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RE: Honda Integra Type R (DC2): PH Heroes

RE: Honda Integra Type R (DC2): PH Heroes

Sunday 30th April 2017

Honda Integra Type R (DC2): PH Heroes

Nearly 20 years after its UK introduction, the Integra remains as sublime as ever



Though they have been altered to some extent, certain PH Heroes have seen their fundamentals continued in successive models. A BMW M5 is still a V8 supersaloon, for example. The next Audi RS4 will have a turbocharged V6, just like the original. The MX-5 remains a small, light roadster with a revvy twin-cam in it. And the Lotus Elise is, well, a Lotus Elise.

Well you're not buying it for the looks...
Well you're not buying it for the looks...
The same cannot be said for the Honda Integra Type R. Indeed, sacrilegious though it may sound on these pages, it's hard to think of a recipe for a less popular car in 2017. Think about it: peak torque of 131lb ft delivered at 7,300rpm; dorky looks with a less than prestigious badge; front-wheel drive and manual only; air-con and a CD player on the options list. 1998 was a while ago but it's not that many years really - driver focused cars weren't exactly desperately popular then, let alone now. There's no way that something like the Integra Type R could make production now, making its existence all the more important.

Want proof that this sort of car doesn't work anymore? Look at the GT86 and BRZ, a pair of Japanese coupes that are unapologetically driver focused with naturally aspirated engines, limited-slip diffs and slender kerbweights. And how many of those do you see compared to Audi TTs, VW Sciroccos and BMW 2 Series?

One of a kind
So while there's no chance of a car this raw and this uncompromising being produced again, the fact that the Integra Type R was made - and was so very, very good - is absolutely cause for celebration. Particularly with Honda having recently acquired a fantastic Championship White UK car.

On the right road the Integra is incredible
On the right road the Integra is incredible
This is a better driver's car than a GT86. It just is. And yes, that's despite the front-wheel drive and the Toyota having 20 years of technology in its favour. We'll deal with exactly why that is shortly, but even before dropping into a red Recaro - mind that bolster! - there's reason to believe the Integra will deliver.

The Japanese Integra Type R was first launched in 1995, the first bespoke Type R after the NSX launched the brand in 1992. The UK car arrived in 1998, the first Type R for our market and one hell of a way to introduce racy Hondas. Think of how this must have looked in a late 90s Honda showroom, before the S2000 and before Civic Type Rs: it was Accords, Legends, CR-Vs, that type of thing. 'Mad' surely doesn't even come close.

And even for those entirely ignorant of the whole Type R fascination, the Integra's spec gives cause for considerable excitement. Peak power? 190hp at 7,900rpm. Top speed? 145mph, having reached 62mph in 6.7 seconds. The kerbweight is 1,125kg, or around a quarter of a tonne less than a current Civic Type R. The spec sheet makes special mention of the helical LSD, the "aerodynamically balanced" chin spoiler and the short shift titanium gearknob. Driver focused is a throwaway term in a world of AMG SUVs, two-tonne Porsches and the M4 Convertible, but it's the key tenet of the Integra's considerable appeal. And why it didn't prove all that popular, ironically enough. Fripperies and gratuitous adornments simply don't feature anywhere. Call it 106 Rallye syndrome, where stripped out road cars are only really appreciated once they're no longer on sale.

Great engine, great chassis, great car
Great engine, great chassis, great car
Just kicked in...
We have to talk about the engine, don't we? The B18C is a legendary Honda VTEC engine, and for very good reason. It's a legendary engine full stop, up there with the Porsche Mezger, BMW's S54 and the M159 AMG V8. Yes, even though it's four-cylinder. You'll probably know this already but for response, for excitement and for noise, this absolutely must rank with the best.

It's not some peaky, obstreperous mess of an engine, either; the Integra Type R will bimble around town at less than 2,000rpm like your Granddad's Civic, entirely benign and pleasant in that famed Honda tradition. It will cruise without fuss too, albeit not far off the redline of a diesel...

Get chance to extend the engine, though, and the VTEC magic - this is the yo moment, right? - explodes to the fore. Engines simply don't behave like this in 2017, and more's the pity. It reacts to every tiny flex on the throttle and, when it passes 5,800rpm, takes on a fierce, thrilling, wild character that four-cylinder cars so rarely do. The noise is savage, the performance addictive and the whole experience completely intoxicating. Matched to a gearbox of rare quality and precision, the way an Integra Type R accelerates really is spectacular.

Here's the thing, though: the Integra genius doesn't simply hang off an incredible engine, as certain - and to remain unnamed - Type Rs have. While the engine is a highlight, it doesn't shine markedly brighter than any other element - that's how good the whole car is. It's Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects, the leading role in what is a magnificent cast.

Want luxury? Look elsewhere!
Want luxury? Look elsewhere!
Torturous analogy aside, there simply isn't a bad element to the Integra's dynamics. Well, apart from the iffy tyres it was delivered on, a hangover from the previous owner. It's gloriously simple too, a good reminder that the contemporary fascination with modes, settings and configurability really cannot match a well set-up and well engineered car. The dampers are fixed-rate, though of course dealing with such little weight means they don't have to be rock solid. The tyres have a chunky 195/55 profile too. The steering is hydraulic. The noise - that glorious, glorious noise - is there whether you like it or not, without any alteration possible. That means it requires commitment from you, basically, but the rewards are more than worth the effort.

Best of the best
The chassis complements that engine perfectly: it's intense and absorbing, unlike anything modern you care to mention, but possessed of real quality too. With so little torque - 131lb ft is less than a 1.0-litre Civic now - the diff is not overwhelmed as it is in so many turbo hot hatches. The sensation is subtle, delicate almost, the car's line tightened precisely under power rather than wrenched towards corner exit. Well, as far as the tyres allow at least. And the steering tells you so much about this behaviour too, again in a measured and lucid fashion that many hyper sensitive modern systems simply don't replicate.

Being so light means the Integra almost glides across the ground, rather in contrast to a Civic Type R and, again, so many new cars. There's so little inertia to the way it moves and such involvement from the seat and the steering that confidence grows quickly, with no need to second guess inputs or reactions. A lift here, a brake there - the car responds exactly how you would hope, the Integra sweeping you along in its every movement like the very best driver's cars. It remains absolutely brilliant to drive.

We won't see the badge again - try one now!
We won't see the badge again - try one now!
It's enjoyable at less than ten tenths too, even if it's less relaxing than anything contemporary on the motorway. The seats are fantastically supportive, the wheel a joy to hold and that titanium gearknob absolutely perfect. The nerdy details - look at the rear screen, with 'LSD VTEC DOHC' written across it - aren't those to impress the average fan, but they're wonderful little touches for the committed few.

How many constitutes a few? Well just 961 Integra Type Rs are recorded on HowManyLeft, which is half the UK peak of a decade ago. Furthermore, while those who truly appreciate the dorky little Honda may be small, the market is beginning to wake up to its significance: where not so long ago £5K would have bought a really good car, that's now the entry point for cars typically with more than 100,000 miles. The best ones are beginning to breach £10K, which looks like an awful lot for a 1.8-litre Honda that's 20 years old. But for one of the most rewarding, exciting and iconic driver's cars of the 1990s? Worth every penny.


HONDA INTEGRA TYPE R (DC2)
Engine
: 1,797cc, inline-four
Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive, limited-slip differential
Power (hp): 190@7,900rpm
Torque (lb ft): 131@7,300rpm
0-62mph: 6.7sec
Top speed: 145mph
Weight: 1,200kg (EU with 75kg driver)
On sale: 1998-2001
Price new: c. £23,000
Price now: c. £5,000 - £13,000

 

 

 

 

   
Author
Discussion

Thunderhead

Original Poster:

223 posts

36 months

Sunday 30th April 2017
quotequote all
I miss mine, was a superb car that was massive fun to drive. Completely at odds with the modern approach of massive power and torque that can rarely be exploited unless you have a track completely to yourself.

It was the attention to detail that set it apart as well, all the way down to thinner windscreen glass, every component was engineered to aid performance, a rare little beast for sure.

MDMA .

3,789 posts

26 months

Sunday 30th April 2017
quotequote all
I'd love to find a mint one of these, with an EK9, to put away for weekend blasts smile

SidewaysSi

3,855 posts

159 months

Sunday 30th April 2017
quotequote all
Great car but not as brilliant as some people make out IMO. I truly loved mine but the steering in particular was poor. And once you learned it, it didn't provide the challenge of the best sports cars.

I ran mine alongside my Elise and Seven. If the opportunity arose to go for a blast, the only time I would pick the Honda was if the roads were salty and wet.

A great car and as good as any FWD hatch/coupe but not as well resolved as something truly focused. As you would expect.

ZX10R NIN

9,259 posts

50 months

Sunday 30th April 2017
quotequote all
A friend had one of these while I admired it with its sweet handling & manic engine but compared to the R5 GTT I had it just seemed like hard work & noisy but on the upside he never had to play Russian Roulette as to whether it would start once he'd filled up with fuel biglaugh

Mike1990

467 posts

56 months

Sunday 30th April 2017
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Always liked them, but i prefer the EK9, give me a OE example and i'll be one truly happy chap!

Its just a shame that 'most' the DC2/EK9's that are left are stripped out sheds.
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alfie2244

5,708 posts

113 months

Sunday 30th April 2017
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Only ever used as a track car but I can honestly say my DC2 is the only car I miss.

R-o9omm

2 posts

29 months

Sunday 30th April 2017
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90s Honda showrooms used to have some great cars in them ....

CRX and Preludes in particular, both had VTEC's too.

Why did they ever stopped making them ;-(


Addymk2

235 posts

97 months

Sunday 30th April 2017
quotequote all
ZX10R NIN said:
A friend had one of these while I admired it with its sweet handling & manic engine but compared to the R5 GTT I had it just seemed like hard work & noisy but on the upside he never had to play Russian Roulette as to whether it would start once he'd filled up with fuel biglaugh
I ran one for 6-8 months, on the right road... It was sublime. But off the right road it slowly started to do my head in. To make progress, you had to utterly kick its head in. I still admire them, but I wouldn't buy another. That and the fact that every other week it had a new quirk that needed addressing...

The GT86 hasn't sold in vast numbers as, to be frank, it's over priced.



Grantstown

70 posts

12 months

Sunday 30th April 2017
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I did love the power delivery of my S2000 but the combination of a snowy winter and the occasional frustration of being outgunned by fast diesels convinced me to change. I wish I still had the thing but sadly at the time I could only maintain 1 car.

sege

163 posts

147 months

Sunday 30th April 2017
quotequote all
SidewaysSi said:
Great car but not as brilliant as some people make out IMO. I truly loved mine but the steering in particular was poor. And once you learned it, it didn't provide the challenge of the best sports cars.

I ran mine alongside my Elise and Seven. If the opportunity arose to go for a blast, the only time I would pick the Honda was if the roads were salty and wet.

A great car and as good as any FWD hatch/coupe but not as well resolved as something truly focused. As you would expect.
I think they are as great as everyone makes out. I had mine for 11 years and was finally tempted to sell when I was trying to make the man maths work to buy a Caterham 360R. That was too expensive though and I ended up buying another dream car instead, an Elise!

In comparison the Integra did feel much more of a 'normal' car but it was still very special in its own right. Superior engine to the Elise, no question. More comfortable, usable and practical of course.

A better way to look at it is that a Caterham is an ultimate experience, not bettered by anything, there are only alternatives. But it's an extreme little car!
An Elise is an exceptional sports car, better than nearly anything else out there. More practical than a Caterham, superior in some ways too (steering etc).
A DC2R is an exceptional small coupe, better than nearly anything else out there as a drivers car, bar things like an Elise and Caterham, but much, much more practical, and superior in some ways too, (engine, reliability etc).

There all just different points in the practicality scale and all better drivers cars than most of stuff out there, and anything at all that is new or modern.

ndj

212 posts

147 months

Sunday 30th April 2017
quotequote all
My mate ran one of these at the same time I had an Accord Type R back in the day. I only drove the Integra twice (was a passenger loads of times over 3 years) and my overriding impression was gutless buzz-box with atrocious ride quality. Perhaps I was pampered by my Accord.

I'm sure it would have mullered the Accord on a track, but for the road it wasn't for me... and I'm a major Honda fan.

Hellbound

2,324 posts

101 months

Sunday 30th April 2017
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I first laid eyes on one of these back in school. My maths teacher, a silver haired lady approaching 60, bought one from new. Over the years she piled on the miles, i often saw her blasting along a B road we both used - she wasn't shy when it came to overtaking!

She cemented her coolness when the headmaster had to have a quiet word after she was seen by parents overtaking the school bus in a very 'sprightly' manner!

G321

392 posts

129 months

Sunday 30th April 2017
quotequote all
SidewaysSi said:
Great car but not as brilliant as some people make out IMO. I truly loved mine but the steering in particular was poor. And once you learned it, it didn't provide the challenge of the best sports cars.

I ran mine alongside my Elise and Seven. If the opportunity arose to go for a blast, the only time I would pick the Honda was if the roads were salty and wet.

A great car and as good as any FWD hatch/coupe but not as well resolved as something truly focused. As you would expect.
I disagree about the steering. At low speeds it didn't feel that special but the more you pushed the better the chassis and steering felt

Jonstar

319 posts

116 months

Sunday 30th April 2017
quotequote all
As Matt has touched on its rare to drive a car where every aspect of driving feels so right.

The engine is phenomenal not that powerful but the way it revs, responds and sounds makes it feel truly exotic.

The gearbox is precise and full of feel but crucially not notchy. Although, it could do with a 6th gear

The steering is very good, well weighted (surprisingly heavy) and direct. A slower rack than most modern cars but up there with the best assisted racks. Better than my mx5 and that's generally accepted as being up there in terms of feel.

Best of all though is the chassis, floats over bumps, rear comes into play immediately on turn in but never feels like it will turn on you. So confidence inspiring.

Then there's the little things, the rarity, the lack of sound proofing, the recaros and the fact that the only people who get it are true petrolheads.

No it will never handle like a lotus, it will never thrill like a caterham and would never be as glamorous as a Ferrari. But, when you take into account price, rarity, feel and practicality it's hard to beat and there will never be another.

acme

1,546 posts

123 months

Sunday 30th April 2017
quotequote all
Hellbound said:
I first laid eyes on one of these back in school. My maths teacher, a silver haired lady approaching 60, bought one from new. Over the years she piled on the miles, i often saw her blasting along a B road we both used - she wasn't shy when it came to overtaking!

She cemented her coolness when the headmaster had to have a quiet word after she was seen by parents overtaking the school bus in a very 'sprightly' manner!
That's a cracking story, made me smilesmile

SidewaysSi

3,855 posts

159 months

Sunday 30th April 2017
quotequote all
G321 said:
SidewaysSi said:
Great car but not as brilliant as some people make out IMO. I truly loved mine but the steering in particular was poor. And once you learned it, it didn't provide the challenge of the best sports cars.

I ran mine alongside my Elise and Seven. If the opportunity arose to go for a blast, the only time I would pick the Honda was if the roads were salty and wet.

A great car and as good as any FWD hatch/coupe but not as well resolved as something truly focused. As you would expect.
I disagree about the steering. At low speeds it didn't feel that special but the more you pushed the better the chassis and steering felt
It got better with force through the diff. Pure speed e.g. a motorway didn't help it so it often felt surprisingly muted when it should have been bubbling with feel. I really liked my Integra, did 50k miles in 4 years on road and track but the steering was poor. There are other power steered cars which I much prefer.

However, I do think it is a good car but never as engaging as my old 205 GTI for instance. And being honest I do prefer the rear drive balance and chassis of my current E36 328i and even it's low speed steering feel.

The Honda is /was a great car but not IMO as brilliant as people make out if you like truly hardcore cars. But admittedly for sub £8k they are hard to beat out of the box.

I am thinking of a cheap hot hatch soon and will probably go for a Clio or some description rather than revisit the Integra.

rallycross

8,571 posts

162 months

Sunday 30th April 2017
quotequote all
Jonstar said:
Then there's the little things, the rarity, the lack of sound proofing, the recaros and the fact that the only people who get it are true petrolheads.

No it will never handle like a lotus, it will never thrill like a caterham and would never be as glamorous as a Ferrari. But, when you take into account price, rarity, feel and practicality it's hard to beat and there will never be another.
Agree totally.
These are an exceptional car to drive, Honda engineering at its very best.

jwilliamsm3

133 posts

54 months

Sunday 30th April 2017
quotequote all
I wanted one of these as a daily, but I just cold not find a nice example anywhere, I was willing to pay decent money aswell.
Ended up with a fez ST180 instead.
Will have one I need the future if I find a nice one

s m

15,748 posts

128 months

Sunday 30th April 2017
quotequote all
ZX10R NIN said:
A friend had one of these while I admired it with its sweet handling & manic engine but compared to the R5 GTT I had it just seemed like hard work & noisy but on the upside he never had to play Russian Roulette as to whether it would start once he'd filled up with fuel biglaugh
Did you get the anti-percolation kit?

Steve vRS

2,972 posts

166 months

Sunday 30th April 2017
quotequote all
In 2001 I nearly bought one of these but instead chose a Bugeye Impreza WRX as in my naive eyes, power was king.

Wish I'd got the Teg now.