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Integra Type R - A unique feeling

Honda Integra

Type R

When Honda is serious

When Honda builds a car that has to be something special, it usually is. The first car from Honda in this category was the Honda S600, the year was 1964. Although the engine in this small Cabriolet was only 600 Ccm, it produced 57 hp and could drive 145 km/h. Everything in the engine was made of aluminum. It was a DOHC crossflow cylinder head, and the engine had a crankshaft with needle bearings. A little jewel of an engine which could rotate up to 9000 revolutions. Later cars like the S800, S2000 and NSX followed. I have often read about and admired these fantastic creatures from Honda.

First meeting with Type R

In 1997, Honda launched a racing car for the road, it was the Integra in a Type R version (DC2). It was a car that ordinary people could buy; the price was just over DKK 300,000. It was the first Type R Honda that came to Denmark. I saw it at my favorite Honda dealer in Glejbjerg, and wished so bitterly that the white beauty could be mine. But no, firstly, it had already been sold, and secondly, my family couldn't be in it either, so it was just a case of forgetting that car. But I never forgot that model! It would be until June 2020 before I had the opportunity to try one, and it was a fun experience.

My first encounter with a car icon

I have tried many different of the slightly more special Honda models, but my expectations for an Integra Type R were high, and I was not disappointed.

When you start the engine, it sounds like any other Honda from the era, jumps into action and runs perfectly straight away. The sound inside the cabin is not directly intrusive, but everything going on out front is clearly heard, and it is a healthy mechanical sound. One might be led to believe that this is an ordinary Japanese car from the era, but this is no ordinary car, and you should realize that immediately. This current car I had the opportunity to test was one of the few, one that has survived almost without modifications. Despite its 22 years, it is original, and with only 88,000 on the clock I could get the original Type R experience here.

As soon as the car starts to roll, you quickly notice that the car is heavily sprung compared to most cars, but as soon as you are on an asphalted road, the car settles down. The next thing you notice is the direct steering and the absolutely fantastic gear change. The gear shift is like a well-oiled gun, no hint of slack. The steering wheel cannot be adjusted, but the steering wheel, gear lever and the fantastic Recaro seats are perfect for a sports car.

Calm down, it's just a car

Yes, perhaps, but out on the small roads you quickly discover that this is a special car. The car lies as if molded to the road, and you feel everything from the road up through the seat and steering wheel. The steering is suitably sensitive, you are in complete harmony with the car after a moment. Not a temperamental ghost of a car that requires a long time to get used to, no the fact is that this model is easy to drive and at the same time an experience. I couldn't help but think: "What a unique feeling!" Such an old car has no right to give this feeling. The engine has a very special character. At low revs just like a normal 1.8 engine, but from approx. 5,800 revolutions the miraculous happens; the engine changes sound, from a deep sports car sound, to the sound of a racing car. It's such a wild sound that you think to yourself: "Could this be an engine of just 1.8 liters without a turbo?" The sound from the engine, intake from the front and exhaust from the rear form a crescendo that is only matched by cars costing a million or more, even where the sound is quite often a cheat. Here the sound is real. If you open the bonnet, you expect to see something wildly sophisticated, but apparently it's a completely ordinary DOHC engine from the 90s. The engine even idles smoothly despite the high degree of tuning. No noise from valves or pistons, just a sewing machine-like sound. It can't really be surprising, because that's exactly what Honda can do.

Driving characteristics like a racing car

The car's driving characteristics surprise almost as much as the engine. Despite the front-wheel drive, it does not understeer, but simply follows the road and the selected curve, and all driver input is transmitted unfiltered with a competence that no other front-wheel drive car of the time could even come close to matching. The steering is suitably weighted and with good road feel, sharp without making the car seem restless. Once you've tried this car, you know how well a front-wheel drive car can drive. Although the suspension is stiff, it is not uncomfortable and it never affects the car's balance in a corner. The chassis does not flex, as was common on cars from that time. The Integra chassis is also stiffened in the Type R version. The Integra offers a true sports car driving experience. You just want to drive and drive, find more challenging turns, brake and accelerate again and again. This is one of the most uncompromising 4-seaters I've driven.

Cars like this unfortunately belong to the past. To make a car run like that, it must not be too heavy and the engine must be able to rotate. Honda then also lightened the Integra model when transitioning to Type R, no significant sound attenuation, thinner windows and A/C was something you had to order as extra equipment and have installed yourself. This car was created for sporty driving and not to feed the luxury beast. But this car makes it clear that almost all of today's cars have lost something on the way to safer and more ecological cars. The Euro 5 emissions standard in 2009 put an effective stop to engines that obtain power by means of extremely high revolutions.

More than the sum of its parts

This direct and intense driving feeling from this finely tuned Sport Coupe impresses, because after all, the Type R version of an Integra is "only" a factory-tuned standard car. But this car clearly shows that when Honda wants to, they can work small miracles with an ordinary car. It was with sadness that I handed the keys back to the car's owner. Right now, unfortunately, I don't have room for more cars in my garage, but if I have to have a car just for fun, then an Integra Type R is high on the list.

Is this the world's best front-wheel drive Sport Coupe? Yes, perhaps, especially if you ignore its successor, the DC5 model, which unfortunately never came to Denmark. But fortunately, Honda still makes Type R versions of their models. The 10th generation Civic is also available in a Type R, and it has set a new standard for front-wheel drive cars. Is the Integra DC 2 model missing something? Yeah, a 6th gear and a bit more torque wouldn't hurt.

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