The Acura Integra Type S Is Coming, And We Got to Drive a Prototype

a 2024 acura integra type s prototye wrapped in black and white camouflage drives on a banked race track
a 2024 acura integra type s prototye wrapped in black and white camouflage drives on a banked race track

Before I can see the camouflaged car come around the corner at Honda’s Tochigi proving grounds, I can hear it. Reverberating off the walls is the distinct sound of a turbocharged four-cylinder, but one with way more personality than anything else Honda offers. It’s louder and rowdier, with pops and bangs that rival Hyundai’s antisocial N cars. This wonderful sound is coming from a near-production prototype of the 2024 Acura Integra Type S, a very hot version of Acura’s new sport compact that’s here to assuage your fears about the reborn nameplate.

Full disclosure: Honda flew me out to Japan, put me up in an extraordinarily fancy hotel in Tokyo and used boats, buses and trains to take me to its heritage museum, R&D facilities, and headquarters.

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a 2024 acura integra type s prototype seen from a front-left 3/4 view parked in an industrial setting. the car is wrapped in black and white camouflage
a 2024 acura integra type s prototype seen from a front-left 3/4 view parked in an industrial setting. the car is wrapped in black and white camouflage

Since the new Integra was introduced earlier this year, there’s been a cacophony of moaning and hand-wringing — it’s too tame to look at, Acura needs to offer a three-door, the new model is just a warmed-over and more expensive Civic. No matter where you stand on these debates, it’s exhausting. But the biggest complaint has been that there’s no performance version to capture the spirit of the ‘90s Type R. That’s where the new Type S comes in. With the Civic Type R in the family, did you really think Acura wouldn’t make a performance Integra with the same motor? Don’t be ridiculous. Of course this was coming. The Type S is the Integra you’ve been waiting for.

At the prototype drive in Japan, Acura would only give our group of journalists the most basic powertrain information. The Integra Type S will use the same turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 as the Civic Type R, with a 6-speed manual as the only transmission and a standard limited-slip differential. Acura says the Type S will have “at least 300 horsepower,” and I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up slightly more powerful than the Civic’s 315 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque.

2024 acura integra type s prototype from the left rear 3/4 view, wrapped in black and white camouflage
2024 acura integra type s prototype from the left rear 3/4 view, wrapped in black and white camouflage

During development, Acura engineers aimed for “epic” acceleration as a key Type S attribute, so the new Integra variant might end up slightly quicker to 60 mph than the Civic Type R despite weighing more. To that end, Acura is quick to point out that the Integra has a wholly different mission than the Civic: Where the Civic Type R is geared towards track capability, the Integra Type S is focused on street performance and an emotional driving experience.

With just a light black-and-white camo wrap and no fake body panels, I can see nearly all of the design details on the new Integra Type S. It looks properly hot. The redesigned front bumper has much larger air intakes feeding a bigger intercooler, and the new grille has a sweet radial pattern of diamond shapes. Like the Civic, it has three centrally mounted exhaust tips, though the Integra’s are all the same size – and that size is huge. The sculpted diffuser looks like it could actually be functional, and the Type S also has deeper side skirts and a small lip spoiler on the deck lid. While Acura representatives wouldn’t say either way, I hope the Type S will be offered with a large wing as well.

rear view of a 2024 acura integra type s prototype driving away from the camera, going around a left-hand bend on a road flanked by tall bushes on both sides
rear view of a 2024 acura integra type s prototype driving away from the camera, going around a left-hand bend on a road flanked by tall bushes on both sides

The most prominent design change – and the one that is sure to be the most controversial – is the massive fender flares. The front flares look pretty well integrated, but the rears have a visible seam where the flare meets the bodywork, akin to the last Civic Type R. I think the flares look awesome, but they might be too much for some. Along with the other styling mods, the wider stance totally changes the Integra’s proportions, and new 19-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires nicely fill out the new wheel arches and hide larger brakes with red calipers.

As I climb into the cabin I’m greeted by black camouflage that obscures major components like the dashboard and center screen, but there are still some visible changes for the Type S. The front seats have thicker bolsters and are covered in leather and microsuede, though they aren’t as intense as the Type R’s bright red buckets. There’s a new metal shift knob, a thicker steering wheel rim, and redesigned gauges, and as you’d probably expect Acura fitted a bunch of Type S badges to the cabin. The Type S should also come with some performance pages for the infotainment screen, and probably a few new convenience features, too.

Photo:  Acura
Photo: Acura

I get to do just a couple laps of Honda’s oval test track, and the Integra is fitted with an electronic speed limiter that annoyingly restricts me to a maximum speed of 125 mph. (Don’t worry, the production car will be much faster.) Immediately noticeable is the steering, which is much heavier than the Civic Type R’s while still offering a super quick rack and great feedback. The shouty exhaust is apparent the moment I set off, with a louder tone at cruising speeds and that glorious overrun occurring on upshifts, downshifts and any time in between. The engine pulls hard through the rev range even in higher gears, and the transmission feels as perfect as you’d expect from Honda, with short shift throws and excellent action. It’s also got the same auto rev-matching feature as the Civic, which can be turned off. Adaptive dampers will be standard, and while the track surface is pretty smooth, I can tell the Integra has a more supple chassis setup than the Civic Type R. The brake pedal is nice and firm, and the strong stoppers are easy to modulate.

My laps sadly go by in a flash, but the Integra Type S leaves a very positive impression. It certainly helps that the Civic Type R is an excellent starting point, but the Integra feels more refined than the Civic, and it should provide a more exciting driving experience in everyday situations. It’s got bold styling without being as boy-racer as the Type R, and the Integra has a more premium interior with items you can’t get on the Honda, like heated seats and a fancy ELS sound system.

Photo:  Acura
Photo: Acura

The Integra Type S will go on sale for the 2024 model year, which likely points to a reveal in early 2023 and an on-sale date in the summer or fall. With the new Civic Type R having jumped in price to $43,990 (including $1,095 for destination) and the manual Integra A-Spec already costing $36,895, don’t be surprised if the Integra Type S carries a price tag that starts with a 5. That would make it the most expensive hot hatch on sale – disregarding markups, of course. Is that crazy? Only time will tell, but the Integra Type S should appeal to a whole new set of buyers. And in a world where original Integra Type Rs trade for nearly six figures, look at the Integra Type S as a bargain.

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