What the ‘Type R’ Badge on Honda’s Performance Cars Really Means
It all starts with an NSX and VTEC kicking in.
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A few years ago, I was lucky enough to test drive a Ferrari GTC4Lusso, Lamborghini Huracan Performante, McLaren 720S, Porsche 911 GTS, a Ford GT, a few other sports cars, and a Honda Civic Type R, back-to-back. I thrashed them on track, then on the road, and generally had a ton of fun. After a week behind their wheels, I was tasked with delivering my favorite. It was clear: the Honda Civic Type R.
The Civic Type R may sound like an odd choice, especially given the precious metal from Woking, Modena, Stuttgart, and Sant’Agata, but the Civic Type R is as special as those exotics. There’s a history, a racing ethos, and Honda’s legacy of engineering that’s baked into the Civic’s DNA, and the Type R badge is the embodiment of all of that.
For those who’ve never heard about the Type R’s history, when and why it was birthed, who helped usher it into existence, or why you should care about Honda’s rad enthusiast skunkworks, The Drive’s wannabe touring car drivers/editors have your back. Now, let’s wait for the VTEC to kick in, yo, and get to talkin’ about Honda’s Type R.
What Is a Type R?
A Type R is a specific performance specification Honda utilizes for a select few enthusiast cars, such as the Civic Type R. Type Rs are the top-spec performance machines in the Honda/Acura universe, followed by the Si spec. “R,” for those wondering, stands for Racing. Sugoi!
Who Started the Type R Designation?
The first Type R was the brainchild of Honda’s Special Projects Development Manager, Shigeru Uehara. After helping birth the NSX, Uehara was tasked with honing the already sharp supercar into something more. The project, according to Uehara, started with a single goal: “The role of the Type R is to provide drivers who love sports driving.” The result of that goal was the NSX-R.
When Did the Type R Designation Originate?
Though it didn’t adopt the Type R mantle just yet, the 1992 NSX-R was the first of its name. A Japanese domestic market-only (JDM) car, it was sold until 1995.
That first Type R got suspension upgrades, aerodynamic changes, bigger tires, and saw drastic weight-reduction thanks to Honda’s engineers pulling the car’s audio system, HVAC, sound-deadening, and electric windows. Thanks to all that Colin Chapmaning, Uehara’s team was able to pull out 264 pounds from the NSX. Yikes.
The resulting car was a hit and remains a legend to this day. However, it will be forever known as the car that spawned the Type R designation? to the rest of Honda’s performance department as, according to Uehara, development teams across Honda demanded a Type R for their projects, too.
How Has the Type R Designation Changed Through the Company’s History?
It’s changed greatly. It went from a special Skunkworks-type project to a mainstay of fast Hondas and Acuras, denoting its own special model. Beginning with the NSX, it’s trickled down to cars such as the Integra, the Accord, and to the cars that have made the Type R nameplate world-renown, Honda Civics.
What Models Currently Feature the Type R Designation?
There’s currently only one Honda product that features the Type R designation, and that’s the outgoing 10th-generation Civic.
The current Civic Type R is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that puts out a claimed 306 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. That performance is sent to the front wheels, and the front wheels alone, via a 6-speed manual transmission and wildly tricky front differential that eliminates torque steer completely.
This Civic Type R also has the most drastic and polarizing styling of any Type R ever, with loads of aerodynamic flourishes, canards, wings, intakes, big wheels, fender flares, and a three-port central exit exhaust.
What Are Past Type R Models?
Here’s the entire history of Type R models.
The first, the O.G., the NSX-R was the progenitor of the Type R species.
Integra Type R
There were two generations of Integra Type R, the DC2 and DC5 generations. The United States only got the DC2-generation Integra Type R and it was labeled as an Acura. It wasn’t a carbon copy of the Japenese-market Integra Type R, though.
The DC2 Integra Type R used the B18C 1.8-liter four-cylinder VTEC engine. It was rated for 197 horsepower and 130 pound-feet of torque thanks to higher compression, bigger cams, a larger throttle body, and a more voluminous exhaust manifold. It also came with a close-ratio 5-speed manual transmission and got better suspension, brakes, chassis bracing, and wheels and tires. And like the NSX-R, it saw extensive light-weighting. The interior and exterior of the car also had a handful of sporty modifications, including higher tachometers, wings, intakes, and Recaro bucket seats.
The DC5 generation Type R used the Acura RSX platform and was a Japanese domestic market-only car. It used the K20A 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and made 220 horsepower. There were other upgrades, though they weren’t as extensive as the DC2’s.
Accord Type R
The Accord Type R was only available during the car’s sixth generation. For Euro and JDM markets only, the Accord Type R actually used two different chassis, the CL1 and CH1. Japan’s Accord Type R used the CL1, while Europe made due with the CH1.
Both were powered by Honda’s legendary naturally aspirated 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine, H22A7 or “Red Top” VTEC, and produced a claimed 217 horsepower (JDM) or 209 horsepower (Euro) and 164 lb-ft of torque.
The Accord Type Rs, like previous Type Rs, got stiffer suspension, beefier chassis bracing, limited-slip differentials, bigger brakes, better tires, new exhausts, and some exterior and interior modifications to boot.
Civic Type R
There have been a total of five generations of the Civic Type R. Let’s get into the particulars below.
The Civic Type R Through The Ages
The Civic has the longest Type R lineage, here are its stats.
A JDM-only car, the EK9 was powered by a hand-ported B16B 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, the first Civic Type R made a claimed 183 horsepower and 118 lb-ft of torque. The engine was coupled to a helical limited-slip differential and 5-speed close-ratio manual transmission. Like the DC2 Integra Type R, it received a ton of light-weighting, too. Honda also extensively used seam welding to increase the Civic Type R’s rigidity.
For the second-generation Civic Type R, Japan sourced its design and production to the United Kingdom in Honda’s Swindon factory. Strictly a Euro/JDM car, the EP3 was a three-door Civic Type R that used the K20A and K20A2 four-cylinder engines.
In this spec, it produced a claimed 212 horsepower (Japan) and 197 horsepower (Europe) and 145 lb-ft of torque. This was sent through a 6-speed transmission and an upgraded helical limited-slip differential. According to Honda, the two differed in terms of track-focus, as the Euro car was far more relaxed compared to the Japan-market version, though both received extensive chassis bracing, suspension and brake upgrades, as well as steering tuning.
Based on the eighth-generation Civic, the FD2 and FN2 were Type Rs built for the Japanese and Euro markets, respectively.
The FD2 Type R became the first Type R offered in a four-door layout and was propelled by an upgraded K20A motor, delivering a claimed 225 horsepower and 158 lb-ft of torque. It also received small upgrades based on the EP3 Type R’s performance geometry.
The FN2 still opted for the three-door layout only and the drivetrain remained largely unchanged compared to the EP3. Though one distinction was that Honda swapped over the double-wishbone rear suspension for a torsion beam unit.
Honda’s FK2 Type R became the first Type R to feature a turbocharged engine. The K20CI engine sent a claimed 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque through a 6-speed manual transmission to a plate-style limited-slip differential and was good for a claimed 0-60 time of 5.7 seconds. The car grew in both size and weight, though it is still regarded as one of the best driver’s cars around.
Like previous versions, the FK2 Type R was only available in Japan and Europe.
The newest Type R is also the first Civic Type R to ever make it to the United States. It uses the same K20CI engine as the FK2 but features far more track-focused parts and production.
Power is up to a claimed 316 horsepower in Japan and Europe, though America still uses 306 and 295 lb-ft of torque. There’s still the close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission coupled to a plate-style limited-slip differential.
A host of other performance modifications to the Civic platform also enabled it to nab a host of front-wheel drive track records from around the world, including Spa, Silverstone, Mount Panorama, and the Nurburgring Nordschleife.
Future Type R Models
Rumors abound about the future of the Type R nameplate. Here are the ones that are most prevalent.
Civic Type R
There’s a new Civic coming in 2022, and with that, there will likely be another Civic Type R, especially given the current generation’s success.
NSX Type R
Long-rumored to be the NSX’s mid-cycle update, a Type R NSX would be a hard-core track-oriented hybrid supercar. Our interests would be piqued.
What’s the Type R’s Racing History?
Though the “R” in Type R is supposed to stand for racing, there isn’t the type of deep racing history as you’d expect. Before we get into that, listen to this.
The first proper Type R racer wasn’t actually built by Honda, but by the fabled Japanese tuner Spoon Sports. Spoon took an EK9 Type R and built it up for N1 racing, which included a new redline of 11,000 RPM. Wowza.
After that, RealTime Racing took an Integra Type R to the SPEED Touring Car Championship in 2002. There, the team won 23 races, along with five driver’s championships, and four manufacturer’s championships behind the Integra Type R’s wheel.
In 2008, Japanese tuners Mugen built a race version of the Civic Type R for the “Honda Exciting Cup Civic One-Make Race-Civic Series.”
The latest racing Type R is thanks to Honda Performance Development (HPD), which built one for both customers and teams to race amateur and professional touring car championships across the world. The current Type R motor also powers a number of open-wheel racecars, too.
Learn How To Drive Your Type R With Skip Barber Racing School
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The Drive has partnered with Skip Barber, the legendary racing school, to ensure that when you first prime your Type R’s ignition, you won’t fly off into a ditch.
FAQs About the Type R
You’ve got questions, The Drive has answers!
Q. So How Much Does a New Civic Type R Cost?
A. Too much.
Q. What, Really?
A. No, it’s hella good, but $37,495 is still a lot for a Civic.
Q. Alright, Then What is VTEC and Why Has It Kicked In?
A. VTEC stands for “variable valve timing and lift electronic control.” What it’s meant to do is increase efficiency at lower RPMs and increase performance at higher ones. In practice, the system feels a lot like old-school turbo lag as the engine comes on cam. When “VTEC kicks in,” as the youths say, there’s a surge of power and you’ve entered Race Wars.
Q. Ok, But Which Type R Is the Best?
A. The one that’s in your garage? Honestly, answering that in any other way is impossible, as each has its own rad stats and history, and people will argue about their favorites for ages. That is until we can all come together and agree that the current Civic Type R is the best, because it is.
Q. What’s the Fastest Honda?
A. If we’re talking about factory performance, that title goes to the current generation NSX. Yes, here in the United States it’s branded as an Acura, but, as mentioned previously, everywhere else in the world it’s a Honda. We’re sticking with that one.
But if we’re talking about the tuning or racing world, one of Honda’s old Formula 1 cars or this 1,500 horsepower, all-wheel drive, drag racing Civic.
Type R Fun Facts
You know you want more Type R facts!
- Honda has a stash of Type R cars in working condition holed up in spots around the world. Some in Japan, some in the UK, and others right here in the US of A! Who’s up for a heist?
- The red Honda badge that most Type Rs get is a nod to their first-ever Formula 1 championship and that car’s red and white livery.
- Shigeru Uehara also oversaw the development and execution of the Integra Type Rs and the S2000.
- Two of the most famous Type R colors are Championship White and Phoenix Yellow.
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