2024 Acura Integra Type S First Drive Review: Up To Eleven

2024 Acura Integra Type S First Drive Review: Up To Eleven
2024 Acura Integra Type S First Drive Review: Up To Eleven

-Ojai, California

The reintroduced Acura Integra is far and away one of my favorite vehicles on the market thanks to its blend of cabin space, nimble handling, and good ergonomics. As a daily driver, it’s hard to beat. But if there’s a notable flaw, it’s found under the hood. The turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder makes a nippy – but not wild-haired – 200 horsepower and 192 pound-feet that require a fair amount of throttle before showing up to the party.

A light-on-its-feet hatchback that demands revs to move quickly? Sounds remarkably like the Integra from three decades ago, doesn’t it? And as with its ancestors, there’s now a hotter variant to give enthusiasts more of a thrill. The 2024 Acura Integra Type S is on its way to dealers as we speak, with an extra 120 hp and 118 lb-ft joining a wider track, stiffer suspension, upsized brakes, and more aggressive styling. Yet unlike the late, lamented DC2 Integra Type R, the new hot hatch doesn’t sacrifice comfort at the altar of speed. And unlike most things that sound too good to be true, the Integra Type S is a helluva ride.

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Priorities

The most important thing you need to know about the 2024 Acura Integra Type S is that it drives exactly like you’d expect, based on its looks alone (as well as a sneaky little teaser I got last year). At the press of the start button, the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine springs to attention with a thrum from the three tailpipes out back, and suddenly the car starts to deliver on the promises that the widened stance, hunky gold wheels, and revised aerodynamics make. The blatty exhaust will delight JDM fans, although some may find it a bit coarse compared to the turbo fours found in the Volkswagen Golf R, Audi S3, and Mercedes-AMG CLA35.

If refinement is the goal, then look no further than the Integra Type S’ brilliant (and mandatory) six-speed manual transmission. In spite of the engine’s added power, the geartrain feels just as tractable as in the regular ‘Teg, with a buttery short-throw shifter and communicative clutch pedal that’s lightweight without being vague. Of note, manual gearboxes aren’t even available on the Integra’s core competitors – the aforementioned Audi and Mercedes, as well as the Cadillac CT4-V and BMW M235i Gran Coupe. Thank goodness the last stick-shift entry in the segment is a truly brilliant ambassador for the type.

The Integra Type S suffers from some rev hang endemic to modern turbocharged, manual-shifted cars. That can make acceleration through the gears a bit choppy, as you engage the clutch only to find the engine spinning near where you left it. Alter your behavior by either shifting a bit slower or lifting the throttle proactively, and you’re blessed with thrilling acceleration. My butt tells me an Integra Type S could hit 60 miles per hour in just over 5 seconds, though Acura hasn’t published an estimate yet.

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A helical limited-slip differential ensures there’s a constant supply of grip, while a twin-axis front suspension layout – borrowed from the Honda Civic Type R – almost completely eliminates torque steer. Flooring it out of an apex reveals benign, neutral handling that only rarely reveals some easily controllable wheel fight. Think of it as a characteristic instead of a design flaw and the minor torque steer even starts to feel fun.

Balance In All Things

One of the most compelling attributes of the standard 2023 Integra is how pleasant it is to drive in a variety of situations. Its adequate powertrain and responsive chassis conspire to make every trip feel engaging and fun. But the Type S – with 62 percent more power – has its work cut out for it in terms of maintaining that balanced driving behavior. Luckily, the front-drive-only ‘Teggy has plenty of tricks up its sleeve, starting with a comparatively light 3,219-pound curb weight that pays out with nimble, tossable reflexes in every driving situation.

And even though the Integra is front-wheel drive (as opposed to the all-wheel-drive Audi, BMW, and Mercedes or the rear-drive Caddy), the car puts its power down brilliantly. Like the manual versions of the regular hatch, the Type S comes standard with a true mechanical limited-slip differential, which helps split thrust evenly between the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires up front.

There’s also a dual-axis front steering knuckle in the double-wishbone suspension – borrowed from the Honda Civic Type R – which almost completely eliminates torque steer. As a result, flooring it out of an apex reveals benign, neutral handling that only rarely reveals a bit of wheel fight. Think of it as a charming idiosyncrasy instead of a design flaw and the minor torque steer even starts to feel fun.

Also contributing to the Integra Type S’ sense of grip and control is a 3.5-inch-wider front track and 1.8-inch-wider rear. Hidden by well-integrated wheel arch extensions, the wider stance and three-mode adaptive dampers provide excellent body control, giving the Integra a smooth ride in Comfort mode with progressively sharper reflexes in Sport and Sport+. Hammering through tight hairpins, the Integra resists high-frequency body motions beautifully, while long sweepers reveal the wider track’s excellent roll resistance and stability. Add in steering that’s quick and accurate – if a touch light – and you get one seriously confident vehicle.

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With a thrilling powertrain and excellent handling dynamics, Acura would be doing the Type S a disservice if it came with subpar brakes. No problem here, with 13.8-inch front and 12.0-inch rear disc brakes replacing 12.3- and 11.1-inch units. Four-piston Brembo calipers up front chomp down hard on the rotating bits, with plenty of communication through the tires and chassis to help the driver balance the whoa-pedal appropriately mid-corner. The wider bumper corner openings are functional, feeding cool ambient air to the front brakes for even more consistent performance.

Good Bones

If the Integra Type S’ 2.0-liter powertrain, dual-axis front suspension, wider stance, and Brembo braking package sound familiar, that’s because they’re shared with the aforementioned Civic hot hatch. But the Integra wraps those dirty bits in a slightly more mature wrapper. For example, its rear wing is much less aggressive, with a simple lip on the end of the hatch as opposed to the Type R’s WRC-ready box spoiler. The exterior also gets revised front and rear fascias that improve aerodynamics and channel air toward the brakes and radiators. Between the body additions and wide stance, the Type S looks fun, flirty, and sporty.

The only exception to its bold, clean styling lies in the wheel arch treatment. The primary fender profile matches the regular Integra, with what look like tacked-on flares covering up the wheels. Look closer and it becomes apparent that they’re actually molded into the wheel arches, but I think the Civic Type R’s more smoothly integrated body extensions suit the Integra’s premium, mature mission better.

The nearly mechanically identical Civic Type R also benefits from being $7,605 cheaper than the Integra Type S. But there are some interior upgrades that make the Acura feel worth its base price of $51,995 (including $1,095 destination). Better materials range from leather and microfiber suede for the front and rear seats, as well as nicely padded knee bolsters and door panels for the front passengers. The seats are also less aggressively bolstered, appropriate for a compact executive cruise missile. I found them to be more than adequate at providing both long-haul comfort and excellent G-force resistance.

The Integra Type S comes comprehensively equipped from the get-go, with heated front seats, an ELS Studio 3D audio system with 16 speakers, and AcuraWatch advanced driver assistance. The long list of standard kit and the class-competitive materials help justify the Integra’s segment-topping starting price, but there are a few glaring omissions. For starters, the passenger seat doesn’t get height or lumbar adjustments, making it uncomfortable after a couple hours. And in spite of the audio upgrade and added sound deadening relative to the Civic Type R, the Integra is a bit booming on long trips, a problem I don’t remember in the S3 or CLA.

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Still, none of its rivals offer the Integra Type S’ best feature: its hatchback body style. The rear bumper forces a high liftover (worth it to have the 1990s liftback latch cutout make its return), but once you’ve got your stuff heaved over the lip, you’ve got 24.3 cubic feet of space to pack up. By comparison, the Audi S3 has just 8.3 cubes, while the CLA35 isn’t much better at 11.6. And with the longest wheelbase in its class, passenger space in the Integra is also near the top, with airy accommodations up front and a surprising amount of room in back for two passengers – its max since there are only two seat belts on the rear bench.

You In?

In many ways, the 2024 Acura Integra Type S competes in a class of one, as the only manual-transmission hatchback in its class. If DIY performance is important to you, then the Acura is a bargain at any price. But it’s also hard to ignore that some of its rivals offer more technology. Even if you have to pay extra for it, the Cadillac CT4-V’s Super Cruise package would be tempting. So would the CLA35’s optional massaging and ventilated front seats. And the Audi S3 offers an impressive amount of polish and poise for such a compact vehicle, especially one with standard all-wheel drive and an Acura-competitive price.

If I owned the thing, I’d be grateful never to sit in its flat, unsupportive passenger seat. That, plus the occasionally droning exhaust and resonant cargo area, conspire to make the Acura feel a bit cheap relative to its competitors. But at the same time, it’s far more playful and nimble, turning every errand into an apex. I think the Integra Type S would be my pick of the litter thanks to its exuberant, sassy performance and everyday-usable shape. Much like the regular Integra, the 2024 Type S feels balanced and special, and it never fails to put a smile on my face. All that practicality is just a bonus.

Integra Type S Competitor Reviews:

  • Audi S3: Not Rated
  • BMW M235i Gran Coupe: Not Rated
  • Cadillac CT4-V: Not Rated
  • Mercedes-AMG CLA35: Not Rated

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