The Acura Integra GS-R sports coupe serves as ample evidence of how shopping by name alone can result in disappointment. The GS-R is the top-of-the-line Integra sports coupe, which has undergone a design change for 1994. Acura, of course, is the luxury division of Honda, a well-known and respected name. Yet, if you were to run out and grab a GS-R based on the Honda name alone, you'd end up with a small, cramped two-door that not only lacks the power of a larger, roomier Pontiac Grand Prix coupe, but also doesn't have the off-the-line pep of a Prix-yet costs about $2,000 more. A few numbers are in order-$19,650 versus $16,770. That's the base price of the GS-R coupe we test-drove compared with that of the Grand Prix SE coupe we had the opportunity to drive (Cartalk, Nov. 7). Add $450 to the Prix for optional anti-lock brakes (standard on the GS-R) plus $600 for the optional decor package that gives you the sporty plastic rocker panels and wheel-well extensions, and that brings you to $17,820, or $1,830 less for the midsize Prix that holds four adults that the subcompact GS-R (built on the same platform as the Honda Civic) that holds two adults and makes any back-seat passengers wish they'd stayed at the curb. Another set of numbers. The Integra GS-R is powered by a 1.8-liter, 16-valve, 170-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine and the Prix offers a 3.1-liter, 160-h.p., V-6. Yet the Prix develops 160 h.p. at 5200 r.p.m., the GS-R at 7600. That means the Prix flexes its muscle more quickly off the line while the GS-R is still warming up. The GS-R we tested comes to life in that second to third gear exchange, but seems locked in embryo stage in first. And while you have a choice of 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic with the Prix, you have to settle for a 5-speed manual in the GS-R. It's a smooth, short-throw unit, but because it doesn't look like Chicagoland expressways are going to be free of repair barricades in our lifetime, the 5-speed requires nerves of steel as well as a tibia made of the same material to depress the clutch a few hundred times in a rush-hour drive. The GS-R is not without merit, however. It features driver- and passenger-side air bags as standard; so does the Prix. It also has standard anti-lock brakes, for which you'll pay extra on the Prix. And the GS-R delivers 25 miles per gallon city/31 highway driving with manual versus 19/29 for the Prix with automatic, which until petrol reaches $2 a gallon seems a small price to pay for the room, comfort and quickness of the Prix versus the GS-R. The GS-R would be more lively if it had a V-6, but none is offered. When the Honda Accord gets a V-6 for 1995, perhaps one will be fitted into the smaller GS-R as well. But, then, there goes the m.p.g. Finally, look at the base price again: $19,650. You can thank the rising value of the yen against the U.S. dollar for inflating t he GS-R sticker to within a whisker of $20,000. Of course, you have to give some of the credit to the Acura name as well, which helped boost the sticker to justify selling it as a luxury Honda rather than an economy Civic. Standard equipment in the GS-R includes power brakes and steering, four-wheel, double-wishbone suspension and gas-pressurized shocks for good road-holding ability, power windows/door locks/mirrors, air conditioning, power moonroof, cruise control, AM/FM stereo with cassette, digital clock, tilt steering, remote hatch lid and fuel filler-door release, body-colored front and rear bumpers, rear hatch lid spoiler, rear window defroster/washer-wiper, and 15-inch all-season tires. If a Grand Prix SE and an Integra GS-R are parked in the driveway at the same time-and they were-and there's a choice of which set of keys to grab at the door-and there was-the Prix would be the choice-and it was.
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