Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: August 3, 2023
The mission for the Acura Integra Type S seemed simple enough. Take a Honda Civic Type R (FL5), add leather and a few splashes of modern amenities, soften the dampers, replace the R with an S, and jack up the price by $5,550. At least, that’s what typically happens with the luxury arm of manufacturer offerings like Toyota and Lexus, Hyundai and Genesis, and Volkswagen and Audi.
But the Type S is more than the sum of its parts. Despite sharing the same bones, tires, suspension architecture, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bars, and Brembo brakes as a Type R, its attitude is different, its driving experience is more grown-up, the rough edges have been sanded down, and the interior is a quieter and cozier place to spend time in. Think of it as a more mature version of our favourite hot hatch, one that hasn’t lost any driver engagement through the aging process. A twin brother if you may, but a fraternal rather than an identical one. And it finally gives us a spiritual successor to the Integra Type R from the late 90s.
Our tinfoil hat theory is that the R in Type R stands for Racetrack, while the S in Type S stands for Street. By this, the Integra makes total sense, a street warrior that’s both competent, balanced, and comfortable in the performance window bounded by the confines of white and yellow streaks.
Acura uses the same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder as the Honda but with an extra 5 horsepower, bumping up the output to 320 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. For reference, that’s an eye-opening 120-hp bump over the standard Integra. Front-wheel drive is standard fare and a six-speed manual is the only gearbox available.
The engine is every bit as muscular as the numbers suggest and while the top end is worth seeking out, we find ourselves constantly drawn to the generous mid-range, where acceleration feels most responsive and accessible. We don’t expect this force-fed engine to rev to the moon like its VTEC ancestors but the tachometer’s digital needle feels heavy and hesitant to move, even with deliberate stabs of the gas pedal. It loses some character in that regard but is undeniably and significantly more effective in a straight line.
Acura has softened the dampers and retuned the steering for a better street feel, and the nuances are actually ones that you would feel on the slow drive to work. It’s a calmer dialled-back Type R. The suspension is less chatty and though low-frequency vibrations still percolate through the seats and steering, it’s much more tolerable than the Honda on lengthy commutes. Think of it like a Civic Type R in a theoretical Comfort Plus mode.
Throw in kilos of extra sound insulation and the Integra is much quieter with less wind and tire noise seeping into the cabin. Ironically enough, Acura made the exhaust louder by ditching the Honda’s front resonator. Why? Because the Acura is only sold in North America and we have fewer of those pesky laws that inhibit exhaust volume like they do overseas. This is where the five extra horsepower is sourced from. As a result, the Type S booms and bellows when the needle swings past 4,000 rpm, and lets out exciting pops and bangs when letting off the gas pedal, which the Honda notably lacks. The acoustics are not as spine-tingling and free-revving as the V6 in the TLX Type S, but the Integra has got that small-engine big-personality kind of vibe.
There are three driving modes to choose from (Comfort, Sport, and Sport+), each adjusting the throttle response, steering feel, and dampers. Sport+ mode offers a greater sense of connection and though stiffer and more alert, bring a more natural feel to the way it flows through a sequence of corners. The steering is not rich in road detail but immensely satisfying to turn in, from the resistance, weighting, and connection to the front wheels and road surface. The helical limited-slip front differential and clever dual-axis strut front suspension also assist in keeping the steering tight and free from wiggles under full throttle.
But the Integra feels underdamped. At speed, it doesn’t handle weight transfer or vertical oscillations as well as the Honda, and never quite offers the same kind of high-speed composure or stability. Still, flick it into a corner at speed and it reacts like it's glued to the floor, grounded by the downforce sucking it to the tarmac. The Acura may lack the all-wheel-drive traction of an Audi S3 or Mercedes-AMG A 35, but it’s also lighter in weight.
Like the Honda, we’re starting to feel the limits of a front-wheel drive layout. There is only so much mechanical grip you can manufacture out of a setup like this. Stickier rubber, more wing, more camber and toe, aggressive dampers and bump stops - we think this Type S is pretty much maxed out in these parameters, and adding more engine power won’t make it any quicker.
Give the front wheels too much to do with both steering lock and throttle, and they won’t want to budge. Even with the front nose loaded up and flirting with the edge of understeer, a few stabs of throttle don’t coax the rear into swinging out easily, and will instead push you wide. But do the same thing in a GR Corolla and it will rally drift its way through, eliciting grins from both driver and bystander. Admittedly, using the brakes to turn isn’t as satisfying as using the throttle in a RWD car, but the Acura’s slightly more lax attitude towards maximum performance means the reach for the peak isn’t as urgent or as required.
We are surprised but not surprised that Acura isn’t offering an automatic or CVT transmission with the Integra Type S. Must be safe to assume those that can’t drive stick will be flocking to the TLX Type S anyways. We aren’t complaining because the gear lever is the best in the business with perfect, precise, and positively engaging travel. It’s not notchy like a Mazda MX-5 nor is the travel very long like in the BMW M2. The throws are short and there is a decisive top-heavy weight to the way it shoves itself into the gate. There are no wiggles and zero play in its movements. It’s either in gear or not, and is an absolute joy to operate.
The clutch pedal feels slightly heavier than the Honda’s and takes a bit of leg effort to actuate. The bite point is just as predictable and broad enough that makes it difficult to stall the engine. The auto rev-matching feature is very useful not just for beginners but also for low-speed traffic jams to temporarily relieve your calf muscles from heel-and-toe duties.
Somehow, Acura made the Type S more aggressive and boy-racer in appearance than the Type R with an elongated fastback silhouette, triple center-mounted exhausts, and a deep hood scoop. We also appreciate the Integra script tattooed under the driver’s side headlight assembly, blending into the same spot as the original car. The impossibly flared wheel arches are our favourite upgrade, giving it a wide aftermarket stance that reminds us of a Liberty Walk widebody kit. There’s simply no mistaking this for a standard Integra and is one of the few hatchbacks that do not require a large wing to look visually balanced. We do wish they brought back the red Acura badges and Phoenix Yellow paint from the 90s Integra Type R, though.
The Integra interior appears to just be a copy-and-paste job from the Civic with the badges replaced, but hop inside and you will notice that all the details have been poured over. The Acura uses a different aluminum shift knob wrapped in leather so your hands don’t get seared when the metal bakes under the sun. The mesh vent from the Civic that cleverly hid the fans no longer stretches the entire width of the dashboard, though the dials, switchgear, and touchscreen unit remain the same, except that the Acura ditches the Honda’s LogR app that displays track-related parameters such as lap time and G-forces. We assume the grown-ups they're targeting rather have the Acura’s exclusive features like the head-up display and 16-speaker ELS audio system.
With comfort in mind, the Acura’s front seats aren’t as heavily bolstered as the Honda’s, and are easier to get in and out of as a result. Side and lumbar support are excellent as are its range of adjustments, though we wish the seat was mounted a little lower to make us feel like we were sitting inside the car rather than on top of it. The rear seats on the other hand are spacious and comfortable, though the lack of a rear middle seat is an odd decision that mirrors the Honda. Instead, it’s been replaced by a measly cupholder arrangement, reducing the Acura’s passenger hauling capabilities to just four.
If the Honda Civic Type R was meant for the Racetrack then the Integra Type S was meant for the Street. But no matter which venue you end up at, both are prized athletes that enjoy a proper challenge and are still a manual-only game, guaranteeing those entering this amusement park have enthusiast credentials. The nuances between the two are subtle on paper but much more apparent in practice. The Integra Type S commands a $5,550 premium over the Civic but is simply a more premium and mature version of our favourite hot hatch, one that should cater towards 30- to 40-year-olds with sore backs that can’t handle a taxing ride, but still desire that raw kind of performance they dreamt of with the original Integra Type R. We know that feeling. We’re one of them, and the new Type S is exactly our type of tea.
Model: 2024 Acura Integra Type S
Paint Type: Platinum White Pearl
Base Price: $55,600
Price as Tested: $56,100
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,730 / 1,900 / 1,407
Curb weight (kg): 1,460
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower: 320 hp @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 310 lb-ft @ 2,600 - 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 11.1 / 8.3 / 9.9
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 12.0
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport 4S; 265/30ZR19