The smooth concrete of the the newly opened Petron station on NLEX Km44 northbound is just begging to be christened by some burnt rubber. Or at least that’s what one of our companions is thinking. Peter, who is kind enough to come out and join us for this late-night shoot, has been hinting at pulling a few donuts for us. Not the best of ideas and I clearly discourage it—and even pretend not to hear him. But when the group least expects it, he’s drifting his black Honda S2000, piling on opposite lock and making its tires scream for mercy, the droptop’s VTEC wailing into the night.
The gas boys are impressed. I’m cringing. In my mind I’m already practicing what to say to the police when I’m asked why a Top Gear Philippines cover shoot has turned into a giant fireball with multiple fatalities. But Peter has genuine skills and comes nowhere near the gasoline pumps. And in a way, he’s somewhat excused for his shenanigans because, well, we set the stage for it.
Our concept is pretty simple: a late-night hangout at the friendly neighborhood fuel station. That’s what car guys love to do on occasion: Get together to tambay lang, shoot the breeze, brag a bit here and there, show off their rides, do some burnouts, and disappear into the darkness for some actual driving. I won’t even speculate about where they go and what they do to enjoy their machines, but let’s just say during nights like this, it’s bring your best bakal, baby.
In the past, when a genuine Civic Type R pulls into the parking lot, all eyes will be on it for sure. These are the weapons of choice on the track and the drag strip, and when the whole car can’t be had (Honda Cars Philippines never sold the Type R in the past), the surplus engines and suspension assemblies of Type R Civics and Integras can be easily transplanted into local EG and EK bodies. There’s a whole aftermarket industry that revolves around this modern-day hot-rodding.
The all-new Type R is a different story altogether. This is the car that broke the Internet a few months ago when it was unveiled at the Manila International Auto Show, with the official confirmation that the local Honda subsidiary will sell it in limited numbers. A road-going unit is finally here in the metal for us to drive and drool over, and I blame the urge to hotdog on what I’d like to call the ‘Type R effect.’ Just being around this automotive icon will bring out the daredevil in you. Sanity, reason, and humility—all go flying out the window like a cigarette butt. And you aren’t even behind the steering wheel yet.
All 100 Type R units bound for the Philippines through official Honda channels have already been spoken for. Only two colors are available (Championship White and Rally Red), and the price is a cool P2.98 million—which isn’t so shocking when you consider the badge cache and the kind of performance you’re getting.
Power from the turbocharged 2.0-liter VTEC motor is pegged at 306hp at 6,500rpm. Peak torque is 400Nm—a figure you’d expect to read in a brochure for a 4x4 pickup, not a Japanese sedan. The best part is that full control through a six-speed manual gearbox is given to the lucky drivers who are fortunate enough to bring a Type R home. It will even rev-match during downshifts if the feature is switched on.
This is nothing like Type Rs of the past. First, it’s huge; consider that the Accord of the ’90s is dwarfed by the current Civic. Second, there’s the turbocharged motor, the first of its kind to find itself in the engine bay of a Type R. Power delivery is unlike that of the engines of old, but the performance is leagues ahead. Emissions, too, have vastly improved. Going turbo has solved the problem that the older high-revving motors had when passing super-strict emissions standards abroad.
I slide into the cockpit and I’m greeted by a body-hugging bucket seat that is upholstered in red and black. There’s what looks to be carbon-fiber trim tastefully interspersed with alcantara. Then there’s the center-mounted tachometer flanked by the temperature and fuel gauges. The centerpiece has to be the titanium shift lever, beside the drive-mode selector. Yasss. Manual is the way to go in a model with this kind of pedigree. A slushbox just wouldn’t feel right in a Type R.
I slot the shifter into gear. Engagement is solid, the clutch requiring only minimal effort. Even with only a small section of road on which to play around, I can already feel the eagerness of the turbocharged engine and the kind of response it will deliver if given the chance to let loose. Steering is equally quick, with a ratio suited for a machine with this kind of potential. You will get into trouble if you don’t temper your need for speed. Good thing the massive cross-drilled rotors clamped by Brembo calipers can slow the action down in a hurry.
There’s an obvious trapezoidal design theme going on, and it carries all the way to the exterior. Admittedly, the Type R looks way too wild in photos, but trust me when I say that in the metal, every angle makes sense. Every intake is functional, as is the rear wing. No doubt the car was penned to be a showstopper and intimidator out on the streets, because it ain’t all about show. It can go, too.
Honda’s high-performance entry will be going up against the established European sports sedans, but there’s the allure of a model that is as JDM as a steaming bowl of ramen. There’s something very iconic about the red badge, accompanied by the red interior and the red valve cover. Besides, our market has a genuine affinity for the Type R badge. You only have to scope out the local car community to witness it firsthand.
To our knowledge, the Civic Type R is the only one in the current lineup that holds this distinction and honor—at least until the NSX Type R comes along. But until then, this souped-up-from-the-factory Civic holds the red banner proudly. Awesome that we get to spend the night with it.
Our companions who already drive awesome JDM metal in the form of S2000s are just as impressed as we are. More than anything, the local arrival of the Type R only proves that the Philippine car market is well on its way to maturing. This is a great time to be an automotive enthusiast. All the cool toys are being made available locally, and that only means our economy is doing well.
Now that the revised excise tax has been passed, it has brought good news and bad news for future Type R owners. Good news is there's no announced price increase, bad news is there's no Type R in the new price list. Honda PH is still mum if and when new stock will arrive, and at what price.
Current and future owners of the Type R won’t give a damn, though. The Type R Effect will be full-blown when you’re finally behind the wheel of the JDM icon. Nothing else will matter, really. Just leave everything—the Philippine tax situation included—in the dust.
NOTE: This article first came out in Top Gear Philippines' October 2017 issue.