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The Verdict: How Good is the FL5 Civic Type R?
BY Mike Maravilla //
January 25, 2023
@mike_futureclassic
Photography: Mike Maravilla
@mike_futureclassic
Owner: HondaPro Jason
@hondaprojason
  • The 2023 FL5 Civic Type R is one of the most anticipated car releases of the year and is largely lauded by automotive journalists.
  • After a 4,000-mile road trip, HondaPro Jason gives us our first real look at the new Type R in person.
  • Now that cars are starting to be delivered, the pressure is on for the aftermarket industry to discover the FL5’s true potential.

NO PRESSURE

The 2023 Civic Type R comes with heavier expectations than immigrant parents, but for good reason. Honda has proven capable of transforming the world’s most pedestrian car (the Civic) into one of the most desired, all with some clever engineering and the coveted “Type R” badge. While the rest of the world has had several Type Rs across the Civic’s eleven generations, the FL5 is just the second to the outgoing and highly praised FK8 here in the United States. Indeed, there is no greater pressure than the sophomore album; the new car’s visual impact has been softened to cast a wider net of appeal than its predecessor. Yet despite its more modest exterior, is a car that promises to deliver more thrills. But does it really?

All the initial reviews and its front-wheel drive lap record at Suzuka point towards “yes” in that department. But frankly speaking, anyone can drive a car for an afternoon and like it. I want to know whether or not those initial impressions stuck. Does the FL5 wear the badge out of merit or is it all hype? And there’s likely no better person to help us answer that question than HondaPro Jason.

As luck would have it, Jason decided to drive his brand new Championship White Type R on a bit of a journey. Starting in California, his nearly four-thousand-mile road trip would bounce him around to notable Honda destinations until he reached his final destination in Pennsylvania — more specifically our neighbor, AWE Tuning.

THE 4,000-MILE RUN-IN

Jason’s seat time is the crux of this entire exercise — he put nearly 70,000 miles on his FK8 — and is certainly on pace to crush that mark on the new Type R. Fresh out of his cross-country road trip, a handful of track days, and presumably out of the honeymoon stage in one fell swoop, I asked him if the one-on-one time had wiped any of the veneer off the FL5. He said, “I love it even more. I really got used to the car. It’s so similar to the FK8…it’s just slightly enhanced in every way.” In fact, the only veneer that seemed to have worn was the paint’s luster.

After Jason left to catch his flight back to Chicago, Jesse Kramer, AWE Tuning’s VP, and I had to find out for ourselves. A quick jaunt through Pennsylvania’s pothole-ridden but gratifyingly twisty roads gave us our first lick of the FL5’s promising tasting menu.

Indeed, it seems like Honda has kneaded all the right places: more supportive seats, better power delivery, superior visibility, and much-welcomed chassis stability speak to its refinement throughout. And somehow, all of that hasn’t spoiled any of the Type R’s sporting pedigree. Industry reports had always referenced the FL5 as an evolutionary step from the FK8, but I’d argue that the new car exhibits Honda’s proficiency to adapt. The FL5 does a much better job of echoing both the die-hard Honda fans’ ideology for what the Type R should be and the dual-duty demands — both technically and aesthetically — that come with the price tag.

That said, the question we posed about the FL5’s “goodness” doesn’t end with its factory form — it’s also whether or not its more potent package still left anything on the table for aftermarket gains.

BEWARE OF THE QUIET ONES

The fact that Jason’s final destination was AWE Tuning certainly suggests his optimism for improvement. I asked Kramer about his initial impression of the car after our drive as the car ticked itself cool. His gut response largely echoed mine: “strong, but silent” he said. I remarked with the old adage “beware of the quiet ones” which evoked an affirming nod. The next few minutes were spent just doe-eyed staring at the car, but truly, it seems like the new Type R’s more reserved appearance is a bit of a decoy to the exciting potential inside.

For the brave ones, like AWE Tuning, who are diving into development at launch, it’s an emotional engineering exercise. A pursuit that has no definitive answer out of the gate — only hopes that can be either confirmed or denied after weeks, months, or years of tedious work. While it’s undeniably capable in stock form, that unknown is where the FL5 currently lives.

A DEFINITIVE ANSWER

Despite the FL5’s initial impressions and cars like the WRX STI going the way of the dodo bird, the Type R’s loftier price tag puts it in firing range of a whole new class. Crucially, the aftermarket potential of this car is where it needs to set itself apart to truly excel in today’s demanding market. Will exhaust companies like AWE Tuning be able to extract all the right noises? Will suspension brands be able to take advantage of the car’s track propensities? What will Mugen, Spoon, and all the other Honda faithful flagships bring to the table? Curious minds could look at Dai Yoshihara’s 2023 Integra build to offer us all a sliver of this generation’s tuning potential. Nevertheless, and given its fandom, I am hopeful that the FL5 — allegedly the last of the truly petrol-powered Type Rs — will be considered one of the all-time greats. Whatever the case, be sure to follow along as we stay on the inside track of HondaPro Jason’s Type R build!


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