These days many cars are marketed as being sporty, engaging, and a joy to drive, even when they are, well…not. It’s much easier and cost-effective for carmakers to slap an “S” or “R” badge on a car, than to give it zesty characteristics. But that notion isn’t always universal.
Enter the Honda/Acura Integra Type R, a car wholly deserving of that racy “Type R” badge. To this day it’s still one of the greatest front-wheel drive performance cars ever built, and this one—a Japanese market ’98 Honda Integra Type R—recently strut its stuff on eBay.
Feeling the need for speed? Here’s what makes these cars so special.
Rev Range for Days
Whether it’s a Japanese market, European market, or U.S. market Type R…one thing doesn’t change. These cars can rev, and rev, and rev. When the first Integra Type R hit U.S. shores in 1997, it offered up a punchy 195 horsepower at 8,000 rpm, generated from just 1.8 liters. Talk about pulling a lot from a little.
Climb the rpm range and Honda’s VTEC can vault these cars into the stratosphere. Then again, they weren’t a simple “parts bin” job. The Type R featured many unique components, from high compression pistons to lighter connecting rods and polished intake runners.
Front-wheel drive cars can offer properly brisk performance, though there’s always a limit. With the Integra Type R, Honda worked wizardry and turned its front-driver into a race car for the road. The source of this knife-edge handling comes from stiffer suspension tuning, more rigid chassis bracing, and crucially a limited-slip differential. Honda also spec’d these ‘Tegs with a close ratio five-speed gearbox, which made applying that flurry of power a fulfilling duty.
Everything You Need, Nothing You Don’t
Some performance cars go big on horsepower, and subsequently big on gadgets. The Type R didn’t. When they arrived in the U.S. in 1997, the limited-run cars eschewed sunroofs, cruise control, and some sound deadening material. Air-conditioning wasn’t standard, and all tallied up, the early cars cut about 100 pounds of curb weight.
Universally Accepted Styling
Here’s one thing you won’t ever hear. “Gee, I love the Integra Type R, but I just can’t stand the looks.” Arguably, through all Integra iterations, there’s never been a design minger. All still hold up well today, especially the R models with their racy badging and big rear wing.
U.S. allocation for the Type Rs increased over the years from a low-low of just 320 in 1997 to as many as 1,157 by 2001, but that doesn’t mean these are by any means common. The example pictured, a Japanese market import, is part of a rarer class still. And really, who would ever get tired of responding with “Type R” to the old “what do you drive” question.
Full disclosure– finding a good, well-maintained Integra can be harder than golfing a hole-in-one. In their day, these were performance cars that punched well above their weight class, and it isn’t uncommon to see used models thrashed to within an inch of their life. That said, the gems are out there and these future classics will continue to be more and more sought after as the years go by.