2001 Eight Great Rides #8

Acura Integra Type R

It's faster than any other Eight Great Rides winner we tested in quarter-mile performance. It jumps to 60 mph in the same time as the turbo, all-wheel drive WRX, and it's the most rewarding driver of the bunch. In short, the Type R is still among the best handling front-drive cars in the world. And, its B18C5 engine cranks out almost 109 hp per liter--a combination that's unmatched elsewhere in this line-up.

An opportunity to flog all Eight Great Rides around California's Buttonwillow Raceway during our testing proved this little screamer hasn't lost its touch. There are few experiences behind the wheel matched by the precise shifting of a Type R gearbox. Whether snapping upshifts or matching revs on downshifts, the Type R tranny is easily the best of any front-drive drivetrain on the market today. Every 1-2 shift at redline is met with a chirp of the tires. The Type R's limited slip works both front tires evenly to pull the light 2,600-lb chassis through corners where most front drivers revert to helpless understeer.

Toss the Type R into even the slightest bend and you'll feel it rotate about its axis like a true racecar. Once out, the tail is easily balanced with the throttle, the tires remain at the limit of adhesion. In other words, the Integra steers with the throttle just as the automotive gods always intended. Absolutely awesome.

With such an impressive engine and pure racecar dynamics on its side, it's no secret why this is the Type R's third appearance in Eight Great Rides. --Josh Jacquot

Put simply, the Type R needs nothing other than a driver willing to open the chest cavity of the sweet-sounding B18C5, solicit the double-wishbones to dance and make the air heavy with the perfume of scorched pads. The Type R does exactly what you ask of it, and does it with utmost confidence. The blissful marriage of high-tech, hand craftsmanship, refinement and all-out performance in every category, is what makes this car so successful, year after year.

During the early stages of testing the Type R, we discovered just how impervious the car is to the rigors of some of California's toughest racetracks. Even in the really tight sections, the LSD gave the Type R a fighting chance against rear- and all-wheel-drive contenders. Although the Type R is track-bred, the car is perfectly livable and exhibits the expected Acura level of refinement.

There is nothing refined, however, about the cam changeover nearing 6000 rpm; fast gets abruptly faster. Though a pacifist, I find this violence seducing, not to mention highly addictive. Thanks must be given that the wonderful VTEC vibrato made it past the NVH engineers. Regardless of my shortcomings as a musician, sliding up and down 8500 rpm worth of scale makes any pilot a virtuoso.

Subjective rants aside, the now seven-year-old design remains hugely popular and fresh looking. But with the WRX here to dethrone the king, Honda/Acura will have to up the ante a bit. Do not let the fact the Integra is due for a complete redesign stop you from buying a '01, because nothing can make this gem shine any less brightly, or the grin on your face any less wide. --Jared Holstein

I've driven Integra Type Rs more times than I can remember; we've used the Type R as the benchmark for comparisons against cars as diverse as the Miata and the Mustang GT, yet with all my seat time, I'm still impressed every time I get behind the wheel. More impressive than the Type R's frenetic power delivery, beyond its relentless grip and near-perfect balance, is the simple fact that it's available in the first place. In a world full of anonymous, middle-of-the-road transportation pods designed to appeal to the masses, the Type R is a car that most people would hate. Most people would complain about the stiff ride, the shrill, urgent wail of the engine and the way the tires lift every loose pebble from the road and toss them against the uninsulated wheel wells.

Those people are completely missing the point. The Type R is a finely honed tool for driving fast, a car engineered in almost every detail not to coddle or insulate, but to communicate. What feels harsh in traffic feels precise, rewarding and thoroughly exhilarating at speed. The wail of the engine speaks directly to the speed freak in your soul and the light, quick shifter, strong clutch and instant throttle response let you speak right back.

If driving a Type R doesn't make the petroleum in your blood boil, you should collect your pushrods and go home. --Dave Coleman

EIGHT GREAT RIDES

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