The Very Long Drive (VLD) is a bit of an Australian thing. Every so often, an opportunity comes up to drive some four-figure distance, one that would cause the eyeballs to pop from the head of any European. But you take said opportunity, because there is something soothing, cathartic and quietly soul-satisfying about the boredom of a long drive in Australia.
This month, we put our Honda Civic Type R to this very test with a VLD from Melbourne to Jindabyne, NSW, and the Perisher ski slopes. Six hundred kilometres doesn’t sound very far until you consider that a great deal of that is on twisty roads with a relatively low average speed. In theory.
The Hume Highway out of Melbourne was our first opportunity to get to know the long-distance cruising capabilities of our bewinged snow-white hot hatch. And the big, fat ticks come rolling in.
There’s the ride for a start, which we’ve banged on about multiple times, remarkably compliant and supple for 30-profile tyres and truly more comfortable than many dedicated, new luxury cars. Mercedes-Benz Magic Body Control? Erm, a Civic Type R might actually be more comfortable. No joke.
This is great for the Type R’s ability to get its occupants a great distance and out the other end feeling relatively fresh. Which would be the case, if it wasn’t so noisy.
Okay, so the Type R doesn’t roar like an old 747 at 38,000 feet, but a lot of tyre noise gets into the cabin on a coarse-ish chip freeway. Sometimes, at 110km/h, it’s necessary to raise one’s voice ever so slightly in conversation. As unpopular a thing it is to say, another 25kg of very strategically placed sound deadening could be worth the weight penalty.
Very interestingly, the Type R has the ability to drive itself down the motorway if you so wish. Clever radar cruise control with so-called Lane Keep Assist System controls speed relative to other cars, but also picks up lane markings to steer the Type R without input, surprisingly effectively.
On a straight dual carriageway with gentle curves, bumps and dappled light, the LKAS system “drove” the Type R for 10 minutes without us touching any control – including the steering wheel – and could have gone for longer. Impressive, yet its utility, other than letting you take lids off water bottles with both hands, is not entirely clear.
Meanwhile in the fuel stakes, the best range we saw after a fill of the 47-litre tank was 461km and our best highway economy was 7.6L/100km. Helpfully, the Type R will take 91-95RON fuel if push comes to shove. Which it did, as we arrived in Corryong, the last real fuel opportunity until Jindabyne a couple of hours later.
What we couldn’t be helped with was chains, which you must carry in your non-AWD vehicle during the ski season. A lady who rented snow chains in Khancoban, NSW, took one look at the 245/30 ZR20 wheels and tyres and wished us luck. As it was nearing the end of the ski season and on the warmer side, and with a favourable weather forecast, we pressed on.
Between Khancoban and Thredbo lies approximately 75km of fantastically scenic roads, winding through a rocky gorge before plunging up and down through thick forests, opening back up for glimpses of an Aussie alpine landscape tempting you to pull over for a photo, before spitting you out into a winter wonderland nearing Thredbo.
On the dry bits, with surprisingly light traffic, we were reminded yet again of the Type R’s lovely, addictive, easy handling and the way it relishes being driven up a twisty road. It is a hugely fun and satisfying car on a mountain road. And extremely quick, too.
Yet it was here we rued an annoyance, that being you have to stop and apply the handbrake, and dig around the infotainment menu, to switch the rev match on and off. There’s a blank button right next to the manual gearchange – why not make this the rev-match on/off button?
As the temperature plunged near Thredbo and snow blanketed the landscape, we were glad for the Type R’s feedback and communicative controls as we anxiously drove over what could have been icy patches. We wouldn’t have wanted any other tyre but the Continental SportContact6, either, for these conditions, with their proven wet-weather ability.
Having enjoyed Perisher for a few days we headed back to Melbourne. And perhaps enjoyed the Type R’s turbocharged performance a little bit too much, almost running out of fuel – or so it seemed, with “8km to empty” there was still 4-5 litres in the tank. Still, you wouldn’t want any inaccuracy around the other way.
There was also a scare as we hit a monster pot-hole, the passenger front wheel thudding like a shock was going to pop through the bonnet. In the USA many owners have buckled the 20-inch rims in pot-holes and have had to make warranty claims. Also, there is no spare tyre.
If I owned the Type R, I’d be curious to know what it would be like on 245/35R19s for the improvement again in ride, but also for styling. And I’d buy five.
Next month the Type R goes back and for this, we are genuinely sad. Time has helped to distil our thoughts on this car. Those being, quite simply, it’s a magic car to drive if you can get over the boy-racer styling and what is a bit of a plain and slightly cheap interior with a fiddly infotainment system. The Type R is also a bit dull to drive at low speeds. As for its VLD ability, the Type R has us tempted for the VFLD.
Would familiarity breed contempt on MOTOR long-term reviews
2018 Honda Civic Type R Pros & Cons
Three things we're falling for:
1 - Amazing ride
2 - Sensational seats
3 - Practicality
Three things we're not fond of:
1 - Freeway tyre noise
2 - Busy styling
3 - The infotainment