Front wheel drive that feels like all-wheel drive
I'm back in the pits of Connecticut's historic Lime Rock Park. And if you'd told me even a decade ago that a front-wheel-drive hatchback could rock a track like this, yet still reliably perform its everyday duties—you know, like a Honda—I'd have doubled over in laughter.
With 228 kilowatts (306 horsepower), a 4.9-second leap to 60 miles (97 kilometers) per hour, 1.0 g's worth of lateral traction, and braking distances on par with a Porsche 911, this Civic is the rare car that feels like more than the sum of its parts. Fans already know that the US $34,990 Honda is essentially the fastest front-driver in history, but where you'd expect a ruinous ride from such a powerful front-drive machine, the Honda carves up corners with unbreakable grip and confidence.
Honda's dual-axis front strut suspension is a big reason why this Civic performs more like a rear- or all-wheel-drive car. Front wheels can get overwhelmed when they're required to both power and steer a car, because there's only so much grip to do both. By using one axis for the suspension and the other for steering, Honda separates the two functions: The system's damper knuckle puts the axis of steering closer to the center of the wheels themselves. In turn, the ability to tilt that steering axis gave engineers much more freedom to adjust “caster" and “camber" angles, which describe the relationship of the wheels to the ground. The upshot is that tires stay more perpendicular to the road.
Performance fans of a certain age may chafe at the Type R's Japanimation mecha robot styling. But hey, you want gravitas? Get a Porsche.