New Car/Review

1998 Acura Integra LS Sedan

by Carey Russ

acura

For 1998, Acura spokespeople have three words to best describe the company's cars: personal, sophisticated, and sporty. Those words certainly fit the Integra. Acura's entry-level series of coupes and sedans has plenty of sporty character throughout its lineup. While not really "luxury" cars in the leather and walnut sense, all Integras are oriented towards personal expression. They come from mild to extremely wild, and use plenty of sophisticated technology. The current, third-generation, Integra is one of the most popular cars among young-at-heart performance enthusiasts, for good reason.

There is an Integra for every personality. Coupes come in five levels: RS, LS, GS, GS-R, and the Type R. Sedans are offered in LS, GS, and GS-R trim. All have minor styling changes for 1998; LS,GS, and GS-R models have small but useful interior differences as well. All use twincam 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engines, but not the same engine. RS, LS, and GS models have a 140-horsepower version. GS-Rs have a slightly different engine with Honda's patented VTEC variable valve timing system and other enhancements for 170 bhp. The 750 Type R coupes offered have yet another powerplant, with a screaming 195 horses.

Although the Integra sedan has a slightly longer wheelbase and overall length, and weighs a bit more than the equivalent coupe, it loses no performance or handling to the coupe version at the same equipment level. It just trades the coupe's two doors and a hatchback for four doors and a trunk lid, a bit more rear seat room, and a slightly higher rear roof line. A recent week with a 1998 Integra LS sedan was most enjoyable. The LS sedan may not have the race-car ambiance of the Type R coupe, but is far more comfortable in everyday driving. It is a great all-around real-world sports sedan, with room, convenience, economy, comfort, and plenty of energetic performance.

APPEARANCE: Look closely to see the changes from the 1997 Integra to the 1998. The front end has been restyled, with slightly different cutouts around the quad headlights. Despite its aggressive look, the front air dam still has adequate clearance for parking and driveways. Differences between Integra coupe and sedan are almost as subtle as the 1998 changes, particularly from a distance. The sedan is marginally longer and higher, and has a more formal roofline and trunk, as opposed to the coupe's fastback hatch. From most angles and any appreciable distance, it's hard to tell the two apart. Both have an aerodynamically-efficient rounded wedge shape, with a good balance between curves and angles. Although the design is now a few years old, it is wearing very well. LS models have new 14-inch basketweave alloy wheels this year.

COMFORT: Unlike some cars aimed at young buyers, the Integra's interior is very conservative in trim materials and colors. It's built for drivers, not posers. Visibility is very good, instruments are readily visible, and controls are logically placed. The driver's seat in LS, GS, and GS-R models has adjustable cushion height this year, adding to comfort. Access to the rear seat is, unsurprisingly, easier in the sedan than in the coupe, and room is reasonable for the size of the car. The rear seatback folds completely for carrying large items that don't otherwise fit into the good-sized trunk. All of the expected amenities are standard on the Integra LS, including air conditioning, power windows, mirrors, and doorlocks, a power moonroof, and a good AM/FM/CD stereo.

SAFETY: All 1998 Acura Integra sedans have front and rear crumple zones, antilock brakes, dual front air bags, side-impact protecting door beams, hip, and shoulder pads, and 3-point outboard safety harnesses.

ROADABILITY: The LS is the least sporty model of the Integra line. This says volumes about the performance-oriented character of the Integra, as the LS is a sports sedan by any definition of the term. Although its suspension is tuned more softly than those of the GS-R or Type R, the LS still corners nimbly, with little body roll. It has a firm ride, but is not too harsh for daily use. It makes any drive a good time.

PERFORMANCE: The Integra LS is powered by a 140-horsepower dual overhead cam, 16-valve,1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine. While it doesn't have the VTEC variable valve timing and lift system and ultimate power of the GS-R and Type R, it's no slouch in the performance and fun departments and makes all of the right sports car music. The engine of the LS has very similar power to the GS-R's up until the point where the GS-R's VTEC changes to the high-rpm mode. That point is not often reached in everyday driving, so the LS is rarely at a disadvantage. The standard 5-speed manual gearbox is a joy to use, with a good choice of ratios and a short-throw shift lever. A 4- speed automatic is available on LS and GS models.

CONCLUSIONS: The Acura Integra LS Sedan combines entertaining performance, easy access, and stylish flair.

SPECIFICATIONS

Base Price               $ 20,000
Price As Tested          $ N/A
Engine Type              dual overhead cam 16-valve inline 4-cylinder
Engine Size              1.8 liters / 112 cu. in.
Horsepower               140 @ 6300 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)           127 @ 5200 rpm
Transmission             5-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length       103.1 in. / 178.1 in.
Curb Weight              2703 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower    19.3
Fuel Capacity            13.2 gal.
Fuel Requirement         unleaded regular, 87 octane
Tires                    P195 / 60 HR14 Michelin XGT H4
Brakes, front/rear       vented disc / solid disc, antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear   independent double wishbone with coil
                         springs / independent double wishbone and
                         trailing link with coil springs
Drivetrain               front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed      25 / 31 / 28
0 to 60 mph                   8.2 sec
1/4 mile (E.T.)               16.1 sec

For a "wilder" ride check out the Acura Integra Type R

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