One of the most revealing drives of 2007 for me has to be the JDM Honda Civic Type R. The white 4-door sedan I took for an afternoon drive on the roads of Izu and Hakone in Japan proved that new sports cars are not all losing their focus. Every aspect of the JDM Civic Type R has been tuned and developed to offer one thing only — driver involvement. The first time you hear the 225 PS (or about 222 HP) 4-banger change timbre as you hit the iVTEC zone is all that’s needed to fall pray to its intoxicating lure. You can’t help use every gear until you nudge the 8,000-rpm redline and push the impressively stiff chassis and taught suspension set-up to the very limit. Honda should be very proud as they have without a doubt created the most impressive front-wheel-drive performance car the world has ever seen. That was the case up until the middle of September, however, when the racing division of Honda, Mugen, released a special limited-edition version of the Civic Type-R. Behold the Mugen double R.
Only 300 Mugen RR’s are being built and are strictly limited to the Japanese market. And as Mr. Kawase of Mugen told us, the car was sold-out very shortly after it went on sale. So its exclusivity is on par with its impressive list of modifications. It looks very similar to the 2005 Civic Dominator Concept built for the Tokyo Auto Salon, which was powered by a supercharged version of the K20A putting out 300 PS (296 HP). The Dominator was a little bit too extreme for the road though, so Mugen knew they had to be more realistic for the RR. With the standard Type R engine being so close to perfection in the way it is set-up and built, there was little room for massive power gains. Nonetheless it was possible to increase power to 240 PS, a 15 PS jump that equates to 120 PS/Liter. This was achieved through some careful balancing of the intake and exhaust sides of the engine.
To start off with, the Mugen K20A breathes through a larger carbon air-box, which is fed by a ram-air intake system. This scoops air directly from the passenger side of the bumper, providing positive pressure once the car gets up to speed. To take advantage of this enhanced breathing the engineers developed a pair of camshafts with more profiled lobes, which would allow more air to enter the highly compressed (11.7:1) combustion chambers. To help valve performance all springs were upgraded. Things were just as thoroughly revised on the exahaust side too, including a free-flowing 4-2-1 exhaust manifold built from high quality stainless steel. This was joined by the Mugen-developed sports catalytic converter and then on to the center section, which has a sub-silencer and an expansion chamber for better flow. The exhaust system ends with straight-through twin silencers, etched with the Mugen logo on their shiny polished surface. A specially-tuned ECU handles all engine parameters. Peak power is achieved at the same 8,000-rpm point as in the standard car while 218 Nm of torque (up 3 Nm from standard) are achieved 900-rpm higher at 7,000-rpm. Quick shifter aside, no modifications are made to the gearbox nor to the torque sensing helical LSD.
A lot of attention was given to the suspension with newly devised adjustable dampers. These offer a total of 5-adjustments ranging from aggressive street use to occasional track days. These are combined with stiffer springs, which also lower the car by 10 mm at all four corners. Brakes have also benefited from some fine-tuning in the form of slightly larger diameter slotted rotors with a perforated center bell for additional cooling. These together with the high-friction Mugen pads offer massive stopping power while the braided stainless steel lines give a well-weighted progressive pedal feel. Helping shave off 10 kg off the weight of the Double R are these gorgeous 7-spoke Mugen 18-inch forged aluminum wheels, wrapped in 225 section widtch Bridgestone RE070 tires, the same extremely sticky rubber that was used on the NSX-R.
Aesthetically the Mugen RR is instantly recognizable, due in large part to its eye-catching Milano Red color, the same shade used on the 2005 Civic Dominator Concept that Mugen built for the Tokyo Auto Salon. Driving it on the streets of Tokyo, and people just can’t help but stare. Mugen spent a lot of time devising an all-new body kit for the car, since a simple redesign of key parts of the body was just not going to cut it. Saving weight and linking the car to Honda’s efforts in racing pushed Mugen to use a lot of carbon composite. After all, Honda enthusiasts waiting for the production version of the 2005 Dominator Concept weren’t going to like it if the car didn’t have some carbon detailing! And so Dome was called in to lend a helping hand. These are the same people that create the carbon body parts for the Super GT NSX as well as Formula Nippon cars.
The first carbon item on the list is the front bumper. It was decided to make this entire piece in composite in order to shave off precious weight from the very front of the car in order to improve weight distribution and balance. Its aggressive and angular design helps the Mugen RR get an even more in-your-face attitude while generating some useful downforce. A set of HID foglights have also been integrated into its sides. Together with the bumper a carbon air guide system was developed to channel cooling air to the front discs. The grille, which is mostly for show, is made from deeply polished carbon and is adorned with the RR badge.
The hood, made from lightweight aluminum, features two air outlets which help expel air from the engine bay. Front fender trims create a race-car-like over-fender look while the side skirts help stabilize the car at high speed. These merge into the rear fender trims, giving an assertive lowered contour to the body. The rear bumper features a very angular feel thanks to the complex integrated diffuser that improves under-car aerodynamics. The adjustable wing on the rear spoiler is made from carbon fiber and features an integrated gurney flap to help increase downforce at higher speeds. An F1-inspired LED rear foglight nestles within the rear diffuser, which is painted in contrasting black to continue the black-on-red theme of the car.
Open the driver’s door and much of the exterior feel is carried into the interior with the carbon-backed Recaro semi-buckets. These deeply contoured seats are upholstered in soft suede-like material and embroidered with the Mugen RR logo. A Mugen marked instrumentation is joined by a set of additional gauges mounted in one of the DIN spaces. To help cut shift times, the gear lever position has been lowered by 25 mm and a Mugen shift knob thrown in. Everything in the cabin is driver oriented — the only toys are the A/C unit and the power windows, there really is nothing else. Just what you expect to see in a car like this!
After picking the car up from the Mugen HQ just outside Tokyo, we headed straight to Mt. Tsukuba to find some roads where the Double R could be let loose. We arrived to find semi-wet roads, incredibly slippery in certain places — perfect to see how this car behaves in varying conditions. On the fast third and fourth gear stretch of meandering road leading up to the more involving sections, the Mugen RR truly shined. If kept past the iVTEC switch over point just below 6,000-rpm, the K20A always responded with instant acceleration at even the smallest prod of the accelerator. The gear-changes via the wonderfully notched gearbox are fast and precise, but fall out of iVTEC and progress becomes a little lethargic, but it’s actually worth dropping into lower rpm’s just to feel that kick in the pants when the more extreme cam lobes kick into action.
Mugen’s amazing RR somehow feels more linked to the DC2 than the DC5, as it manages to combine the refined qualities of a modern car with the more extreme character of past Type R icons. The handling perfectly exploits the light curb weight of 1255 kg, the impressively rigid chassis and the monumental grip of the Bridgestone tires. The result is a car that always seems to have more grip than you could possibly want, and you find yourself pushing further and further into its abilities. With the trick torque sensing LSD you can floor the throttle in second gear coming out of off-camber tight corners and there’s no unwanted drama, even in the wet! This has to be without a doubt the world’s best front-engine front-wheel drive production car every built. There’s no question the Mugen RR will double your driving pleasure in every imaginable way, so the only real question left is whether the extra performance and exclusivity warrant paying close to $18,000 on top of a regular $26,000 JDM Civic Type R? While nudging close to that 8,000 rpm red-line on the roads of Mt. Tsukuba, we certainly thought so.