What's New for 1999
In a small step upmarket, Acura has decided to kill the Integra's entry-level RS trim. The LS gets leather accents and 15-inch wheels, and the sporty GS-R now comes with leather seats. Type-R will return in limited numbers later in the year.
Honda enjoys the distinction of landing luxury cars in the United States before any other Japanese automaker had even considered the idea. The Legend sedan, marketed under the Acura nameplate, was aninteresting choice over domestic luxury sedans, and was an inexpensive and reliable alternative to European luxury marques. However, Honda couldn't expect to sell enough Legends to keep its new Acura franchise afloat, so engineers spruced up the Honda Civic platform and introduced the nimble Integra to complement the bigger sedan in showrooms.
Since 1986, when the Integra debuted, it has garnered praise from a variety of automotive and consumer groups. Integras have always been sporty, practical, fun-to-drive and reliable. They are popular cars with a wide demographic group. The current iteration, which is the third generation of the Integra, is no exception to this rule.
While imminently comfortable for two and even livable for four full-sized adults, the Integra is first and foremost a driver's car. Think of it as a Japanese BMW 3-series and you won't be far off. Sure it's got fewer cylinders and the wrong set of wheels pulling it around, but if you can't afford the price of entry (or maintenance or insurance) for anything from Bavaria, the Integra makes an adequate substitute. With a fully independent four-wheel double wishbone suspension, front and rear stabilizer bars, and a thick steering wheel that gives excellent feedback about what's going on down below, the Integra is one of the best-handling front-drivers in the world.
If competent handling was all the Integra had to offer, it would still be worth considering, even in today's competitive sport compact market. Fortunately, Acura didn't stop there. The base engine, sold on GS and LS trim, is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder unit that makes an adequate 140 horsepower. Step up to the GS-R and you're rewarded with a VTEC-enhanced 1.8-liter inline four that boasts 170 horsepower and 128 foot-pounds of torque.
But wait, there's more: The Type R was added to Integra's stable late in the summer of 1997, quickly becoming the standard by which all sport coupes are measured. Offering 195 horsepower at 8,000 rpm, hand-polished intake and exhaust ports and a high-flow exhaust system all make for a fire-breathing engine. Did we mention the 8500 rpm redline? Type "R" is for rrrrrev.
The Integra sport coupes and sedans are quick and comfortable, with excellent build quality. Since 1994, they've sported swoopy, modern styling, featuring quad, circular headlamps. Seating, headroom, and overall ergonomics are typical Honda: straightforward and functional. The shifter is one of the best in the industry with a shape that fits the hand perfectly and has a relatively short throw between gears.
Ultimately, however, time and the automotive world wait for no car and the Integra's appearance is showing its age. With cars like the new Mercury Cougar clawing into the potential market, Acura will soon need to prepare the Integra for life in the 21st century.