The status the Acura brand commands today is all thanks to the incredible Integra. Honda’s attempt to carve a niche out for themselves in the extremely brand conscious US market of the late 80’s, brought out the Acura brand. Acura would distinguish itself from the regular Honda brand as being a more premium offering. Honda was great in driving sales but it always featured as a ‘budget’ brand. It could also be argued that honda took a leaf out of their competitor’s (Toyota) book when they introduced the Lexus to cater to a brand conscious audience. Long story short, the company started Acura with the Integra hoping that it could do the magic of changing the ‘budget’ image of the company. Moreover, Acura Integra delivered performance figures quite successfully than compared to Honda, here is a list of Integra’s that made it in the book.
1st Generation Integra 1986-1992The car that started it all, well it actually did. The first generation Acura Integra was built on the 86 Civic platform for the obvious amount of success the 86 Civic gathered for itself. Though the Acura Integra borrowed the fuel injection system from its cousin, the Civic, it got an all new 1.6 litre DOHC (Dual Overhead Camshaft) engine. The 1.6 litre 16 valve four cylinder engine ensured it stayed head and shoulders above the performance of its cousin the Civic. The output of the 86 and 87 Integra was increased from 113hp to 118hp for the 88 and 89 models. Though hundred odd horsepower isn’t much to write about in today’s world, the first generation Acura Integras were surprisingly sporty with their lightweight bodies and high revving engines.
2nd Generation Integra 1992-1994
Probably the most iconic front end for the Acura Integra model, which would continue on in the Japanese cars market for the next 11 years. The styling looked fresh to match the 90’s look with large curved front lights and alloy wheels sporting a stainless steel finish. The changes didn’t stop with the styling, the engine was different than its predecessors. The formidable B18B engine was introduced, the 1.8 litre DOHC increased the output further to 130hp and 121 ft-lbs torque. This generation also introduced the trim level that would build quite the cult following. The GS-R, which separated itself from rest of the models in sporting the B17A engine, was equipped with a VTEC system which is seen in Honda’s Supercar the NSX. The B17A of GS-R produced a very healthy 160HP. It showed its true colours at being a perfect car for the enthusiasts by being available only in a manual version. The cult following among enthusiasts was so strong for the GS-R, that it even ended up featuring in the first Fast and Furious movie.
3rd Generation Integra 1994-1997Considered the most influential front wheel drive car of the late 90’s, the 3rd generation Acura Integra had a lot going for it. This generation had ironed out a majority of the shortcomings of the first 2 generations, it took the performance envelope to whole new level. The standard versions of RS and LS found themselves with the 142hp engine of the previous year’s GS. The GS-R version this time upped the power output to 170hp, keeping pace with the enthusiasts’ expectation. The 3rd generation also had a few developments which did not sit too well with the enthusiasts. For starters, the styling was not what you would call ‘attractive’ not to say it wasn’t eye catching. The double bug-eyed front was something they could have definitely done away with, though the whole styling did grow on you.
The second part was that it sported a new improved ECU (Engine Control Unit) with an additional set of sensors monitoring emission controls which were not the friendliest when it came to tuning the car. However, aftermarket tuning companies like A’PEXi and Fields came out with piggyback systems that bypassed the ECU and facilitated tunability.
The year 1997 was indeed a very iconic time for Acura Integra enthusiasts, Honda decided to show its appreciation for the acceptance they received for the Acura Integra by bringing in their most hardcore Integra yet, the Type R. The news of Type R had customers flocking up the dealership floor all day long. Unsurprisingly all of the initial 750 units were sold out in a few days and the additional demand saw Honda importing another 750 units. The Type R had a stiffer and a lighter chassis which made it the best handling front wheel drive car of that time. The 1.8 litre DOHC engine from the GS-R was further tuned to develop 195hp at a screaming 8400rpm. The free and high-revving nature of the engine had people comparing it to Formula 1 engine technology. 195hp developed from the 1.8 litre engine also made the Type R engine the highest specific output developed from a naturally aspirated engine. It was only later beaten by its own cousin the Honda S2000.The Acura Integra from the time of its launch has been setting the benchmark in its category and arguably even battling cars well above its category. The Acura Integra stayed true to its ethos of being a fun, sporty and simple car, which kept its drivers entertained. Though its German counterparts offered more luxury for a slightly higher price and often even pointed at the Acura Integra as being too ‘Juvenile’, it still held its own. The average commuter could find more comfort from the German cars for a few additional quid, but for the enthusiasts, the Integra’s performance was something that remained unrivaled for a very long time. It’s clear to say that we fall under enthusiasts category and that’s precisely why this car commands such a huge respect from each one of us. The sheer performance per pound of the Acura Integra was unrivaled.
Image Source – Honda