An ode to Honda's masterpiece: the Integra 1.8 Type-R
Spartan Prospect - Honda Integra Type-R
How to engineer race-car performance in a FWD car
Other manufacturers have always sneered at Honda's torque, however there is nothing to sneer at: for their capacity and normally aspirated state they offer tremendous torque, the VTEC even allows an almost flat torque line through the rev-range. So why do other manufacturers sneer at Honda's DOHC VTEC torque? Simple: for its power (which is high), the torque is quite pathetic (low). An example: take the Honda Integra 1.8 type-R: it offers 190 hp (105.6 hp/liter) and 178 Nm (98.9 Nm/liter), concurrent FF cars with the same power would be the VW Corrado 2.9 VR6: 190 hp (65.5 hp/liter) and 245 Nm (84.5 Nm/ liter) (63% more torque than the Integra 1.8 type-R) and the Fiat Coupé 2.0 16V Turbo: 190 hp (95.0 hp/Turbo liter; 55.9 Nm/ liter (# according to Japanese regulation a turbo (forced induction) engine should be in an naturally aspirated engine sized class of its engine capacity*1.7)) and 290 Nm (145.0 Nm/Turbo liter; 85.3 Nm/liter #) (63% more torque than the Integra 1.8 type R). Now note that the Integra type R has the highest power to weight (marginally lighter than the Corrado VR6), which results in the fastest acceleration time (Honda claims 6.8 seconds) for 0-100 km/h, faster than the torque-wise far superior Corrado VR6 (VW claims 6.9 seconds) and Coupe 16V Turbo (Fiat claims 7.5 seconds). Now this should be put in perspective: although the Integra type-R is the fastest accelerating car of this triplet, the in gear acceleration times of the torque-wise superior cars would be considerably shorter than those of the Integra 1.8 type-R (especially at low rpms, where the wild V-TEC cam-profile (Race cam advantage) are not active). While just using a small percentage of the revs available in this test triplet the instant pull of a 2V/ cylinder NA 2.9 VR6 would dominate up to the rpms where the massive Turbo of the Coupé's 2.0 16V kicks in, from which the 2.0 T. will dominate up until the point where it's turbo spins to its highest revolutions, from this point on the VR6's grunt will close in again, but as soon as the 1.8 DOHC VTEC shifts to 'race-cam' profile the VR6 feels and hears (!) the mad breathe of a pure-bred race engine howling, screaming and eventually overtaking the other cars. While 'just cruising' the Integra type R's 1.8 would feel sluggish, slow and not very spirited as compared to engines sporting more torque, true (so true), but once pushed over the edge in wild VTEC mode the DOHC VTEC doesn't resemble anything slow and sluggish and its engine is spirited now too, awaken from a far too long hybernation and injected with a near overdose of pure adrenalin the DOHC VTEC tries hard to make up for lost time screaming 'never say die!!!' @ rpms Porsches would kill/ die for.
4wd cars offer superior traction especially at low speeds, thereby reducing their 0-100 km/h time considerably compared to non-4wd cars with similar specific masses. For traction: (1) 4wd (four wheel drive) is the most superior set-up, followed by (2) MR (mid engine, rear wheel drive) and RR (rear engine, rear wheel drive), (3) FR (front engine, rear wheel drive) and (4) FF (front engine, rear wheel drive). However it should be noted that with engines the advantage of FR on FF cars is only apparent in the higher powered car classes (the classes were especially the amount of torque limits the traction of the front tires, which is less at the rear tires), up to a certain amount of power FF is far superior acceleration (0-100 km/h) wise. For handling purposes under dry conditions MR (perfect weight distribution 50% front and 50% rear is possible with this engine-drivetrain layout) takes pole position followed by RR, then FR, then 4wd and finally again FF. Note however that lately lots of tricks have been used to mingle with this 'starting grid', for example: Nissan has it's Super-HICAS (an almost 'perfect' evolution of the earlier HICAS system) equipped with it's 4wd system thereby providing especially it's Skyline GT-R series with handling embarrassing FR and RR cars, even many MRs. Honda has delivered a car which totally chewed up many a more potent (both power and drivetrain wise) car on a winding (!) circuit: however it was front engined, front wheel drive. The best handling FF car to date: the Integra 1.8 type-R. If we would test the earlier 190 hp FF triplet on a circuit the Integra would show it's the better sports car by far. I saw this car in the hands of a very skilled driver (that must be said) overcome Mitsubishi's Lancer EVO VI (315 hp 4wd), Subaru's Impreza Sti VII (305 hp 4wd), Mazda's RX-7s (269 - 276 hp FR, one of the most balanced FR cars ever with a F/R weight distribution extremely close to 50/50 and double wishbone suspension both front and rear combined with a light-weight body) and Porsche's NA 911s (296 - 300 hp and RR) and Boxsters (220 - 252 (S) hp and RR) (both modern sports cars with well respected handling characteristics) on a very tight winding circuit. First of all in order to defeat that class of sports cars even on such a circuit in a Integra type-R demands high commitment (since the Integra type-R doesn't stand a chance against many of these cars specific mass-wise), optimising your way through corners and thereby slowing down the faster cars post-corner wise, but the point is it CAN be done, and IS (and has been) done in many races even when all both cars were driven by professional race-drivers. How did Honda pull this off? Honda equipped a very well balanced Torsen differential in combination with Honda's trademark: Double wishbone suspension at both front and rear axles. (For your information: the Civic 1.8 VTI also sports this suspension and differential configuration). Now lets resume the lessons learned gentlemen! First: for a high-powered FF car the best engine configuration is an engine that produces very high power without the enormous torque normally produced by such high powered engines. Furthermore certain very high-tech tricks can give not too heavy FF cars handling advantages over FR and 4wd cars, another thing adversely affecting high torque front drivers: too much torque results in torque steer, the amount of torque steer of a Fiat Coupe 2.0 16V T. or a VW Corrado VR6 couldn't be sorted out by the smart Torsen differential equipped in the Integra 1.8 type-R, an even more high tech approach would be needed to deal with those amount of FF torque without sacrificing the hps needed to accelerate in and out of a corner; it could very well be that this is a task which just can't be achieved: cutting away the excess in torque will always result in a decrease in hp as well, since the excess in torque of the Coupe 16V T. and Corrado VR6 is much higher than that of the Integra type-R, the loss in hp would be expected considerably higher as well (every advantage also has it's disadvantage). A FF DOHC VTEC car equipped with a Torsen differential and double wishbone suspension (front and rear) is not a good choice for 'racers' that adore a 'performance-cruiser (yes, I know... but it seems to exist ;))', but will be THE choice for RACERS that are bound by a budget (and thereby to FF or mostly lame FR/ 4wd cars), but want the best handling suspension set-up (which is a double wishbone set-up at all driven axles. The double wishbones are very well complemented by the 'killer' combination of a Torsen differential and an engine that is thoroughly race honed (DOHC VTEC L4). Add to this another (yet unmentioned) advantage of the DOHC VTEC engine that it can be a pussy of an engine when you don't need or want the ferocious Wild Cat From Hell Attitude.
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