MONTREAL — The forbidden fruit has arrived. And it’s going to come in more than one flavor.
The Honda Civic Type R finally went on sale in the U.S. last week after being confined to Japan and Europe for two decades and four generations. Eagle-eyed fans of its stat sheet will notice that the engine output, transmission and front-wheel-drive setup on the redesigned 2017 model largely are carried over from the previous version.
But more variety is in the works. Honda is planning additional versions of the Type R in an effort to broaden its consumer appeal and keep sales fresh, a challenge many sports cars and niche enthusiast vehicles face after initial demand wears off. In doing so, Honda is following the playbook of brands such as Porsche and Chevy’s performance arm that have become masters at using countless iterations and special editions of a single model to juice sales.
“We’re hoping that by gradually putting out more [variants] that we’ll be able to maintain a more stable sales volume,” Hideki Matsumoto, chief engineer for the Civic model range, told Automotive News through an interpreter at a media event here this month.
Atop Honda’s list is a more hard-core version of the Type R with more horsepower. Honda also is considering a toned-down version “focused more on the grand touring aspect” that would broaden the car’s target market, Matsumoto said.
An all-wheel-drive version also could happen; many of the Type R’s direct competitors come standard with awd -- Volkswagen’s Golf R, Subaru’s WRX and WRX STI and Ford’s Focus RS.
But because this was the first Type R sold in the U.S., Honda wanted to introduce it in the same form that has earned it a considerable following abroad, Matsumoto said. So the original recipe stuck: fwd, lighter weight, a six-speed manual transmission and an approachable asking price ($34,775, including shipping, for the single trim level).
The car has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s largely the same as in the previous Type R; it makes 306 hp and 295 pounds-feet of torque. An adaptive suspension, limited-slip differential, Brembo front brakes and automatic rev-matching on downshifts round out the car’s performance goodies.