In a world of modern tech and driving features, the Civic Type R is lacking something that makes it feel reminiscent of its heritage.
There is certainly no shortage of love for the FK8 Civic Type R. One glance at the current selling price of used examples will tell you all you need to know. It’s easy to see why it’s so desirable, too. It’s got a turbocharger, VTEC, aggressive styling, awesome handling characteristics, and a manual transmission. However, despite all of its modern tech like stability control and gauges that tell you how many Gs you’re pulling in corners, it feels surprisingly retro. It’s more than just the continuation of the Type R legacy, it’s an homage.
According to The Drive, there’s a very specific reason for that. Surprisingly, it’s not the red badges or upholstery, the manual transmission, or even the aero upgrades. In fact, it isn’t even something that it has. It’s something that it doesn’t have.
Unbalanced in a Beautiful Way
Digging into the Type R’s turbo K-series engine will find you all sorts of things. However, it won’t find you a balance shaft.
Car Manufacturers often use balance shafts in four-cylinder engines to combat their inherent unbalance. Using a balance shaft corrects the asymmetry resulting from a four-cylinder engine’s connecting rod orientation as they move up and down. So, a four-cylinder engine without a balance shaft system is sure to be a bit more prominent from inside the car. It can cause vibrations and rattles.
According to The Drive’s Chris Rosales, that’s what makes the Civic Type R feel so special. In a world where virtually all new cars come with all sorts of sound deadening and engineering efforts to keep the driver separate from the vehicle’s mechanical operation, the Type R steers into it (no pun intended).
It’s the intentional unbalance of the engine, resulting vibrations, and rattling noises from interior components that truly make you feel connected to the Civic Type R while you’re driving it. It’s so easy to get taken out of the driving experience in most modern cars because of how quiet and uninvolved they feel. However, in the case of the Type R, the simple task of leaving out a balance shaft makes the driver feel connected to the vehicle just like in the original Civic Type R.
A Perfect Blend of Past and Present
Rosales suggests that some might think the reason the Type R’s engine is free of balance shafts is that they can’t be used in high-revving situations. However, the 2006 Civic Si’s K series engine has balance shafts and revs out to 8,000 RPM. He even goes on to state that the Civic Type R’s engine would “feel like nothing” if it had balance shafts because turbochargers reduce engine noise output so much in the first place.
“After my very first gentle acceleration to the speed limit, I was taken aback by how pure the car felt. It genuinely communicated the road and its drivetrain to me, through the seat and through the steering wheel. It felt special at 40 mph, which does not happen often in modern machinery,” writes Rosales.
Ultimately, it’s no secret that driving the FK8 Civic Type R is an overwhelmingly good automotive experience. However, it seems Rosales may have just explained what makes it so exceptional.