Living in a condominium means having to use a shared parking facility several floors away from your home. It’s a bane for some car guys who like having their pride and joy within sight at all times. The upside for those who occasionally indulge in a bit of car-spotting is that you don’t have to peek through your neighbour’s steel fence to admire his new Ferrari.
Unfortunately, there are no supercars with which my humble runabout can rub shoulders in the grittier part of Petaling Jaya I call home. The car that screams for attention the most on my floor is a Honda City decked out in aftermarket aero and red Honda logos, giant one stickered onto the side profile included. Its owner loves his Hondas and he loves them loud. And since I park just a few cars away, he must have felt like a kid in a candy store throughout the three days I spent babysitting the new Honda Civic Type R.
It may be built in Swindon, but the latest FK8 model certainly looks like it was envisioned by eyes that worship all things magnificently JDM, hood scoops and wings the size of goalposts included. These aren’t even the new Type R’s most defining visual traits, not when the hatched rear has vortex generators at the top and three sizeable tailpipes down low. Mr Modified City must have been inspired by these features for sure.
I won’t be surprised to see him at the neighbourhood accessory shop trying to dress up the City with more fins and fangs of sorts. He’ll probably come really close to making his car a spitting image of the real deal too. While it’s a great way to pay homage to the brand, such mimicry is exactly why some purists approach the Civic Type R with caution. The general expectation is for a car rivalling the Volkswagen Golf R and Mercedes-AMG A45 to exhibit a similarly European sense of class. But there is much more depth to its Initial D styling than meets the eye.
The Type R’s massive spoiler and accompanying fins at the top of its rear windscreen (a throwback to the Mitsubishi Evolution IX) help generate genuine downforce instead of merely combating lift in the rear. Honda claims it’s the only car in its class capable of doing so, which is paramount because it’s also the only entry in the relatively fresh ‘ultra-hatch’ segment to shove all of its 306bhp exclusively to the front wheels.
Honda Civic Type R (19 pics)
My first experience of the new Type R’s unreal levels of grip came a year ago at the Lausitzring in Dresden, Germany. There are no memories of understeer, which is fascinating for a FWD track experience. This rear-end stickiness translates well in the real world as I discovered when taking the corners leading up to the dam in Kuala Kubu Baru at speed. It’s also impressive how civil the race-ready Honda feels when you’re trying to be naughty behind the wheel – comfort and noise insulation levels are surprisingly good for a car that can smash the 100kph barrier in just 5.7 seconds from a standstill. Not that you’d expect 6,500rpm to be particularly deafening.
Yes, that’s the redline for the now-turbocharged Civic Type R. It’s a big pill to swallow for Malaysian fans given that the only other Type R officially sold here was the FD2 model powered by Honda’s legendary K20A engine famed for its 9,000rpm falsetto. There’s some complex engineering in the FK8’s exhaust tasked to uphold some aural excitement. The centre tailpipe, for one, creates negative pressure at higher revs to filter out unpleasant boominess in the name of preserving all the right decibels. But there’s still something lacking, especially when you can hear something much more passionate gaining on you without being able to make it out in your rearview mirror just then.
Soon there was a speck in sight, hiding behind the wing of the Type R that impedes rear vision somewhat. It took just a few seconds for the speck to grow into an ear-splitting presence by my side, cheekily rubbing the fact that it had more Rs emblazoned on its fairings in my face. I was happily rowing my own gears until Thoriq Azmi showed up on the BMW S1000RR, clearly having enjoyed the ride up to Selangor’s northern outskirts more than I did. I could tell he was grinning from ear-to-ear behind his helmet. Not that it took me by surprise.
You don’t need to be a seasoned rider to understand how special the BMW S1000RR is in the two-wheeled circle. It may only have half as many wheels as the Type R but it has the same amount of cylinders churning out enough performance to justify the extra R. With 199bhp dedicated to mobilising just 208kg of metal, this Isle of Man mainstay is arguably BMW Motorrad’s most serious offering to date, surpassed only by the 215bhp carbon-heavy HP4 Race which is essentially a track-exclusive version of the S1000RR to begin with.
With 306bhp, 400Nm and four-legged stability on my side, keeping up with the S1000RR was not my biggest concern. The FK8 truly is the most dynamically talented Type R Honda has ever engineered. But my ego as a driver – a chivalric ego inflated from being at the wheel of a car as fast and famous as the Type R – took a hit as the Bimmer’s 999cc engine drowned the acoustic product of my force-inducted VTEC completely. Then again, even the vocal K20A engine of yore would have struggled to beat the S1000RR in a singing contest when it’s bellowing at full force at just a little over 14,000rpm.
Yes. Despite being half the size of the Type R’s mill, the S1000RR’s four-stroker is capable of operating over twice the engine speed. It probably downs its drinks with the same fervour too. It didn’t take us many spirited runs before Thoriq admitted he might require a refuel. That gave me the opportunity to mock his bike’s lack of a fuel gauge – all it has is a range indicator and a light that comes on once it’s down to the last gallon of petrol. But there’s a lap timer. Priorities, people.
The Civic Type R is not without its shocking omissions either. Imagine my surprise after finding out the RM300k sportscar, which counts keyless ignition, touchscreen infotainment and an electronic parking brake among its standard features, didn’t have any reverse camera or sensor whatsoever. I broke more sweat trying to back the Type R safely into some of Kuala Lumpur’s narrow parking lots than while driving it to its lofty limits. Perhaps it’s a reminder to look ahead and make full use of its six forward gears.
Speaking of which, gear count is another thing both the Type R and S1000RR share in common. You’ll need to know your way around a clutch to drive either one, but the Type R makes vigorous shifting a wee bit easier with a rev-matching system operating in the background – heel-and-toe purists can switch this off if they want to. Other equipment similarities include train-stopping Brembo brakes and three driving modes: Comfort, Sport and +R for the Type R; Rain, Sport and Race for the S1000RR. But the biggest unifying theme is probably the crowd with which these vehicles resonate.
Driving enthusiasts who yearn to be caressed by the Type R’s sublime race buckets see way beyond the fact it’s a RM300k Civic. Likewise, riders considering spending their life savings on the BMW S1000RR aren’t going to care if they can get a more practical family car for the same amount of money. They are believers of the thrills of driving and the joys of riding, traditionalists who will be deeply disappointed once a future where self-driving electric vehicles become the norm materialises.
It’s an impending reality Thoriq and I happily ignored as we piloted the Civic Type R and BMW S1000RR home having hit greater heights than that of Fraser’s Hill looming in the background. You don’t need a Ferrari or a Lamborghini to keep the motoring dream alive. These everyday track weapons will keep you on the edge until petrol doomsday arrives. Non-believers need not apply.
Pictures: Raja Mokhzairi
|Engine||1,996cc 4-cylinder turbocharged VTEC, 306bhp, 400Nm|
|Performance||0-100kph in 5.8 secs, 272kph|
|Engine||999cc 4-cylinder, 4-stroke inline, 199bhp, 113Nm|
|Transmission||6-speed constant mesh|