Engineering Talk #4 Agile and direct steering

The key touchpoint for a performance car is its steering wheel. Find out how Honda engineers worked hard to give the Civic Type R the ultimate direct steering.

ENHANCING THE CONNECTION

The task for steering engineer Norimasa Arai was in making the connection between the steering wheel held by the driver and the front wheels as direct as possible by making each component separating them as stiff as possible. Arai explains the process, “I was involved in developing the steering wheel, the steering column, steering gearbox, and the components in between connecting the tie rod and tires. For the steering to feel direct to the driver, each component’s rigidity needs to be balanced right. If any of the components are not rigid enough, an inflection point occurs during steering, destroying the direct feel.”

However, steering that is purely optimised for a smooth racetrack can feel nervous and twitchy on the road which is where the new Civic Type R’s clever drive modes come in according to Arai, “For the new Type R, we aimed to develop handling that was more enjoyable than the previous model for sports driving on a track, yet comfortable and easy to handle on public roads. These two or three facets for different driving scenes is what partly defines the new Type R’s depth.”

Whereas the old model had Standard and R+ modes, the new Type R adds a Comfort setting which reveals the car’s depths as a grand tourer.

To give you an idea of the attention to detail to which the Type R’s steering engineers went, they also recognised that at a track drivers usually wear gloves, which alters the amount of pressure they put on the wheel and the feedback they get from it. To counter this, in R+ mode the new Type R minutely alters the amount of power steering assistance in order to give better feedback and more exciting handling.

The final piece of the puzzle was the steering wheel itself and for this Arai turned to other sports as he explains, “Another aspect we put effort into was the shape of the steering wheel’s grip. In golf or tennis, the grip is designed so that the little finger and the ring finger can firmly control the club or racket. We designed the steering wheel grip especially for the new Type R so that the driver’s little fingers and ring fingers have a firm grip when placing hands at 3 and 9 o’clock.”

The result is a car that operates with scalpel-like precision on the racetrack, yet with the push of a button is soothing to drive home afterwards.