It’s been a busy 12 months for Acura, with 2021’s enlarged, reinvented TLX sedan debuting last fall, followed this spring by the 2022 MDX. In both cases, the company has tried to imbue these new models with some of the light and sporty feel of earlier generations of Acuras. Now it’s bringing back the car that helped create that sporty image in the first place: the Integra.
“The Integra is back,” said Acura brand officer Jon Ikeda at a media briefing last night during Monterey Car Week. “I’m thrilled to say Integra is returning to the Acura lineup with the same fun-to-drive spirit of the original, fulfilling our commitment to precision crafted performance in every way–design, performance and overall driving experience.”
The announcement, which came last night from Acura brand officer Jon Ikeda, may be bittersweet for some Acura fans. Ikeda had few details to offer about what the all-new 2022 Integra will look or drive like, but the announcement came amidst the official introduction of the NSX Type S. Acura will discontinue the slow-selling NSX supercar after 2022, and the Type S will be a run-out, 600-horsepower special model.
But while the NSX may be on its way out, the Integra is likely to entice many more customers to visit the Acura showroom than even the original 1990s-era NSX ever did. It’s a storied name among the Acura (and Honda) faithful, and for a good reason.
Acura was the first Japanese premium car brand, and when it launched on March 27, 1986, it offered just two models on sale from 60 dealers nationwide. The cars were the big Legend, Honda’s first proper luxury car and also its first true midsize model, and the smaller, sportier Integra.
Dealers were skeptical of the Honda Civic-based Integra, which didn’t look for feel much like a luxury car. With only 40-50 cars allocated per dealer in the early months, they felt the Legend was a better bet for making profits after investing in expensive new stores, but their skepticism proved misplaced. The Integra’s combination of driving fun and high-quality feel was easier to sell than Häagen-Dazs on a hot August day.
The Integra coupled the sharp-handling traits of the Civic and added a free-revving, twin-cam 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine packing 118 horsepower. That’s not much by today’s standards, but the original Integra weighed just 2,400 pounds and handled and felt not unlike a BMW 3 Series. The Integra was front-wheel drive, but it was tons of fun on a twisty road.
The car’s low price made it hugely popular with young buyers. In four years, Acura sold 217,000 of them, and they gave the brand one of the lowest average buyer ages among all premium brands. Many of those Integra buyers came back to the Acura showroom when it was time for their next car and kept coming back.
That first Integra was followed by two more, each with a relatively plain interior but sparkling handling and ever-increasing levels of performance.
The most universally acclaimed of all the Integras was the third-generation model, introduced for model year 1994. This sleek, bug-eyed machine used composite plastics to help make it even lighter than the second-generation car despite being larger, with improved passenger and cargo space. The fast and fun lineup was topped by the 170-horsepower GS-R model, which packed a 1.8-liter four-cylinder with Honda’s then-new VTEC variable valve timing system.
Light, responsive and fun, young urban professionals and fast and furious hot rodders alike couldn’t get enough of the Integra in the early 1990s, but sales started to fall after 1995 as SUVs made inroads with younger buyers. To spark interest, Honda added the limited-production, 195-horsepower Integra Type R for 1997 and 1998. It’s a blue-chip collector car today.
In 1996, Acura switched to more generic alphanumerics, replacing the Legend with the RL and the smaller Vigor with the TL. The Integra name lingered into 2001 before being replaced by the RSX (four-door) and TSX (two-door). The more generic names never quite resonated the way Legend and Integra had.
Acura drifted towards more luxurious and less sporty offerings in the 2010s, but it did try to rekindle the subcompact flame with the ILX in 2013. This Civic-based sedan never quite had the fun personality of the Integra, but has sold at a steady clip since introduction. It’s still on sale in 2021, although the announcement of the 2022 Integra likely signals the end of the ILX.
The 2022 Integra will likely share much with the brand new 2022 Honda Civic, a fun to drive machine even in its base-model form. With that capable chassis as a basis, Ikeda’s suggestion that the new Integra will probably be as fun to drive as the old doesn’t seem far-fetched. Stay tuned for more details.