Much to our collective bemusement, Honda didn’t release any technical details on the 2023 Civic Type R when it unveiled the car last night. However, one detail did stick out to us from the photos we captured before the car was revealed: it runs smaller wheels.
The old car had 20-inch wheels wrapped in 245/30 Continental ContiSport 6 tires while this new car has 19-inch wheels and 265/30 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. At first, that might not sound like a big change, but when you use a comparison tool like the one found at TireSize.com, the differences are obvious.
As you can see in the graphic above, the new CTR’s tire (marked as #2) is not just significantly wider than the old car’s tire (#1), it’s also a half-inch shorter overall, with radius shrinking by 1.7 inches as well. The sidewall is 0.2 inches taller than before as well.
The last Civic Type R used quite novel front suspension geometry to virtually eliminate torque steer, a very good thing in a front-wheel drive car with more than 300 hp. Given the new Civic Type R has more power than the previous car—though we don’t how much more—and it rides on the same basic platform, Honda is presumably using something similar here, though the change in tire size necessitates additional tweaks.
Honda declined to offer any details on the switch in tire size. Obviously, we know a wider tire means a greater contact patch, which brings with it an increase in mechanical grip. If the gearing remains the same as the old Type R, these shorter tires will help improve acceleration beyond the power increase, though that’s a fairly large “if.” Taller sidewalls generally improve ride quality, too, though the increase is so minimal here, it may not make a huge difference, if anything at all. Even though the CTR is going from 20s to 19s, these are both 30-profile tires, and the profile is what makes the difference.
The switch to 19-inch wheels could be more important in that a smaller wheel helps reduce unsprung weight. With that comes benefits in ride and handling. That’s why high-performance cars often offer forged alloy wheels, or wheels made from more exotic materials like magnesium alloys or carbon-fiber, and carbon-ceramic brakes. The previous Civic Type R ditched the standard wheels for lighter forged BBS units for this very reason. Of course, we don’t know how the weight of the 19s compares with the old CTR’s 20s, though it seems fair to assume that Honda would want to reduce unsprung weight here. (It’s also worth noting that despite its big wheels and short sidewalls, the last Civic Type R had relatively good ride quality.)
There isn’t much we can say about the switch from Continental to Michelin, as we don’t really know anything about the exact spec of the Civic Type R’s Pilot Sport 4S. From the pictures, we know that the PS4S here has a treadwear rating of 300, which beats the SportContact 6’s 240. We can say for certain that the PS4S is an excellent tire in all applications, and it’s a welcome sight here.
We also know the new Civic Type R is 0.873 seconds quicker around Suzuka than the old Civic Type R LE, which wore Michelin’s very fast Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. Unfortunately, we don’t know what tires the new car ran for its run, and we’ve asked Honda for clarification. If the new CTR set that lap time on its standard PS4S rubber, it would be a very impressive result, reflective of extra power, but a lot of other tweaks, including a wider contact patch.
Whatever the precise reason, the switch in wheel-tire package is interesting, and not just cosmetic by any means. When we have a chance to talk to the Civic Type R’s engineers, we know what we’ll ask about first.
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