2017 Civic Type-R carves a path through California’s Avenue of the Giants

Civic_Type_R_Redwoods
2017 Civic Type_R takes on Redwood Country

Compact ultimate performance hatchback meets worlds tallest tree: So it goes. Yet another week in the seat behind the wheel of Honda’s latest and greatest Civic performance hatchback. “Ultimate,” is an interesting word, with vast implications as well as a plethora of applicable meaning. Believe it or not, comparing the mighty coastal Redwoods to Honda’s latest and most powerful Civic manifestation is not that much of a stretch when we look to the unique, segment breaching, performance attributes presented in 2017 Honda Civic Type-R Touring.

Well, at the least, California’s original coast highway provides an exceptional, scenic backdrop for Type-R. The road itself is well maintained, narrow, twisty, and fast enough — keep an eye out for the trailer towing tourists. They’re generally slow driving, and many in number. Last week we took a 1,000 mile, 48 hour road trip to Humboldt County, where Civic Type-R carved a path through the historic Avenue of the Giants.

The Coffee Girl at Starbucks loves the edgy look of 2017 Civic Type-R

True enough, on our recent foray from Eugene, Oregon south to Humboldt County, California, Honda’s top of the performance mark Civic Type-R drew more attention than Mick Jagger at a Rolling Stones concert. Even the hardcore Subaru WRX fans came out for a look — walking away grinning after gaining a few minutes of seat time in Honda’s 306 horsepower, turbocharged, limit slip differential, 6 speed manually shifted FWD wonder car.

The 10th generation Civic world platform Type-R lives up to all the media hype

It’s  rare that I drive a new car offering that meets or exceeds the stated performance attributes, handling prowess, and fuel efficiency touted by the maker. This is the first Civic to ever wear the Type-R badge in the United States. Yes, a European Type-R with a stated 316 horsepower has broken track records in Europe and Asia, but that’s not the 10th generation Civic platform Type-R that became available for the Honda die hard 2 short months ago.

Our leather and cloth trimmed, cream white, and red and black interior 2017 Civic Type-R test mule is manufactured in England; features a manufactured in Alabama Earth Dreams gasoline engine, and is shifted by a very good close throw, 6 speed manual transmission made in Japan. 2017 Civic Type-R is a world car, manufactured by a world-auto-manufacturer. Frankly, it’s club-car track ready right out of the box.

Civic Type_R in Redwood Trees
2017 Honda Civic Type-R takes on the Avenue of the Giants.

For $36,000 and change, Civic Type-R is an exceptional, fun to drive performance bargain that’s very happy on the street, thanks to 3-drive modes, including “comfort,” and what I soon discovered to be a very comfortable racing style bucket seat. Me, I’d like power adjustment, but that’s just me.

The Type-R suspension and driving attitude is firm, but not painfully stiff. The instant-on torque and track-sticky cornering traction is a bit of a mind blower, considering that Type-R is a front-wheel-drive car. Honda engineering does a commendable job of reducing torque steer. — sure there’s some there, but it’s very manageable.

On start up, Type-R defaults to “sport” mode. Here you’ll find a stiffer steering feel,  a bit more pedal, and reasonably firm suspension.  Going on the track, toggle into “R” drive. It’s pretty extreme, and as my Chiropractor will tell you, a bit taxing on the bones. I like what Honda engineering did with Type-R’s exhaust tone, although the deep baritone growl can get a bit load at times.

Visually, Civic Type-R teeters on Bat Man stunning! However, everything you see on Type-R has a purpose, from its whale-tail hatch fin, down to the best looking 20 inch alloy painted wheels in the compact performance segment — Brembo calipers included.

48 hours, 1,000 miles, still smiling Civic Type-R darn near perfect

Once again, Honda’s latest and greatest Civic Hatchback does not disappoint. Read my latest Torque News article as we journey through the California coast redwoods and beyond.

 

A week in the seat with Honda’s reinvented 2017 CR-V AWD Touring

2017_Honda_CR-V

“Impressive” is a bit of an understatement when describing Honda’s reinvented 2017 CR-V. Arguably, a very good 2-row SUV prior to the Fall 2016 release of the 5th generation CR-V, Honda takes financially attainable refinement, utility, sport, and fun to drive SUV attributes to the mainstream, we’re just a bit blown away by how good CR-V is.

Until one ‘steps on the gas’ the changes are mostly subtle

CR-V was already a very good SUV, in-fact, the #1 selling retail crossover, SUV of any size in the U.S. But as with most things, despite a major refresh in late 2014, CR-V was ready for a platform change. With introduction of  the 10th generation Honda Civic, came the shared “compact world-platform,” along with a very good high torque output, fuel-efficient, and more importantly, clean burning state of the automotive art turbocharged VTEC engine – the first offered in CR-V – the performance difference is measurable.

It’s not so much the added 10 horsepower, it’s where the seemingly endless torque kicks in. Coming on like a mule kick to the head at just a bit above idle, 2,000 RPM (revolutions per minute) or so, peek torque remains on demand through 5,000 RPM, effectively the “mid-RPM-working-range” of most engines today.

The advantage found here is seamless grade transition. There is no shifting per-say, as the CVT (constant variable transmission) works in unison with the torque-happy 18 Lb. boost turbocharged 4-cylinder VTEC gasoline engine.

Turbocharging, and CVT integration,  results in a seemingly endless ‘flat’ torque curve, on demand “drive-by-wire’ instantaneous acceleration, and hill climbing torque.  Also, the highest non-hybrid MPG in the compact crossover segment. *In real world road testing under mixed-route, extreme weather, I recorded 28.9 MPG.

But there’s yet another advantage to turbocharging

2017 Honda CR-V AWD Touring is very refined as to drive and ride when driven like your grandparent’s family sedan or station wagon. CR-V has a split personality, perhaps more than two. CR-V drives as soft and docile as a new-born kitten when coaxed to do so, yet performs with the best in the class when split-second on ramp, or lane change speed is required

Interior comfort:  While initially, I found the leather-covered, heated and 10-way power adjusted driver’s seat  old-school-Honda stiff, within an hour or two, my body adjusted to it – the comfortable surround that is CR-V, becomes second nature as to operation – everything properly in its place, presenting arguably the most refined ride and drive experience in CR-V history.

I like the overall “chunky” stance of CR-V. The driver’s seat height and subsequent commanding view out the windshield instills confidence, and a well-earned sense of safety in the operator and passengers.

The interior layout is well-balanced, comfortable, and sensory appealing – with color contrasting soft and hard touch fabrics and plastics, offset by realistic wood-like accents, chrome, and brushed metal trims, complimenting a perfectly placed center stack, visual pleasing and unique instrument cluster, smart wheel, and single touchscreen entertainment, navigation, personal communication and cellphone-pairing driver to car interface – exceptional!

Let's_Drive
Let’s drive!

So, let’s drive already

Well, despite the pending danger of a torrential downpour in the weather forecast, we’d promised ourselves a drive out to the Oregon Coast, a mixed drive of surface streets and rural 2-lane highway. the Ocean rests 65 miles or so to the northwest, about 1 hour and 20 minutes from the old homestead. Nancy and I decided to go for it!

Our 2017 Honda CR-V Touring activaes with a car recognizing key fob – the ignition is key less, and requires foot on the brake for startup. For 2017, Honda retains the electronic parking brake in CR-V, with 5 position select-stick control placed historically correct on CR-V’s dash. This arrangement affords ample cup-holder, cellphone-cable-connectivity and charge points, and a well-placed, covered storage bin, and stash place between the two front seats.

We discover the advantages of a slightly wider and longer manufacturing platform in CR-V, it’s comfy, even in the second row, affording excellent visibility to the front and sides from all seats — and yes, 2 full size adults, 3 in a pinch, child seats, and the family gold-fish, also fit in row 2 with room to spare. And, with a split 40/60 magic seat, so will your bicycle, surfboard, blowup doll, etc.

Placing CR-V in reverse, a rather good resolution color monitor turns on. In the case of CR-V Touring, one has 3 view choice options. However, one of my favorite Honda options is not on board. The right turn “Lane Watch” cam is missing in action. In its stead is the exceptional accident preventative, mitigation measure, “Honda SENSING” Suite, now available on CR-V EX trim level or higher. Featuring adaptive cruise control, Lane Keep Assist, rear cross traffic sensors, mitigated automatic braking and more.

Perfect? Darn near. O.K., I’d change a thing or two, but not much

At 3800 LBS, or so, 2017 Honda CR-V AWD Touring drives a bit heavy on 2-lane country roads. By that I mean it dives slightly into a turn, with a sense of controlled side roll.

Granted, I’d just stepped out of Honda’s exceptional handling 2017 Civic Hatchback, a car that successfully injects 5-door utility and driving fun into Honda’s bread and butter lineup. So, my take on CR-V handling trends a bit pessimistic as of this writing. In short, Honda calls CR-V “The sporty SUV,” and when I inject the instant-on acceleration, torque, superior brake and steering reponce into the equation, I’d have to agree, CR-V is a pleasure to drive, especially on the long-run, it’s fantastic on the highway.

CR-V_Second_Row_Down
With the 60/40 second row in the down position, tons of room!

A minor annoyance

  1. There’s no height or lumbar adjustment for the passenger front seat.
  2. A very minor idle oscillation occurs at idle, while sitting at the stop light.
  3. Engine and CVT pair to make a high-rev-run when accelerating hard.
  4. I’d like to see a full glass roof in CR-V, it doesn’t offer one.
  5. I find the (side bulb) rear tail light design a bit distracting in the rear-view mirror.

That’s it! As I stated back in late 2014 with the major refresh of CR-V, Honda’s exception 2-row SUV retains the title of “best in class” for a very simple and succinct reason – it is! While our fully loaded 2017 CR-V AWD Touring came with a MSRP of $34,595 (Includes a $900 destination charge, Honda roadside assist, and Sirius XM programming for 1 year,) my personal build sheet totaled MSRP $38,935, for a very well equipped, AWD, turbocharged, compact urban assault 2-row.  At the end of the day, CR-V is easy! I like that.

Stunning 2017 Volvo S90 sedan shares XC90 SUV architecture

"A Swedish Sanctuary"
“A Swedish Sanctuary”

The adventure that is Volvo S90 begins with one’s first sitting behind the wheel of this very premium sedan on arguably the most comfortable, infinitely adjustable, ergonomically correct drivers seat in the midsize premium segment.

For me, as I hesitantly enter the 6th decade of this stay on planet earth, frankly, nothing in the drive and ride experience overshadows the importance of a well constructed, comfortable seat, Volvo sports the best fit for me in the midsize premium segment.

At 6 ft 5 inches tall, 2017 Volvo S90 presents ample “knees off the dash” driver and front passenger seat legroom, with seemingly yards of headroom. Yet visually and physically, S90 profiles close to the pavement for ease of ingress and egress. Featuring 10-way power adjusted seats, lumbar support, extended or retractable leg support, and adjustable steering wheel, S90 sedan affords the perfect seating position for most if not all drivers.

Volvo’s driver’s seat is therapeutically designed to form fit the architecture of the human frame — think $5,000 office chair on 4 wheels — cooled, heated, perforated Napa leather, infinitely adjustable and well worn driving glove soft. And yet the seat does hold you in prime position while driving aggressively–without the employment of restrictive bench and seat back bolstering.

Glass dash technology
Glass dash technology

A Scandinavian Sanctuary

Encapsulating the environs of what Volvo design refers to as “a Scandinavian Sanctuary,” is an understated, uncluttered compilation of real wood grain accents, leather covered steering wheel, arm rests, door panels, dash pad and instrument cluster.

Complimented by muted chrome-like accents, generously padded carpeting, luxurious trunk lining, plated and optionally lit door kicker panels, 2017 Volvo S90 presents a rolling Scandia Design-like drive and ride environment with unparalleled rivals in North America’s midsize premium sedan segment. I discovered nothing lacking here as to precision fitment and material integration, nothing!

Huge 12.3 inch digital instrument cluster/ i-MID/ 4 panel  center stack and more

Rivaling a “King Air” glass screen aviation cluster, Volvo engineering and design incorporates what is arguably the most advanced and easy to manipulated 4-segment thermal touch (it will activate with gloves on) high resolution monitors in the industry today. There is actually a selection on the screen for Video and Television, I didn’t activate it.

I appreciate the balance of Volvo’s dash layout. The instrument cluster and center stack is well lit, easily viewed, and mostly intuitive as to its operation. I found Volvo’s voice prompted navigation to work better than some, although we did encounter a directive glitch or two as to pre-programmed directions on the roads of Malaga, Spain.

Volvo S90 does feature Apple Carplay connectivity, USB hub, multiple charging ports and a 12 volt accessory outlet in its spacious trunk. It works!

While Volvo’s “smart wheel” does duplicate several functions accessible through the monitor, such as stereo mode, volume and station settings, it’s primarily function is for steering the S90 and cruise control.

The steering wheel is available as an option throughout the trim range leather covered and heated. Paddle shifting? Not yet, although Volvo engineering promises shifting options in the near future.

On a personal note: I did find the electric power assisted steering to be a bit on the heavy side — although the ‘feel” can be adjusted out a bit by “personalizing” the drive dynamic through Volvo’s inclusive IDS roller toggle drive mode select. In my case I found that adjusting the shift response and suspension to sport mode and the wheel to comfort mode did ‘loosen’ up the wheel a bit.  

Active safety features, personal electronic connectivity, and entertainment first and foremost 

The aforementioned is what sells cars today, and Volvo runs just a bit ahead of the trend with what I believe to be the best working active safety features suite available in the segment today.

Volvo continues its historical emphasis on driver and passenger safety by presents a standard feature active safety suite on all S90 trim levels — including Pilot Assist, a semi autonomous assist driving technology — Collision Avoidance by City Safety ™ — Low and high speed collision mitigation — Pedestrian, Cyclist, Large Animal recognition and auto brake engagement — Run off Road Mitigation, Road departure warning, lane watch and more.

The "art of the line" stunning!
The “art of the line” stunning!

2017 S90 self driving characteristics

S90 will assist in driving up to 80 mph, but the driver’s hand is required to stay on the wheel in 15 second intervals. Yes. I did test this option, it worked flawlessly with near dead center lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, brake mitigation and parking assist. Take my word for it. In heavy small town traffic the collision avoidance feature is very effective

Drive performance: Are 4 cylinders enough? As my co driver John stated: “One would have to look under the hood of the S90 T6 to discover the 4 cylinder,” source of exceptional power and seamless torque.

In all truth this aluminum 2.0 Liter twin cam, direct injected, supercharged and turbocharged 4 cylinder gasoline engine produces seamless torque, with ZERO turbo lag noted up to the red line — is fuel efficient,and works seamlessly in tandem with the 8 speed Alson Warner automatic transmission.

Producing 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft torque in the mid-range, Volvo 90S T6 achieves a respectable 5.7 second standing start 0 to 60 mph sprint time — quick enough for the majority of drivers in the midsize premium/ luxury sedan segment.

Note: A 2.0 liter inline 4 cylinder gasoline turbocharged rendition of the same mill will come available in the Momentum trim package producing a respectable 250 horsepower/ 258 lb-ft torque @ 2200 rpm, rivaling many 6 cylinder engines on the market today.

Scheduled to arrive first in the U.S. July 2016, will be the S90 T6 AWD (all-wheel-drive) followed by the FWD (front wheel drive,) S90 T5 and the Volvo V90 estate wagon in early 2017.

With a stated MSRP of $46,950 T5 Momentum FWD to the top of the line S90 T6 Inscription MSRP $56,250 + destination charge, options sales tax and fees if applicable, Volvo S90 may be in actuality the bargain of the midsize luxury sedan segment.

The drive

As a first generation S80 T6 owner and driver, I hold an innate fondness for Volvo going back to the 4 cylinder, manual transmission duck-tails of my youth. My current personal ride is a twin turbocharged straight 6 generating around 250 horsepower. Torque steer and turbo lag? Yes. However, I love driving my near vintage Volvo and looked forward to experiencing the latest manifestation of the sedan, I wasn’t disappointed.

2017 Volvo S90 T6 delivers as promised. The sedan has been developed and produced to enable a comfortable, safe and quiet near luxury sedan drive and ride experience. It does that in spades! While not an AMG optioned Mercedes E63 S, it doesn’t claim to be, nor does it carry a 3 figure MSRP.

What Volvo presents here is a well optioned, visually appealing executive/family sedan that eagerly doubles as a measurable performance sedan when coaxed to do so. This car screams sustainable financial affluence with a dash of Swedish conservative sensibility, design and panache.

Volvo Bling!
Volvo Bling!

Volvo believes that buyers will reward themselves for hard work driven success with this car, it is rewarding to drive. 

While I found the S90 quite capable as to handling an aggressively driven country 2-lane roads, were this sedan truly shines is in long-range highway driving. When one settles into the drive environment afforded by Volvo’s latest sedan, comfort overtakes fatigue as driver meshes seamlessly with arguably the finest near autonomous driving technology available in any segment today.

Surprisingly, I found Volvo’s therapeutic seat to require no break in time. Ours was equipped with cooling, heating and message.

One’s attention to the road was further ensured by a well positioned “heads up “ display, where one’s current speed, engine temp, etc, can be monitored while keeping one’s eye on the road.

2017 Volvo S90’s quality of ride, thanks to Volvo’s option available rear air suspension, superior hydraulic dampening and active electronic noise cancellation, rates with the best in the industry, while facilitating a split personality sport-like-driving capability required by today’s all inclusive consumer mindset.

Some back seat time

Again, I discovered a superior , comfortable seating surface in S90’s second row. With center pull down armrest extended, I “kicked it” in the back for a few miles while co-driver John put the S90 through its paces.

Visibility to the front was very good from the slightly elevated 40/ 60 split bench with access to the trunk for those longer items. Cooling and heating is accomplished by a passenger adjusted center council heating grid and touch panel control interface.

With the optional 19 speaker stereo system tuned into one’s favorite music source, and the rear passenger window screen employed, near limousine comfort is enjoyed by second row passengers in the S90.

Ingress and egress is effortless through Volvo’s rather wide rear side door. However, there is just a tad more tire to the road noise generated in the rear, however it is minor. Although a large car by midsize sedan standards, S90 remains nimble while maneuvering in town thanks to superior suspension logic, automated parking assist, and optional 360 view camera technology.

Brilliant color pallet
Brilliant color pallet

A closing thought of two

Volvo is on track to reinvent their entire car and SUV lineup within the next 24 months. Furthermore, in view of “Diesel Gate,” Volvo is committed to across the car brand integration of small displacement, clean burning high output 4 and 3 cylinder gasoline fueled engines for the North America markets.

Although the initial introduction of the S90 does not present a gasoline hybrid or plug in alternative, according to Volvo engineering, it will come.

Looking to the engineering, technology rich marvel that is the 2017 S90, Volvo is well on its way to not only sustaining sales growth in North America, but returning to prominence if not dominance in some automotive segments.

When one looks closely to standard and optional active safety and near autonomous driving features presented through S90, it’s not a “how” but when we will safely transition into an automotive age of self driving cars.

Volvo holds autonomous driving technology and implementation sophistication in their arsenal now. It’s a question of corporate liability and the timing of municipality and public acceptance. Reading between the lines, Volvo is ready to pull the trigger.