By on March 27, 2017

1992 Honda Prelude Si vs. 1992 Acura Integra GS-R

1992 Honda Prelude Si / 1992 Acura Integra GS-R

The 'Lude

2.3-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine (160 hp @ 5,800 rpm; 156 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm; 6,500 rpm redline)

0-60 (new): 7.7 seconds

Original MSRP: $19,550

Current mileage: 101,000 miles

The GS-R

1.7-liter DOHC VTEC four-cylinder engine (160 hp @ 7,600 rpm; 117 lb-ft @ 7,000 rpm; 8,000 rpm redline)

0-60 (new): 7.0 seconds

Original MSRP: $17,910

Current mileage: 238,000 miles

Tyson Hugie is my hero. My Phoenix friend recently purchased a small house with a seven-car garage, the better to store his five 1990s-era Acuras along with his 2013 Acura ILX. From an NSX to a Vigor to a pair of Legends, his collection is a reminder of the halcyon days of Acura. You know, the days when Acuras had actual names.

Hugie’s latest acquisition is a 1992 Acura Integra GS-R five-speed three-door hatchback with 238,000 miles. I recently purchased a 1992 Honda Prelude Si five-speed two-door coupe, now with 101,000 miles. We found no head-to-head tests ever conducted between these two Honda siblings, so consider this story yet another TTAC exclusive — or a harebrained scheme wherein two auto journos thrash their own 25-year-old cars like they belong to somebody else.

We recruited James Lee of the Six Speed Blog to join us, so as to give an impartial perspective on the cars and because he had recently reviewed the 2017 Toyota 86, one of the few remaining Japanese sport coupes available today.

We headed out to Tucson’s challenging Catalina Highway, which winds its way up to Mount Lemmon, the same route we used in our “Orphaned Acuras” boondoggle back in 2015.

Both cars are front-wheel drive with four-cylinder engines, Honda’s double-wishbone suspension, and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS. Both are rated at 160 horsepower, but that is where the similarity ends; the Integra sports Acura’s first mass-market VTEC motor for America, a 1.7-liter plant that takes off like a turbo between 5,500 rpm and its 8,000 rpm redline. The Prelude’s 2.3-liter motor has greater torque and a more linear power curve. Honda would add a 190 hp VTEC engine as an option in the ‘Lude starting in 1993.

1992 Honda Prelude Si vs. 1992 Acura Integra GS-R

Both of the cars are well-cared-for, unmolested examples riding on new tires, with the only mods being a short-shift kit on the Integra and a new Bluetooth sound system on the Prelude. Both drivetrains felt and performed beautifully so the vehicles’ high-mileage numbers were not a factor in their drivability.

On the other hand, don’t get us started about the multiple minor bugs in both cars. Hugie and I could write a book about stuck ABS lights, floppy visors, rattling windows and the other challenges of owning vintage Japanese machines.

Right off the bat, we noticed some interesting differences between the two combatants:

  • The Prelude had a driver’s airbag while the Integra still had the annoying motorized seat belts. So tell us again why Acura positioned themselves as the upscale leader in technology?
  • Despite the Integra being the smaller vehicle, adults could actually squeeze into its back seat, a feat nearly impossible in the Prelude.
  • The Integra’s dashboard is basic, functional Honda, while the ‘Lude has the controversial-for-its-time wraparound black light bar in the dash, only a small portion of it being filled with gauges — half analog, half digital. I think the dash truly proved to be “futuristic.” You could put two (or maybe three) LED screens in its expanse, like the dash in the Mercedes-Benz E300.
  • The Prelude’s interior was more luxurious than the Integra’s, but its ingress and egress was a pain-in-the-back compared to the Integra.

I hopped in the Integra and my first thought upon seeing its bland innards was, “It’s a Civic!” Five minutes of twists and turns later, that was all forgotten as I realized the Integra was a mini-Honda S2000. The hot hatch just screams ahead when VTEC kicks in at 5,500 rpm, and suddenly you’re at the car’s 8,000 rpm redline. Like the S2000, you have to concentrate to keep it in its peak powerband. The Si has a slick shifter but GS-R’s was better, on par with the S2000 or Miata. 

The lighter and quicker Integra’s steering was more responsive than the Prelude’s and helped make for a better canyon carver — though the Prelude was no slouch, albeit with more body roll. The Prelude rides better than its cousin, but Hugie and I can testify both cars have surprisingly jarring rides on rough roads, not to mention significant wind noise at highway speeds. Whether this was due to the cars’ age or just the way things were in 1992, we cannot say.

1992 Honda Prelude Si Interior
Said Hugie about the combatants: “The Prelude is just a sweetheart of a car — intuitive to drive, balanced and confidence inspiring. It’s the 4.0 GPA student who never misses his homework. The Integra is bred from the same DNA but behaves like a rebel. To drive it requires far more attention and you have to get aggressive with it. It’s always trying to push its limits and — no matter whether it’s Monday or Saturday — the car acts like it’s hopped up on Red Bull, which makes for an exhausting driving experience as a daily.”

Said Lee: “These coupes were each special in their own way; however, I feel they targeted two completely different consumers. The Prelude is the everyday sports coupe — the ride quality is supple and the gear changes are single-finger-movement smooth. The steering in the Prelude doesn’t speak sports car, but rather has touring car-like qualities, being more easier to maneuver. The Integra’s sportier characteristics make it more of a proper sports car, but it makes day-to-day life a bit crazy. It has more precise, accurate handling and a firmer ride. Despite a vacuum cleaner looking dash, the Prelude speaks the future with digital and analog displays while the Integra keeps things simple minded and to the point.”

Lee also noted he would rather drive either of these two cars on a daily basis rather than the “brutal” riding 2017 Toyota 86. High praise indeed.

1992 Acura Integra GS-R Interior

I voted for the Integra as the better car partly because it is inconceivable that a vehicle with 238,000 miles can be so entertaining. This GS-R could be held up as the singular shining example of Honda quality and durability.

We all agreed the Integra GS-R was the better sports car and the Prelude Si the superior daily driver, with the Prelude taking the overall crown by a 2 to 1 margin. It’s interesting that the age disparity among the three of us was also around 25 years and the young’uns did not prefer the Integra.

The 1990s were the peak years for Japanese sports cars. The decade began with the introduction of the Miata and ended with the introduction of the S2000. In between, you could find awesome cars for every budget, from the CRX Si to the NSX, from the Supra to the 300ZX, and from the RX-7 to even something from Mitsubishi.

The Prelude and Integra were overshadowed by most of the those cars, but it’s noteworthy that both vehicles made Car and Driver’s annual “10 Best Cars” list four times during their generations’ run, a testament to their all-around “Honda Goodness.”

This fourth-generation Prelude Si and second-generation Integra GS-R were innovative and fun vehicles that brought smiles to their owners’ faces even a quarter of a century after they were introduced. If you can find an unmolested example with reasonable miles, spend the approximate $3,000 to $5,000 it will cost you and we guarantee you won’t be sorry.

[Images: Tyson Hugie and Steve Lynch]


L to R: Chevy SS chase car, Integra, Port-A-Potties, Prelude at top of Mount Lemmon.

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74 Comments on “Retro Comparo: 1992 Honda Prelude Si vs. 1992 Acura Integra GS-R...”

  • avatar

    Great comparo – I’m sure Honda discouraged any such thing back in the day, but there clearly was a Prelude customer and an Integra customer, and they weren’t the same person at all. Fast forward to today: there’s no ILX customer. Sad!

    • 0 avatar

      @Truckducken – keen insight.

      The post mentioned Tyson Hugie has a 2013 ILX in his garage. In TTAC 2038, I doubt we (or our descendants) will read about the ILX vs the Honda Civic.

      @Steve Lynch and team — thanks for the drive down memory lane.

  • avatar

    Brilliant article. These are the cars I was driven in as a youngster. My Dad had a GS-R in this exact color, and a Prelude Si in Milano Red.

  • avatar

    I just bought a 2002 Taurus wagon for my son (with all of 59k confirmed miles on it)…but even with that, I’m not sure it will go 230K+ like that Integra. I almost wish I had found an older Honda, even with more miles.

    My sister owned a Gen 4 Prelude, bought after owning a 1989 CRX Si for four years. Yes, the Prelude was very “grown up” compared to the little Si, and that dash! And yet, it maintained very traditional Honda trademarks, especially in the clutch/transmission operation. Never mind you can actually see out of the windows of each of these and that the interiors are blissfully clean, airy and free from design overkill. I’d rather DD that Prelude than my current ’14 Escape…

    • 0 avatar

      If you maintain it as well as Hugie maintains his Acuras, you’ll get up to 250k:

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. I love these as well. Please continue to purchase immaculate 20 year old cars and compare them! ::wink::

      Seriously, it’s like the cars TTAC could have reviewed pre-interwebs. I have a 2001 boring CR-V that survives like a cockroach, but surely others in the B&B sphere of influence have more interesting near-stock survivors to make famous?

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve been meaning to submit a long term review of my immaculate ’96 4Runner that I bought with 99k 4 years ago and have rolled up to almost 140k. I’ve frankly got a back-log of writings sitting with Mark: one on the ’00 Maxima beater, one for my Costa Rican rental Diahatsu Terios :). Will also write one for the recently departed ’96 ES300 that I drove over the fall and winter and just sold this spring, and finally my work-in-progress $1700 ’97 Ranger. None of these vehicles are exceptional in terms of condition or mileage (except the 4Runner sort of) but I think a lot of us TTAC guys like to read about how older cars hold up, what goes into upkeep and maintenance for this model or the other. I know I do!

        • 0 avatar

          My immaculate (if we ignore the dog hair) ’01 4Runner, which I’ve owned since new, has been virtually trouble-free up to its now-143,000 miles, including the complete absence of squeaks or rattles. While I’ve certainly grown tired of it’s poor ride quality after 16 years, even with the recent addition of Bilstein shocks, it will be hard to part with, considering its intrinsic vs monetary value.

    • 0 avatar

      The Taurus will hit 230k if maintained properly (mine proves this, as have others I’ve had/experienced, like my neighbors 1997 with over 260k on its clock). The items that do fail will be inexpensive compared to Honda or Toyota (alternator, starter, water pump), and there is no worry of timing belt failure or maintenance.

      Change the trans fluid *and filter* now and every 30-50k thereafter. It should provide many years of service.

    • 0 avatar

      Crazy steering wheels, not covered end to end with buttons. I once sold a higher mileage 1990 Toyota Camry to buy a lower mileage 1994 Eagle Vision TSI. Regretted every minute of it. Japanese were the kings then.

  • avatar

    Oh, and can we get more of these retro comparisons? This was awesome!

  • avatar

    No mention of the quirky four-wheel steering system on the Prelude? Was this example one that lacked the option? That was the key differentiator for that platform.

    Great comparo, btw. Loved reading it.

  • avatar

    Before I even read it, thumbs up. Love me a ‘lude.

  • avatar

    What is that color on the Prelude called? I used to see lots of them in that color, back when they were new, along with red.

  • avatar

    My bothers owns a 98 Integra Type-R , which due to economical neglect and old age has been demoted to project status, after almost a decade as his DD. Then last year he bought a 5th gen Prelude to use as a DD instead, so he kinda lives a similar comparo.
    In his words the Prelude is a huuuuge, heavy, soft slow ‘old mans car’ compared to the completely insane Type-R.

    Offcourse he has the 133 hp 2.0 Prelude, which was the slowest of the manual shifted Prelude you could get, but compared to most other non Type-R cars it’s a lighweight tiny sports coupe.

    The (almost completely stock apart from airfilter and springs) Type-R is more or less for sale for less than 5K dollars, as he knows he can’t afford all the R-specific parts and work to get it mint again, he needs money to invest in camera equipment for his new job, and 90’s japanese cars (unless they are GT-R’s or Evos) aren’t worth much yet in a country that loves german cars as much as my fellow Norwegians do.

  • avatar

    I own a ’90 Integra LS sedan with a 5-speed. The sedans didn’t sell as well as the coupes, mostly because a Honda Accord was bigger, used the same engine, and cost $500 less.

    Nonetheless, it’s an interesting car to drive, and at 117k miles, it still has a lot of life ahead of it.

    I’d like to sell it, but just like when it was new, nobody wants an Integra sedan.

    • 0 avatar

      Had a ’91 Integra GS Sedan, which was unceremoniously stolen from my driveway with 187K on the clock…and the original clutch.

      Hated the motorized belts, and 140 BHP is almost comical now, but man, that car handled well. Light on its feet, balanced, nimble. Everything since has felt ponderous in comparison. Visibility was excellent, and it really ate up the miles. For a FWD Sedan, it had excellent balance; not too much understeer.

      It was absolutely bulletproof. The engine was smooth and responsive, like a real Honda should be. All it really needed was a good A/C unit and a GS-R engine. That was one of the few “wish I still owned it” cars I’ve had.

      Replaced it with my avatar’s ’95 Alfa 164Q. I learned the difference between Japanese and Italian reliability the hard way.

      And as many have already said…More of these comparos, please.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, hit me up about that Integra. The last car I need to complete the early 90’s Acura collection is a 2nd gen Integra sedan manual…

  • avatar

    Worth mentioning that Tyson is the guy with a 600k-mile Legend Coupe that looks like a new car.

  • avatar

    Not a competitor to either one but my ’03 Acura CL-S is still in great shape after 208k and 14 Chicago winters. DD that has never been garaged but I do keep up on the maintenance. Six-speed so none of the Honda automatic transmission issues of that era. I bought it in ’04 just as those problems were at their peak so the value (and asking price) was plummeting regardless of whatever transmission was in it.

    • 0 avatar

      Crazy steering wheels, not covered end to end with buttons. I once sold a higher mileage 1990 Toyota Camry to buy a lower mileage 1994 Eagle Vision TSI. Regretted every minute of it. Japanese were the kings then.

  • avatar

    Figures that the Prelude was more of a GT… it was basically to the Accord what the Z is to the G. I really loved the wrap around dash once it got the EL gauges, and wish that had become more popular. Binnacles are so 80s.

    As my screen name implies I had a lot of time behind the wheels and under the hoods of various Accords from the 90s. Honda was really in its stride. Even a bone stock Accord EX had some magic in it when pushed. The steering brimmed with feel; the clutch and shifter were magic; the engine’s character belied its specs. With mild bolt ons- a bigger IM plenum for more top end, a cold air intake, some lowering springs + Koni shocks and a decent set of tires- it was easily a bonafide sport sedan for its time, and a much much more engaging drive than something like a base F30 or even my G37S.

    The Prelude weighed about the same, but the lopping off of ~8″ of wheelbase and probably 3-4″ of height brought the dynamics up to a level even the best modded Accord couldn’t match. I can only dream of what another couple hundred lbs and thousand revs would do. I really miss this era but after trying and failing to recreate the magic I’ve had to move on. If I were to come back though I’d build an NA Prelude monster.

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      In the early 1990s my friend’s Dad had an ’94 Accord for himself and a ’96 Accord for the Herself. He loved his old Honda but thought that he should look at a newer one. He walked into an Acura dealership looking for a new sedan and walked out with a CDN$90,000 piece of paper promising him something called an ‘NSX’, delivered in a few months. He’d bought the first NSX in Canada. That guy was a hoot.

  • avatar

    That non-OEM generic single-peashooter muffler on the Prelude is triggering me…

    Awesome comparo, this is peak TTAC.

  • avatar

    “..takes off like a turbo between 5,500 rpm and its 8,000 rpm redline”

    She’ll tear herself to pieces, Jim!

    Seriously, who the fcuk would do that to their swell car?

  • avatar

    “Hugie and I could write a book about stuck ABS lights, floppy visors, rattling windows and the other challenges of owning vintage Japanese machines.”

    To be fair, these are pretty typical issues on any vintage car, the stuck ABS light being a bit of an epidemic of older Hondas. I’m surprised that rust isnt a serious nuisance.

    I’ve been curious as to how Teggys compare to Ludes, now I know! One kept crappy electric choke ropes from its Civic origins and the other gained a proper airbag!

  • avatar

    Oh man.. I don’t see those Preludes around much anymore.
    I put 100k miles on a ’94 Si. Loved that car.
    All this talk about the awesome dashboard, but no pictures of it?!

    The Prelude also had optional 4 wheel steering!

    • 0 avatar

      The second-gen (2000-2004) Toyota Avalon had exactly the same dash.

      The Buick Regal from ’88 to whenever the passenger airbag forced a redesigned dash came close too.

      In any iteration, I like it.

  • avatar

    Cars never really did get much better than those two.

  • avatar

    I had a ’94 Milano Red Si 5 sp. The dash looked so incredible when the car was started. The entire width of the dash was black until you turned the key. Then the red needles lit and swept 180 degrees while a bank of warning lights in front of the passenger illuminated as the temp and fuel gauges did a check by lighting up their entire range. Fast, fun, frugal except for using premium gas. Mine was 7 years old with only 70k on it when an Expedition turned left in front of me on her red light. Car wasn’t that badly damaged, but since both air bags deployed the insurance totaled it. I spent the $ on a 2001 Accord EX-L V6 coupe. Never liked the car since it was an automatic. Replaced it with a 2013 Accoed EX 2 door I4 6 spd. LOVE this car.

  • avatar

    Fun cars the both of them. I live at the base of Mt. Lemmon and it’s a hell of a piece of road up to Summerhaven. Just hate the cop that loves to radar a random corner like his entire job will suffer on that road -_-

  • avatar

    1991 Integra was my first car, 1994 Prelude was my second. Always wanted to drive these higher-spec examples. Seeing them side by side in this review warms my heart. Great work, TTAC.

  • avatar

    I’ll add another echo to the great article theme.

    My folks had a 91 GS Integra. Even with the automatic, it was a fun little car. But it was noisy. I’ve had an 88 and 89 Legend, my folks had the Integra, my sisters first new car was an 02 RSX and there’s been multiple Accords. They’ve all been loud, but that Integra was so loud it was annoying. I could deal with it as a classic now, especially in unmolested GS-R form, but even 20 years later I remember the awful wind, road and suspension noise.

    Out van shopping and the Sienna in SE trim with 19″ wheels is quieter than our EXL Odyssey.

  • avatar

    “The Prelude had a driver’s airbag while the Integra still had the annoying motorized seat belts. So tell us again why Acura positioned themselves as the upscale leader in technology?”

    Easy. The new round headlamp Integra was planned for ’94 with airbags which I think were required in the US by ’95 or ’97 along with new side impact standards.

  • avatar

    I was a huge Honda fan back in the early 1980s. Lots of friends with Accords and Civics, when they were both tiny and tinny. I had an 83 Civic 1500 S with some fancy 14″ mesh wheels, and a friend had a new 83 Prelude with the radical wishbone suspension. When I started looking at its replacement, word was that the US would be getting the replacement for the Honda Quint and that’s what I wanted–a while before we learned that Honda would be introducing it as part of a sporty/luxury second channel. Nobody could even pronounce Acura then. I ended up with an 87 Integra that lasted 220K before it finally rusted out. It wasn’t powerful, but the performance was so nicely balanced. A car with a 7K redline and 4 wheel disc brakes on a Civic platform was a pleasant place to spend the late 1980s.

    For younger folks, the Prelude was accurately named in its time–this was the platform on which Honda introduced new technology. Fuel injection, check. Double wishbone suspension, check. Four wheel steering, check. This tech usually trickled down to the Accord next. VTEC was a bit of an anomaly, introduced first in the NSX, then in North America in the 1992 Integra GSR and finally to the Prelude in 1993. I think once Acura came into existence the Prelude lost its reason for being. But these two vehicles illustrate Honda at its peak, when it still maintained a qualitative gap on nearly everyone else.

    • 0 avatar

      I, too, had the 87 Integra. The early Acuras didn’t have a badge; I suppose the company was still searching for its identity.

      I also had friends with the Prelude, and it is aptly named as it was a first car for most of them.

  • avatar

    It’s great to see these models without all the rust around the rear wheels that any surviving examples would have here in NoVa.

    Loved that generation of Integra esp in that color. Was never a fan of that generation Prelude. Always thought it was kind of frumpy. esp the taillights and front end.

  • avatar

    1992 was a very good year in car-land.

  • avatar

    I must say, I would pick the Integra for myself.

    The next gen Prelude was my favorite. I drove one like that 1992, I didn’t like the dash at all. Felt like it was trying to hard. They absolutely nailed it with the following generation, IMO.

    I still want a 97+ manual Prelude. It would be my Grand Touring car. No lowered suspension (Hondas are low enough from the factory), no fart can muffler, no gaudy wheels. I would upgrade the wheels to some newer Accord stocks, but that’s about it.

    Great article.

    • 0 avatar

      I owned a 5spd 96 Prelude SI – I loved the 4th gen’s body style and roominess inside, it did have a bit too much body roll though. Great vehicle, shame it was totalled.

      It’s replacement (and my current DD) is a 5spd 99 Prelude SH with 96k purchased almost a decade ago with 22k miles. It felt similar enough to the 96 that it just seemed like an evolution. I will say that the the VTEC/H22 engine is an absolute blast vs the H23. The H23 isn’t a bad engine, but the H22 is where the Prelude really hit it’s high note. If it wasn’t for the fact that you compared ’93 model years, I would have cried foul in this review for omitting it! The 5th gen has a bit better body roll too, and although I prefer the styling & interior room of the 4th gen over the 5th, it’s really just a more polished & refined vehicle. It hits that sporty/DD niche better than almost anything I’ve seen since.

      The major downside has been oil consumption (about 1qt/mo) – that’s about it. There’s been normal maintenance and mechanical issues of course, but it’s never been more than about $400-600/yr for the last 5 years – including tire purchases. I’ve noticed increasing road noise as the car’s weatherstripping and exterior door fringe has aged (actually the weatherstripping itself looks ok), and while I wouldn’t call it loud originally, it’s not as quiet as most other newer cars. It’s also got a bit more vibration than it used to, if I recall other posters the problem is probably partially old engine mounts and that this year’s work includes replacing the distributor. The rear spoiler has paint issues, but the car, in every other metric, is still something I’d call well engineered & aging easy. I’m dreading the day I have to replace it.

      PS – I appreciate an above posters comment comparing the Prelude to the 86/BRX – I’ve lusted after that, but not sure I’d give up that much ride quality.

      • 0 avatar

        Well, every Honda I’ve had seemed to have oil consumption issues, I just figured it was normal for them. My 1989 CRX and my 1995 Accord (both under 200k) were the worst.

        Also interesting is the rate at which Accords (not sure about Prelude) seemed to go through CV axles. Both had to be replaced on that 1995 Accord well before 200k.

        My 1995 Taurus (approx 231k as of now) still has the factory CV axles, no torn boots, no clicking. Of course my Taurus is still on its original transaxle, although I realize its more of the exception than the rule in that case. It uses a little over half a quart between changes (I typically run it 5k miles between oil changes, sometimes more or less).

        I believe most of that is from the seeping valve cover gaskets and oil pan gasket, not being burned as with the Hondas (the black film on the CRX’s rear bumper on the muffler side was a dead give away that it was not leaking, but being burned).

  • avatar

    Just stumbled onto this article during the Coronavirus lockdown. Great article and trip down memory lane. I owned a dark metallic blue 94’ si Auto with the 2.4 non v-tech motor. One of the few, if any articles I’ve read that review the 2.4, and not the 2.3 v-tech motor.
    I paid $15k for it in 97’ with 20X miles on it. Traded in my 91’ teal Crx-si that I just broke the timing belt on. Another great car.
    I remember the car being unique, not a lot of them on the road and at 25 years old at the time, was much welcomed. The 2.4 was an enjoyable engine, long power band, throaty, with good torque at lower RPM’s. Stereo system was better than average I recall, with decent bass.
    And, the best part (I suppose) is that my future wife saw me driving that Prelude prior to us starting to date, and still reminds me of being impressed by that car.. Over 20years later, mission accomplished!

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