First Drive – 2024 Acura Integra Type S

PERFECT! 2024 Acura Integra Type S Review
PERFECT! 2024 Acura Integra Type S Review

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OJAI, CA – When Acura revealed the new Integra it was met with mixed reactions, but the Civic-based liftback was about as good as you’d expect from the brand. With just 200 hp it was never meant to set your hair on fire, but as an overall package the Integra offered nimble handling, an excellent manual gearbox, and a nicer interior than the Civic. Just like it always did.

The Integra itself needs little introduction. It’s quickly become a great success for Acura, leading the premium compact segment in sales and drawing in the youngest buyers with an average age of 36. This is hardly surprising considering that these same buyers were teenagers when the Integra was last sold 20 years ago.

The Integra has always been based on the Civic platform and the Type S gets all the performance enhancements that the new Civic Type R has including its 2-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 320 hp (5 more than in the Civic Type R) and 310 lb-ft of torque. Along for the ride is the same dual-axis front suspension and a limited-slip differential that makes it possible to put down all that torque through just the front tires with barely any torque steer.

The Type S is 2.8 inches wider than a standard grade Integra with puffed-out fenders at all four corners that neatly wrap around some seriously meaty 265-width, 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. The Type S sits lower to the ground, has a larger, more open grille to flow up to 170 per cent more air, and a new hood with a large functional air scoop that helps reduces high-speed lift.

Aero trickery can be found in other places too, like hidden canards behind the front bumper and a large rear diffuser. With a top speed of 269 km/h (167 mph) these enhancements are welcome and necessary.

Inside the changes are more subtle. You get to choose between black or red and the seats have black perforated suede centres and a colour-matched lower dash on the passenger side. The upgraded seats are firmer offer more support than those in the standard Integra and held me firmly in place through the tightest of corners and they were comfortable even after hours behind the wheel. They’re less restrictive than the seats in the Civic Type R, but I still longed for those bright red thrones.

The other interior addition worth mentioning is a very good 16-speaker ELS 3D sound system that I cranked up for the better part of my drive. It delivers clear bass and tingly highs and is a big upgrade from what you get in the Civic.

To sum it up, the Integra Type S is a luxury Civic Type R, but luxury is a relative term here, lest you think the drive is anything less than visceral.

Once in the driver’s seat, you’ll find the same digital information cluster you get in the Civic along with a 9-inch centre infotainment screen. Like the Civic with which it shares nearly everything, the controls are very easy to figure out. The knobs are large and tactile and all the most important functions have a button. The back seat will accommodate taller people with a generous amount of space and legroom and because the Integra is a liftback sedan, cargo space is enormous.

Getting down to business means rowing one of the best gearboxes ever conceived. Gear changes are precise, wonderfully mechanical, and addictive. There’s a rev-matching system and it works flawlessly but can be turned off if you prefer. The Integra inspires confidence and feels instantly familiar. It is exceedingly easy to drive quickly in.

Southern California has some of the best scenery and roads anywhere on the planet, and the hills surrounding Ojai are especially spectacular. Serpentine ribbons of tarmac ebb and flow through the valley disappearing around hills and then folding in on themselves over and over as far as the eye can see. With only a few straight sections stitching the corners together, it’s a driver’s Garden of Eden.

The 2-litre turbo four under the hood is eager, and with an exhaust system exclusive to the Type S, it lets out a louder roar too. There are three main drive modes (Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus) and an Individual mode that tweaks everything from throttle response to chassis stiffness. The Type S gets specially tuned adaptive dampers that make it more compliant and more comfortable than a Civic Type R in nearly all situations.

In “Sport Plus” mode, aggressive shifts from first to second gear will overwhelm the front tires, especially if the road is cold or wet. Angry pops from the exhaust speak to my inner child, and I couldn’t get enough of them. Of course, I spent most of my drive time in Sport Plus.

The real magic of the Integra Type S lies in how confidently it will slink through challenging canyon roads like the ones mere minutes from our hotel. It’s here where it really comes into its own. The steering is as good as it gets in a front-wheel drive car, offering up crystal clear levels of feedback, and the Brembo-sourced brakes didn’t fade even after bouts of spirited driving. Then there’s the god-like chassis tuning which is perfectly neutral through long sweepers, hairpin turns, and heavy braking. You can enter a corner hot, trail brake in, and feel confident that the car will slingshot you out on the other side with a gut punch of power and torque that doesn’t let up till the 7000 rpm redline.

The face-pulling levels of grip are, frankly, astonishing. The same goes for the lack of understeer. Some of the credit here is undoubtedly due to the sticky Michelin tires but I had to keep reminding myself I was in a front-wheel drive vehicle based on a Civic, which was still an economy car last time I checked.

Now, the bad news: there are only about 300 of these Integras allotted for Canada this year, and as of this writing most if not all are spoken for which will make getting one at MSRP very difficult.

Priced at $58,196 including freight and PDI, the Type S is about $6000 more than a Civic Type R, which makes the decision of which one to pick a difficult one. What makes it even more difficult is that the GR Corolla exists and will definitely trouble the Integra and the Civic with its rally-inspired all-wheel drive system and slightly lower price of entry.

Is the GR Corolla as good to drive? Honestly, no. The Integra Type S like the Civic Type R is executed so well and just feels more special inside and out, like a car you’d never want to stop driving. If you’re lucky enough to have one on order, you’re in for a treat. If not, there’s always next year.

The writer attended this media drive as a guest of the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.

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