Combustion temps actually decrease as you get leaner and leaner
When I first heard about the EFIE devices and clogged fuel injectors, I wondered why ppl weren't killing their engines since these would cause one or all cylinders to go lean. The above links explain the lack of damage. If the above info is correct- as long as you have a functional knock sensor (so the ECU can retard timing as needed), leaning an engine a moderate amount should be a safe way to gain MPG as long as you do not ignore the sounds of detonation.
These are my thoughts assuming that the above webpages are accurate.
This is why the Civic VX lean burn does not damage the engine
The Civic VX/HX can run lean because it was specifically designed and tuned to run lean. You can't take a Civic DX or EX motor and run it as lean as the VX. The fuel wont spread evenly, hence it wont burn evenly. The fuel fails to ignite and you get lean misfires if you go any leaner than 16.5. At medium load 15.5 is the limit. And yet the Civic VX/HX can run 18:1 and still accelerate.
This is why:
Closing one intake valve causes the air to spiral in to the combustion chamber, in essence stirring up the sparse fuel evenly. You also advance the ignition timing quite a bit and decrease the load placed on the engine by eliminating weight and accessories that drag on the crank.
It's difficult to damage an engine at light load. Why? Because it's at light load. It's self evident. You can get pre-ignition, detonation, misfires etc at light load just as you can under heavy load.
Those websites make generalizations but that info doesn't apply to all engines. Engineers have been successful at creating engines that run at both extremes of the parameters of gasoline.
Its my understanding that there are several conditions that must be met before the VX will go into and stay in lean burn including throttle position, temperature, vacuum etc.
I thought part of the VX lean burn system has to do with the swirl of the incoming charge by the position of the two intake valves, but suspended hatch will have to help us out.
The old Honda CVCC system (1987 was the last year for it) is ideal for being leaned out because the rich mixture in the precombustion chamber is easy for the spark plug to ignite and its combustion can more easily ignite a cylinder full of an extremely lean mixture.
Some modern cars use the ECU to achieve basically the same result.
My car runs in lean mode when the cruise is active and after 15 seconds of steady state input.
Not sure how lean exactly but the FE is impressive for what it is and does.