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By Tom Strongman
December 11, 1998
Acura's hot Integra GS-R has the mechanical soul of a racing car, yet it can be as docile as a family sedan when you want it to be. The wedge-shaped Integra, first introduced in 1994, is Acura's entry-level model, and it has been the best seller
in its category. A four-door sedan is also available. The GS-R is the hot rod sibling of the more refined LS and GS. The 1.8-liter, dual-overhead-cam (DOHC) four-cylinder has 16 valves and a high-tech intake system that gives it 170 horsepower, 30
more than the standard Integra. This Mighty Mouse engine gets its muscles from the VTEC (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control) system that was first used in the NSX sports car. VTEC works by changing the engine's valve time throughout the rpm
range, which enables it to have two distinct personalities. Across-the-board drivability is improved as a result. In the old days an engine with this level of output would have had very little low-speed power, but VTEC maximizes both low-speed torque and
high-speed power. Tech talk aside, VTEC makes the Integra civil for around-town driving because it responds to the throttle like a larger motor. It pulls well without being rowed through the gears. If you bury the throttle and see the tachometer
swing around to 7,600 rpm it is positively scintillating. The way it revs, this engine feels more like a motorcycle than a car. Granted, most folks won't drive this way very often because they are unaccustomed to revving an engine this high, because
things get rather loud when you do, and because you're going seriously fast. The GS-R differs from bigger Acuras because it is not nearly as quiet. Not only is the driver more involved with the vehicle, the sounds of the engine working are always
present. Many driving enthusiasts will appreciate that since it puts them in touch with what the vehicle is doing. The benefit of 170 horsepower in a 2,667-pound car shows up when you need speed. The GS-R accelerates with more authority than you might
expect for a car of its size. Passing traffic on a two-lane highway requires nothing more than a quick downshift and a punch of the throttle. The close-ratio manual transmission lets the driver get the most out of the engine. The shift linkage on our test
car was pretty stiff, and it was easy to select the wrong gear because of the narrow shift pattern. If there's any downside to the GS-R, it would be that its overall gearing is low and that keeps the engine spinning pretty hard at 70 mph. The
double-wishbone suspension, tuned to deliver a performance-oriented ride, keeps the GS-R glued to the road. It relishes twisty highways, where it can strut its stuff. The sports suspension has excellent road feel and lets the driver know what the car is
doing at all times. The GS-R is not all performance. Comfort is an issue, as well. Features such as anti-lock brakes, dual airbags, AM//FM//CD player, air conditioning, tilt wheel, power windows and locks, power
moonroof and leather seats are all standard. The seats, which have a wide range of adjustment to accommodate various size drivers, have large side bolsters to hold occupants in place during vigorous driving. The instrument panel has gauges that are
easy to read at a glance. Sliding levers for adjusting heating//cooling are not as handy or intuitive as rotary dials, and those in our test car were fairly stiff. Cupholders pull out from the dash and were not as substantial as some in newer models.
The back seat is small, as one would expect in a sport coupe, but it folds forward. Price The base price of our test car was $22,100, and all equipment was standard. With destination of $455, the sticker price was $22,555. Warranty
Four years or 50,000 miles. To get in touch with Tom Strongman call 234-4349 or e-mail: email@example.com. Point: The GS-R is a fun-to-drive sports coupe with performance that seems to overshadow the car. The VTEC engine has bo
low-speed response and high-speed power. Counterpoint: The Integra is not as quiet as the larger Acuras and the back seat is small. SPECIFICATIONS: ENGINE: 1.8-liter, 4-cyl. TRANSMISSION: 5-speed WHEELBASE: 101.2 inches CURB
WEIGHT: 2,667 lbs. BASE PRICE: $22,100 PRICE AS DRIVEN: $22,555 MPG RATING: 25 city, 31 hwy.