With an all-new Honda Civic Type-R Turbo on the horizon, we take a look back at what makes cars wearing the red badge so special
BMW has M-Sport, Mercedes-Benz has AMG and Honda has Type-R. The Japanese manufacturer has always been one of the finest engine builders, and from the beginning has been an engineering and motorsport lead company. Building on its racing heritage, it was only a matter of time before Honda applied the racing red ‘H’ emblem to the front of a road car, and that finally happened in 1992 with the NSX.
In the grand scheme of things, Type-R hasn't been around that long, but the impact it has had on the performance car scene is huge. The relatively short list of Type-R badged cars tells a story of how the cars have evolved, with a new chapter in the story just around the corner with - latest turbocharged Honda Civic Type-R - which is due to go on sale later this year. Honda NSX-R
In 1992, a team of engineers set out to create the ultimate track version of the Honda NSX for the Japanese market. The standard car was always designed to be as light as possible, so to remove 140kg of weight was a fairly merciless task. Specially developed Kevlar Recaro seats saved 17kg straight away, while thinner glass, a lack of air conditioning and a radio also made savings. It was stripped bare, even down to the lack of an ashtray. Special forged aluminium Enkei wheels also shaved 4.2kg off the total.
Traction control was deemed unnecessary, along with the airbag. The V6 VTEC engine remained virtually unchanged, although shorter gear ratios and much tighter linkages were also key to the race-bred package. With extra body strengthening, the NSX’s suspension settings were also stiffened up considerably. This was an extreme car setting a precedent for things to come… Honda Integra Type-R DC2
Taking everything they had learned from the NSX, Honda applied its Type-R to the Integra – a fairly ordinary two-door coupe. At the heart of the Type-R was a factory tuned hand-built version of the 1.8-litre naturally aspirated B18C engine, pushing power up to 197bhp thanks to uprated and honed internals and an increased rev limiter (up to 8600rpm).
The big changes were all in the significantly improved body stiffness, with the intention of making the car more suitable for Group N racing. A thinner windscreen (an idea carried over from the NSX) as well as less insulation and soundproofing helped to negate the extra weight from the beefed up suspension mountings, extra spot welds and strut bracing.
Although originally limited to the Japanese market, Honda later sold the DC2 Coupe in the USA and Europe, introducing Honda’s go-faster badge to the world. Honda Civic Type-R EK9
Yet another car built to homologate a racing car, the EK9 was the first ever Civic to be given the Type-R treatment. Like the Integra, it was considerably stiffened over the standard car, going as far as having a semi-seam welded shell – something generally reserved for competition cars.
Under the bonnet was a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre engine, pushing out 182bhp, which was an incredible feat for a road-going production car. Unlike the Civic hatches that followed, this was only ever sold in Japan, and was far more extreme in its stiffening and weight removal. Honda Accord Type-R
From humble beginnings, Honda’s UK-market Accord made an unexpectedly great basis for a seriously capably performance saloon. Built in Swindon, the engine was a suitably warmed up 210bhp version of the 2.2-litre Prelude engine. Like all good Type-Rs it was stiffened up considerably, mostly thanks to a stronger rear bulkhead. Despite this it was also lighter than the standard Accord by about 60kg. A standard limited slip differential and closer-ratio five-speed manual gearbox improved things as well. Perhaps the most unloved and underrated of all the Type-Rs.
Honda Accord Euro-R
Although the Japanese market never got the Accord Type-R, they did build their own – confusingly known as the Euro-R. It used a slightly more powerful version of the same engine, and was based on the very similar looking, but completely different CL1 Accord body. Honda NSX Type-R
For 2002, the NSX was given a more aggressive Type-R makeover. Weight saving was a primary focus, so carbon fibre was used throughout the car. Much of the same weight saing measures were carried over from the original NSX-R, shedding more than 100kg from the total.
Although Honda claimed the engine’s 276bhp power output remained unchanged, the engine was balanced to within an inch of its life, and it was often said to be pushing out more than 300bhp. Honda Integra Type-R DC5
The Integra was back in business with the Japan-only Type-R model. It was much larger in appearance, and a bit heavier, but a 217bhp 2.0-litre VTEC engine, and lots of new performance innovations well and truly made up for it. Where the DC2 was a delicate and beautifully balanced machine though, the DC5 went the other way thanks to its extremely aggressive set-up. Not better or worse, but almost a completely different animal to drive. Honda Civic Type-R EP3
Unlike all previous Type-R models this new Civic was truly a mass-market product, and became a sales success especially in the UK. It was also in many ways the first of a new generation of genuinely exciting 200bhp hot hatches.
A more hardcore model was manufactured in Swindon for the Japanese market, with a slightly more power, a limited slip differential, Recaro seats and a more track-focused chassis set-up. This is widely regarded as the best of all the EP3s Honda Accord Euro R
Due to a lack of demand, Europe never got this hotted up Accord, which featured a 2.0-litre K20A i–VTEC engine, also found in the Civic. It’s probably the most subtle of the Type-R models… Honda Civic Type-R FN2
Ditching the slightly undesirable image of the previous generation Civic, Honda adopted a very forward-thinking and sharp new look for the FN2, which meant a much more desirable looking Type-R. Honda took the decision to adopt a less sophisticated rear torsion beam suspension set-up, which was technically inferior to the multi-link set up of the EP3. Although it still handled well, it did result in a particularly harsh ride quality.
Power output remained virtually unchanged, although there was a more usable spread of torque. Early cars also lacked the limited slip differential, although special edition Championship White editions got one as standard. It was phased out in 2010 due to incoming emissions regulations that Honda’s high-revving naturally aspirated engine just couldn’t meet. By the end, it was struggling to keep pace with more powerful turbocharged rivals, but its passing was mourned by many enthusiasts, as it was seen as the end of an era. Honda Civic Type-R FD2 saloon
While Europe got the hatchback, Japan yet again go the upper hand with a much more impressive saloon Type-R package. It had 22 more bhp than the European car, a limited slip differential and an all-independent rear suspension set-up making it a much more effective performance car. It was never officially brought into the UK, although quite a few have since been imported
2015 Honda Civic Type-R Turbo
After what feels like years of teasing and speculation, the launch of the new turbocharged Civic Type-R draws ever closer. What it might have lost in high-revving charm it has surely made up with sheer performance. Honda claims that it will lap the Nurburgring in 7m50s, hit 62mph in 5.7secs and go on to a top speed of 167mph. Read the full story over on evo.co.uk.
Images: evo Magazine