“There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.” While it seems obvious to apply such a phrase to the industry that relies on wheels and modernizing the very frames around them, it’s still an approach major automakers have used for decades. We see it in the return of former nameplates, where automakers reintroduce us to beloved icons with a modern twist. While Chevrolet and Ford have taken this approach with models like the Blazer and Bronco, Honda is doing the same with the return of the Acura Integra and the performance-oriented Integra Type S that are slated to rival the Honda Civic Type R at Honda dealers nationwide.
The Integra helped establish Honda’s luxury brand in the 1980s, earning widespread acclaim for blending luxury with performance. The front-wheel drive powerhouse offered the best drive in the sport compact segment, earning it a prestigious place on Car and Driver’s 10 Best Cars list in 1987. Acura, by way of Honda, set its sights even higher, fine tuning the Integra with each new generation—and everyone assumed the sport compact’s fate was undeniable when it landed a prominent place in the 2001 blockbuster The Fast and the Furious. That, however, wasn’t the case.
Acura replaced the Integra with the RSX and calmed everyone’s nerves by introducing the Type S performance variant with a 200-hp engine and six-speed manual transmission. Even then, the Integra, as the world knew it, was long gone—but not forgotten. Most recently, Honda proved as much by expanding the Acura lineup to reintroduce the Integra and the 2024 Integra Type S. It’s not the Type R the world once new, so what is it? For most, the question is if it’s just a more luxurious version of the Civic Type R…
Design: The Devil’s in the Details
Acura missed a significant opportunity in 2023 when it reintroduced the Integra but didn’t give it the bold, modern design expected of the luxury brand. The upcoming Integra Type S seems to right this wrong, distinguishing itself from its sibling with its aggressive profile and bulging fenders that leave no question it bears the Type S moniker. This bold design features the signature diamond pentagon grille found across the Acura lineup and a modest spoiler on the decklid.
The extraordinary aspect of the Integra Type S is how its details establish its persona. It’s bold but not so much that it’s overwhelming. It doesn’t look the part of the powerhouse that it is. Instead, it gives the impression that it’s hiding behind the mask of a luxury sedan, which is ironic since it’s a liftback that likens it to the Civic Type R hatchback. The Integra Type S’s mask is even more curious since its interior—like the size of its digital displays and features—is similar to the Civic Type R.
So, why wear the mask? Most people know what to expect from the Honda lineup—practicality—but the Civic Type R’s debut in the late 1990s marked another chapter for the automaker. Honda expanded its reputation beyond practicality with the performance-oriented Civic Type R. The practical liftback has always identified as much, never wearing a mask to hide its true heartbeat and insatiable need for speed. The premise of the Acura lineup as Honda’s luxury brand doesn’t allow this in-your-face persona because it contradicts the essence of sophistication. If you don’t believe it, look at the difference in spoilers…
Performance: The Five-Horse Difference
The 2023 Civic Type R is the most powerful in Type R history, roaring to life and fulfilling its legacy as an international performance icon. Yet, Honda does something incredible by competing with itself. Honda ousts the Civic Type R from its throne in 2023 with the 2024 Integra Type S by a mere five horsepower—not 50 or 100, but five. That puts the Integra Type S at the top of its class. Is it enough to give the Integra Type S an advantage?
The Civic Type R is a speed demon powered by the award-winning 2.0L turbocharged VTEC engine that produces 315 hp, making it the most powerful Honda ever offered on American soil. Honda makes harnessing this power exhilarating by increasing the flow rate of the air intake and updating the exhaust system to improve engine efficiency. Drivers have a physical connection to this performance via the Civic Type R’s six-speed manual transmission with its rev-matching system, making the Type R a rarity in a world where manual transmissions are few and far between.
Beyond its power output, the Civic Type R checks all the boxes of a performance iconic. Its Brembo four-piston aluminum calipers and 12.0-inch diameter rear rotors promise exceptional stopping power. Moreover, Honda ensures the powertrain is at its most effective by increasing body airflow in several ways, from the split-five-spoke wheel design to improving flow through the front bumper. By moving more air to the rotors, the Civic Type R’s brake performance is incredibly responsive on or off the track, encouraging drivers to take full advantage of the engine’s 315 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque.
The Acura Integra Type S relies on the same potent 2.0L turbocharged VTEC engine paired with a six-speed manual transmission; it weighs 30 lbs more than the Civic Type R and yet it still has the advantage. How does Honda accomplish this feat? The Integra Type S features an exclusive high-flow exhaust system and advanced software tuning that deserve all the credit for producing the liftback’s class-leading and history-making 320 hp.
The Integra Type S’s high-flow exhaust system features a special tuning software that gives it a distinct sound and differentiates it from the Civic Type R. The exhaust is less restrictive by design and features an active exhaust valve that complements every drive mode. As a result, the Integra Type S’s exhaust note is chameleon-like. In Comfort mode, the exhaust is toned down to complement the smooth damping and heightened ride quality. In Sport+ mode, it’s turned all the way up to match the liftback’s penchant for speed and thrills.
Verdict: Who Wins This Race?
There’s a lot of discussion about Honda’s reintroduction of the Integra to its Acura lineup, even more so now that the Integra Type S will make its way to American roads in 2024. Many wonder if the Integra Type S will overshadow the Civic Type R, but what if the rivalry is nothing more than the product of the rumor mill? If you look closely at the models, it’s not a rivalry at all.
Honda answers two distinct needs with the Civic Type R and the Acura Integra Type S. The Civic Type R puts a modern twist on the practicality ingrained in the Honda lineup. It’s versatile and functional, but its design leaves no question that it’s also a bold performer begging to test the limits of speed. Its starting price of $43,795 makes testing those limits in the driver’s seat of the hot hatchback more affordable and accessible.
The Integra Type S offers something entirely different beyond a mere five horsepower and a distinct exhaust note. Its starting price of $51,995 tells more of the story, appealing to those with deeper pockets. Moreover, its sophisticated design offers only subtle nods to its heartbeat and capability, creating a more sophisticated aesthetic expected of the Acura brand.
These distinctions lead to two critical questions. First, what persona are you looking for as you put the pedal to the metal? Second, how much are you willing to pay for an extra inkling of horsepower? Here’s a hint: There’s no wrong answer because Honda is behind them both.