight, but I'm glad Honda didn't go that route in the American version.
All of the parts that go into the limited edition make this car so pleasant to drive. It's a lesson in ergonomic perfection from the second you step in. Sit on the hugely padded red seat, which is roughly the same as the new M3 / M4 sports seats, and you will immediately feel at home. The seats enclose almost every inch of your body and are still softly padded and absolutely comfortable. Squeeze the light but communicative clutch, tap the start button, and a small hum begins. This engine note at idle doesn't have much in particular - unlike the VTEC Hondas of yore, this unfortunately also extends to ramping up the rev counter.
The real tactile fun begins when you first engage the gear stick. No manual transmission outside of Porsche comes close to the satisfying feeling of the shift lever on this Type R. You can feel and hear the beautiful mechanics as you move them through the six forward gears. Honda has had this under control for decades, and it's still pure luck.
The chunky little button is nicely positioned to make every gear change natural and easy on the arm. The massive adjustability of the steering wheel makes attaching it in the right place child's play. Forward visibility is excellent and the large rear wing does not interfere with rearward visibility. It is these simple elements that Honda really does that make the Type R so enjoyable to drive.
A newly tuned steering gear for the Limited Edition gives the steering feel a little more weight and nice consistency regardless of the driving mode. Honda does not overdo steering at low speeds like many modern steering systems, which signals from the first turn of the wheel that this is this vehicle. The first 100 feet of driving this car makes as big an impression as anyone else out there. And damn it, it's a delightful thing to do for anyone who enjoys the very basics of driving.
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Get out on the street and the grin only gets bigger. The weighting and tuning of this electric power steering are reminiscent of the times when the steering feel was still abundant. It's natural in the truest sense of the word, and it's as good as it gets in 2021. Whether you are cycling through town or stepping on the gas through a corner, it’s just right.
And when you're on your favorite roads, this Type R can keep up with even the most accomplished sports cars. A Corvette or a Porsche 911 will drive away on the straight bits, but the Type R Limited Edition doesn't lose a punch through the corners. These Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires offer so much grip that you can only make full use of your grip limits on the track. On the road, the limited-slip differential and that sticky rubber pull you through the bends with ease. I immediately learned to love it. Trust the car. The understeer does not come.
Honda retuned the adaptive dampers in the limited edition - it's even different from the retuned dampers introduced with the 2020 update. Fortunately, the comfort mode is still comfortable. Sport and + R, however, both bring stiffness to a level that is unnecessary for anything but a racetrack. It's good that the car is downright brilliant in comfort mode.
There's no such thing as a high-rev VTEC song to sing, but the speed of acceleration on this car pushes the boundaries for a front-wheel drive car. Put a lot more power through the front wheels and you'll get more spin than acceleration, even with Sport Cup 2 tires. The total lack of torque steering remains the crowning glory of this car, and it's hard to imagine Honda can do much better in this area with the 11th Gen Type R's chassis.
If the Type R has one major downside, it's the engine sound. You get some turbo wash and a decent racket in the cabin, but it's not pretty. Also, the updated model adds a pumped sound through the speakers in Sport and + R modes that is easy to listen to. In comfort mode, it sounds perfectly fine without additional sound enhancement. This isn't a huge problem just because you don't want to ride in those stiffer modes on the sad roads of our country, but the extra noise could get annoying when you're on a track in + R. When switching between the modes, I hardly noticed any difference in the gas allocation or in the steering effort, which makes Comfort a sweet spot for all journeys.
All of the above is enough to park one in my driveway, but what drives the nail home is all of the homeliness and special features of the Type R Limited Edition. With adaptive cruise control and competent lane centering, it can cruise on the motorway. It has an absolutely huge cargo space under the hatchback. The car is still a Civic, so you get all the niceties like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, huge center console storage, and space for a few friends in the rear.
The Phoenix Yellow paint job also tickles my Honda bug - I've always longed for an original Acura Integra Type R in Phoenix Yellow. It's funny how a paint color can create such nostalgia, but Honda got that color incredibly right by choosing that color for the limited edition. All black painted elements - the roof, the bonnet, the mirrors and the badges - put the color in the limelight. And in contrast to the rest of the look-at-me styling of the car, the number plate in the interior is rather classy.
Finding one of the 600 Limited Editions for a sticker price of $ 44,950 might prove difficult given the history of the Type R's dealership markups, but if you can find one at list price this is a steal. The Type R can hardly go wrong in this entire generation, and the Limited Edition is a fitting farewell greeting. It's like the normal Type R, but better. You know, the 911 GT3 is similar to the 911 Carrera, but better.
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