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The VTEC To Dwarf All VTEC’s (aka FD2R)

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A little bit of VTEC would do you good.

The last of the Type-R’s? We’re sad to see you go. Manic VTEC addicts will suffer withdrawal.

A year ago, on April 19th, Honda made a shocking headline; the JDM (Japan Domestic Market) Honda Civic Type R (codenamed FD2R) would be discontinued from August 2010 onwards due to impending emissions control requirements in Europe. The news reverberated through every channel of every petrolhead who adored the screaming VTEC engines, and many were disappointed with Honda’s decision.

It was exactly 3 years earlier, in August 2007 that the FD2R was officially launched in Malaysia – the first country outside of Japan to get the Type R. It enjoyed relative success, having sold a total of 234 units of the FD2R as of March 2010.

For those not in the know, the very first Civic Type-R is the 1997 EK9 Civic hatchback. Powering the EK9 is the now-venerable B16B powerplant, a 1.6 lump that produces 185hp at a dizzying 8,200 rpm. In order to facilitate driving efficiency, sound deadening materials were omitted to reduce weight, the chassis was strategically seam-welded to increase rigidity, a helical limited slip differential (LSD) was employed with close ratio gears to boot – all these were part of the “R” (racing) ingredient that goes into making the Type R. As a result, it is only slightly heavier than a metric ton and this ensures that the century sprint is dealt with in only 6.7s. Available only in its signature colour – Championship White (a colour to commemorate Honda’s first F1-winning car), the EK9 was never sold outside Japan. A few of them, however, found their way to Malaysia via grey importers.

The next Civic Type-R is the EP3, is a unique model which was designed and manufactured in Swindon, UK, in the year 2001. It shared nothing in common with other Civic line-ups at that time. This was the Civic that gained the now-legendary K20A engine, outputting 201hp at 7,800rpm. The JDM EP3 was also manufactured in Swindon and imported to Japan with some differences; helical LSD’s, remapped ECU’s with different camshafts (pushing horsepower figures at 212hp). The JDM car is also more track focused compared to the one which was available at UK. An improvement (facelifted in the year 2004) in the suspension geometry and also engine management helped the JDM EP3 to clock 6.2s in 0-100km/h dash.

In 2007, Honda decided to make 2 Civic Type-Rs; the FN2R and FD2R for European and Japanese market respectively. This is the first time that, for the Japanese domestic market, the Civic Type-R is based on a 4 door chassis instead of a three door hatchback. A similar K20A engine was carried forward, but with improvements made to it. It is now equipped with Drive-By-Wire, larger throttle body diameter, cylinder head porting using Honda NSX technology, straightened and shortened intake manifold and narrow angled exhaust manifold. This gives out a generous 221hp at 8,000 rpm and 215Nm of torque at 6,100rpm. The FD2R also gets the similar “R” diet, helping it to propel to 100km/h in 6s dead. Hard braking with improvements in fade resistance is achieved with a set of huge 17-inch 4-pot Brembo callipers in the front.
This is a brief recollection of two ardent petrolheads of the FD2R.

A most relevant venue for the FD2R; we both agreed this is THE place to put the FD2R. All we needed now are the other R’s.

Jack says:
On a glorious Saturday morning, Andrew and I woke up early, went for breakfast, and drove the FD2R around. We were searching for the best possible background for the FD2R. I first took helm of the steering after breakfast. Fired up the car, slot it in first gear and off we went. I was cruising on MEX (Maju Expressway) and immediately it hit me. All the small details of the “R” diet were there for a reason. No sound proofing, hard suspension setting, red meter clusters, red badge, aerodynamics, high revving engine, no spare tyre, 6 speed close ratio gearbox – they are there to provide you with a driving experience. Admittedly, I was not very fond of its very hard suspension setting. If I were to be older, I would need to speed dial my masseur or physiotherapist every time after driving the car.

But when the i-VTEC switches on at a precise 5,800 rpm (with an indicator on the dash telling you that), my God, all hell breaks loose. The engine sound changes note, the rpm climbs so fast that, before you realise it, you are hitting 8,400 (6 indicators on dash all lit up). Shift up, and you’re in that devilish power zone, ready to pounce again! Am I glad to have the close ratio gearbox and the absence of sound deadening material in this car! Quite disappointingly however, since the car is fully imported from Japan, it has its speed limited to 180 km/h.

Side view pretty streamlined. Rear spoiler completes GT look. Lightweight sportrims does not disappoint.

I think that the FD2R is very, very track focused and I would probably buy it only if I have another more comfortable car as daily rider (Andrew would concur with me on this). It is a brilliant car; nevertheless, it goes to show that Honda’s effort in F1 was not wasted and it trickled down to its cars.

We finally reached our destination for the FD2R photoshoot – Sepang International Circuit… what a befitting background as a send-off for the FD2R.

We also got distracted by some Porsche’s from the Lion City working out some industrialized stress coming out from Sunway Lagoon Corner (turn 15) onto Kuala Lumpur Straight (main straight).

Porsche power in Sepang International Circuit

Porsche power in Sepang International Circuit: the Porsche

 

More boxer goodness. I think we salivated more over the Porsche’s than the FD2R, but there WERE more Porsche’s than Type-R’s there. All’s fair…

Andrew says:
Honda’s reluctance back in the 80’s to join in the fray when the other manufacturers were dabbling wildly in forced induction resulted in a peculiarly unique position for Honda in the naturally-aspirated (henceforth termed NA) automotive market. As the world’s first manufacturer to mass-produce a 100hp-per-litre NA engine, Honda has indeed come a long way, revamping and retuning its lovely VTEC powerplants.

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The decision to maintain an NA engine development was made due to a number of factors, namely; engine response, mechanical durability, and mechanical complexity. Factors leading to the decision were because of Honda’s engineers’ drive for advancement, and that previous generations of forced induction engines were relatively more sluggish and expensive to maintain. Designing an engine that is able to squeeze 100hp/l was particularly challenging, as a mass-produced engine should not only provide a balance of power and fuel-efficiency, but must also work for a nominal 250,000kms (or 15 years).

The FD2 Civic Type R’s K20A spec-R DOHC i-VTEC engine (henceforth termed K20AR) produces approximately 221.27hp, and a simple calculation reveals that this 2-litre baby gives out an astonishing 110.64hp/l. I am sure that Honda’s engineers have been working overtime to squeeze out every hp/l increase in the engine. The overall design of the K20AR is subtly revised to allow for a slight power increase compared to the Integra Type R’s K20 powerplant, but I won’t bore you with how Honda’s engineers increased the compression ratio by 0.2 units and how they revised the exhaust manifold triple-Y design to allow for smoother exhaust runners ;Þ.

However you look at it, this is the belly of the beast. At 110hp/l naturally aspirated, this is one of the most powderful we’ve seen.

*Ahem*…

Complementing the FD2R’s already-famous prowess on the track, the R is also known for being one of the fastest production front-wheel driven cars in history, in addition to being able to make the NSX Type R break a sweat or two. It’s appeal towards boy racers and speed wannabe’s is almost legendary, meticulously honed by Honda since the early 80’s. It is precise, acutely telepathic and pretty forgiving at the limit. The new Drive-By-Wire system fitted onto the FD2R has only a slight lag in response times, and seems to be on par with most mechanically-connected systems. The FD2R’s onboard chips also assist the driver in modulating the acceleration and braking forces using the Drive-By-Wire system, resulting in smooth and accurate corner entries and exits. It feels good holding the FD2R’s steering wheel, and driver feedback is an improvement over the EP3.

On the flipside, the FD2R is annoyingly uncomfortable, since the suspension settings allow for almost zero tolerance (to car sickness and rear seating). The maintenance cost is also going to be a huge commitment; lubricants, brake pads, tyres, chicks that one will inevitably be picking up, and a huge prenuptial (joking, joking, lol!).

By the way, Jack is right. IF I had a really comfortable daily driver, this would indeed be a wildly entertaining track machine. The trouble is, at two hundred-odd grand, middle-class Malaysians may not even be able to afford the FD2R as a first car, let alone as a second one. Thus, the problem now is compounded; people who want it may not be able to afford it (unless they sell their liver, kidney, and half an arm), and people who can wouldn’t necessarily be the track junkie type (or even know how to drive properly).

Crashed your Type-R? Can’t blame you. The VTEC indicators are such attention whores. Brings out the most of boyracers, too!

My revelation about this struck me at about the same time as the realization that this situation results in a myriad of problems. Firstly, owners who can barely afford it needs the FD2R as a daily driver, and, coupled with the alluring reputation of VTEC, means colleagues will want to have a ride in the R for lunch. It goes without a shred of doubt that rock-hard suspension settings and full stomachs do not go together. I am fairly certain that the stories I hear about some reverse peristalsis action in the rear seats belong to this category of problems. Another issue that the R has is its fuel consumption; squeezing so many throughbreds from a 2-litre plant means something’s gotta give – approximately 12.7l/100km (Vernon Chan’s innate talent allows for >25l/100km). Also, such a highly-strung engine means that wear may be unnecesarily fast, but Honda DOES have a knack for building high quality, durable engines.

The second issue is one that I keep close to heart, more from seething irritation than adoration, really. Normally, those who can afford the FD2R meant that two major factors are not of priority concern; damage from collisions, and number of owned vehicles. The lack of a concern for car damage increases the probability of driving recklessly, as well as a decreased inhibition to do so. Owning more than 1 car also means that the owner is able to sustain the risk of wrecking the FD2R. Both these factors increase the probability of public-road menace, especially to owners who purchased the FD2R because for bragging rights, and not its handling prowess.

Of course, I may be wrong in my assumption that more affluent folks are ridiculously awful drivers. It could be that most people on the road are pretty horrible drivers on average, but the wealthier people have access to faster, and hence, more dangerous vehicles. This makes me wonder; do we have to thank the inefficient roadworks in Malaysia for slowing these cars down on the highways?

A slight digression here; if you are reading this and are annoyed by my pessimistic assumption of average drivers, reflect on yourself for a moment and think about the last time you participated in an advanced driving course. Many people consider themselves to be unbelievably good drivers, like how they would presume their sexual prowess to be. It is the natural progression of human nature and self-esteem, but please reflect and go learn how to drive properly. Join an advanced driving course; HPC or GRA. Both are pretty decent.

3/4 rear view looks surrealistic near the grandstands of Malaysia’s premier motorsports arena. The kind weather completed the photograph.

Conclusion
Today, you can still buy a Civic Type R, but in the FN2R (hatchback) form from UK. It was reported that Honda Japan will begin officially selling the FN2R in Japan but it is not known if it would be brought in to Malaysia officially. Even then, the signature i-VTEC K20A sound will slowly become a fleeting memory in automotive history.

Perhaps the most common sight, both on and off the track. An advantage is that the FD2R’s butt looks pretty decent, because that’s all you’re gonna be seeing anyway.

About Andrew Lee

Andrew is a commercial photographer by day and speed demon by night. Don't let his pleasant, approachable demeanour fool you, as he's an incredible fast driver on the circuit! Andrew is a man of many talents (some hidden). He often baffles many with his uncanny ability to stay awake for an inhuman number of days, then disappears. For hours. TCG labels him “Comatose Man” for his nocturnal endeavours and sleep super powers.

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