What is wrong with today's fast Hondas?
'Power of dreams' they say, what if the dreams weren't made in Japan?
Hondas have always intrigued me, the engines they made back in the nineties and noughties were just the pure essence of Japanese technology. The exhaust notes those cars make, even when stock, is just unbelievable.
The engines rev high and sing like a bird, the driving position and the handling of the fast Hondas back in the days were perfect, no, they're better than perfect. Honda designers have spent a lot of time in fine-tuning the ergonomics of their sports cars, to ensure that the driver feels right at home when in the driver seat.
Especially when you've got that big red Honda badge in front. They represent what Honda designers and engineers can do, and not what they're told to. Because for once, they're allowed to let loose. The company doesn't even seem to care about money too, because for every DC2 Integra Type R ever made, just like the one in the picture, they lost money on every single one of them that left the factory.
Seriously, every very fast Honda from that golden era drives perfectly, sounds absolutely spot-on, and revs that much higher than it's competitors on the market. It's no surprise that people keep on praising and craving on these cars, because they really are 'Power of Dreams', of Honda's engineers.
In the olden days, we have the Civic Type R, Integra Type R, S2000, NSX and the NSX-R to choose from, if we want a sports car from Honda. As mentioned, they are the absolute pinnacle of engineering and passion from Honda, and not one of them has received bad comments. Not one.
Let's see the current 'fast' Honda lineup, shall we? We have the Civic Type R and the NSX. That's it. So Honda shrunk their fast car lineup from four to two. That's not surprising considering they suffered quite a bit in the last financial tsunami, and the whole fast JDM market has somehow gone bust since the death of the NSX-R in 2005.
But it's the work that they're putting out that's bugging me. Don't get me wrong, the cars they're building are fine cars. The NSX is an engineering marvel, the Civic Type R was once the fastest front-wheel-drive car on the Nurburgring, so they've done well for Honda.
But it's the essence of Honda we're talking about here, and it can't possibly be measured with stats and figures. The Honda Civic Type R really has not much wrong with it, it's fast, it's excellent handling, it rides surprisingly smoothly for a hot hatch, and it competes fairly well against its competitors.
It's this that's wrong, morally wrong. This is the K20C engine that's fitted under the bonnet of the new generation Civic Type R. There isn't actually VTEC in this engine that people constantly crave on when we talk about fast Hondas. That's like bread without butter, or cake without icing, it's just wrong. What's there is perfectly fine, but it's that bit that's missing, and that's what matters. As a result, it won't have the significant change in tone as you get from older Hondas. That's just a massive pity.
Not only is the lack of VTEC a problem, but lack of high RPMs to play with is a problem too. You sit in a fast Honda, you'd expect the engine to at least rev to 8k. But this only revs to about 7, then you need to change gears. That's way too low for a fast Honda. Way too low.
And then you take a step back and look at this thing good and proper, you'd notice something wrong. It's way too in-your-face if that makes sense. I am fully aware that Honda is aiming for the lap records around the world, so inevitably, to go faster, you need the force of the wind on your side. Hence these little wings and diffusers all over the car.
Can you believe the Civic Type R is wider than a Toyota Crown? That's the executive saloon that Toyota sells in Japan. The Civic is wider than that! Fast should be a byproduct of fun, and not the other way round.
Let's move on to the new NSX. A hybrid supercar from Japan that's wearing the name of a legend. Therefore it has to live up to its father and big brother in order to justify the name. What this name used to carry, is pride, is a car that was refined by the late Ayrton Senna and was the car that revolutionized the entire 'supercar' market by introducing reliability into the mix.
NSX of old also tells you that it's a car that chooses its drivers, and not the other way round. You can't expect to jump into an NSX and do a flying lap around Suzuka if you're a novice, because it's going to bite you back no-end. It's a tricky car to handle, and there's no doubt about it.
The new one is a very different animal. It doesn't choose its driver, everybody can hop in and do a fast one around Laguna Seca. Probably because it's a hybrid, but mostly because it's an Acura, more specifically an American car. There is no racism here, Americans can make absolutely exquisite cars, but not when they take over such a great name in the motoring world and decides to butcher everything about it.
When the NSX was first launched, Honda gave it to the press to test it out around a damp Suzuka. Kurosawa Motoharu was one of the first to try it out. In case you don't know, he's the guy who set the record for the NSX Type R, the R32 GT-R, the R33 GT-R, the NSX-R and the S2000 on the Nurburgring. He's also the chief test driver for the original NSX, so he must be right.
He said that Honda engineers need to go back to the drawing board with the NSX, the car moves around under heavy braking, the suspension feels too soft for the track, and despite it's 3 seconds faster around a wet Suzuka than the NSX-R, even with the speed limiter on, it's still a bad handling car, according to him.
Keiichi Tsuchiya, the Drift King, who still has his personal NSX-R, said that he loathed this thing because the torque vectoring does weird things on track, it'll automatically switch itself into four-wheel-drift mode if you just shift the weight backwards, which is certainly not ideal for a drivers' car.
So basically what Honda had done, is ruin the NSX. The technology is fine, but the tuning bit, it's not an NSX. More like a GT car, a grand tourer. Everybody can go fast in a straight line, but a true driver's car takes skill to master. And the NSX doesn't.
Honda could have done well with all those aforementioned, but they decide to play the historic game and ruin everything. When you stick a badge onto something, think what it means first, because for these two to qualify and be a true Honda sports car, they're still quite some way off. And for crying, develop those cars yourself in Japan, you're a Japanese company, not an American company for crying out loud.
'Power of Dreams', says Honda. Whose dreams are they?