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History of the Acura Integra

Posted 02-16-2002 at 12:00 AM by SurferX
Updated 06-29-2014 at 11:44 AM by MorningZ

The Model History focuses mainly on the changes made to the different generations and trim levels for US models. We wanted to give some history on the Integra and how far it's come since it's creation. There is a bit of technical info in this article however for some real number comparisons check the Specifications section of the FAQ.





Ah, the car that started it all. Just before this car hit the streets, Honda had decided to follow the trend of re-naming their cars to attain a higher status in the shallow, image conscious U.S. Domestic Market. Hence Acura was born and a year later the Integra entered the "high-end" Honda lineup. The Integra was built from the 86 Civic platform and was advertised as Acura's "introductory" model. In fact the suspension and fuel injection system from the 86 Civic Si made it's way straight into the engine bay of this car. However the 1.6L DOHC (Dual Over-Head Cam) engine showed the Integra was going to be a step ahead of it's Civic sister in performance, and still to this day has maintained that position.

Submitted by knavekid

The 1986 Integra was introduced in April, 1986, and was only produced for half of the model year. It was the first car available in the US domestic market that came standard with a 16-valve four cylinder engine (the 1987 Nissan Pulsar NX had an optional 16V engine as a $2K option). The '86 and '87 Integra had a 113HP engine. Output increased to 118HP for '88 and '89. All '86 and '87 Integras had the 10-slot alloy wheels as standard equipment. The '86 and '87 Integras also all came with a factory service manual included.

Trim Levels

RS: Regular Series. Available in both coupe and sedan. Fully stripped down, only standard features listed are rear window defroster and a tilt steering wheel (whoo hoo!). At first it seemed Honda had not learned what it takes to put a car into a faux luxury line-up such as Acura. But the reason Acura kept the RS in it's line-up was to introduce people to the newly-created company in hopes of building a dedicated user-base for years to come. And from the looks of Acura's sales figures in future generations of the Integra, it worked like a charm. For the economical person this car was a great way to buy into a name like Acura and reap the service and warranty benefits without the price.

LS: Luxury Series. Available in both coupe and sedan. Builds upon the RS and adds standard features of cruise control, cassette player, and alloy wheels.

SE (or LS-S): Special Edition (or Luxury Series Special). Available in coupe only. From the LS, it added power windows, power door locks, and a moonroof. The SE was the most advertised model of the Integra as Acura felt the standard features displayed it's name in the best and showed what Acura was going to be all about.





Argued by many as the best model Integra ever. In 1990, the Integra was outfitted with the front-end design that would build a legacy and ultimately was going to last for the next 11 years (in Japan). The 2nd generation began the real Integra surge and was one of the pioneers in creating the import car scene that we see today. The 2nd generation Integra was given the larger 1.8L B18B engine which was able to output 130HP and 121 ft-lbs. torque.

In the 1992 model year, the Integra was to be changed forever. Honda created a new model for the Integra, a model which was going to be the object of Integra loyalist's desire for the next 5 years, the GS-R. The GS-R separated itself from the rest of the Integras by introducing the B17A engine featuring Honda's infamous VTEC (Variable valve Timing and lift with Electronic Control) system as previously seen in the NSX outputting 160HP and 117 ft-lbs. torque. The GS-R was only available with a 5spd. manual transmission. An automatic transmission was not and option and never will be on any VTEC Integra up to 2001.

Truly the GS-R was something to send Integra fans buzzing. Many people gained faith in the Integra after the new addition and thus began it's road to becoming one of the most popular sport compact cars available.
Trim Levels

RS: Regular Series. Available in both coupe and sedan. The beginning model was about as stripped down as the previous generation. It came standard with a tilt steering wheel and rear window defroster only.

LS: Luxury Series. Available in both coupe and sedan. Standard features included those on the RS plus cruise control and cassette player in 1990. In 1991, power windows and a moonroof were added. Power door locks were also standard in 1991 on the sedan model only.

GS: Grand Series. Available in both coupe and sedan. In 1990, it began by offering power windows and alloy wheels over the LS model. In 1991, power door locks and moonroof became standard on both the coupe and sedan.

GS-R: Grand Series Racing. Became available in 1992 and was equipped with Honda's soon to be legendary DOHC VTEC technology in the form of a 1.7L engine outputting 160HP and 117 ft-lbs. torque. It had the same standard features as the GS and was available in coupe only. No automatic transmission available, if you want VTEC in the Integra, you gotta go manual.





Easily one of the biggest and most influential sport compact automobiles to date, the 3rd generation took the Integra to new heights. The dramatic change in body style was not accepted immediately by Integra loyalists from the 2nd generation. To some, actually, it still hasn't. However there is no arguing that in 1994, the Integra was to become a different car. The 1.8L 142HP, 127 ft-lbs. torque engine from the previous year's GS model found it's way into the 1994 RS and LS models. The highly praised GS-R model was given a new, more powerful 1.8L DOHC VTEC engine outputting 170HP and 128 ft-lbs of torque.

In 1995, the Integra Special Edition was added to the line-up and was praised to be the most luxurious Integra and more closely resembled the image Acura had been wanting to portray. It was the first Integra to offer leather seats as a standard feature. The Special Edition was originally going to be offered for only a limited time however Acura chose otherwise.

OBD-II (On Board Diagnostics II) was implemented into the computer system of the 1996 model Integras. The new computer system now added more sensors as well as changing the chip's programming to meet stricter emissions guidelines and to better diagnose engine problems. While the introduction of the new system sounds good to most practical people (obviously not the type of people we are), this change was extremely looked down upon by the performance enthusiasts as the ECM (Engine Control Module, also referred to as ECU) would no longer accept reprogramming. If anyone wanted to modify their engine computer they would have to buy an entirely new aftermarket unit which can only be programmed once. This added a large expense and hassle to those who wanted to keep their engine computer system running at optimum performance with whatever modifications they might have done to their Integra. However companies like A'PEXi and Fields have come to the rescue and offered ECM "piggy-back" systems that do give a slight amount of re-programability however still nothing can beat a fully aftermarket customized ECM. There is speculation concerning the performance of OBD-II. A lot of Integra owners will testify that OBD-I Integras perform better because of less restrictive emissions equipment. This has not been thoroughly tested nor has it been done in an equal and fair manner so there's really no telling which is better.

It's pretty fair to say that in 1997, the largest and most notable point in Integra history took place. It was the year the Integra would truly make it's mark in automotive history for years to come. The 1997 model year Integras had already arrived at the dealerships, however in July, Acura received Integras in a new never before seen trim level. After nearly two years of rumors and speculation, the highly talked about limited edition Integra Type R showed that it was, in fact, a reality. The Type R was an instant hit and sent car enthusiasts scrambling for the dealers hoping to find one of these rare items. The Type R uses a refined version of the GS-R's DOHC VTEC engine, and is able to crank out an astonishing 195HP and 130 ft-lbs. torque. The new engine could safely rev up to a heavenly 8400 RPMs, pushing piston speeds past that of any production car as well as most Formula 1 race engines. The suspension and unibody have also been upgraded and a torque-sensitive (Torsen) Limited Slip Differential had been added to the transmission to create what alot of experts have called the "best handling FWD car in the world". Only 750 Type R's were imported to North America (U.S. and Canada) that year and the number has slowly increased to 1500 for the final 2001 model year. That year Honda showed the automotive industry what engineering was all about, as the engine in the Type R had the highest specific output of any naturally aspirated, consumer available engine in the world. Currently, it stands 2nd place to the Honda S2000 in specific engine output. The Integra Type R has since become the standard in how all new sport compacts are judged. Even cars ranked in a higher class have been pitted against the Type R and they have often found themselves having their egos cut in half after the $25,000 Honda carrying the little 1.8L naturally aspirated engine just gave them a lesson in Ass-Kicking 101 at the track. There is no doubt that the Type R's home is at the race track, most of the street-minded luxury power cruisers have tried and failed when competing with the R on it's home turf. No joke, this car can run the 100ft slalom in the same time as a Ferrari. Of course I have only begun to scratch the surface of what has been put into this car. Check out our Type R special for the real deal.





As if there wasn't enough to do with the Type R hype flying about, Acura decided to make some other changes to their lineup by changing the name of the Special Edition (SE) to a the more permanent and traditional name of the GS. They had decided the SE would be a permanent part of the Integra line-up to show that the Integra was indeed an Acura sophisticated luxury car that belonged in Acura's line-up. Cassette players were upgraded to CD players on all model Integras. Also in 1997, the horsepower ratings for the RS, LS, and GS went down to 140HP and torque lowered to 124 ft-lbs caused by stricter emissions guidelines





Rumors and fake computer images were flying around for the 1998 model year as an exterior change was announced. However just about all of them turned out to be nothing more than false ways to get attention and money to the information hungry car magazines (as are most car rumors). The change in styling was only slight, as you can see from the pictures above however the change did help keep the current model Integra running stronger than it would have if there were no changes for the entire 94-2001 run. The front bumper changed to a slightly more angled shape and the painted bar across the mouth of the bumper was removed. The headlights were angled more inward in order to fit the new bumper. The rear bumper stayed basically the same shape however a lower bar-like shape was added to the bottom. The tail lights were also altered and the orange-colored turn signal reflector was replaced with a red reflector. This blended the turn signal in with the brake light and gave a higher quality "one piece" look. Alloy wheels were also added to the LS model.

Acura had some intense competition from the other luxury "names" such as Lexus (Toyota), Infinity (Nissan), and Audi (Volkswagon), as well as the European tried and true companies like BMW and Mercedes. To better compete, Acura had decided they wanted to go more upscale and hit a more mature demographic and they felt the Integra was bringing them down. In 1999, Acura killed the RS from the Integra line-up and put standard leather seats into the GS-R. The Type R was also not offered in the U.S. for 1999 because Acura felt it's lack of luxury features was not helping the upscale image standard that had been set. This caused a tremendous outcry as enthusiasts thought Acura was not going to allow Type R's to ever see U.S. shores again. However the death threats...uh, I mean voices, from automotive enthusiasts all over the country were heard and the Type R was brought back for the 2000 model year. Oh did I say death threats? I wouldn't know anything about that of course because that would be, well, bad. You believe me right? Of course you do ;-)

After the world-wide display of Y2K stupidity, the world realized it was still alive, computers were still working, and Acura was still selling Integras, hooray! OBD-II Ver.2 was introduced for the 2000 models and more closely resembled the OBD-I system in sensor placement however the ECM was still as un programmable as ever. The GS-R's exhaust manifold was shortened, causing 2000 GS-R owners to be out of luck if they had their eye an a special cat-back exhaust system made for up to the '99 models because now it wouldn't fit, doh!

Nothing known changed in 2001, except now all Acuras get floormats as a standard feature. This year signifies the final run of the 3rd generation Integra. For Acura, the Integra dies this year and will be replaced by what they have called the RS-X. In order to look more upscale, Acura wanted to incorporate the luxury-car requirement of random patterns of alphanumeric symbols in place of a name for Integra replacement. Whatever happens with the RS-X, the Integra will always have a place in Honda enthusiasts' hearts and will undoubtedly hold it's ground for years to come as being one of Honda's most desired sports coupes. We'll miss you Integra!

Trim Levels

RS: Regular Series. Available in both coupe and sedan. No sedan available in 1998. Model dropped in 1999. Equipped with the B18B1 DOHC engine putting out 142 HP and 127 ft-lbs. of torque. In 1997, power ratings dropped to 140HP and 124 ft-lbs. of torque. As always, the stripped down model. Standard features were a cassette player, rear window defroster, and tilt steering wheel. Cassette player replaced with CD player in 1997.

LS: Luxury Series. Available in both coupe and sedan. From the RS, the LS adds air conditioning, power windows and door locks, cruise control, and a moonroof. In 1998, the LS became equipped with alloy wheels and in 2000 was given a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The LS is most popular non-VTEC model Integra and arguably best value.

SE: Special Edition. Available in both coupe and sedan starting from 1995. SE's are only found in 1995 and 1996 model years until they were changed to be named the GS in 1997. From the LS, it added leather seats, alloy wheels on all years, and a rear wing spoiler.

GS: Grand Series. Available in both coupe and sedan starting from 1997. Same standard features as the SE.

GS-R: Grand Series Racing. Available in both coupe and sedan. Equipped with the B18C1 DOHC VTEC engine outputting 170HP and 128 ft-lbs. of torque. Same standard features as the GS minus the leather seats. However, leather seats ended up becoming a standard feature on the GS-R starting in 1999. Again, no auto transmission available for this car.

Type R: Type Racing. Available in coupe only starting from 1997. Not available in the U.S. in 1999. Equipped with fully tuned B18C5 DOHC VTEC engine outputting 195HP and 130 ft-lbs. of torque. Check the Type R Special for the technical differences on this car. Standard features were exclusive of the rest of the models and in 1997, included black mesh/suede bolstered seats with red stitching, mid-height rear wing, front lip spoiler, body colored side rocker panels, shaved door moldings, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, power windows and door locks, and exclusive white powder-coated light-weight alloy wheels with 5-lug configuration. In 2000, added standard features were an aluminum shift knob, gunmetal lightweight alloy wheels, and air conditioning. As with the GS-R, no automatic transmission was available for the Type R. But if you were thinking about getting this car with an automatic transmission you shouldn't be thinking about this car at all.
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