Engineering Talk #3 Pursuing Ultimate Handling

Here’s how the suspension and tyre engineers for the new Civic Type R achieved their goals of confidence-inspiring handling and everyday ride comfort.

THE BEST HANDLING HOT HATCH

It can be easy to forget that much of a car’s performance – accelerating, braking, cornering and grip – are dictated by the tyres and, crucially, how they are placed in contact with the road surface. For the new Civic Type R, Honda’s engineers focused on maximising these ‘contact patches’ under a wide range of driving conditions.

The first step was to review the abilities of the outgoing Civic Type R as Kazuhiro Ikeya  (pictured below), head of the Type R’s steering stability and ride comfort explains, “The previous Type R was an evolution of its predecessors. It turned well, steering was direct, and it was easy to control on the track. On a public road, however, there was room for improvement in confidence and everyday comfort. The new Type R was developed to enhance these shortcomings.”

REDESIGNED FRONT SUSPENSION

Ikeya realised that the key to improving the already surefooted Civic Type R was suspension enhancements focused on keeping the tyres in firm contact with the ground. For the new car, he decided on an evolution of the existing dual axis strut front suspension, a design which makes it easy to optimise its geometry – the arrangement of its different components and the length and angles between them. The improvement came by changing the lower suspension arm from an A- to an L-shape which tightened up the performance of every connection in the system for a better ride and sharper steering.

ALL-NEW REAR SUSPENSION

At the rear however, Ikeya decided to replace the old Type R’s torsion beam suspension with an entirely new multilink system because improving the steering sharpness with the old design would have meant sacrificing ride comfort. Moving to a multilink design gave Ikeya more options for optimising both as he explains, “With the new Type R, the multilink suspension supports each rear tire with four arms. The two lower and upper arms ensure lateral rigidity needed for steering stability, and trailing arms would provide longitudinal support, which contributes to ride comfort. This allows the role of each bush to be set individually, enabling both steering stability and ride comfort, and providing far greater flexibility in setting the car’s geometry.”

LIGHTER, STIFFER WHEELS

Other improvements include increasing the tyre size over the outgoing car and changing the pattern and construction of the rubber to increase the new car’s cornering speed. Despite the wheels getting larger they are now lighter and stiffer thanks to new materials which allows the suspension to work more efficiently. The stiffness of the bodyshell was also increased by using glue to strengthen it without adding weight.

According to Ikeya the overall result is that, ‘the driver feels like he can keep on turning the steering wheel, and keep on accelerating under any circumstance. The new Type R actively gives the driver that kind of confidence.’

It is this attention to detail that elevates the new Civic Type R’s appeal to the next level by inspiring confidence that the driver can accelerate, brake and turn harder and be rewarded for exploring the car’s handling prowess.