Honda waved the wand and brought out a new Integra for its Acura luxury division after the car had been on the market for only three years. The sports model is decked out in new sheet metal for a midyear introduction as a 1990. Though the former
Integra resembled a Honda Accord, the new offering has a bit of the lean and low Honda Prelude flair to it. While the luxury Legend has the most recognized name among the limited offerings at Honda`s Acura division, Integra is the sales leader. In
the first six months of this year, Integra sales totaled 39,663, up from 28,129 a year earlier, to Legend`s 31,397, down from 33,174 last year. You have to suspect a couple of factors for the increase in Integra sales and decline in Legend sales.
It`s one thing to test drive a Legend; it`s another to afford the $20,000-plus sticker. Integra offers the salesman a means of moving the potential customer down without losing him or her to a rival brand. Another reason has to be that import
loyalists are waiting to see and drive the Lexus and Infiniti from Toyota and Nissan before committing to Legend. Integra is offered in two- and four-door versions in RS, LS and top-of- the-line GS trim. We test drove the two-door GS. The
new Integra is built on a 100.4-inch wheelbase and is 172.9 inches long. That is up from a 96.5-inch wheelbase and 168.7-inch length on its predecessor. Width swells to 67.4 inches from 65.6. Height slips to 52.2 inches from 52.9. Honda boasts its
new Integra is longer, wider and more powerful than its predecessor, meaning better ride, handling and road stability, improved interior room and quicker off-the-line performance. The new model is better than the one it replaces, but Honda still
has some work to do to make Integra the art form it purports to be. Ride and handling are Prelude-like, very sure with minimal jostling and above average turning and cornering capability. Four-wheel independent double wishbone suspension, speed
sensitive power steering, front and rear stabilizer bars, nitrogen gas-pressurized shock absorbers up front and progressive rate springs in the rear contribute to Integra`s road manners. No argument that the new Integra behaves better than the old
model. But though the new 1.8-liter, 16-valve, 4-cylinder engine boasts 130 horsepower versus 118 h.p. from the old 1.6-liter 16-valve engine, it sure doesn`t feel like there`s a lightning bolt under the hood. The car we drove was equipped with a
fairly smooth 5-speed manual transmission as standard. Automatic runs $725. The 2-liter, 16-valve, 4-cylinder engine in Prelude develops only 5 h.p. more than the 1.8-liter in Integra but the 2-liter seems far more responsive and a lot livelier.
Fuel economy is rated at a more than respectable 24 miles per gallon city and 28 m.p.g. highway with the manual, a hint that power means an ability to pass pumps more so than o
ther sports models. With automatic the rating is still a hardy 23/27. Increased dimensions mean more room, but not added comfort. The driver and passenger are in bucket seats with adjustable side bolsters that act as a corset. A control knob
allows you to play with the amount of bolster confinement. We suggest you leave the knob at the full figure setting and never touch it again. In back, anyone past puberty who tries entering the seat will strongly question Honda`s boast about
increased space. The rear seat is for little kids and extra stowage capacity, not adults. For adequate head room you must open the hatch lid. Tight! On the safety side, the Integra GS offers antilock brakes as standard to guarantee you stop in a
straight line quickly regardless of the road surface. Integra also is equipped with automatic belts that fasten around upper torso when you turn on the key. Good fit on the belts without riding the neck. Integra is loaded wi
th all the goodies: speed sensitive power steering, four-wheel disc brakes, four-wheel independent double wish-bone suspension, color keyed front and rear bumpers and front air dam, rear spoiler, tinted glass, dual power mirrors, integral fog lights,
protective wraparound bodyside molding, rear window defroster/wiper/washer, AM-FM stereo with cassette, power sunroof with sliding shade, power windows, cruise control, adjustable steering column, intermittent wipers, power antenna, side window defoggers,
remote hatch and fuel filler door release and digital quartz clock, to name a few. Air conditioning is optional, but the windshield is so expansive you`ll roast without it. The cooling units are built in California and can be dealer installed.
However, dealers are free to charge what the market will bear, as noted by callers who were quoted prices ranging from $700 to $1,000 in the last heat spell to air condition Accords. Shop for the best price. In the past we`ve said Integra makes a
strong case for checking out an Accord LXi. Before jumping into the new Integra, we`d advise taking a look at the Honda Prelude. Base price of the GS is $15,825 with manual, $16,550 with automatic. Prelude is in the $14,000 to $17,000range.
>> 1990Acura Integra Wheelbase: 100.4 inches Length: 172.9 inches Engine: 1.8 liter, 16 valve, 130 h.p. 4 cylinder Transmission: 5-speed manual; 4-speed automatic optional Fuel economy: 24/28 m.p.g. manual; 23/27 automatic Base price: $15,825
manual; $16,550 automatic Strong point: More distinct styling Weak point: Lexus/Infiniti coming soon >>