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2006 Honda Civic EX - Boosting The R18

Hondata And TSI Help The Non-SI Pack On Some Muscle

Doug MacMillan
Oct 21, 2010

The car: 2006 Civic EX
Stock engine: R18 1.8L inline four
Stock horsepower: 140@6,300
Stock torque: 128@4,300
Transmission: five-speed manual
Estimated MPG: 30/36mpg
Current mileage: Approximately 75,000

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Hondata and TSI
A few months ago, Hondata released the FlashPro system for the R18 Civic. Having spent some time preparing calibrations for the majority of intakes available for this car (and frankly not too impressed with the overall gains), we began looking for more power. It occurred to us that the single exhaust port of the R18 would allow for easy fitment of a turbo.

A search for R18 turbo kits brought up manufacturer Turbo Specialties Inc (TSI), which is only twenty minutes away. Twenty-four hours later, we had a turbo kit to fit to our test car; a 75,000-mile '06 Civic EX. Installing a turbo on an exhaust system that was originally designed for just 140hp was going to seriously limit our power though. Another call to Skunk2, and the very next day we had a shiny new 60mm exhaust system.

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Up until that point, the TSI turbo kit had come with a piggyback tuning solution. Here is what we were able to improve:


  • The ECU is now correctly calibrated for the 410cc Acura RDX injectors, which, at over two times the size of the 185cc stock injectors, can support more than twice the stock horsepower.

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  • To smoothly retard the ignition as boost pressure climbs, Hondata added boost tables to the ECU. Prior to this, the ECU would give the same ignition timing at one pound of boost as at ten pounds. If you have too much ignition timing, the flame front pushes the piston down as it is rising in the bore. Not only is having the correct ignition timing easier on the rods and bearings, but you'll also make more power.

  • Hondata worked with TSI to develop a new intake as well. Most new Hondas use an air flow meter which samples a percentage of air traveling through the intake to determine the correct amount of fuel to inject. The stock R18 intake, however, maxes out the airflow meter at around 210-220 HP. Way above what a stock engine is intended to produce, but limiting for turbo charging. So TSI supplied Hondata with their Air Flow Meter housing for their Civic Si turbo, modified to fit the R18 engine bay. A few hours later on the dyno, we calibrated the ECU to the airflow characteristics of the new intake. The new intake flows up to 370 HP worth of air before maxing out the air flow meter.

  • The stock ECU runs closed loop at under 75-percent throttle. This is not good for a forced induction car, as you can make full boost at very low (25- to 30-percent) throttle openings. What this means is that without the proper alterations, the ECU will lean the fuel out to 14.7:1 under boost, when it actually needs 11.5 to 12:1 air fuel ratio for the best power and reliability. Hondata alters the closed loop operation to switch to open loop whenever the MAP sensor sees boost.

  • Dyno results
    We were very pleased with the power and torque characteristics of this kit. The TSI turbo system generated four PSI of boost at 1,500 rpm, and was fully spooled to ten psi by 2,700 rpm. Peak boost was then held until 5,500 rpm, dropping to eight psi at redline. Torque increased 70 percent from 136 to 231-a 95 ft-lbs tq increase all the way from 3,000-5,000 rpm! Peak power increases 85 hp, a 59-percent increase. (91 or higher octane is required)

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    Road Results
    It's way too easy to hit boost during city driving. With the massive surge of low end torque, you rarely need to spin the tach past 5,000 rpm. The downside is fuel economy. Because it's so easy to hit boost, city fuel economy will suffer if driven hard. We saw mid to low twenties around town. On a three hour, 75-80 mph freeway trip with constant use of air conditioning, we saw 34mpg (Honda's rating for highway MPG is 36 mpg). Freeway overtaking is a breeze. You don't even need to downshift from fifth. With 10 psi of boost available from a low 2,700 rpm, you are just a flex of the ankle away from very rapid acceleration. The Skunk2 exhaust system delivered a slightly louder exhaust note, but not obvious enough to draw unwanted attention.

    So for almost the same cost as the previous TSI kit with its previous piggyback tuning, we have engineered a solution that starts perfectly, runs better, and makes significantly more power and torque. In addition to this, we've laid the foundation for future power upgrades. A simple turbo upgrade and tuning could net another 50-60 hp for example. At around $3,200-$3,400, the TSI Kit with FlashPro kit delivers V6 performance with 1.8 liter economy. This is a fantastic bang for the buck.

    Htup_1010_05_o+2006_honda_civic_ex+dynographs Photo 6/8   |   2006 Honda Civic EX - Boosting The R18

    Since the introduction of the FlashPro for the R18 Civic, several other turbo manufacturers have announced plans to build turbo kits for the R18 engine. We've just seen CP forged pistons become available, and soon we should see replacement rods as well.

    Hondata Notes On The R18

  • On our dyno our stock R18 bettered a 160Hp stock 2005 two-liter Civic Si and 2004 base RSX for torque and power.
  • Oil jets for piston cooling
  • Dual length intake runner for good low- and top-end power. Switches from long to short intake runner at 5,200 RPM.
  • Plastic intake manifold for a cooler intake charge
  • Stronger lighter rods
  • Economy VTEC for 1.5 liter fuel consumption at part throttle

    Htup_1010_06_o+2006_honda_civic_ex+hoses Photo 7/8   |   2006 Honda Civic EX - Boosting The R18
  • Recommended upgrades:

  • Clutch
  • Bigger brakes

  • Editor's Impression
    After speaking with Doug about his new test car and the impressive results he'd found with the TSI and FlashPro combo, I headed to Hondata to give my own impression. Like many, I hadn't grown very fond of the R18 due to the lack of aftermarket support, and the fact that I simply hadn't witnessed very much in terms of customized performance upgrades since its introduction. However, when Doug says he has something special in the garage, you high tail it to Hondata. Period.

    The car itself is completely stock, other than the turbo kit and exhaust upgrades. The bolt-on kit fits very well inside the Civic's bay, with no fitment or overcrowding issues. With its deep inset front lower bumper grill, the intercooler tucks nicely out of plain sight. After some information on the upgrades, I jump into the driver's seat; Doug takes shotgun, and Source Interlink sales extraordinaire, Willie Yee, takes the rear passenger side. As the car fires up immediately with the turn of the key (one of 1,789 keys on Doug's incredible, multi-car keychain), the Skunk2 exhaust note isn't obtrusive or overbearing; rather it gives a slight "burble" to let me know it's there. We head out on the surface streets, and before I can even think about shifting into second, the slightly sinister hiss of the turbo becomes the fourth entity in the car. The best way to describe the torque that spills over as the needle rushes through the midrange during acceleration is, as Doug noted, V6-like. A surge of power that can be felt in your stomach as the RPM climbs is a reminder that this is no longer a boring passenger car. I head toward the freeway after a few blocks of forcing the sedan to spool up and snarl at unsuspecting bystanders. Climbing the on-ramp, matching speed with the aggressive LA road warriors was child's play as the boosted four-door, carrying three adults, had absolutely no problem catching up to, and surpassing, the flow of traffic. Fresh off of an hour drive in my S2000, I foolishly (by force of habit) downshift to fourth gear in order to pass the slowpokes. Doug reminds me that there's no need to bother, as the almost immediate torque in fifth gear is far more than you'd ever need to scoot around those text- messaging zombies who were no doubt a little confused by the sultry sound of boost followed by the subsequent whoosh of the blow-off valve.

    In the end, my only gripe stems from the quick boost that begins at such a low rpm, with mild pedal pressure. Now if you're an R18 owner, the super quick torque that's just a throttle blip away is going to be music to your ears; however, you'll need to be aware of your surroundings at all times to avoid any unwanted attention.-Rodrez

    About The Author
    Doug Macmillan is the Co-Founder (with Derek Stevens) of Hondata, located in Torrance, CA. Born in New Zealand and raised on a farm, if he wanted to drive a vehicle he usually had to fix it first. He holds an Honors degree in Physics and multiple world landspeed records. In 2007 he piloted Hondata's twin supercharged Acura RSX to a top speed of 234 mph and in 2009 won the SCTA points championship-proof indeed that Kiwis can fly.

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