Legend. It’s a word that is often banded about too much, and used in the type of quantity that gives it about as much potency as a watered-down beer. However, for this car, it’s as appropriate as an pouring custard on to an apple crumble. That’s because this car is the Honda DC2 Integra Type R, a car that is deemed by many as being the best front wheel drive car, ever. That’s quite an accolade for a car that has been knocking about since the late 90s.
This is a sports coupe, so it would be rude of me not to start with what’s underneath the iconic Championship white bonnet. It’s a naturally aspirated 1.8 litre petrol engine – the B18C if you want to get nerdy – which offers 190hp with 178Nm of torque.
That may seem a bit pathetic by today’s standards, but it’s the way how the power is delivered that matters. This, of course, has Honda’s famous VTEC, meaning that once you get past 6,000 revs or so, all hell breaks loose, and it will keep going until you hit a redline of almost 9,000. Yes, 9,000. This car revs for DAYS.
This frantic power is mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox that is arguably one of the best in the world, and if you work it hard enough, you’ll hit 62mph in just 6.7 seconds. From there, it will keep howling its way to a top speed of 145mph. See, I told you the power figures don’t tell the whole story.
However, for me, where this car really stands out is the way in which it tackles corners, because it’s simply on another level. The steering is power assisted, but it’s hydraulic, not electric, meaning you get a lovely weight, proper feedback and a steering wheel that’s chattier than a talk show host. Then you have the chassis, which may as well be telepathic.
It knows what you want to do next before you do, and if it were human, it would be finishing my sentences right about now. The car is light, meaning it dances its way through corners yet it still feels rigid and well put together. There’s plenty of grip on offer as well, and as standard, a limited slip diff is fitted to offer better traction. There’s also all-round double wishbone suspension to make sure this car handles like it should, and my word does it.
I could talk about the handling until the cows come home, so let me move on to other aspects of this Japanese icon. Let’s talk about the driving sensation. It’s raw, engaging and offers the level of involvement that some cars could only dream of. For a driver, the Integra Type R is a treat for all of the senses and this is a car that really does get the adrenaline pumping. You genuinely feel a buzz after you’ve driven this car, it’s intoxicating.
The seating position is bang on, and the Recaro seats hug you like only a mother could – they are fantastic. They are low slung like they should be, and the bolstering is wonderful, although you may find them a bit too snug if you’re a little…fat.
The top of the seat is also rock hard aswell, so it’s not very comfortable for the back of your head, but expecting comfort from this car is like going to McDonald’s and expecting caviar. Mind you, having said that, this car isn’t what I’d call a boneshaker. Yes, the ride is firm and busy, but the damping is commendable.
Let’s head back to the engine and the gearbox, because they work together as well as Ant and Dec do, and it’s a joy to use both. The power delivery won’t be for everyone as you really do need to drive this car like you stole it to really get the best out of it. This may seem like hard work, but trust me, it’s so rewarding, and chasing down that VTEC becomes addictive.
The gearchange is rifle bolt slick, and the clutch has a satisfying weight to it. The pedals are laid out well, they all offer a good feedback, and more importantly, they are set up for heel and toe gearchanges. How, just how, did Honda make a front wheel drive car this good? All the planets must have been in perfect alignment when Honda set out to make this car, because it’s simply out of this world. I can only apologise for that cheesy and cringy metaphor.
Actually, Honda didn’t need the planets to align as the Japanese brand had the right components to begin with. Not only is there the perfect marriage of the B18C engine and 5-speed manual gearbox, but it’s little details, such as a windscreen made using thinner glass to save weight, a strut brace front and rear to give better rigidity, and extra spot welds to give the car greater strength.
The Integra Type R was actually the first Type R we got in the UK as the NSX Type R and the EK9 Civic Type R were sold only in Japan, and in fact, the Japanese had the Integra Type R back in 1995, whereas we had to wait until 98. The Japanese version also had a little more power and a different front end, which I personally think looks better, but that’s subjective of course.
When it was on sale, it would have cost you £23,000, which in today’s money, with inflation would be roughly £40,000. If you happen to pick one up today, then of course you’d be looking at the used car market, where you can pick them up from around £5,000, although that would get you a high mileage example that will need a bit of love. For a tidy example you’ll be looking at prices starting from around £10,000, which I think is a bit of bargain, given the overall package you’d be getting.
Would I buy one of these? If I didn’t need the practicality of a hatchback then you best your arse I would. This is car isn’t completely impractical, but the rear seats are pretty cramped as you can imagine, but the same can be said for the likes of the Ford Mustang and Subaru BRZ I’ve also reviewed.
The boot is far from small, though, but what I will say, is that the boot lid is actually quite heavy, heavier than what I was expecting. However if you want a practical Type R, go and get a Civic, or if you want to be a bit alternative, an Accord. Mind you, this car was never made with practicality in mind was it?
What the designers did have in mind, though, was a raw, unfiltered idea of what a proper sports coupe should feel like, and you know what? Honda has definitely met that design brief, and it’s little wonder that so many have praised this slice of Championship White legendary.
And there we have it, I’ve uttered the L word again. It’s not a word I throw around lightly, but in the case of the Integra Type R, it fits like a glove. Sadly, it’s a car that the motoring world is unlikely to ever see the likes of again, but I’d say that’s even more reason to be grateful that it even exists in the first place.