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1997 Acura Integra GS-R Coupe Review

by John Heilig


SEE ALSO: Acura Buyer's Guide


ENGINE:1.8-liter dohc 16-valve four
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:170hp @ 6,200 rpm/ 128 lb.ft. @ 6,200 rpm
TRANSMISSION:Five-speed manual
FUEL ECONOMY:25 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, mpg test
WHEELBASE:101.2 in.
CURB WEIGHT:2,667 lbs
INSTRUMENTS:Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, water temperature, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, cruise control, air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio with cassette and in-dash CD, anti-lock braking, dual air bags, power moonroof.

Acura has adopted alphanumeric labeling across its product line. Except for the Integra. The Integra is Acura's "entry level" car and retains not only its identification, but it retains its personality as well.

The GS-R, for example, is a small sports coupe. It's probably Acura's version of the Prelude, except it isn't as sleek as the Prelude. It does, however, have the performance and spirit of the Prelude.

The GS-R is powered by a 1.8-liter dohc four-cylinder rated at 170hp. It drives the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. Performance is stirring whether on the highway or on winding back roads. We tested the GS-R on all road surfaces and had a ball driving it. We even drove the car on some city streets as well as the more interesting roads and the Integra handled all these roads with grace. The car was a lot of fun to drive and I didn't want to give it up.

Besides the engine and the fun gearbox, the suspension, which is double wishbones front and rear, is compliant enough to give a comfortable ride on bumpy roads but it's still firm enough to give a sporty ride on winding roads. Both front seats have excellent side support, so that when you're playing games you can pretend you're Michael Schumacher and you're not slipping and sliding all over the place.

Being an Acura, even if it's "only" an Integra, means you still get all the luxury features. This car has all the power accessories as well as a sound system that is comprised of an in-dash cassette player along with an in-dash CD player.

There are a couple of little quirky things about the Integra that bothered me. One, the turn signal is quiet. Therefore, you can leave it on for miles and be one of those obnoxious people who never turns the turn signal off. There's nothing that bothers me more than someone who doesn't turn their turn signal off, and I was one of those people several times in the GS-R.

The transmission, while it's fun to work and is relatively precise, is difficult to determine which gear you're in. I constantly had to check the speedometer and tachometer to see if I was in fifth or not. The ratios are very close and it's difficult to tell exactly which gear you're in, especially since the engine seems to be winding out almost all the time.

Fifth gear is an overdrive gear, but it's not a very low ratio overdrive. Fortunately, the tachometer is red-lined at 8,000 rpm, so you can still get some good speed out of it. On the opposite end of the coin, you don't get decent acceleration in fifth.

The GS-R is a coupe, and we had an opportunity to drive with rear-seat passengers. They were comfortable back there and there were no complaints about a lack of legroom.

The trunk is a good size. We were able to fit two golf bags back there and probably could have added a third if the need arose. The backs of the rear seats fold down to increase trunk capacity.

All the filler caps and dipsticks are easy to find under the hood. I couldn't find one spark plug wire, though, so I don't envy the person who has to change them. I would suggest, though, that you raise the hood for practice one time in daylight so that you can find the support rod.

The Acura GS-R has a few quirks as I said. I would like to give it an unqualified "hurrah." The GS-R is a nice car, but it's more Honda than Acura. This isn't a knock on the car, because Honda builds great cars, but with an Acura you expect more, and this doesn't appear to be the case with the Integra GS-R.