I can remember it almost like yesterday. Several of my friends and I would roam the night streets, meeting up in large parking lots to witness the latest sport compact car to grace our presence with a powerful-for-its-time 4-cylinder engine under the hood during the late 1990s. It was the Acura Integra GS-R and Integra Type R that enamored many with its dual overhead cam 1.8-liter VTEC engine, 170 horsepower in the GS-R, and an astonishing 195 horsepower for the rare Type R. These were known as the pinnacle of front-wheel-drive sport compact cars and often thought as a benchmark for such a class of vehicle for that time.
Acura knew they were onto something, even in the previous generations of the Integra. However, the third-generation Integra was a bit more unique, and that specialness birthed a movement in the enthusiast and aftermarket world that we had never seen. It even found its way in some forms to Hollywood with movies like The Fast and The Furious. Today, the Acura Integra returns to birth a modern-day interpretation of that same enthusiastic passion in a performance variant that’s the Integra Type S.
I initially had my doubts about the Acura Integra returning as I first embarked on a review of the Integra A-Spec 6-speed manual. I had high hopes in Acura not only bringing back the Integra nameplate but also excited in knowing that they still offer a manual transmission. However, that feeling of driving a 1990s Integra GS-R or Type R just wasn’t there in the A-Spec 6-speed manual trim, even though it had 30 more horsepower than the third-generation Integra GS-R. There was something still missing. That thrill wasn’t there, partly because today’s vehicles have become considerably heavier, and the many other factors of conforming to safety standards and guidelines, which often take away from the excitement – unless you spend a lot of money. With the all-new Acura Integra Type S, it seems Acura has done something magical in bringing back that enthusiastic feeling, or at least giving you a dose of a smile-inducing sensation from its 320 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque from a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine.
Since getting the first word of the new Acura Integra Type S making its way to production, I was sincerely excited, and now I finally get a run with what will be one of the last manual transmission front-wheel-drive cars around. In a way, I was excited for a moment of reliving a time that I was fresh in college, having fun after my studies on the hot streets of Florida, all during what would be a newfound automotive enthusiast movement.
Getting to the brass tacks of what the new Integra Type S is all about, it seems to be somewhat removed as a plusher version of the Civic Type R. While both vehicles utilize similar drivetrains, there’s something special about the cohesive collective of parts in the Integra Type S. While it has a surprising amount of road noise and a relatively stiff suspension setup even with its 3-mode adaptive dampers, it doesn’t trick me into thinking it’s another luxury sports sedan that has extra power and weight to toss around. Instead, it feels more like an enthusiast vehicle from the ground up that just happens to wear a luxury badge. Not to take away much of the “Acura-ness” from the equation, but the Integra Type S doesn’t necessarily feel very Acura. It feels more Honda, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering it has features that you cannot get on its platform-sharing cousin, the Honda Civic Type R. I often conclude that many manufacturers purposely omit features from down-market versions of their vehicles only to save the add-on amenities (heated front seats, power driver’s seat, additional sound insulation) for an up-market version, which feels like it in the Integra Type S when you compare it to the Civic Type R. The $7,105 price premium that you pay for the Integra Type S over the Civic Type R appears to be well worth it, especially for someone my age who appreciates the matureness of the Acura branding that filters into the Integra Type S.
I hate that I must reference and compare the Civic Type R, but you cannot get around such in discussing what Acura has done with the Integra Type S. However, there’s a specialness to the Integra Type S in how it feels more premium than its Type R counterpart, and there’s more character to its menacing looks that are properly fitting for its level of performance. There are bulging finders to encase the wider track and larger wheels compared to other Integra trims, and there are sticky 265/30ZR-19 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S high performance summer tires wrapping wheels that you can get in a forged variation. The 4-piston Brembo brake calipers up front feel almost perfect for biting down on the two-piece ventilated rotors, bringing things to a stop in a hurry.
Power from the turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, which is slightly tuned differently from the Civic Type R to add 5 more ponies, is substantial and often breaks the front wheels loose in first and second gears without any added clutch work. Speaking of clutch work, the 6-speed manual transmission in the Integra Type S is among the best in the business, even though there are not many left in the business of manuals. Still, Honda/Acura makes some of the best manuals, and you’ll be delighted to row through the satisfying notches of the 6-speed in the Integra Type S, along with a nearly perfectly feeling clutch and engagement point. There’s a lot of fun to be had in such a satisfying vehicle to shift your own gears, even if you must manage the front wheel spin that seems to have a lenient traction control system that doesn’t always sap your tire-burning fun. Thankfully, there’s a limited-slip differential up front to keep a harmonious movement of both front wheels without much torque steer. If you ever manage to mitigate wheel spin, you’ll hit 60 mph from a stop in about 5.2 seconds, which is the best I could muster in our cooler 68 degree Florida Fall weather.
Out on the open road, the Integra Type S has a mean midrange power burst that comes on strong even in the higher gears when you are at highway speeds. The exhaust note, which I am told is different from the Civic Type R, sounds just right and is actually decent for a turbocharged 4-cylinder. The one thing that takes away the Acura-ness when driving normally is the road noise, which is surprisingly abundant but also welcoming at the same time to remind you of what the vehicle is doing. That road noise feedback can be overbearing for those used to luxury vehicles, but I welcome it as a diehard enthusiast, even in an Acura.
The interior of the new Acura Integra Type S also plays down the luxury aspects where you find many similarities to the Civic Type R, but you do get a few bonuses in the area of an ELS Studio 3D audio system, unique heated front seats, head-up display, and a slightly different shift knob. Otherwise, there’s a decent space inside of the Acura Integra Type S with a familiar 9-inch infotainment touchscreen that’s very straightforward in its simplistic use with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. In a hatchback form, the Integra Type S offers easy access to the cargo area with just over 24 cubic feet of space with the 60/40-split rear seatbacks in place.
Fuel consumption seemed to be a problem with my driving style where the Integra Type S seems to promote driving like you’re in a rush, which I often fell into such a trap during my week with my Platinum White-painted test vehicle. I only matched the highway EPA estimate of 28 mpg once on a 60-mph highway drive. Otherwise, you’ll expect to get 21 mpg city, 24 mpg combined, and 28 mpg highway in the real world if you’re keeping things civil and legal.
In the full scheme of bringing back the Integra in a performance variant, Acura did justice in their quest, and I could easily see myself owning one, if not only for reliving my college years of having fun on the road. I can also easily see the Integra Type S being a vehicle to take to the track on occasion to dominate short autocross courses. Spending the as-tested price of $53,785 is justified in my mind as having a rather unique manual transmission vehicle that is fundamentally plug-and-play with a front-wheel-drive platform that you can push near the limits without concern of problematic-inducing oversteer. My time with the new Acura Integra Type S has been a revelation of appeasing automotive evolution that also demonstrates that affordable, grown-up automotive enthusiasm is far from dead, for now.