2023 Acura Integra A-Spec Tech – Review by David Colman +VIDEO
It’s leading man handsome
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
When Honda launched the Acura model line in the USA in 1986, two distinctly different models were available: The luxurious Legend sedan, and the sporty smaller Integra. Through a 22-year production run, the Integra developed into a worthy and much cheaper alternative to the 3 Series BMW. But much to the chagrin of driving enthusiasts, Acura discontinued the Integra after the 2006 model year to pursue the burgeoning SUV market. But enthusiasts who experienced the Integra Type R, which was offered from 1995 to 2001, will never forget that ferocious 197hp coupe. Offered with a manual gearbox, and weighing just 2,436 pounds, the Type R challenged far more expensive cars over any stretch of pavement. In SCCA and IMSA sedan racing, the Integra Type R was the car to beat. And now, after a lapse of 16 years, Acura's Integra is back. Best of all, it's still available with a 6-speed manual transmission and a 200hp turbocharged VTEC motor in A-Spec trim. Like its storied forbearer, the 2023 version carries itself just like its ancestral gunslinger, the Integra Type R.
Our test Integra looked appropriately menacing finished in Liquid Carbon Metallic paint and fitted with A-Spec 18-inch charcoal alloy rims fitted with all-season Continental ProContact radials (235/40R18, TW400). Before we hopped into the driver's seat, we gave the Integra a quick once-over and concluded that this looked like a $45,000 vehicle. My wife, who is a CPA concurred. So when we opened the glovebox and checked the Monroney sticker to confirm our assumptions, we were both pleasantly shocked to discover that this top model A-Spec Integra, complete with 16 speaker ELS Studio premium audio system, power tilt moonroof, and a full complement of Acurawatch driving aids carried a list price of $35,800. The only additional charge was $500 for that foxy paint job. The final tally rang in at $37,395. So in a replay of the old script from the last century, the Integra is once again capable of going toe to toe with the BMW 3, while beating it on price by more than $5,000.
Our test Integra was delivered with just 1,500 miles on the odometer, so this was essentially a brand new car. Although the new engine will eventually wear its way to more comfortable tolerances, even when new and tight, the screaming VTEC 4 proved capable of outrunning most anything short of a Porsche 911 or Corvette. Although the Integra is available with a joyless CVT automatic, the real fun comes from shifting the lovely 6-speed manual yourself. If you do opt for the stick shift, however, you will pay a premium over the CVT base model which retails for just $31,895. Is the substantial price difference worth it? Absolutely. I would not consider buying this car without the manual gearbox. If you want a CVT, save yourself even more dough and buy the base model Honda Civic upon which the Integra is based.
After being dismissed as DOA by the self-appointed savants of the motoring press, sports sedans are making a comeback. The very fact that two huge companies - Honda/Acura and Hyundai - have just introduced sports oriented four door sedans with stick shifts signifies astute manufacturer recognition of this growing trend. After all, not everyone wants or needs an SUV. Since I have driven both of these new offerings (Hyundai Elantra N and Acura Integra A-Spec) within the last month or so, comparisons are inevitable. The Integra suffers a slight tire grip disadvantage due to Acura's questionable decision to equip it with all-season ContiContact rubber. The Elantra N wears stickier Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer-only rubber. Also the 276hp Hyundai is slightly quicker in a straight line than the 200hp Acura. But on a curving back road, the Acura felt every bit the equal of the Hyundai. We particularly liked the way its tachometer face flashes red as you hit the redline in the Integra - a useful feature Acura has borrowed from pro-stock drag racing.
The current Integra weighs 3,062 pounds which makes it 626 pounds heavier than the Type R of 2001. Although that's a lot of extra weight, you'll never notice it when thrashing the Integra from apex to apex. If anything, it feels completely composed at the limit of adhesion. The ContiContact tires lose grip gradually rather than suddenly, and give plenty of warning about impending breakaway. Even under such extreme duress, the Integra feels optimally balanced, with just a trace of understeer to keep your blood pressure in check. The standard adaptive damper system tunes itself to handling needs with the flick of a driving mode switch. Quick, comfortable, nicely appointed and handsome to behold, the reborn Integra is a welcome addition to the growing sport sedan ranks.
2023 ACURA INTEGRA A-SPEC with TECHNOLOGY PACKAGE
ENGINE: 1.5 liter inline 4, turbocharged and intercooled, DOHC, 16-valve, aluminum block and head
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 26MPG City/36MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $37,395
HYPES: Slick Looking Driver-Centric Sports Sedan
GRIPES: Digital Dash Sometimes Has a Mind of Its Own
STAR RATING: 10 Stars out of 10