Before we deep-dive into the legendary Integra, I'm sure a few of our international readers are scratching their heads. Yes, we Americans only know the Integra with Acura's caliper badge on the front hood, even though in all other parts of the world outside of the U.S., the Integra is sold and badged as a Honda. This all goes back to the intended purpose of the Integra as a sportier, upscale coupe alternative to the hoi polloi's Civic.
Indeed, it made even more sense in 1986 when the first Integras invaded newly-minted Acura dealerships, just one year after the car's launch at home in Japan. Known internally by a range of acronyms between DA1-DA4, the Integra was a sleeker, more European design than the contemporary Civic, especially since every first-gen Integra sold in the U.S. is a three- or five-door liftback hatch.
The first-gen Integra incorporated refined components of the CRX Si's suspension, along with disc brakes on all four wheels. The revvy engine was one of the Integra's biggest selling points, each car using one of two variants of the D16A1 1.6-liter DOHC four-cylinder. In most Integras, that four-banger fed 113 hp and 99 lb.-ft. of torque to the front wheels through either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic.
The second-gen Integra—known as the DA5-DA9, DB1-DB2—landed in the U.S. in 1990, bringing with it a new 1.8-liter, 140-hp four-cylinder and a fully independent double-wishbone suspension at all four corners. The second-generation Integra was available in the U.S. in either a three-door hatchback or four-door sedan configuration. Initially available in RS, LS, and GS trims, a GS-R performance trim arrived in 1992 with an all-new 1.7-liter VTEC DOHC four-cylinder.
The GS-R was a revelation in the compact sport arena because it hid some genuinely revolutionary tech under the hood. This was the second vehicle imported to the U.S. to feature DOHC VTEC—the first being the NSX—so you can imagine the impact it made on tech-focused consumers (the USDM Civic Si featured a VTEC engine as well, but was SOHC). Power and performance was strong, with 160 hp and 117 lb.-ft. motivating a 2,600-pound frame. Of course, the GS-R added some other exclusive performance hardware, too, including up-rated struts, a stiffer anti-roll bar, a shorter final drive ratio, and better tires - and don't forget about the Aztec Green Pearl paint, exclusive to the DB2, alongside the red and white options.
The third and arguably most recognizable generation of Integra launched in 1993, carrying a range of alphanumeric chassis codes ranging between DB6-DB9, DC1-DC2, and DC4. The DOHC 1.8-liter carried over from the previous generation, including the rated 140 hp and 127 lb.-ft. output. Trims remained the same as well, starting with the RS, LS, GS, and GS-R-the latter's 1.8-liter VTEC four-pot boosted power to 170 hp and 128 lb.-ft. of torque, the highest output-per-liter of any naturally aspirated engine at that time, along with the requisite suspension upgrades.
The third-gen Integra marked the first—and until the current Civic Type R, the only—time a Honda Type R product made it to the United States, in the form of the 1997 Acura Integra Type R. Changes between even the GS-R and Type R are immense, a result of Honda's fastidious attention to detail. The chassis and portions of the body of the Integra Type R were seam-welded for extra structural rigidity, and suspension mounting points were also made stronger. A crash diet cut 33 pounds compared to the GS-R.
The hand-built 1.8-liter VTEC B18C5 four-cylinder used in the Integra Type R put out 195 hp and 130 lb-ft of torque, routed through a limited-slip front differential and five-speed manual transmission. Use it to its fullest extent, and 0-60 mph happens in the low six-second range but where the ITR shines most is on the track, attacking turns like a high-revving, FWD demon.
After the third-gen Integra ceased production in 2001, Acura changed gears with what would have been the fourth-gen Integra and instead introduced the RSX in the States, ending 15 years of the Integra nameplate in the U.S. Across the pond, the Integra name continued with the DC5 chassis but again, the Acura name remains in North America, while it carries the Honda badge elsewhere.
Acura Integra Highlights
From top to bottom of the lineup, from generation to generation, the Acura Integra was heralded as one of the finest-driving front-wheel-drive sport compacts money could buy. This was especially true with the GS-R and Type R variants, with contemporary reviews citing rewarding dynamics, neutral balance, and scintillating feedback that sometimes surpassed larger, more powerful sports cars.
A large portion of the hot Integra's specialness came from its engines, particularly the Type R's hand-built unit designed with hand-polished and ported intake ports, undercut valves, and high-compression pistons. These four-cylinders were absolute screamers, ripping right up to the USDM Type R's 8,400 rpm redline.
For simple, exceptionally well-balanced, front-drive, naturally aspirated sports coupes, it doesn't get much better than the Type R Integra. Unfortunately for those on the hunt, the market seems to have noticed this, and prices of the few well-kept examples still in existence are creeping above the $35,000 mark.
Acura Integra Buying Tips
Before you go scrambling for the local listings, you'll need to assess how you want to use your Integra. Any Integra with a manual transmission makes for an excellent starter autocross contender, track day learner, or back-road basher, especially if you throw the many, many volumes of aftermarket components at it.
For something you're going to modify, we'd highly suggest avoiding the Type R, as that car is best enjoyed when left bone stock (this sentiment is that of the author only, and not reflected by any living soul within the Super Street Network), and any irreversible modifications you make to the car will only devalue it in the long run. Stick with the best GS-R (or even lesser trim) you can afford and proceed from there.
Unfortunately, the majority of Integras, regardless of age and generation, were treated as consumable objects—so good luck finding a clean, low-mileage example of any trim other than the Type R. Even finding one under the 150,000-mile mark might prove tricky.
Good news—if you're not afraid of some mileage, Integras are absurdly reliable, usually requiring only regular maintenance to remain in tip-top mechanical nick. Again, we're betting few Integras have survived with such regular care, and fewer still have thorough maintenance records, so you'll need to exercise your best judgment. A pre-purchase inspection by a knowledgeable mechanic couldn't hurt.
There are a few things to look for when buying an Acura Integra, regardless of model year:
- Hondas of this vintage often struggle with corrosion, especially around the rear wheel wells. This is exacerbated if the car spent much of its life in the Rust Belt.
- Body seals and weather stripping can be weak and dried-out if they haven't been replaced, so water leakage is common.
- Peek under the car if you can and look for any obvious oil leaks or torn CV boots.
- Transmission synchros are one of the few weak points of the Integra, so keep an ear out for grinding sounds and notchy shifts.
Acura Integra Quick Facts
- First year of production: 1985
- Last year of production: 2001 (U.S. )
- Total 1992-1993 GS-Rs sold: 3,968 (U.S. )
- Total 1997-1998, 2000-2001 Type Rs sold: 3,828 (U.S. )
- Original price: $24,000 (1997 Type R)
- Incredible hand-built 8,400-rpm screamer in the Type R
Acura Integra FAQ
You have questions about the Acura Integra. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked Integra queries:
Is the Acura Integra a sports car?
If we're adhering to the strict Old World definition of what a sports car is, then no, it's not. However, under those parameters of two-seats, rear-wheel drive, and soft top, not even the mighty Porsche 911 qualifies, so the lines have blurred since that definition was conceived. Still, it's not quite the same as a Miata, BRZ, or Boxster, so it's better qualified as a sport compact—a very capable sport compact, at that.
Will Acura bring back the Integra?
Unfortunately, if it's the Integra name you're after, probably not. It's been a long time since any Acura model has worn anything other than a series of letters on its trunk or hatch, and we can't imagine the automaker changing course on that anytime soon. However, the idea of a small, tossable sports sedan or coupe isn't out of the question, especially with the hullabaloo surrounding the popular Type S concept.
Why did Acura stop making the Integra?
The final generation of Integra and RSX failed to achieve the popularity of its predecessors, and as the Civic became more refined, the need for an upscale alternative dwindled.