13000km later, Stage 1 tuned
Been a while between drinks. My car is just about 1 year old now, and due to COVID messing schedules up, I was delayed by a few months but finally the Stage 1 was completed.
“What’s a Stage 1?” I hear you ask. That’s a good question, now that the Bolt-On Tuner scene for the FK8R has more or less matured.
Type R tuning has a few distinct paths, most of which got started before anything really stuck but now (to me) there’s a clear popular choice because it’s so easy and modular. In short there’s the methanol path, the built turbo path, and the FBO (Full Bolt On) path. Bolt-on, because it’s the automotive equivalent of USB (okay maybe a bit of an exaggeration), but definitely it’s all plug and play because the bits modified are easily replaced.
What makes it that much easier? The fact that tuners have finally come to grips with the new operation of the ECU (which is actually supplied by BOSCH for the Type R, and requires jail breaking). So now you can make a whole suite of adjustments thanks to HONDATA and K-Tuner and probably a few more besides. Without that, only very limited gains can be made, because even if you derestricted air-flow etc. the ECU would still reference the default maps.
For the nerds: if I understand correctly the ECU estimates torque demand based on throttle position, assesses other conditions (driving mode, temperature, rpm etc.), then calculates an “air charge” which is then matched to fuel load. This seems to be a different order of doing it compared to previous ECUs, and the fact the BOSCH documentation of reference tables is like 20000 pages long, may be why it took like over 2 years to crack. Also, while there is a degree of “boost by gear” and this is configurable once you jailbreak the ECU, the TCS seems to be primarily done through ignition timing retardation, which I don’t understand at all. Makes me wonder if this is the reason that the TCS doesn’t seem to do jack
In their usual wisdom and emphasis on reliability and daily usability, Honda have seriously sandbagged the ECU mapping. The other limiting factor is the airflow, mainly everything after the turbo i.e. the downpipe and catback. The FK8R’s stock exhaust is 2.5" diameter, and the general recommendation for tuning to the limits of street is to increase to 3" diameter, thereby reducing airflow restriction by 50%
As a reminder, the dyno run sheet below (not mine) is a decent representation of a stock FK8R with the 308hp tune. They tend to report getting 290-295hp at the wheels depending on fuel used. This represents drivetrain losses of under 5% which is attributed in part to the layout.
Which brings me back to what I’ve actually done to the car. Stage 1 means Stage 1 ECU, so basically no extra parts necessary but reducing the extra tolerances as much as is reliably possible to achieve higher peak output, higher torque, but also a smoother power curve, depending on your preferences and conditions and the tuner. My ride’s always going to be a daily so my tuner’s brief was to get as much out as possible without running the risk of pinging and going into limp mode in variable conditions, particularly if I’m sitting in gridlocked traffic in Summer, because that’s when the intake temps get up to 70C which is…bad.
Nonetheless in order to take full advantage of these changes and any further, the airflow should be derestricted. Which is why I also had an Invidia 3" catted downpipe and Q300 catback installed.
the stock catback laid next to the car. I did place it upside down by accident, whoops
a closer view of the muffler with the “resonator” chamber. Frankly all the system achieved was a drone at highway speeds, which was one of my reasons for swapping it out
oh god oh fuck I’ve become one of those ricer kids in my rice rocket. I have an excuse though, it’s that I literally forgot to ask for the graphite tip option and the default is burnt titanium finish lol. ngl it’s grown on me, and it actually suits the blue
stock exhaust cold start and rev. Ambient temp was like 2C with 50% humidity hence the smoke
Q300 cold start and rev. Ambient temp this time was like 20C and dry.
How does it sound in the cabin? A hell of a lot bassier for one. Unfortunately there’s no way to improve air flow without increasing noise, so it’s also a hell of a lot louder in the cabin LOL. There’s some transient drone at lower speeds, and now that I have both downpipe AND catback, basically I get this really resonant band between 1300-1500 AND 1700-2000 rpm, which makes my hypermiling commute kind of annoying What I should have realised is that nobody else who has modded their Civic talks about these things because they drive the hell out of their car and get like 21mpg, whereas I drive like a granny 90% of the time and get over 30. It’s gotten to the point where I have to select a lower gear just to adjust the cabin noise sometimes.
But that’s a small price to pay compared to the improvement in performance. Here’s my new dyno sheet:
To translate this dyno chart shows 328hp at the wheels (on 98RON). The team actually achieved 345hp at the wheels before dialling it back to give more leeway (for the hot weather) and also to smoothen out the curve as much as possible. Also note the bump from a stock 400Nm to a stupendous 495Nm at 3300rpm. Does the butt dyno notice? Hell yes the butt dyno notices. First time I took the on-ramp I did the usual giving it the boot in third which normally gets me going without too much fuss. This time the wheels lit up, so now I can do a burnout in first, second and third in the dry. Even when I’m not going all out, the throttle response is more immediate and resulting shove is eye-opening. I’m going to say this is definitely as much as the stock tyres can handle.
But the funny thing is, other than the noise, when I drive the car normally, it still feels completely normal. And that’s the magic of this particular Type R, is how far you can go with it without changing the daily character.
Stage 2 of course! Give it a few months while I
save up some more money research the options, but basically the pillar of stage 2 for bolt ons is the fuel injector kit. The FK8R is one of those cars that doesn’t like ethanol for weird reasons. HONDATA, bless them, made a breakthrough and developed a flex fuel injector kit and lines with a stronger fuel pump. Fuel flow and to a degree octane rating is the next limiting factor. Address this, and on E85 you can get over 400whp, maybe even 450.
At this point however you will want to back this up with several things. One is temperature management. Which means air flow. Namely a cold air intake system and also a new intercooler, because the stock one has narrow piping that runs at acute angles for weird reasons. The other is traction, because no street-driven FWD car manages over 400whp without some serious rubber. As I mentioned in the previous post the popular choice tends to be the 18x9.5 TE37 rims but the problem with this is that even with 35 profile tyres this often gets bundled with shorter springs, which then shortens the shock travel and preloads them which messes with the damping settings, and I don’t want to actually change too much with the suspension because for street purposes it’s perfectly fine. I’ll have to think about this.
Also I haven’t even had the chance to track it yet, but that needs to happen at least once. If I do, I might consider changing the brake pads and fluid. The brake feel is nice, but still very decidedly “street friendly”, in that there’s still a fair bit of give on initial travel which doesn’t give one huge amounts of confidence when braking from well over freeway speeds. I don’t think I’m serious enough to actually change the discs and rotors given that they do several hard stops with zero fade, and I can tolerate a degree of squeak given that my shopping cart Peapod had squeaky pads and those were OEM
We’ll see. If I can get a video that conveys how it runs I’ll put that up too.