New Car/Review

1997 Acura Integra Type R and GS-R

by Carey Russ

acura

SEE ALSO: Acura Buyer's Guide


Acura's Integra line has been a technology leader for the company along with its premium NSX sports car. Although Honda / Acura's race-bred VTEC variable valve timing and lift technology was first introduced on the NSX, the sporty Integra GS-R received the first affordably-priced VTEC implementation a few years ago. VTEC is now found throughout the Acura and Honda product lines. Acura has recently introduced a new flagship to the Integra line, called the Type R. That's "R" as in "race prepared". The Type R has the highest specific power output of any mass-produced non-supercharged car available in the U. S.

The sporty Integra has been popular with aftermarket tuners, with plenty of suspension and engine hop-up equipment available. The Type R coupe is a specialized, limited-production, high-tech factory hot rod that one-ups the aftermarket. Its suspension modifications could be done with aftermarket parts, but the engine is a unique masterpiece developed by Formula One racing-trained engineers. It makes 195 horsepower from 1.8 liters, for a specific power output of 108 horsepower per liter. This tops the previous champion Ferrari F355's 107 horsepower per liter and the Integra GS-R's 95.

The Type R complements the existing Integra line of coupes and sedans, which offers three value and comfort-biased trim levels powered by a 140-horsepower twincam 4-cylinder engine and the VTEC GS-R. As comfort is sacrificed for performance, the Type R is not for everyone, and Acura has only made 500 for U.S. sale. Deletion of comfort and convenience items saves weight, and increases performance.

During my time with a Type R, I found it to be minimally different from a GS-R coupe under most everyday conditions. It was very different, and impressive, at high engine speeds and at the limits of adhesion. It's about as close to a street-legal race car as you'll find today. If your heart lusts after the type R, and your dealer is sold out (an unfortunately likely proposition, given the production numbers), don't be too depressed. The Integra GS-R is plenty close in ability and technology, and the other Integra models offer style, comfort, and crisp performance as well.

APPEARANCE: The third-generation Integra is a well-rounded, wedge-shaped car that is made distinctive by its projector-beam headlights and a low, unadorned rectangular grille. The Type R looks just like any other Integra coupe except... The high wing-type spoiler at the rear is the least subtle indication. The Type R has its own front bumper fascia, with a low, integral chin spoiler. Almost discreet "Type R" logo decals are strategically placed on the sides and on the rear panel. The Type R is available in any color you want, as long as it's white with white alloy wheels.

COMFORT: Not bad for a serious sports car. The sports seats are great, the control and instrument placement is spot-on, and most accessories unnecessary for performance have been removed along with much of the soundproofing material. It's still a long way from a real race car, with power windows, mirrors, and door locks, and good climate control and sound systems. Any interior color you want is available, as long as it's black with red stitching. This is a SERIOUS sports coupe; anyone looking for more comforts will find them in the GS-R or LS models.

SAFETY: Safety equipment on the 1997 Acura Integra Type R includes nimble handling, impressive acceleration and brakes, dual front airbags, and side-impact protection.

ROADABILITY: Under the skin, many parts of the Type R's unibody structure have been strengthened and extra crossmembers have been added for extreme stiffness. A lower ride height and recalibrated springs and shocks help make the Type R the best-handling front- wheel drive car I've ever driven. Its very firm ride worked perfectly well on the street, with no harshness. The antilock disc brakes are larger than those of the Integra GS-R. I had the opportunity to do more than a few laps around Sears Point International Raceway in the Type R, and to say that it was in its element is understatement. Few cars go quicker easier. What (little) it may lack in pure acceleration will be made up in the corners, in classic small-displacement racer manner.

PERFORMANCE: Ported, polished, balanced, and blueprinted. And more. The 195-horsepower 4-cylinder engine in the Type R has received the full litany of hot-rodding treatments, too long to go into in this limited space. Suffice to say that it shares little besides the number of cylinders, camshafts, and valves with the GS-R, and should be sturdy enough to last even at its astronomical redline. The Type R is impressively quick for its displacement, and has a race-car powerband. Recalibrate your mechanical sympathies from "car" to "motorcycle". The Type R doesn't feel all that different from the GS-R until 7000 rpm. From there until the rev limiter stops the fun at 9000 rpm, it makes serious power. If you like the sound from the in-car camera in one of the Reynard-Honda CART indy cars, you'll love it. A quick, smooth 5-speed manual gearbox is the only transmission. Fuel economy is impressive: the only reason I got merely 22 mpg was that I took every opportunity to hear the engine sing. Lessons learned here for fuel efficiency will be undoubtedly found in more Acuras and Hondas in the future.

CONCLUSIONS: Acura has a new 4-wheeled engineering tour de force called the Integra Type R coupe. It is the extreme performance addition to the existing line of stylish and sporty Integra coupes and sedans.

SPECIFICATIONS

Base Price$ 23,100
Price As Tested$ 23,535
Engine Typeinline 4-cylinder, dual overhead cam, 16 valves
with VTEC variable valve timing.
Engine Size1.8 liters / 109 cu. in.
Horsepower195 @ 8000
Torque (lb-ft)129 @ 7300
Transmission5-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length101.2 in. / 172.4 in.
Curb Weight2574 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower13.2
Fuel Capacity13.2 gal.
Fuel Requirementunleaded premium
TiresP195/55 VR15 Bridgestone Potenza RE 010
Brakes, front/rearvented disc / vented disc, antilock standard
Suspension, front/rearindependent double wishbone with coilsprings/
independent double wishbone and
trailing link with coil springs
Drivetrainfront engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
city / highway / observed
25 / 31 / 22
0 to 60 mph7.0 sec
1/4 mile (E.T.)15.3 sec
Coefficient of Drag (cd)0.31

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Destination Charge$ 435
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