It’s not about how much weight it would add, it’s about where it would add it.
As stories from the Honda Civic Type R’s development team start to slip out one interview at a time, we’re beginning to get a clearer image of why the Nurburgring record holder shaped up to be the car it is today. In short, it has a lot to do with how obsessive the engineers were when it came down to juggling the front-wheel drive monster’s weight. Previous reports indicate that an all-wheel drive Type R was never going to be released due to the amount of weight the package would add.
Now, Car Advice cites Yuji Matsumochi, assistant large project leader for the Civic, as saying that weight was once again the factor behind the decision to exclude an automatic transmission from the options list. “If we applied an automatic transmission, or dual-clutch transmission, for a 400Nm engine, it would be very heavy weight, and very big. The front weight would be very heavy,” says Matsumochi. At current, the Type R has a weight distribution that skews towards the front, a given for a front-wheel drive vehicle. Problematically, weight up front encourages understeer, making for terrible cornering dynamics. During hard turns, front wheel-drive vehicles with their engines resting over the front axle tend to lose grip and push wide.
Honda engineers did their best to rid the Type R of understeer by evening out weight distribution. The old car featured a balance of 65:35, but that was improved to 62.5% up front and 37.5% at the rear for the new model. An automatic or double clutch transmission would have screwed that up. “The Type R needs a lightweight powertrain because it is front-wheel-drive, and needs lightweight powertrain systems. So, the engine is a little bit heavy, so the transmission side needs to be more lightweight,” said Matsumochi. That move is perfectly fine for the enthusiast who cares about shifting with three pedals, but it makes the Type R a pain to drive in heavy traffic. To ease that concern, Honda added a rev-matching feature.
“...We decided just on the six-speed manual – and the gearbox is very fun to drive. Easy to drive, however sometimes it’s difficult to control shift timing for sporty performance, so then we applied the rev-match system,” said Matsumochi “It’s so easy and so smooth – so everyone has a special experience to drive the car.” At least Honda was smart enough to leave a CVT out of the Type R.