ENGINEERING TALK #8 HOW PERFORMANCE SHAPES STYLING

A dramatic meeting of form and function, the new Civic Type R’s styling serves a singular purpose.

For a high-performance car like the new Civic Type R, aerodynamicists need to strike a balance between the drag coefficient (Cd) and the lift coefficient (CI).  This helps make sure the car cuts through the air as cleanly as possible and at the same time produce downforce which helps keep it planted and stable at high speeds, including in corners. 

BALANCING DRAG AND LIFT

To assess both, Honda’s Aerodynamic Performance Engineer Kentaro Machida oversaw tests in the latest rolling road wind tunnel and at the famed Nurburgring in Germany. Machida’s team worked with the existing design of the Honda Civic on which the Type R is based to optimise it for both drag and lift as he explains, “When developing the new Type R, we actively utilized to improve aerodynamic characteristics the styling motifs the design team first provided us with, trying to design each component with some functionality.”

As an example Machida points to the front bumper of the Type R which has slits at either end that channel air through it an into the front wheelarch. This produces an ‘air curtain’ which, along with a small ‘flick’ on the corner of the bumper smooths out the air flowing around and past the front wheels. A similar flick diverts air around the rear wheels as well. 

Fine tuning like this makes a big difference to how the car performs as Machida says, “The driver is not aware of these coefficients, but with an improved Cd (smaller air resistance) fuel economy is improved and a higher top speed can be reached, while a better Cl (increased downforce) improves high speed stability."

 

IMPROVING DOWNFORCE

One aerodynamic-led styling change that owners will definitely notice is the Civic Type R’s rear wing. Not only did Machida’s team redesign the wing for the new model, it also revised the shape of the roof itself to maximise the downforce produced while minimising air resistance. This needed some very precise measurement according to Machida, “Specifications were fine-tuned in a moving belt wind tunnel, where we could test form to within 1mm, and Cd /Cl to within 1/1000 unit, and finalized after tests at the Nurburgring.”