Andy Russell enjoyed a trip down memory lane at a driving day Honda organised for SGMW members and partners with some high-revving Type Rs and vociferous VTECs from the Honda heritage fleet and the car that started the Civic success story.
The Honda PR team laid on a great driving day for members of the Southern Group of Motoring Writers to catch up with some new models and reacquaint themselves with old favourites and enjoy a blast from the past.
The event at The Grove luxury hotel, spa and golf resort, near Watford in Hertfordshire, saw a super turnout of 23 members, plus many partners, driving the latest models, including the new Jazz Sport supermini, diesel Civic family hatch and awesome NSX supercar. Great fun but, for many, the real treat was playing with some of their ‘toys’ from the heritage fleet. Honda was equally delighted for, by the end of the day, SGMW members had clocked up twice as much driving time as Honda’s previous best motoring writers’ group driving day.
It’s 20 years since Honda unleashed its first Type R model in the UK and, like the cars themselves, the high-performance tag quickly became a hot hit with petrol-heads. The first such model in the UK was the Integra Type R in late 1997 and I’ll admit now my first experience of this high-revving coupé left me a bit non-plussed at first. I’d grown up with British Leyland cars that tended to break all too easily, especially if revved hard.
But these tuned VTEC hearts beat sweeter the harder they’re worked and finally having the courage to gun the Integra Type R’s 1.8-litre engine, unleashing 190PS at a heady 7,900rpm, was both eye-opening and grin inducing. With maximum torque at 7,300rpm it’s no wonder not a lot happens until you stir it into life with the snappy, five-speed manual gearbox and head for the red on the rev counter.
The R stands for ‘race’ so Type Rs can take the strain and once the needle passed 6,000rpm the Integra came alive, its engine taking on a totally different character as though the volume had not just been turned up but suddenly turned on at full blast. It was a hoot, and the start of a love affair with these vociferous VTECs which really shout performance.
Other models available to drive included:
1990 3.0 and 2005 3.2 VTEC NSX supercars – the former the first one in this country and driven by the late, great F1 world champion Ayrton Senna during testing.
2005 Civic Type R 2.0 i-VTEC Premier Edition – one of the last of the first-generation models, dubbed the ‘bread van’ because of its shape.
2001 Accord Type R 2.2 i-VTEC – a race-bred sports saloon combining room and vroom.
2009 S2000 Edition 100 2.0 VTEC – commemorating the end of production for the two-seater sports car after a highly successful 10 years.
1975 Honda Civic 1.2 Deluxe – an early Mark 1 model that helped launch a model that is now in its 10th generation and sold worldwide. Not a lot of go – just as well as the brakes didn’t give a lot of stop either!
But the star for me was a 2000 Integra R 1.8 VTEC, finished in championship white with white alloy wheels.
Shedding 20 years, but not the 20 plus pounds I’ve gained since last driving the Integra Type R, I slipped, or rather squeezed, myself into the snug red, front bucket seats and fired it up.
In a world of highly-flexible, torquey turbo engines, the driving day made me, and many colleagues, realise how much I miss those free-spinning, naturally-aspirated VTEC engines which get more rewarding as the revs rise. More than just a trip down a motoring memory lane, it was a blast from the past!
And the fine hospitality continued in the evening with a drinks reception and dinner in a private dining room – good food, good conversation and great company. Our thanks go to all at Honda, especially Louisa Rowntree, Simon Branney, Tom Lynch and Joe Boniface, for all their efforts. We all hope we’ll be invited again to play with more of Honda’s toys.
Power: 190PS at 7,900rpm
Performance: 0-62mph 6.7 seconds; top speed 145mph
MPG: 32.1 combined
CO2 emissions: 208g/km
The Integra Type R was the first Type R available in Europe, and the first in a line of highly-developed, individual cars with the taut, responsive driving sensations rarely experienced outside motorsport. Without adornment, without frills, nothing was allowed to interfere with the absolute sensation of pure driving pleasure. The Integra Type R was critically acclaimed by many as the best-handling, front-wheel-drive car ever.
HONDA ACCORD TYPE R 2.2 i-VTEC
Power: 212PS at 7,200rpm
Performance: 0-62mph 7.5 seconds; top speed 142mph
MPG: 29.4 combined
CO2 emissions: 229g/km
The Accord Type R was a sporting machine with advanced engineering and minimal luxuries for a superior power-to-weight ratio and sharp, responsive handling. The Accord Type R’s close-ratio gearbox, performance clutch and limited slip differential permit rapid acceleration and improve traction out of corners.
Power: 200PS at 7,400rpm
Performance: 0-62mph 6.6 seconds; top speed 146mph
MPG: 31.7 combined
CO2 emissions: 212g/km
The first-generation Civic Type R, the first Civic with 100PS per litre, left the motoring press astounded. Not least because of the very sensible price and the retained practicality of this raw and raucous Type R. Projected UK sales of 1,500 a year were smashed and even quadrupled. This British built Type R was even exported back to Japan.
Power: 280PS at 7,300rpm
Performance: 0-62mph 5.7 seconds; top speed 168mph
MPG: 22 combined
CO2 emissions: 291g/km
The NSX was a ground-breaking supercar that changed the way the world viewed the Japanese motor industry. A fully-fledged, mid-engined supercar, when the NSX was launched in 1990 it left the competition behind in terms of its outstanding balance of supercar performance with reliability and practicality. Honda wanted the NSX to be perfect – not just a phenomenal driver’s experience but a car that everyone could drive, a car that was at home on the roads as well as on the race track. In 1990, this was a unique blend of abilities.
Power: 240PS at 8,300rpm
Performance: 0-62mph 6.2 seconds; top speed 150mph
MPG: 28.2 combined
CO2 emissions: 236g/km
Unveiled in 1999, the Honda S2000 was a 50th anniversary present to itself so had to be special, reflecting its racing heritage and showcasing its passion for innovation. Honda Formula 1 engineers designed the car, giving it a unique 240PS, 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine which could rev to a 9,000rpm redline and won four International Engine of the Year awards. New technologies such as double wishbone suspension and the ‘High X-bone’ frame ensured the car handled beautifully while also being incredibly safe.
Power: 50PS at 5,500rpm
Performance: 0-62mph 15.1 seconds; top speed 90mph
MPG: 46mpg at 56mph (estimated)
The word ‘civic’ means ‘of or relating to a citizen, a city, citizenship or civil affairs’. As its name suggests, the Civic incorporated Honda’s wish to create ‘a car for all people, a car for the world’. The Civic made its world debut in 1972, subsequently winning three consecutive car of the year awards in Japan and many international accolades. Ever since, the Civic has embodied Honda’s challenging spirit and is now worldwide.