Honda UK put up a teaser mini-site for the new 2015 Honda Civic Type R a couple of days back, and stirred the Honda community into a fever pitch.
For Honda and its fans, Type R represents its "racing spirit," which is the company's corporate philosophy of using motorsport to drive innovation and foster teamwork. Honda's a company with a rich racing heritage, spanning almost half a century at the highest echelons of motorsport. The Civic iteration of Type R has always been the mainstay of the Type R badge, the other series either one-offs (like the NSX-R) or discontinued (as with the Integra-R).
Customers in Europe, Australia, Japan and many countries in Asia have been enjoying Type R Hondas but the US has never had an officially imported model, partly because of the cost of homologating the vehicles to comply with US regulations. Hopefully, efforts to push Honda USA to officially bring in the car will bear fruit.
Honda Type Rs are very special vehicles and are always announced to great acclaim by the automotive community, and the 2015 Honda Civic Type R is no exception. Announced way back in 2012, and proudly displayed during the Geneva Motor Show 2014 earlier this year, the CTR was promised by no less than the President and CEO of Honda, Takanobu Ito, to be the fastest front-wheel-drive car in the Nurburgring.
Originally rumoured to be working on a naturally aspirated 220HP Civic Type R in 2014, Honda was forced back to the drawing boards to design a higher performance car, delaying the release to 2015.
The gestation period has been relatively long -- possibly because of the increasing power levels and rapidly dropping lap times of its competitors, including the Volkswagen Golf, Scirocco R, Seat Leon Cupra, and other super-hot-hatches from Ford and Chinese manufacturer MG. It was made even harder as the Renaultsport Megane 275 Trophy-R raised the bar further by posting a 7:54.36 lap record, the fastest time to date for a front wheel drive car.
To fulfil Ito's promise, the 2015 Honda Civic Type R would have to be a really special car. After almost a year of hitting the drawing boards again, the new 2015 CTR promises to be even more special if for just one reason -- it will be the first factory-turbocharged performance vehicle in Honda's history.
Notorious for not offering turbocharged performance cars and instead relying on incredibly high revving engines and fancy variable valve timing mechanisms like its famous VTEC system to generate high power outputs, Honda has prided itself in making some of the world's best naturally aspirated engines, with near instantaneous throttle response that many drivers consider essential for an exhilarating driving experience.
Honda's reluctance to go the turbo route despite all of its competitors doing so most definitely stems from its concerns that turbocharging would blunt the prized characteristics of Honda performance engines. Even so, with emissions and fuel economy targets being increasingly more demanding, Honda announced a trio of turbocharged engines late in 2013, the crown jewel being the CTR's two-litre four-cylinder turbo engine with VTEC variable valve timing.
With this new CTR engine, Honda's engineers seem to have achieved turbocharging while still preserving the VTEC experience.
"Creating a high output turbocharged engine is relatively easy, but our aim is to retain the VTEC characteristics, so it's high revving, with great responses and easy to control performance," said Patrik Ponec, a product planner at Honda in an interview with CAR magazine, UK.
This achievement must have been something great -- even for a typically understated Japanese company, Honda has made unusually bold claims for the 2015 CTR.
"The Civic Type R concept is not a high performance road car, it's a racing car for the road," proclaims Masaru Hasagawa, the chief stylist in a video.
Fans who heard the news of Honda's first turbocharged performance engine were pretty excited as well.
"Suddenly I feel alive again, like there is a purpose in life," said Patrick Lee, a former Honda workshop owner and mechanic in the US and now residing in Singapore. "But I'm afraid of the insurance premiums," he quipped.
"Since the days of the B20 turbo, I dreamt of this day. That was 15 years ago," said another fan, referring to the craze in the 1990s to build cars which could sprint a quarter mile in less than 10 seconds, using nitrous, turbocharging or any combination of techniques, and the inspiration of action film "The Fast and the Furious."
While the US waits for Honda's decision, the first deliveries of the powerful and fast Honda Civic Type R will hit the rest of the world soon. Even if it doesn't beat the Renault's Nurburgring record, Honda's devoted fans have something to look forward to after a two-year wait.