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Wings of glory: Honda Civic Type R outsoars Ford Focus RS

Robert Duffer and Doug George, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Automotive News

"The most dramatic 'wow' moment of getting behind the wheel was the steering in both these cars, which felt like a direct connection to the tires, like you're holding the whole car in the palm of your hands," George said afterward.

This extends to the all-wheel-drive handling of the RS, allowing it to hit turns harder and stay tight at higher speeds, and you can floor it out of the apex with more confidence, thanks also to the grippier Pilot Super Sport Cup 2S tires.

Yet Honda has really worked magic beyond the limited slip differential in nearly eliminating torque steer. With more weight up front, it was almost easier to slide the end through turns in the Type R. It was a subtle difference that had a bit more thrill because I was being worked more as a driver.

Also surprising, amid the autumnal smell of roasting tires and cooking brakes, was the earliest sign of brake fade on the Type R, which at 3,111 pounds, weighs significantly less than the 3,434-pound RS. Ford's promise of its most powerful brakes ever on a Focus proved good on the track but the RS burned through a lot more fuel.

Better pill: RS, though my co-worker disagreed.

"Honda was just more fun to drive," he said. "The manual six-speed felt lots better, and overall the car felt lighter on its feet, more agile and more eager to go go go."

Interior

We didn't disagree here: the Type R is the clear-cut modern vehicle. With carbon fiber trim elements and soft-touch materials, it has the look and feel of a pricier ride.

Honda's touch screen is clunky, especially since it houses the climate control settings, and the redundant steering controls to access the vehicle info in the instrument cluster are confusing, but it's better than Ford's Sync3 and its narrow touch screen.

The RS feels like a 10-year-old car; my 10-year old asked if the gauges for oil and temp on the top of the dash were stickers.

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