Integra Type R, a car entrenched within the annals of automotive history as one of the finest front-drivers ever. It was cheaper than the Accord as well plus, whilst not a design classic, it had the visual aggression of a coupe shape too.
If it faced a superior sibling in the Integra, contemporary opposition of the Accord was less talented. Various V6 Mondeos, Vectras and 156s were often dispatched in group tests so comfortably that the Accord lined up against Japanese rally reps like the Impreza Turbo. For ultimate thrills, the Impreza surpassed the Accord, but the Type R was far closer than anyone predicted.
When the spec is given a thorough inspection, it's not hard to see why. It even makes the later Civic look rather undernourished in its engineering. The Type R was 57kg lighter than a 2.0-litre Accord thanks to the removal of some sound deadening, taking its kerbweight down to 1,306kg. By way of modern comparison, a Peugeot RCZ R weighs just 26kg less at 1,280kg. This is despite a reinforced rear bulkhead that contributed to a 40 per cent stiffer bodyshell than standard.
The 2.2-litre engine was a development of that found in the Prelude, but comprehensively overhauled with a higher compression ratio (11:1), low-friction pistons, sequential fuel injection, a new intake manifold and a free-flow exhaust.
Five, four, three, two, one...
The five-speed manual gearbox (remember those?) featured shorter ratios, but the gearing still allowed the Type R to hit 120mph in fourth (!). The long gears predictably dented acceleration; 0-60mph took seven seconds but nearly 20 (19.7) was required for 100mph as the engine dropped out of VTEC when selecting third and fourth.
A limited-slip differential was also standard (omitted from the later Civic), although the uprated brakes (300mm discs at the front, solid 260mm at the rear) were described by Autocar as 'effective rather than inspirational'.
Japan's Sierra Cosworth
Our featured car is facelifted 2002 example, standard aside from a new exhaust and induction kit. Today it still feels composed, accurate and agile, the engine predictably doing its best work (with even more noise now!) beyond 5,500rpm. The Recaro seats are a real asset too, holding you in place without unnecessary bolstering.
Facelifted cars start at £2,000 and aren't afflicted by the synchro issues; they can also be fuelled by 95RON fuel, rather than the 98RON required by the earlier models. But all Type Rs require a cambelt change at 70,000 miles, and some cars will be due their second swap by now.
Then post-2003, the fast Honda saloon was no more in the UK. Japan received a 'Euro R' based on the CL7 Accord, but the only ones in Britain are imports. The Euro R used the 2.0-litre K20A engine with 220hp and the useful addition of a six-speed gearbox. The focus and subtle styling remained, though.
It may not thrill like an S2000 or enjoy the Integra's legendary status, but the Accord Type R remains a great driver's car. Despoilered, it epitomises Q-car cool and remains practical enough to transport a family if required. As the latest news on the next Civic Type R has shown, even Honda can't halt the inexorable rise of the turbocharger so the models of the late 90s and early 2000s really are the likes of which we won't see again. An Accord Type R will remind any enthusiast just what a fantastic period that was.
HONDA ACCORD TYPE R
Engine: 2,157cc 4-cyl
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Power (hp): 212@7,200rpm
Torque (lb ft): 158@6,700rpm
0-62mph: 7.1 sec (to 60mph)
Top speed: 140mph
On sale: 1998-2003
Price new (1998): £23,250
Price now: £1,000-£4,500
A huge thanks to PHer Jake Harvey for putting his car forward for this feature