It turns out the car used wasn't exactly stock, but was Honda to blame?
The Honda Civic Type R is once again the King of the Nurburgring, but a bit of fine print at the foot of the European press release announcing the record has pointed to the fact that the Type R that set the record is not the same as the one you can buy here in the US. Specifically, the record was set with a lightweight Type R derivative that will only be available in certain lefthand drive European markets. But even then, the car used was not completely stock, as it was using sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 Connect track tires that are not available, even as an option, from Honda. At least Honda disclosed that detail in the worldwide releases, though.
The footnote was curiously omitted from several regional press releases, but reads as follows:
"The lap time was set using a Type R that is a lighter version of the latest model. This model will be available to order in European LHD markets only, and will be referred to as a Type R S grade."
Honda, you have some explaining to do.
So what exactly is different about the Type R S grade?
As discovered by Carscoops, the vehicle kept the nine-inch infotainment screen but lost the navigation hardware and, unsurprisingly, ditched the climate control. The rear tonneau cover was also removed, and the S grade forgoes amenities like parking sensors, cargo net hooks, the auto-dimming mirror, sun visor vanity illumination, and power/heating side mirrors. There's no word on how much weight this saved, but with a record like this, every bit helps.
This is similar to the Civic Type R that Honda released with the last generation. That vehicle featured lots of weight saving along with new wheels, which added up to 104 lbs ditched all in the name of performance.
The question is will the US get the Type R S at some point? Yes, we received the LE before, but that special edition only reached our shores at the tail-end of the last generation's production run and in highly limited numbers. If we are to see anything like this S grade in the US, it's probably going to come a few years down the line.
Nothing else was modified on the vehicle, but to add insult to injury, the European model that achieved the record does produce more power than ours with 325 hp compared to our 315 hp (although ours does make more power than advertised).
It's not surprising that the company would pull out all the stops for its car to regain the record, and FWD hatchbacks have often gone to these lengths, with Renault, Seat, and VW all previously fielding cars in special trim to try and claim these records, but it's not often a company leaves out some crucial facts about how the record was really achieved.
Does this take away from how great the US spec Type R is? Not at all, but it does mean the record deserves an asterisk as far as American buyers are concerned.
It may surprise you that record-setting Nurburgring times are seldom completed by full production-spec cars. Very often, they are 'pre-production prototypes,' and in many cases, they lack several features. Often, OEMs will claim that this is merely to compensate for the weight of an added roll cage, but that in itself is rubbish, as the road cars don't get roll cages, and such a cage can drastically improve the stiffness of a car, letting car makers adjust the suspension specifically to conquer the 'Ring.
We went into greater detail on the matter a while back, although it's worth bearing in mind that since writing that article, the Nurburgring has at least standardized the lap length for records and now officiates records. Still, there's no guarantee the cars running these records have stock engine tunes, or anything else for that matter.
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