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What Every Enthusiast Should Know About The Acura Integra Type R

Jun 16, 2023

Marketed under Honda's luxury brand Acura, find out why the Integra Type R is one of the best front-wheel drive sports cars of the '90s

When it comes to sports car legends of the '90s, a lot of us look east towards Japan. The Japanese Domestic Market produced some of the most iconic sports cars of all time, let alone the era. The big three that most people know are the Toyota Supra, the Nissan Skyline GT-R, and the Mazda RX-7, but there was a slew of incredible giants that came out of the island nation.

One such legend came from automaker Honda; and no, we’re not talking about the NSX. There was a much humbler sports car that surprised everyone. It changed people's outlook on what a sports car could be. The Acura Integra Type R.

Marketed in the United States under Honda’s luxury and performance brand, Acura, the Integra is one of the best Japanese cars ever built. It is also widely considered to be one of the best front-wheel drive cars ever made. We take a dive into the Type R and look at ten facts that every enthusiast should know about this one-of-a-kind sports car.

This list of 10 things that every enthusiast should know about the Acura Integra Type R was collated using information from historical press releases from Honda and Acura. Information on used car prices of the Integra Type R was gathered from Bring A Trailer.

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In 1985 the Honda Civic was already on its third generation and had seen its fair share of success. In the new wave of sports cars pouring out of Japan, Honda wanted their shot. They decided that they would build a car based on Civic architecture with the intention of being a sportier, more luxurious version of the car. Thus, the Integra was born.

In the United States, the Integra was marketed under the Acura brand name which was intended for Honda’s luxury vehicles. It went through two generations of sales in the United States, with major success, before Honda decided it was time for the Type R, which debuted in 1995 in Japan and 1997 in the U.S.

By the time Acura had launched its first Integra Type R in the United States, the nameplate had already been running for more than a decade. The Integra was already much more popular in the United States than Honda had anticipated. Over its two-year production run, less than 5000 of the higher-performance second-generation GSR models were sold in the States.

Then came the Type R. The Integra Type R had been roaming the streets of Japan for two years by the time it hit the U.S. market, meaning public interest was incredibly high. Despite this, only around 2,700 of the first Type R made it into the hands of American drivers.

Just about everybody with even a passing interest in cars has heard about the VTEC engine. Whilst this is probably the main reason for the hype around the powertrain, there were plenty of other cars to run it, including the Integra Type R.

One of the major barriers to Japan’s automakers developing sports cars is that engines with higher displacement incur strict taxes in the country. This means that perfecting forced induction methods was necessary to create high-performance cars. While Toyota and Nissan were focused on turbochargers, Honda decided that they would simply change the cam timing profile. In other words, the VTEC engine is optimized in a way that at low RPM it prioritizes fuel economy but at high RPM it goes all out on power.

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One of the main aspects of the Integra that was so surprising to people is that it was a front-wheel drive car. In general, developing a high-performance car that outputs a lot of power is almost impossible using a front-wheel drive layout. Yet Honda achieved it. The Integra Type R is often praised as being the best front-wheel drive car ever made.

A fact little known by many, however, is that the Integra was actually available with another layout. While all-wheel drive wasn’t available for the Type R models, not many people know that the Integra even came in all-wheel drive. The Type R overshadowed a lot of the other models in general which means that the all-wheel drive models were lost to time.

There was much more to the Integra Type R’s engine than just power. The engine was designed in a way that it was fairly simple which makes it incredibly easy to work on; this is what makes cars with VTEC engines such a popular choice, both for collectors and tuners.

As mentioned, building a car with front-wheel drive was considered an odd choice by many. Cars that were hailed for their performance and their handling were all either all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive. However, Honda’s engineering was impeccable and the Integra Type R was a dream around the corners. Front-wheel drive also has other benefits, including making the car lighter on fuel.

Seeing as Honda’s goal with Integra was clearly to create something that was both performance-oriented and had a sense of luxury over other models, making it lightweight only made sense. A side bonus was that the weight of the car also managed to make it more economical.

The engineers at Honda were ruthless in their quest to cut weight even further for the Integra Type R model in order to improve performance. The air conditioning, cruise control, sunroof, and rear wiper were all taken out. Aluminum wheels were also used, and the windshield was even made 15 percent thinner. This culminated in a mind-blowing curb weight of 2,469 pounds and helped the car rocket from zero to 60 miles per hour in 6.3 seconds.

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The Integra Type R was built as Acura’s homologation into Group N racing. This meant that the Acura Integra Type R entered a plethora of touring car races. Before the existence of the Type R, however, the base Integra saw its own share of success. In 1986 and 1987 the Integra won consecutive IMSA International Sedan Series manufacturers' championships.

Once the Type R hit the track, however, things skyrocketed for the Integra. In the SCCA World Challenge Touring Car class the Integra competed in and won five consecutive titles from 1997 to 2001.

The BTC-T version of the Integra was also extremely successful. It was a modified Integra that utilized loopholes in the British Touring Car Championship to enter cars that weren’t on sale in the United Kingdom. The Integra won 27 races and solidified itself as champion in both 2006 and 2007.

The Acura Integra Type R is not just a car built for its looks. In the 1990s the wave of car mods was in full swing. Buying Japanese cars and putting a plethora of aftermarket parts on them to make them look cool was the norm. This meant that any car from Japan with an aero package instantly got a bad rap.

However, the Integra Type R’s aero is a testament to its racing background. It was a race car that was made for the road. Its rear spoiler may look fairly simple, but it succeeded at reducing lift by approximately 30 percent. The lip that you can see firmly under the front bumper was also engineered to ensure added stability at higher speeds.

People who bought and owned an Integra from its golden years, 1994 to 2001, will notice that the value of their cars has skyrocketed in the last couple of years. Even better if you own an Integra Type R or another rare spec of the sports car.

Acura Integra Type Rs have actually risen so much in value that mint condition 2001 examples have sold for higher than the MSRP of the brand-new Integra Type S. The average price of a second-hand Type R has also gone up significantly in the last five years with no sign of leveling out. A 7,000-mile 2000 Integra Type R even sold last year at nearly $115,000.

RELATED: Here's How The 2024 Acura Integra Type S Compares To The Honda Civic Type R

Long gone is the Integra Type R. The last real Acura Integra Type R sold in the United States was in 2001. The Honda variant continued to sell on the Japanese domestic market all the way up until 2006. After that, the Integra nameplate was discontinued. At least until recently.

In 2022 Acura surprisingly brought back the Integra, much to the delight of the car enthusiast community. It took until the 2023 model year that Acura decided to bring about the high-performance Type S, based on a lot of the architecture of the Honda Civic Type R. While it may not be an Integra Type R in name, it certainly is a worthy successor to the legendary badge.

Tyler Dupont has had a deep passion for cars his entire life. That coupled with his love to write has brought him to TopSpeed to share his love of the automotive world.