July 3, 2022

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The Honda Civic Type R Is a Great Handler Thanks to This Special Suspension Setup

3 min read

I took the trouble of familiarizing myself with the incomparable Honda hatchback over a week of driving and 1,000 miles in Southern California’s canyon roads, and I was more impressed with it after each drive I took. Most of the time, I flat-out didn’t want to stop driving it. Everything about it is judged expertly, but nothing more so than the suspension, especially the front axle that uses a slightly unconventional permutation of MacPherson strut suspension with a separate hub carrier.

Honda calls this Dual Axis Strut, and it is something of a magic bullet that bridges the gap between a normal strut and dual wishbone suspension for front-wheel-drive cars. Instead of using the strut tower and lower ball joint as the steering axis, Honda created a separate hub carrier with two extra ball joints that act as the kingpin. If you’ve ever seen the front knuckle of a Jeep Wrangler, it is somewhat similar to that. Honda has a neat post on it here.

The colossal advantage to this style of suspension is the ability to finely tune camber, caster, kingpin inclination, and most importantly scrub radius compared to a conventional strut. Instead of being beholden to the unchangeable upper joint of the strut tower, it neatly moves all the important steering stuff into the wheel and allows for a near-zero scrub radius or an optimized scrub radius.

Put quickly, scrub radius is the distance between the center of the tire and the virtual throughline that runs from the top steering pivot to the bottom one. This distance influences steering feel, weight, and response. Think of the distance as a longer or shorter breaker bar or wrench—the scrub radius changes the leverage and loading of the front suspension. A larger scrub radius allows all of the front-wheel-drive torque to influence the steering, and torque steer is the undesired result, as well as a host of bad suspension manners. 

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Eliminating torque steer was not the CTR’s only goal, because this car has nothing short of amazing steering. Its precision on those ridiculous 20-inch wheels and Continental tires is unmatched by true sports cars, and there is excellent weight and feel. It would be foolish to say the Dual Axis Strut is purely a torque steer reduction exercise. A lot of the CTR’s magic is down to nitty-gritty mechanical engineering, with a sprinkling of clever engine calibration to optimize power delivery. Even the differential is nothing special—it’s just a helical mechanical limited-slip that plenty of front-drivers use. 

Before I wax this lyric to a mirror finish, y’all will have to wait for my full review. For now, I think our video will do just fine to entertain and inform. There is much good exploration of mechanical stuff and some interesting discoveries about how Honda packaged this complicated little setup in a space meant for a conventional strut. Suffice to say, I’m excited for the next Civic Type R.

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