Zip Drive: 2010 Honda Civic Si Coupe.

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2010 Honda Civic Si Coupe.

I love a well-executed double-clutch downshift: It feels like victory. When done correctly in a high-revving, throaty, six-speed 2010 Honda Civic Si, it sounds like a win, too.

I've also grown terribly tired of cars that do everything for me. I'm a driver, not SPAM in a can. If I wanted a machine to accelerate me from 0-60 mph in 3.2 seconds with no action on my part, I'd ride a rollercoaster. If I wanted someone else to catch a sliding rear, I'd hire one of my unemployed racecar driver friends to do it.

I want it to be my fault when something goes wrong. I want it to be my credit when things go right.

In the Civic Si, a maximum-effort launch at the stoplight drags requires deft footwork. The driver has to lightly hold the brake with the ball of his right foot, while putting in just the right amount gas with the right side of the same foot. When the light goes green, he has to clear the intersection for red-light runners, add a bit more throttle, feed in the clutch with his left, add more gas—but not too much! And, when the tires have plenty of grip, mash the throttle. If done correctly, the tires give the barest hint of squeal. Done poorly and the car bogs off the line or spins the tires in a cop-attaching howl. Then you have to upshift correctly at just the right moment.

Think that's complex? It's first-grade compared to a double-clutch downshift, especially one done on the street in the Civic Si. Put it in second when you need third and you might hurt the engine. Go for third when you need second and you might as well be driving an automatic. With six gears, the driver doesn't have time to downshift sequentially. On the racetrack, I skipped directly to the needed gear. With a proper double-clutch downshift, it worked like victory.

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